Coolest lego set ever

The Breaking Bad meth super-lab!!

'Bricking Bad' allows children - or adults - to construct the industrial meth lab set up by Walter White and drug boss Gustavo Fring

‘Bricking Bad’ allows children – or adults – to construct the industrial meth lab set up by Walter White and drug boss Gustavo Fring

While I’m at it, I’ll mention that this past week’s episode of Breaking Bad is possibly the single most entertaining hour of television I’ve ever seen.  I used to think that Breaking Bad was a very good show, but a clear step below greats like Sopranos, Wire, Mad Men.  With the past couple seasons, I’m re-thinking that and certainly the latter seasons are as good as television gets.  If you’ve not watched any, get with it– you can catch up almost entirely on Netflix streaming.

Video of the day

Amazing video on how your native language can actually influence the way you think in profound ways.  Pretty cool.  More context here.

How American doctors systematically killed new moms

I found this Laura Helmuth piece in Slate, subtitled “do not read this if you are pregnant” on the history of death in childbirth to be absolutely fascinating.  Check out the rise in maternal deaths in the early 20th century:


And who’s at fault?  Doctors.  Literally.

One piece of evidence Loudon uses to attribute blame for unnecessary early 20th century deaths to doctors is that rich women were more likely to die in childbirth than poor women. (Mary Wollstonecraft was one victim of an incompetent doctor; she died of puerperal fever after delivering a daughter who would grow up to write Frankenstein.) For almost any other cause of death, the poor were more likely to die than the rich. But for childbirth, poor women could afford only midwives. Rich women could afford doctors. Doctors in turn had to justify their fees and distinguish themselves from lowly midwives by providing new tools and techniques.

Things got worse as obstetricians started professionalizing and coming up with new ways to treat—and often inadvertently kill—their patients. Forceps, episiotomies, anesthesia, and deep sedation were overused. Cesarean sections became more common and did occasionally save women who would have died of obstructed labor, but often the mother died of blood loss or infection…

Too many doctors and midwives were chasing after a limited number of pregnant women, and they gained market share by touting dazzling new techniques and bad-mouthing their competitors. Exacerbating the problem, there was little government oversight of medical care or education in the early part of the 20th century. As Loudon explains, “Medical care in the United States was dominated by the belief in the virtues of competitive free enterprise combined with an intense distrust of government interference.”

“If I was forced to identify one factor above all others as the determinant of high maternal mortality in the USA,” Loudon wrote in Death in Childbirth, “I would unhesitatingly choose the standard of obstetric training in the medical schools.” They instilled an attitude of carelessness, impatience, and unnecessary interference. These deaths were “a blot for which the leaders of the medical profession are wholly to blame.”

Good news.  We’re a lot better now.  Still, until you are 35, it is safer to take the birth control pill than to be pregnant.  Lots more interesting stuff, too.

Photo of the day


Veteran launch photographer Ben Cooper captured this spectacular photo of NASA’s LADEE moon probe soaring across the night sky from Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center, in New York City, about 200 miles north of the launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., on Sept. 6, 2013. A Minotaur V rocket launched the LADEE probe at 11:27 p.m. EDT.   ( Cooper)

White, non-white, and 2016

Ron Brownstein (who else) delivers a magnum opus looking at 2012 exit polls (as well as further over-time) trends by race and party to project forward for 2016 and discuss the (dubious) Republican strategy of doubling-down on white voters.   It’s a long piece, but well worth taking a look at.  This one is already bookmarked for the next PS 302 Campaigns & Elections syllabus.  The charts alone tell a fascinating story.  Here’s some of my favorites::


Interesting to learn that although Republicans have a huge advantage with white voters, most of the changes within white voters favor Democrats.  One thing I find especially fascinating and would love to see some good PS research on is the huge variance in the white vote by state:


And Mississippi and Alabama down there at the bottom?  Oh, I’m sure Obama’s race has nothing to do with that.  But really something just how big these differences are even when separated into college educated vs. non college educated.

And, wow, here’s an awesome infographic:


And, last but not least, an amazing summary chart of the composition of the electorate:


Given Hillary Clinton’s empirically stronger appeal to blue-collar voters than Obama, she looks to be set up particularly well for 2016, assuming she runs.  There’s no reason to expect that Hillary (or any Democrat) would deviate from the following trend:

In fact, as ABC pollster Gary Langer notes, the Democratic nominee has won between 78 percent and 82 percent of the two-party vote among nonwhites in every election since 1976, except in 2004, when Bush’s strong minority appeal held John Kerry to just 71 percent.

And, finally, Brownstein’s conclusion:

In some ways, the very existence of this debate encapsulates the GOP’s challenge. It’s unlikely that a party with more diversity in its coalition would be debating whether it could respond to those voters without sacrificing its principles. But even in a rapidly diversifying nation, Republicans remain almost entirely dependent on the votes of whites, who supplied Romney with nearly 90 percent of his total support and cast over 90 percent of the ballots in almost all of the party’s 2012 presidential primaries. Nearly four-fifths of House Republicans represent districts that are more white than the national average. This means that minorities who might be drawn to the party by a different mix of policies, such as comprehensive immigration reform, have minimal influence in shaping the party’s agenda now. For those seeking a more inclusive and diverse GOP coalition, the first hurdle is that the future doesn’t have a seat at the table today.

The simple fact is, all else aside, Republicans are going to have a really hard time winning the 2016 election based simply on demographics.  An economic collapse or a horrible Democratic candidate would do the trick.  But even with a mediocre economy (as was clearly the case in 2012) Republicans really have to reach out beyond white voters– something they’ve shown basically no inclination of doing.

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