Quick hits (part II)

1) Jeb had brought his brother and 9/11 back into the news.  Just to be clear, GWB was president for almost 9 months before 9/11 happened and he certainly could have done more to prevent it.

2) More evidence for quantum entanglement.  It is a crazy universe we live in.  And if that’s not cool enough, how about this.  Birds may use quantum entanglement for navigation!.

3) Polarization in action.  Used to be pretty small differences in how Democrats and Republicans viewed Planned Parenthood.  Not any more.

4) It’s a small but absurd injustice what we make inmates (and, really, their families) play for phone calls.  Fortunately, that’s about to change.

5) Canada’s new PM is promising larger deficits.  We should be doing this, too:

Given the state of the world economy, it is absolutely insane that more rich countries aren’t running larger deficits.

How come? Because this is an incredibly inexpensive moment for governments to borrow money. In fact, it may be the best time in recorded history for sovereigns to load up on debt. Interest rates have been hovering around zero more or less since central banks cut rates during the recession, and given the many economic headwinds before us, it may be a long while before they rise much higher. At points this year, countries have issued bonds with negative interest rates—meaning investors are literally paying governments to hold their money because they can’t think of anything safer to do with it. In circumstances like that, when the global bond markets are basically shouting “treat yo’self” at just about every finance minister in the developed world, the only reasonable move for a government is to borrow and use the free or nearly free money to make investments that might help the economy grow long-term, like building or fixing up roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

6) Restaurant tipping is stupid and profoundly unfair.  Hopefully, more restaurants will follow the path of this prominent restaurant group.

7) A Republican takes Ben Carson to task for his absurd use of Nazi analogies.

8) We really, really, should be having our kids moving more in school.  Good to see some places are figuring this out.

9) Interesting piece on how friendships change in adulthood.  I liked this simple definition of what we really want in a friend.

“I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

10) Interesting interview with our local TV meteorologist about how he finally got past his Rush Limbaugh love and accept the science of global warming.

11) Really interesting piece in the Economist on the difficulties of recruiting for the US armed forces.

12) Yes, “Back to the Future” is a damn near perfect movie.

13) Political Science research on angry Republicans.

14) The general awesomeness of breast milk is pretty well known.  What’s really sad is in developing nations with high infant mortality that don’t seem to know it.  Kristof.

15) On free markets and human weakness:

Just as free markets can serve the public good “by an invisible hand” (asAdam Smith saw more than two centuries ago, and is the foundation of the field of economics), free markets will do something else. As long as there is a profit to be made, they will also deceive us, manipulate us and prey on our weaknesses, tempting us into purchases that are bad for us. That is also a fundamental feature of market equilibrium, in which supply and demand balance each other out.

My fellow economists, while they recognize such behavior in individual instances, fail to see this as a general principle. And thus a lot of bad things happen, such as the candy at the checkout counter.

Just as free markets can serve the public good “by an invisible hand” (asAdam Smith saw more than two centuries ago, and is the foundation of the field of economics), free markets will do something else. As long as there is a profit to be made, they will also deceive us, manipulate us and prey on our weaknesses, tempting us into purchases that are bad for us. That is also a fundamental feature of market equilibrium, in which supply and demand balance each other out.

My fellow economists, while they recognize such behavior in individual instances, fail to see this as a general principle. And thus a lot of bad things happen, such as the candy at the checkout counter.

16) Apparently overt racism is alive and well at NC State.  This was written by one of my students.

17) People don’t actually want equality.  They want fairness.  I’ll buy that.

18) Good to know that Obama, etc., are catching on to the fact that our kids take way too many standardized tests.  This desperately needs to change.

19) Drum on IRS and email “scandals.”

Kadzik said that their investigation found evidence of mismanagement and institutional inertia, “But poor management is not a crime.” I guess that’s what they call this kind of organized oppression in Obama’s America.

Anyway, I urge everyone to consider this outcome when thinking about Hillary Clinton’s email server. Both are “scandals” pushed relentlessly by a right wing that’s infuriated over everything related to the Obama administration. Both had some surface plausibility. And both were kind of sexy.

But as usual with these kinds of things—Solyndra, Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Sharyl Attkisson’s computer, etc. etc.—there’s really nothing there. Sometimes some bad judgment, sometimes not even that. The fact that Republicans are outraged and have large megaphones to spread that outrage doesn’t change this and doesn’t justify 24/7 news coverage. So maybe a more temperate approach to these endless manufactured right-wing outrages would be appropriate. Just a thought.

20) Great piece from Yglesias on how success in presidential elections and helpful demographic trends are letting Democrats ignore the deep structural problems the party faces.  (I put this here so DJC would actually read it).

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