Not quite 100%

Greg Sargent has some thoughts on last night’s NC Senate debate and highlights a line that had me rolling my eyes:

Charlotte Observer has a collection of videos of key exchanges during the debate, and this one usefully frames what happened:

“I assume you’re proud you voted with him 96 percent of the time,” Tillis said. “I think it’s fair to make this election about his policies.”

Hagan’s response: “One hundred percent of the time Speaker Tillis’ policies have hurt North Carolina,” she said. “He’s gutted education, killed the equal pay bill, no Medicaid expansion.”

This race could end up being as much about right-wing governance at the state level than about the national Obummer agenda, or even more so.

Nice sound bite, I suppose.  But really, 100%.  Not even going to give Tillis the broken clock’s worth of being right?  That said, it did remind me of this nice NC Policywatch piece about seven other bad/stupid things the legislature has done that have drawn less attention.  It’s hard to pick a couple, because when you read, they are all just dumb ideas (especially #2), but here you go:

1) Lawmakers abolished the nationally recognized N.C. Teaching Fellows program that provided college scholarships for students who agreed to spend at least four years in the classroom. More than 75 percent of Teaching Fellows stay in teaching past their four-year commitment…

2) Lawmakers ended all state funding for the state’s drug treatment courts that provide a tough and effective alternative to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders that actually save the state money.   The courts costs a few thousand dollars for each participant, roughly a tenth of the almost $30,000 year it costs to keep them behind bars.

Numerous studies show the program works. One found that 75 percent of the graduates of drug court were arrest free two years after finishing the program.

It is also one of a handful of programs supported by both prosecutors and advocates for alternatives to incarceration.

In his 2013 State of the State speech to lawmakers, Governor McCrory called on the House and Senate to restore funding for the courts, but they ignored his request and he signed a final budget in 2013 that included no funding. The courts were barely discussed at all in 2014…

5) Lawmakers ended a requirement that all community colleges participate in the federal student loan program that makes low-interest loans available to students.

More than half of North Carolina students attending college or universities are enrolled in community colleges. Just a few years ago 57 percent of North Carolina community college students lacked access to low interest federal loans–the largest share of any state in the country at that time.

Thanks to the 2010 law that required community colleges to offer the loans, that percentage dropped to 36 percent past year, still too high but a vast improvement.  That requirement is gone, thanks to the General Assembly, and many students who need help while they are in school are now forced to turn to private loans with interest rates three or four times as high as the rate on the federal loans.

Just a lot of dumb policies have come out of Raleigh.  Even though these in particular are not the problem for Tillis, the best evidence suggests that it is the far right legislative agenda at the state level that is bringing Tillis down compared to other Republican Senate challengers.

Photo of the day

From a Wired gallery of the construction of the world’s largest container ship:

The Hull

The Hull

Each Triple-E class vessel is 59 metres at its widest point, three metres wider than the previous largest vessel, the E-class Emma Maersk. A U-shaped hull design allows more room below deck, providing capacity for 18,000 six-metre shipping containers arranged in 23 rows – enough space to transport 864 million bananas.

Alastair Philip Wiper


Obamacare really hurts Republicans

Or so one might believe from the latest Gallup data on the matter:

Healthcare Law's Perceived Impact on Americans and Their Families, by Political Party, October 2014

Hypothesis 1) The demographics of the Republican Party are such that a scant 4% benefit from the exclusion on pre-existing conditions, parents’ insurance till 26, expanded Medicaid, an end to lifetime caps, etc.


Hypothesis 2) Republicans are unwilling to even admit to themselves (or just ignorant) of these benefits many are experiencing.  And the 40% harm?  That would really take some work.

In fairness, that 27% of Democrats may not have clearly directly benefited, but if they are actually aware of the benefits of the law (holding overall health inflation down, ending uncertainty over pre-existing conditions, ending uncertainty over the ability go obtain reasonably affordable insurance, etc., ) they are certainly right.

Understanding the teen brain

Science writing about the teen rain is all-too-common, but this interview from my local public radio station was definitely one of the more enlightening pieces I have read on the matter (and more pertinent to me than ever given the 14-year old in my home). Some of the parts I found most interesting:

It’s one of the many distinctive characteristics of the adolescent brain that psychologistLaurence Steinberg lays out in his new book, Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence.

Steinberg teaches at Temple University. As an expert on adolescent development, his testimony has contributed to Supreme Court decisions abolishing the death penalty for juveniles and life without parole for juvenile offenders.

In Age of Opportunity, he argues that in the last decade, neuroscience has established that the brain remains “plastic,” that is, changeable, well into the early 20s. His experiments have shown that adolescents respond differently to rewards, are more likely to take risks and are more sensitive to peers than adults. But he argues that our education, legal system, and our parenting have yet to incorporate these insights.

You explain that adolescent brains are more sensitive to the “dopamine squirts” that come from rewards, be they sex, drugs, candy or money. This, combined with less-developed inhibition, is what makes them more likely to seek out challenges, novelty — in a word, risk.

We’re hard-wired to be risk-takers as adolescents. The dark side of this is why societies from ours to ISIL recruit people this age to do the dirty work. [Young adults are] more interested in the immediate rewards than the long term consequences.

You say that so-called character education, abstinence education or drug education programs like DARE, haven’t been shown to be effective. Because it’s not that adolescents don’t intellectually understand the impact of this behavior, it’s that they are too compelled by the rewards.

Exactly. But the other side of this is, let’s let kids satisfy those urges in pro-social ways. We want them to sign up for that course where they’re not guaranteed to get As, to try out for the school play, or even ask that person out…

Let’s talk about peer pressure. Is it a myth?

We know that brain systems comprising the social brain are undergoing extensive development during adolescence. They’re particularly attentive to the behaviors of other people, and peers especially.

The studies we’ve done at Temple have been to understand why adolescents engage in more risk taking with peers than alone.

It’s not so much that peers influence kids to take risks. It’s that by activating their reward centers, peers make adolescents more sensitive to rewards in their immediate environment. .[emphasis mine]

But I think an important piece of our research has been misunderstood. Since peers activate the reward centers, there’s plenty of reason to think that engaging in pro-social activity with their friends will make it more rewarding and desirable as well.

Like volunteer work? Or being on a sports team?

Yes. I think that for adolescents the presence of peers has a positive spillover regardless of what the activity is. So, in theory they should enjoy learning and other positive activities more if they’re doing them with their friends.

Really interesting stuff, I may have to check out his new book.  Regardless, I really love the idea that peers activate reward centers and this can lead to good as well as bad.


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