Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week.  Love this since Sarah and I just had an Owls class at the local nature center this morning.

The kestrel sticks out a claw towards the vole being carried by the owl. This magnificent aerial battle between two majestic birds took place above an English field as they fought for the same prey

A kestrel sticks out a claw towards a vole being carried by an owl. This aerial battle took place above an English field as they fought for the same prey.Picture: Chris Castling/Solent

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Quick hits (part I)

A little late today.  Sorry.

1) The psychology behind conspiracy theories.

2) Bats are awesome.

3) Krugman on the favorable historical record on Democrats and the economy:

But Americans overwhelmingly believe that the wealthy pay less than their fair share of taxes, and even Republicans are closely divided on the issue. And the public wants to see Social Security expanded, not cut. So how can a politician sell the tax-cut agenda? The answer is, by promising those miracles, by insisting that tax cuts on high incomes would both pay for themselves and produce wonderful economic gains.

Hence the asymmetry between the parties. Democrats can afford to be cautious in their economic promises precisely because their policies can be sold on their merits. Republicans must sell an essentially unpopular agenda by confidently declaring that they have the ultimate recipe for prosperity — and hope that nobody points out their historically poor track record.

And if someone does point to that record, you know what they’ll do: Start yelling about media bias.

4) When Gmail writes your emails for you.  Good stuff.

5) Of course (and sadly) there’s a flight of good teachers from North Carolina.

6) The overly busy modern family.  Happy to report the Greene’s are doing just fine.

The data highlight the complicated trade-offs that working families make.

Forty-one percent of working mothers said being a parent made it harder to advance in their careers, compared with 20 percent of fathers. Men’s careers took priority more often than women’s did, though the majority said they were equal. Fathers earned more than mothers in half of full-time working families, the same as mothers in about a quarter and less than mothers in a quarter.

The ways parents spend their time at home have changed markedly over the years. Government time-use data show that parents over all do less housework and spend more time with their children than they used to.

The time men spend on paid work has decreased to 38.5 hours a week from 42 hours in 1965, while the time they spend on housework has doubled to 8.8 hours and the time they spend on child care has tripled to over seven hours.

Still, women do much more, especially when it comes to the tasks of raising a child, like managing their schedules and taking care of them when they are sick, according to Pew. Fathers and mothers are much more likely to equally share in doing household chores, disciplining children and playing with them.

There is a gender divide in parents’ perceptions of how much responsibility they take on, Pew found. Fifty-six percent of fathers say they share equally, while only 46 percent of mothers agree.

7) Year round daylight savings will keep us safer and save lives.  Seriously.  Count me in.

8) Did we just legalize insider trading?  For some insiders.

9) Is America back where it was 100 years ago.  The case for yes.  (Strikes me as too extreme).

10) Shame on NC University English departments for not teaching enough courses about British and American male authors!

11) You know how I feel about guns.  But when you commit a robbery with a fake gun that looks like a real gun, you have just forfeited your right to life in my book.

12) Seth Myers on how an anti-discrimination statute in Houston went down because the opponents scared everybody over bathrooms.  Definitely worth a watch.

13) Sure there’s some older children s books that are racist and sexist (none of which ever made it to me in my 1970’s early childhood), but does this article then have to go on and insinuate that the lack of non-white male protagonists is “racist” and “sexist”?  I read lots of my old favorites to my kids and I’ve yet to come across a book that made me squirm out of outdated racism of sexism (hopefully that doesn’t make me a racist/sexist).  In fact, I’ve been reading The Sneetches a lot lately.  One of my favorites as a kid and now.  And hard to imagine a more anti-racist story out there.

13b) On a totally different note, Drum says save the calls for racism and sexism for stuff that actually is.

14) Kevin Drum creates his own chart of candidate honesty.

15) Of course there’s actually very good reasons why we should raise the age at which we try people as adults.

16) I’ve found the Adaptors podcast to be a bit hit in miss in terms of quality, but I loved this one on what the world would be like if rats took over as the dominant species.

17) As long as I’m talking podcasts, really loved this episode of Start Up that explained and demonstrated the carefully-crafted podcast approach that is also the basis for TAL, Radiolab, etc.  And really helped me understand why some of the less crafted podcasts can be so frustrating to listen to.

18) The Economist explains how treating travelers well is bad for airline business.

19) The fascinating case of intersex children in Salinas, Dominican Republic.

20 Garrett Epps on the first amendment.

But we pay a price for this freedom, and not everyone pays the price equally. The First Amendment imposes on us all the duty to maintain the peace even when our deepest beliefs are denounced. But that duty is doubly onerous for minorities, because they must endure such abuse more often and longer.

In a country that is 70 percent Christian, Muslims account for less than one percent of the population. Since 9/11, powerful religious and political figures have been openly campaigning to strip this tiny population of the protections of the Constitution.

21) What “death to Americareally means.

22) We’ve actually got death panels now (hooray– this is actually great policy).  Nobody seems to have noticed.

23) The history of jaywalking.  More complicated and political than you might think.  I came very close to getting a jaywalking ticket from an MP at the Pentagon once, but got off with a very stern warning.

24) Damn was that bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital horrible and a massive screw-up.  Some heads really need to roll for this.

25) Now this is how you score a goal.

On Keystone and taking sides

I totally get why Obama did what he did on Keystone.  I don’t like it; but I get it.  Obama knows that on a strict policy analysis angle, there was really no reason not to approve Keystone.  He pretty much admitted as much. But this has been made into a huge political fight where groups that are among Obama’s base intently chose a side not based on rational costs/benefit, but (questionable, in my opinion) symbolic politics.  From the NYT

The once-obscure Keystone project became a political symbol amid broader clashes over energy, climate change and the economy. The rejection of a single oil infrastructure project will have little impact on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but the pipeline plan gained an outsize profile after environmental activists spent four years marching and rallying against it in front of the White House and across the country.

Mr. Obama said that the pipeline has occupied what he called “an overinflated role in our political discourse.”

“It has become a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” he said. “And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”

The truth is, there’s just not a lot for Obama to gain at this point by upsetting his core constituencies of liberals and environmentalists.  Ultimately, this was an issue where he had to take sides between environmentalists and non-environmentalists and he chose the former.  That said, as an environmentalist, I really wish the environmental movement had chosen to make their stand on an issue that actually provided a genuine threat to the environment.  When it comes to taking sides, I always prefer to take the side based on clear-headed policy analysis.  That’s why I was for Keystone.  Not because it is any great policy victory, but simply because a fair analysis (as has been conducted by the State Department and other groups) says that, on balance, we should probably do it.  And even if it was approved, it may never well happen with oil prices where they are, but let’s leave that up to the marketplace.  So, I guess it’s nice to see environmentalists successfully flex some muscle, but boy would I rather much see that muscle flexed in cases where they actually have the science and empirical support behind them.  I will always choose the reality-based community over belonging to any particular political group.

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