Photo of the day

An In Focus gallery of Red Bull photo contest winners.  Y’all know I cannot resist a great wave photo:

Stuart Gibson’s photo of Sean Woolnough on a wave in Namotu Island, Fiji, was a finalist in the Spirit category. “Sean Woolnough and I were in Fiji for big swell and the wind went dead, so while we still had amazing conditions, we jumped in a Fijian long boat. This is more of a tow wave, as you can see — paddling this wave doesn’t end well. The island jetski was out of action so we thought we’d give it a go. I dropped Sean at the top of the reef, and the ocean went flat, like someone had turned off the tap. It takes a big set to light this slab up, and as Sean sat patiently I saw a big lump coming. I started yelling, but he had no reference as to where he was on the reef so he waited and paddled for this first wave of the set. He just missed it, and when I looked back, this deep blue lump just started draining out, almost sucking him under the wave. He took one big duckdive and got under the breaking lip. On a normal wave this is fine but this thing didn’t have a back — the reef drops to 200m out the back of this place so when it breaks it really folds. The wave had just too much power and sucked him back over the falls, it’s pretty much a surfer’s worst nightmare position, so many people claim this is photoshopped, but it certainly is not!” (© Stuart Gibson/Red Bull Illume)

Action bias in pregnancy, soccer, and foreign relations

So, earlier this week, I listened to a really entertaining new podcast from Slate and WBUR on health called the checkup.  This edition focused on myths of pregnancy and childbirth.  What I found most fascinating is that bedrest during pregnancy is still widely prescribed despite absolutely no evidence that it does anything to improve the conditions it is supposedly treating.   Pretty amazing, huh?  So, why in the world do doctors regularly prescibe a treatment that in all likelihood does more harm than good?  (Not suprisingly being stuck in bed can easily lead to depression).  Short answer, is that there is no known effective treatment for symptoms of pre-term labor.  And here’s the thing– if you are doctor or a pregnant woman you want to do something.  It’s human natue to want to do something (anything!) when faced with a difficult situation.  Its just so hard to sit back and do nothing even if science and common sense (i.e., I’ll drive 10 minutes out of my way to avoid a traffic jam I know will take 5 minutes) dictate that this is the best approach.

Same day I listened to this, for some reason I came across a 5-year old Shankar Vedantam piece on how this “action bias” on authorizing the Iraq War where he also pointed out the fun finding on how detrimental it is to soccer goalkeepers facing a penalty kick:

Economist Ofer Azar recently came up with a novel way to study the insidious nature of the action bias. He examined whether soccer goalies were more likely to stop penalty kicks when they dived to the left, dived to the right or stayed in the center of the goal. In a study of 286 penalty kicks faced by elite Israeli goalkeepers, Azar found that goalies had the best chance of stopping a kick when they remained in the center — partly because when they dived to one side, they left themselves with no chance of stopping a kick aimed at the other side or a kick aimed dead center. And even when they correctly guessed the direction of the kick, they still had only a 1-in-4 chance of stopping a goal.

Despite the clarity of the evidence, Azar found that goalies dived to one side or the other 93 percent of the time.

Lesson?  Next time you think you just have to do something, you probably really shouldn’t.

Rich liberals– send your kids to public schools

Loved this rant from Slate’s Allison Benedikt.  Here’s the great intro:

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murdererbad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad.  [emphases in original] So, pretty bad.

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)

I’m judgmental and a quasi education policy wonk.  And I largely agree.  And here’s why:

I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! you might say. I understand. You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. If you can afford private school (even if affording means scrimping and saving, or taking out loans), chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. She will have support at home (that’s you!) and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about superior education—the exact kind of family that can help your crappy public school become less crappy. She may not learn as much or be as challenged, but take a deep breath and live with that. Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine.

I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one bookThere wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! … I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.

I went to a great, rich public  school.  My wife, however, went to a pretty poor one in rural NC where there were no AP classes and less than 10% of her classmates went on to four-year college.  She was smart, however, and had smart middle-class parents who valued education.  End result?  Like me, a Duke BA and Ohio State PhD and a pretty okay life.

Now, this may all be easy for me to say– where we live in Wake County the public schools are good.  That said, my oldest goes to (at least according to one source) the poorest middle school (somewhere around 50% on free/reduced lunch) in the district.  Does this mean the quality is not as good as some others?  Absolutely.  But his school needs students like David there and families like ours involved, or it would be far worse.  Meanwhile, my professor friends routinely seem to do all they can to pull their kids out of these neighborhood schools with medium levels of poverty and place them in “magnet schools” where the population their child will be educated with is richer, whiter, and generally more privileged (yes, I do judge them).  These schools often actually have high poor/minority populations from the local neighborhood, but by all accounts, there is very little mixing between the magnet and local populations.

Likewise, I’ve seen my friends completely stress over which high school their child will go to and I quietly nod, etc., when I really want to yell… “seriously, your kid is a professor’s kid with 99th percentile intelligence on standardized testing.  I think they’re going to do okay.”  We could use more kids and families with this background at the troubled schools; not more at the best ones.

Okay, readers with kids in private school– tell me I’m wrong.

Video of the day

I heard this clip on a Fresh Air episode about late night TV the other day.  Really pretty amazing.

Map of the day

Via Amazing Maps (of course).  Today’s countries mapped onto Pangaea.  My kids will love this.

Embedded image permalink

It pays to be a political hack

About those political hacks who got huge promotions and pay raises for jobs they are on their face entirely unqualified for, the AP has done a little digging.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory says a pair of 24-year-old campaign staffers landed senior-level jobs in his administration because they were the most qualified applicants, beating out older candidates.

But the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, where Matthew McKillip and Ricky Diaz got big promotions and raises after only a few weeks of government service, has been unable to provide any evidence their positions were ever advertised to other potential applicants or that other candidates were considered.

In response to a public records request from The Associated Press, the state agency indicated there were no job postings or written skill requirements for the high-paying positions awarded to the young Republicans…

McCrory insists McKillip and Diaz got their positions on merit, not politics.

“They got promotions,” McCrory, a Republican, said in an Aug. 15 interview with WNCN-TV in Raleigh. “They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too. But frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that’s the pay rate for that job.”

A review of job descriptions for similar government positions posted online by the Office of State Personnel show McKillip and Diaz don’t meet the academic or experience requirements to qualify for even entry-level positions in the areas they now oversee. Their pay also exceeds the listed maximums for the most senior listed positions.

And, in a bit of a throwaway at the end, that just shows how stupid it is to insult the people who cover you every day…

In January, McCrory hired Blannie Cheng Garrett, now 28, as a deputy secretary of commerce and as his adviser on jobs and the economy at a salary of $110,000 a year.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Garrett has a bachelor’s degree in international politics. After earning her law degree in 2010, she worked two years at a Raleigh firm where she focused on corporate taxes and private equity transactions.

She does not list a degree in economics.

Honestly, I get that politicians are going to hire and promote many persons for entirely political reasons in jobs that are political appointments (though, the big raises for the position are a bit rich).  That’s just politics.   But don’t insult our intelligence by pretending for even a second that these were the most qualified people for the job.

Video of the day

For some reason, the good people at Oral Roberts University thought it would be a good idea to release a bald eagle in their chapel.  It was not.

More here.

Remembering MLK with low taxes

Just gotta love Pat McCrory’s statement on the March on Washington today:

Now, just a few hours later, we have the latest a case in point from North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who issued a statement today in which he said the following:

“All North Carolinians stand on the shoulders of what was accomplished 50 years ago today at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. We must keep Dr. Martin Luther King’s words alive, not by merely hearing or reciting them, but by transforming them into deeds that will create economic and educational opportunities for all. We must work together to create jobs, expand educational opportunities that will train and retrain our workforce, and lower the tax burden on our families [emphasis mine] to encourage more first-time homeowners and entrepreneurs whose success will stabilize our communities.”

When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything you see is a nail.  But wow, literally everything is tax cuts.  At least he didn’t take the opportunity to criticize rap music.

Fox news. Unreal.

Via Wonkblog.


Best. Headline. Ever.

First, I’ll share Pat McCrory’s recent comments in Asheville:

RALEIGH, N.C. — During a trip to Asheville Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory spoke to the Council of Independent Business Owners.

He used the event to talk his policies, highlighting a recent tax reform bill and defending other changes he has signed into law. According to the Mountain Xpress website, he went on to blast his critics.

“This is too complex for the journalists,” McCrory said, to laughter from the CIBO members. “They don’t have economics degrees. They’ve not been in business. I respect them greatly, but you get it. This is what we have to do to rebuild our economy. It’s not easy. I empathize with the people being impacted, but my goal is to get these people back into jobs.”  [emphasis mine]

It may be worth noting that McCrory’s campaign website says he graduated from “Catawba College in Rowan County, where he earned degrees in Education and Political Science.” There’s no mention of an economics degree.

Mark Binker’s headline (and he’s a friend of mine and I can completely imagine him saying this and the look on his face when writing this article):

This post may be ‘too complex’ for us to write

I absolutely, positively guarantee you Mark Binker is a hell of a lot smarter and more knowledgeable on economics than McCrory.

A longer piece in Asheville outlet also give us this:

He also said that he planned to increase vocational education, judge colleges based on the amount of jobs they created, and introduce performance pay for teachers, but “the unions are stopping us from doing that.”

North Carolina does not have teachers’ unions.

I used to be quite impressed with Pat McCrory’s political savvy.  But wow, not so much anymore.  He’s clearly showing the world how incredibly not bright (yes, I’m being euphemistic) he is and his political instincts on this are just awful.

Also, it must be mentioned just how pathetic it is how complete his delusional buy-in to the idea that cutting taxes is the policy solution to all economic woes.  Damn it, if only it were actually that simple.  Also wanted to mention this part:

McCrory devoted much of his remarks to economic matters, asserting, “We have to become more competitive.” He noted that his push to lower corporate and income tax is meant to help business and bring down North Carolina’s unemployment rate, still one of the highest in the nation.

“You and I know people who move out of state for six months and one day to avoid our taxes,” McCrory said. Through lower taxes, “I want them to [draw them back in and] have their permanent residence and business in North Carolina.”

I sure as hell don’t know those people. Obviously McCrory and his audience are running in much more rarefied circles.  Who is this guy– Mitt Romney.  The evidence is eminently clear that tax rates are somewhere around number 10 or lower of the most important things drawing people to a state and making it competitive.  But no tax cut true-believer was ever particularly interested in evidence.

Chart of the day: the cost of college

Wonkblog is starting a series looking at the rapidly escalating cost of a college education.  The first post doesn’t provide a lot of answers, but lays out the basic parameters.  A couple of charts make a dramatic point (and yes, those are inflation-adjusted dollars):



Very depressing for a parent planning on sending three kids to college.

Human beings will adjust. To dying in the streets.

Virginia Republican Gubernatorial nominee (and current Attorney General) is really a piece of work.  Dahlia Lithwick has been chronicling his anti-sodomy (seriously) crusade for some time.  I just couldn’t let this bit of hard-right ideology pass by without note here (via Benen):

A Democratic source flagged this amazing clip in which Virginia’s right-wing attorney general was asked about the health care system, and he called for limiting something called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (or EMTALA). If this sounds unfamiliar, it’s the ’80s-era law, signed by President Reagan, that requires emergency rooms to provide care regardless of citizenship, legal status, or a patient’s ability to pay.

Under the system before the Affordable Care Act, the use of emergency rooms for care caused systemic problems — it’s been socialized medicine at its most inefficient extreme. The uninsured wait until an ailment is life-threatening, at which point they seek very expensive and medically dire care, which bankrupts the sick person while spreading the costs to everyone else.

Cuccinelli has his own vision for what to do about it. Help Americans have access to affordable care so they won’t have to wait for a crisis and show up at the E.R. for expensive treatment? No, of course not. In Cuccinelli’s vision, we’ll just scale EMTALA back so emergency rooms won’t have to treat the uninsured facing medical emergencies.

As he explains it in the video, “I would expect we would ratchet back EMTALA so that those are the people you’re left dealing with, not the people who come in with a cold who clog up the ER, the emergency rooms and use those facilities for maintenance…. There’s going to be a period of time where people are going to have to adjust…. Human beings will adjust.”

In context, “Human beings will adjust” appears to be a remarkable euphemism for “We’re going to let poor, sick Americans die on the streets.”

Just wow.   And this guy is not some crank state legislator, but the Republican nominee for Governor of VA.  Disgusting.

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