What is moral?

I loved this Gallup post looking at what Americans consider to be morally acceptable:

Moral Acceptability of Various Issues, May 2014

First comment– there’s a lot of “unacceptable” moral behavior going on when it comes to pornography and teenagers having sex.  And, it’s pretty cool to see the party breakdown:

Moral Acceptability by Party Identification, May 2014

Lots of interesting stuff here, but I find the tiny gap on birth control quite notable.  Also interesting to see the huge (though not surprising) gap on abortion.  Big gap on out-of-wedlock childbirth as well.

Photo of the day

From a simply way-too-cute Big Picture gallery of animals babies:

Nine-day-old giraffe Bine licks the nose of its giraffe aunt Andrea at Friedrichsfelde Zoo in Berlin,†Germany, May 9. The baby giraffe was born on 30 April during opening hours and numerous visitors were able to watch the birth. (STEPHANIE PILICK/EPA)

The public on homosexuality

Two interesting new Gallup features.  First, on whether homosexuality is nature or nurture:

Origins of Homosexuality: Innate or Environmental?

Would love to see the crosstabs on that with views about gay marriage, party ID, etc.  Still, interesting to see the big change followed by relative stability for the past decade.

Second, interesting to see that support for adoption is greater than support for marriage:

Americans' Support for Same-Sex Adoption vs. Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Quick hits

1) Pro-gun cliche bingo.

2) It’s not easy for psychiatrists to identify which seriously mentally ill people will actually become violent.

3) The real origin of the religious right— segregation, not abortion.

4) Terrific first-person account of the exploitative plasma donation system in the US.

5) Love this series of self-portraits of “culture” and “counter-culture” for the past 10 decades.

6) One of those policy areas where nobody pays attention, but the NC GOP is also making major cuts in our state court system.  Justice.  We don’t need no stinkin’ justice.

7) Isla Vista shootings?  Of course gay marriage is to blame.

8) Nietzshe quotes randomly paired with Family Circus cartoons.  Oh how I love this.

9) I liked this take on the shooting and America’s unwillingness to address it’s gun laws:

Look, we’ve collectively decided, as a country, that the occasional massacre is okay with us. It’s the price we’re willing to pay for our precious Second Amendment freedoms. We’re content to forfeit the lives of a few dozen schoolkids a year as long as we get to keep our guns. The people have spoken, in a cheering civics-class example of democracy in action.

But, mostly, it made me think of Gary Wills similar, but far more brilliant take after Newtown.  I’ve posted it before, but well worth revisiting.

10) Richard Posner with a very interesting take on a new book on America’s prisons.

11) The latest science looks at our metabolically demanding brains— especially the prefrontal cortex– and our undemanding muscles in an evolutionary context.  Great stuff.

12) Andrew Cohen with a nice take on the meaning of Scalia’s perpetual certainty.

13) Cops in PA can search your car for hiding spaces without a warrant.  And they can seize your car just for having a hiding space.  Is this America?

14) All that losing in primaries.  Let’s be clear, the Tea Party won.  (i.e., The Republican Party basically is the Tea Party now) .


More on the NC Budget

Thomas Mills takes the same material and does far better than me:

The senate budget cuts teaching assistants for all classes above first grade and eliminates funding for text books. Remember when Republicans used say they just wanted to cut bureaucracy so they could put more money into classrooms? Well, that was bullshit.  They’re giving teachers raises but reducing their classroom resources, so you can say that our kids are taking the hit to cover the tax cuts for the rich that the legislature and McCrory passed last session. 

But it’s not just children. The senate is also “overhauling” (read cutting) Medicaid. They propose taking the program away from the Department of Health and Human Services and kicking a bunch of elderly and sick people off it. Ironically, they say that a lot of those people can get coverage because of Obamacare, the program they’ve done so much to thwart. 

In both these proposals, education leaders and medical providers say the senate is wrong-headed. There is little doubt that people who can least defend themselves will suffer. But this isn’t about helping people. This is about ideology. The senate wants to push responsibility for schools, the sick, mentally disabled and elderly back onto counties, municipalities and families, regardless of how ill-equipped they may be to handle it. 

It’s yet again why I’m a Democrat and they are Republicans. I believe that we, as a society, have an obligation to care for our most vulnerable citizens. Republicans believe it’s every man and woman for themselves. If you’re living in a gated a community, own a vacation home or two and send your kids to elite private schools, that’s a pretty good deal. If you’re already struggling to get by, having to take additional financial responsibility for an aging parent or sick relative could send you straight into poverty. 

My name is Steven and I’m 42

I’ve long been fascinated by baby names, so this 538 post on the age of various names, e.g., the average Steven is 45, the average Fred is 64, hit my sweet spot like a white-chocolate bunny wrapped in twizzlers.  So cool to see a graph of things we inherently know, e.g., these are names for old people:


And conversely, it’s fun to see the new trendy baby names.  E.g., the typical Mason is a scant six years old:


As for me, I was quite clearly born right around the time of peak “Steven” as the median age for my name is 45.  As for my son, David, apparently I’ve given him a relatively old name as it is 46.  Also quite fun to see once popular names that have made a comeback, e.g., Oliver, that have a huge interquartile spread.

Lots more fun stuff.  Check it out.

Photo of the day

Telegraph gallery of never before seen photos from WWI frontline:

A Viscount in the Armoured Cavalry Branch of the French Army left behind a collection of hundreds of glass plates taken during World War One (WWI) that have never before been published. The images, by an unknown photographer, show the daily life of soldiers in the trenches, destruction of towns and military leaders. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the WWI.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener (2nd L) meeting French General Albert Baratier (R), on horseback, as French Marshal Joseph Joffre looks on (2nd R), on the Champagne front, Eastern France in 1915Picture: REUTERS/Collection Odette Carrez

Men: do the dishes and the laundry to help your daughters

So, this is pretty cool research:

Dads who want their daughters to aim for prestigious professions should start by doing the dishes or loading the washing machine, a new study suggests.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found that fathers who perform household chores are more likely to bring up daughters who break out of the mold of traditionally female jobs and aspire to careers in business, legal and other professions, CTV reports.

Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study, and a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, said the study suggested “girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

I do a decent job, but it’s mostly the dishes and it’s after Sarah is in bed.  I guess I better do more of this while she’s still awake.

What I really wonder, though, is how much of this is correlation versus causation (and despite my best attempts, could not find the article on-line).  Here’s my thinking… liberal progressive dads are more likely to do more chores and to instill these broader values in their daughters directly and through a host of family dynamics.  The chores are just a blunt measure of these values that affect the daughters.  What about families with these ideals where the dads are lazy slackers?  Of course, having these ideals should mean living them.  Anyway, I’m do my part so that Sarah wants to grow up to be a scientist rather than a princess.

Budgets = priorities

The NC GOP is putting their finishing touches on the budget proposal.  Chris Fitzsimon has a nice take:

No matter how many ways Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders try to deny it, the main reason they are struggling to find enough money to give teachers and state workers a meaningful raise next year is the massive tax cut they passed last summer for the wealthy and out of state corporations.

They based their budget projections for next year on a forecast that the tax cuts would cost the state $438 million. And it turns out that was too optimistic…

And while there is a heated debate about what percentage of the population pays more under the plan and what percentage pays less, there is no dispute that the bulk of the tax cut goes to corporations and folks at the top of the economic ladder. The conservative groups readily admit that. Millionaires, for example, received of a break of more than $10,000.

That leads to the inescapable conclusion that McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly decided last year that the tax cuts for the wealthy were more important than paying teachers and state employees more.

You may not agree with it, but that was the philosophy behind their budget. The tax cuts were so important that lawmakers also cut funding for textbooks and school supplies and human services programs to pay for them.

The state budget is simply a list of priorities. Tax cuts were the priority. They were made first.

Yep.  And as for more priorities, here’s today’s news:

The Senate budget proposal upends the state Department of Health and Human Services by moving to take away its biggest responsibility, Medicaid. At the same time it would cut thousands of elderly and disabled people, and other beneficiaries with high medical bills, from the government insurance plan.

This appears to be a first step Senate Republicans are proposing to cut Medicaid services and shrink the number of beneficiaries.

The budget includes a provision that would have the state health agency develop proposals by next year for cutting optional Medicaid services for elderly and disabled beneficiaries, limiting coverage to only that required by federal regulations or laws.

Cutting health care for elderly and disabled so rich people can pay less taxes.  I swear, these guys are like Disney villains.  And it just won’t matter enough because most voters just don’t pay enough attention and, even then, these are Republican legislators in gerrymandered Republican districts.  And, unfortunately, most Republican voters apparently aren’t so interested in helping those elderly and disabled freeloaders.

Photo of the day

Very cool Smithsonian gallery of European landscapes still scarred by WWI:

(Michael St. Maur Sheil )

Evan today, a century after the start of the Great War, the countryside still bears scars. In this image by Irish landscape photographer Michael St. Maur Sheil at the site of the Battle of the Somme, in northern France, you can trace grass-covered trenches and pockmarks from exploded bombshells. More than a million men were wounded or killed in the battle, the first major British offensive of the war. “The Germans had been sitting in a deep dugout excavated into the chalk rock,” Sheil says. “British soldiers advancing across the flat landscape were an easy target.” His exhibition, “Fields of Battle—Lands of Peace,” now on display in Paris along the wrought-iron fence of Luxembourg Gardens and later touring the United Kingdom, includes 79 contemporary photographs of World War I battlefields—the artist’s attempt to document the enduring legacy of the war on the landscape.

Raise their pay

An NC legislator has filed legislation to raise the pay of NC legislators from about $14,000 to $36,o00.  This is generally a great idea.  Biggest shortcoming?  Not nearly enough of a raise.  Impressively, it’s being brought forth by a Republican who clearly sees the damage of the current salary WRAL:

Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, the bill’s sponsor, said raising legislative salaries for the first time in two decades, from $13,951 to $36,000, would attract lawmakers from a wider range of economic backgrounds.

“Everybody I know that’s down here is being supported from either having been very successful in business and having an income that’s not affected by their being here, or their spouse is working and helping them pay bills,” Brawley said.

The bill will not be taken up this session, House leaders said, but Brawley remains optimistic about the future of the legislation.

“I certainly hope we do have the fortitude to take it up and discuss the issue,” he said. “Representative government works best when it is truly representative.”

Raising legislative salaries would foster legislators with interests closer to those of the average citizen, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.

“We want to make sure we get a great diversity of people who serve as legislators,” McKissick said. “Increasingly, the only people able to serve are those that are retired, those that are wealthy or those that are self-employed.”

And this guy:

Political scientist Steven Greene of North Carolina State University said professionalized legislatures are better equipped to tackle complex policy.

“You should absolutely be paying them like professionals,” Greene said, adding that a lack of professionalization skews the demographics of the statehouse.

“It dramatically affects who is able to serve in the legislature,” he said. “The super-low pay we have means it’s people who can afford to go to the legislature for several months in a year. It stacks the demographics of the legislature in a very particular way.”

There’s no way you can have any real breadth of policy expertise as a part-time legislator.  Maybe this worked in the 19th century, but do we really want part-time amateurs deciding on complex matters such as fracking regulation, global trade, and multi-billion dollar budgets?  Of course not.  And, of course, there will always be professionals– staff and lobbyists.  It would be nice if the representatives could afford to be professionals too.

Alas, as a FB friend who shared this said, it is going nowhere as it is politically toxic.  Just a classic example of an issue where just a medium-depth examination of the issue leads to an obvious conclusion, but it is too hard to get past the totally mis-leading superficial level where all people can think is “how dare those legislators raise their pay.”

Of course, it’s not impossible, as some states clearly do this right.  But I suspect it is nearly impossible in the incredibly toxic anti-government climate the Republicans are so responsible for creating.

Downward educational spiral

Okay, it might not be quite as bad as FB and real friend Mike suggests, but he’s definitely onto something here in response to this article:

Wake facing out-of-state competition for teachers

Wake County (Raleigh NC) schools need to hire appox. 1,500 teachers for next year. Yet Houston Tx is holding a job fair in Raleigh to entice (poach) teachers to move to Houston where salaries are 20% higher. So, following the logic of the market place, Houston will pick the better teachers who apply, leaving Wake County with even more openings and a lower quality pool of teachers. The overall quality of this new cohort of teachers will be of lower quality than previous cohorts, giving the destroyers of public education (i.e., Republicans) more reasons to criticize the quality of public schools, justifying further reductions in pay, leading to an increasingly inferior cadre of teachers, justifying additional cuts, and so on. I read elsewhere that towns in South Carolina are poaching teachers from the Charlotte NC area because SC is actually paying teachers more than NC. It’s sad that a few years of GOP rule can undo 50 years of economic and educational progress.

Yep.  Though, I think the desirability of living in Wake County, NC versus Houston, TX works against this to some degree.  Nonetheless, so frustrating and depressing.  This is my county and the public schools my kids will be attending for 15 more years.


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