Quick hits (part I)

1) In what’s really no surprise, an absurdly small number of people have an absurdly huge influence over American elections.

2) The case for giving a man a fish instead of teaching him to fish (I’m a proud donor to Give Directly myself).

3) Will Saletan catalogs the inconvenient truths admitted to in the Republican debate.  Reihan Salam on how Trump is not going away and part of a larger, international populism.  Fred Kaplan on how the GOP candidates showed shockingly little knowledge of foreign policy.

4) I learned the difference between i.e., and e.g., year ago and it is proved helpful on myriad occasions.

5) Two theories of CEO pay– I’ve got a lot of confidence in the “CEO Pay is basically irrational” theory.

6) Don’t look to the 8th Circuit for solid legal reasoning on abortion.

7) Very nice column on what we do wrong in criminal justice and how we can do better.  Also, a great Fresh Air interview with the author:

We need to quit wasting time trying to sort out who deserves blame and get out of the payback business. Instead, we should focus on remedying the harm, rehabilitating the criminal, discouraging others from taking similar actions, and treating the conditions that precipitated the crime in the first place.

Most important, a public-health model of crime allows us to shift resources from punishment to prevention. A reactive criminal-justice system, like the one we have now, is doomed to always come up short. There is no execution that can compensate for a victim’s murder. There is no appeal process that can restore the lost years of a wrongful conviction. In the future, our major tools for fighting crime will not be police officers, trials, and incarceration, but better prenatal intervention, improved schools, and widely available mental-health care. That will make for duller episodes of Law & Order, but it will leave us far safer and more just.

8) The latest research on choosing the right running shoe (just pick the one that is the most comfortable– seriously).

9) How Jon Stewart changed media.

10) The expert witness who never met a police shooting he didn’t like.

11) Kristof with a nice column on the absolute absurdity of Republicans trying to cut family planning funding.

12) Nice infographic on the deadliest drugs.  The top three are all legal.

13) For some reason, people keep being surprised that I still use the Netflix DVD service.  It’s still far and away the most economical way to see most of the movies you’d actually want to see.

14) On how John Roberts has been fighting against the Voting Rights Act for his whole career.

15) Probation sounds pretty easy, but it can end up being a very harsh (and often arbitrary) punishment.

16) I ignored the links to this for a while, but I did enjoy this paramedic arguing in favor of the high minimum wage for fast food workers.

17) Some nice Ayn Rand satire from McSweeney’s.

18) Nice take on the war on public education in North Carolina.

19) Really, really good James Fallows in the Iran deal.  Short, but really hammers home some key points.

20) How poverty damages the brains of young children (maybe we should try harder to do something about it).

21) Found this history of Google + to be really interesting (also make me think a lot of Hooli Nucleus).

22) Really nice Marshall Project report on life without parole (and just how non-sensical it can be)

Prisoners like Rodriguez represent a paradox for parole boards: Older inmates who have committed the most serious crimes, and served the longest terms, are the least likely to commit new crimes upon release.

One Stanford University study of 860 murderers paroled in California found only five returned to prison for new felonies, and none for murder.

This is especially true for older prisoners. Recidivism rates drop steadily with age. And older prisoners are more expensive: The average annual cost per prisoner doubles at age 55 and continues to climb thereafter.

Still, these prisoners are consistently the least likely to be paroled. Though they pose a low risk of future violence, the political risk of releasing them is huge. Parole board members are routinely pilloried in the news media and chastised by the public. Many have lost their jobs for releasing people whose crimes were violent.

“There’s some offense conduct you just can’t outrun,” said William Wynne, a member of the Alabama parole board.

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