Quick hits (part I)

Lots and lots this week.  Here goes…

1) John Tierney on the difficult economics of recycling.  Basically, only paper, cardboard, and metal cans are cost effective.  That said, he totally elides the issue of externalities.

2) The public university system in North Carolina has a great reputation.  Rob Christensen on how our Republican leadership is putting that in jeopardy.

3) Mark Kleiman on the problem of full legalization of marijuana as opposed to decriminalization:

Inevitably, then, the marijuana movement has begun to give way to the marijuana lobby. To be sure, I’ve had my share of clashes with movement folks, and I haven’t always been impressed with their policy acumen or their standards of argument, but I’ve never seen any reason to doubt that they’re advocating the public interest as they perceive it. The people now being hired by the guys in suits doing cannabis-business stock promotions play by different rules. I expect them to have about the same ethical standards as lobbyists for the alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, food, and fossil-fuels industries: that is, I expect them to be utterly willing to sacrifice human health and welfare on the altar of the operating statement, just like those folks at VW who decided it would be a cute idea to poison the air just a little bit to goose the performance of their diesel-driven cars.

4) Forget Match.com, just find the credit score of a potential romantic partner.

5) I really enjoyed the Everest movie.  Not a great movie, but so awesome to see the super-dramatic events of Into Thin Air so stunningly realized.  Nice New Yorker piece on how death is portrayed in disaster films.

6) Okay, I’m somewhat sympathetic, but really, just how far do universities need to go in allowing “service” animals on campus.  An anxiety bunny?

7) Nice summary of the difficulties faced by contemporary pollsters.

8) This Salon piece pretty much gets at why the gun debate is so asymmetric.

Conservatives aren’t lying when they say they need guns to feel protected. But it’s increasingly clear that they aren’t seeking protection from crime or even from the mythical jackbooted government goons come to kick in your door. No, the real threat is existential. Guns are a totemic shield against the fear that they are losing dominance as the country becomes more liberal and diverse and, well, modern. For liberals, the discussion about guns is about public health and crime prevention. For conservatives, hanging onto guns is a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands…

It’s not just Hanlin. Guns are generally talked about in right-wing circles in these mythical terms. And because a gun isn’t just a gun to conservatives, but a symbol of all they hold dear, having a reasonable conversation about gun control has become impossible. To liberals, it’s about keeping guns out of the hands of people who misuse them. But to conservatives, it’s clearly about stripping away their very sense of identity, which is naturally going to be a touchier subject.

That’s why Republican politicians would rather say the dumbest, most offensive things possible after a mass shooting than even entertain the possibility that guns might need a teeny bit more regulation.

9) We’re having quite the historical lull between hurricanes hitting the US.  This can’t really keep up.  And when they do start hitting again there’s going to be a lot more people living at the coast.

10) Time to start holding “experts” accountable by making them give precise and testable predictions.

11) The biology of gender ratio is really a complex and fascinating subject.

12) I’ve mentioned before that as fun as the Myers-Briggs personality test is, it really is nothing more than entertainment.  But this explains so succinctly.

But the problem with that idea is the fact that the test is notoriously inconsistent. Research has found that as many as 50 percent of people arrive at a different result the second time they take a test, even if it’s just five weeks later.

That’s because the traits it aims to measure aren’t the ones that are consistently different among people. Most of us vary in these traits over time — depending on our mood when we take the test, for instance, we may or may notthink that we sympathize with people. But the test simply tells us whether we’re “thinking” or “feeling” based on how we answered a handful of binary questions, with no room in between.

13) A pretty entertaining Buzzfeed list on jokes professors play.  I need to up my game!

14) And, lets start a run of gun links.  First, awesome Wonkette headline, “11-Year-Old Shoots 8-Year-Old Over Puppy, America Remains Free Of Tyranny.”  In all seriousness, though, here’s a radical idea– hold gun owners criminally responsible when their children commit acts of violence with their unsecured guns.  Seriously!!

15) You know that NRA “good guy with a gun” trope.  Actual good guys with guns don’t think so highly of it.  And the stats are pretty clear on the matter, too.  And the good guy with a gun who tried in Oregon.  And got shot.

16) Speaking of stats, Vox brings the charts on gun violence.

17) And Charles Blow on the irrational fear of the gun nuts.

These people are afraid. They are afraid of a time conservative media and the gun industry has convinced them is coming when sales of weapons, particularly some types of weapons, will be restricted or forbidden. They are afraid of growing populations of people they don’t trust. Some are even afraid that a time will come when they will have to defend themselves against the government itself.

Unfortunately this fear is winning, as many Americans think crime is up, even though it’s down. This fear is winning as massacres, and the gun violence discussions that follow, don’t lead to fewer gun sales, but more. This fear is winning, following continued violence by antigovernment militias and hate groups.

Fear is winning as there are now close to as many guns in this country as people — with the gun industry producing millions more each year.

We have reached our supersaturation point as a culture. And with that many guns in circulation, too many will invariably make their way into the hands of people with ill intent.

18) After Dr. Seuss, Boynton is by far my favorite childrens’ book author.  I love impressing people by citing the entire Hipppos Go Berserk from memory.

19) Pro Publica on how our lack of a gas tax is a clear indication of what’s so wrong with Washington.

20) Wonkblog on how a natural experiment shows the power of just getting more money into the families of at-risk children.  Maybe we should try and do this.  I expect the ROI would be huge.  I also expect conservatives would never go for it regardless of what the evidence suggests.

21) And your long read.  John Judis on Donald Trump and the return of the Middle American Radicals.  Really good stuff (though, he really should mention the role of white ethnocentrism).

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