Quick hits (part IIb)

Very busy weekend.  Had to divide up the quick hits an extra time to make sure I got it all in before Monday.

1) Drum’s good take on the new Pierson and Hacker book.

2) Linda Greenhouse on Supreme Court “hijacking.”

Really? Any belief counts, as long as it’s sincere? Any belief, no matter the consequences to third parties who don’t share the belief? Given judges’ extreme diffidence about questioning the basis for any religious belief, that’s a not-implausible reading of a statute that only the much-missed Justice John Paul Stevens had the nerve to call unconstitutional. In aconcurring opinion 19 years ago, Justice Stevens said that because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gave churches “a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain,” the law amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. “This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion,” he wrote then, “is forbidden by the First Amendment.”

3) Teenagers who are literally ruining their lives trying to get into Ivy league schools should stop trying to get into Ivy League schools.  Yeah, high school is hard work, but there’s got to be time for fun.

4) Interesting Atlantic piece on the sewage in the water for the upcoming Olympics and a look at the history and sociology of how it got to be this way.

5) We have a pretty good idea on how to make policing better.  We just need to do it.  Good interview in Vox.

A better way forward is to realize that overgeneralizing — either in terms of enforcement or prevention — is unlikely to succeed, because violence is “sticky,” meaning it concentrates among a small number of identifiable places, people, and behaviors. Focusing our attention and efforts where it matters most will get us better results and is more feasible as a matter of politics and budgets.

GL: What were some of the most promising programs? What about the worst?

TA: The best programs share a number of elements — specificity, proactivity, legitimacy — that Christopher Winship and I outline in our paper. Focused deterrence, also known as the Group Violence Intervention, has a strong track record of success around the country, especially in places like Boston, Cincinnati, and Stockton, California. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also repeatedly demonstrated strong results, especially in Boston with ROCA Inc. and in Chicago with the Becoming a Man program.

The worst strategies generally emphasize punitive scare and control tactics with youth.Scared Straight is best example of a strategy that actually increases crime among those kids who participate in the program, but there are others, such as youth boot camps and curfews. In a different area, gun buybacks are enormously popular but don’t do much to reduce gun violence.

GL: You said in the report that we should dedicate police resources to certain places. What do you mean by that?

TA: A better understanding of what we mean by “place” is very helpful. In this area it’s really important to get specific. At least in the US and likely in most of the rest of the world, crime and violence are sticky; they’re hyperconcentrated in a small number of places, people, and behaviors.

When I say hyperconcentrated, I don’t mean that crime and violence concentrate in a bad or violent neighborhood. They concentrate on a specific street corner, a specific nightclub on a certain night, or a specific liquor store. So when we look at a dangerous neighborhood, generally what we’re seeing is not a whole neighborhood but two or three hot spots. That’s very important to understand.

6) Aaron Carroll on the absurd sleep deprivation we subject our teenagers to.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

7) The lack of funding for criminal defense in Louisiana is truly shameful, unfair, and un-American (and a natural outgrowth of hard-right Republican budgetary policies).  If judges can demand states do better with prisons I don’t understand why they cannot demand states actually ensure defendants get a decent defense.

8) On the bright side, sounds like the Supreme Court might finally be catching onto the problem of criminally inadequate criminal defense in the states.

“The upshot,” Breyer concluded, “is a substantial risk that accepting the Government’s views would—by increasing the government-paid-defender workload—render less effective the basic right the Sixth Amendment seeks to protect.”

Breyer’s logic is worth following to its endpoint. He acknowledges that throwing Luis and others like her to the public-defender system would weaken her Sixth Amendment rights to effective counsel. But what does that say about the constitutional rights of poor defendants who have no other choice?

The question has national implications. Underfunding and understaffing in state public-defender systems weakens the quality of legal representation they can provide to clients. Virtually all of Kentucky’s public defenders exceeded the American Bar Association’s recommended caseload in 2015. Minnesota’s public defenders took on almost double the ABA standard in 2010—170,000 cases for fewer than 400 lawyers—and spent only an average of 12 minutes on each caseoutside the courtroom.

Some states face even greater crises. In cash-strapped Louisiana, where 8 out of 10 defendants cannot afford a lawyer, the system is on the verge of collapse. The state’s 2017 budget includes a 62 percent cut in state funding for public-defender system, with 11 of the state’s 42 offices in danger of shutting down by October. In one office, a waiting list for legal representation had more than 2,300 names on itin March. Defendants often languish behind bars, separated from employment and family, while they wait.

9) Nice Atlantic video on the surprising ineffectiveness of campaign ads.

10) John Oliver and the journalist as advocate.

Chattoo was also impressed by Oliver’s piece last summer on bail bonds in New York, in which he demonstrated that they were little more than a tool for locking up poor people. “It immediately set the agenda, and a month later, [New York Mayor] Bill De Blasio announced a complete policy change,” she noted.

Feldman argues that Oliver’s work reveals a troubling truth about traditional journalists: They often rely on objectivity as a crutch.
“That can have devastating consequences in that it leads to uncritical deference to official sources,” she says. For some journalists, she adds, a he-said, she-said approach to reporting “can be an easy way out.”

As these scholars and journalists see it, “objectivity” was always a false measure of journalistic excellence, and a superficial stand-in for more meaningful ideas like honesty, accuracy, and transparency — terms that might better describe the characteristics of a top-tier journalist.

11) Maria Konnikova on the psychology of electability.


12) Barney Frank is decidedly not impressed with Bernie Sanders.  A great read.



13) You know what, I don’t really doubt that the US women’s soccer team is the victim of gender discrimination in pay.  That said, I got so tired of all the reporting talking about them bringing in more revenue than the men (and the American tv ratings– enough with the American TV ratings in a global sport).  It was only 538 that brought up this fact below.  Now, that may be discrimination from FIFA, but given that disparity of revenue coming in, puts US Soccer in a different light to me.  Also, fair or not, we cannot ignore the marketplace for soccer and it’s not just America.

While U.S. Soccer is not responsible for FIFA prize money, it’s worth noting that the men’s prize money for losing in the round of 16 amounted to $9 million. The women’s prize money for winning the whole tournament was $2 million.

14) Ebola’s hidden impact on the eye.  Scary and sad.

In the aftermath of the epidemic, almost half of over 15,000 West African Ebola survivors have exhibited new ophthalmic symptoms that, left untreated, can lead to severe uveitis (inflammation of the eye), cataracts, and blindness. In Sierra Leone, where an already-weak health system has been leveled by the outbreak, ophthalmological capacity is dismal—the country of 6 million people has just three ophthalmologists. And the nightmare is magnified by a frightening curveball: the possibility that live Ebola virus could be replicating in the eyes of discharged Ebola survivors, pleading to be disrupted by instruments and released back into the population.

As long as that question goes unanswered, the eyes of Ebola survivors are considered inoperable. Patients who need surgery are told to go home, to wait, until researchers confirm whether their eyes are viral landmines. Meanwhile, they’re going blind.

Quick hits (part IIa)

1) Neil Irwin is quite pleased with the latest employment numbers and what they say about the job market.

2) Really enjoyed Drum’s take on declining rates of marriage.  I think he’s onto something:

Why has marriage declined in America? Here’s my dorm room bull theory: it’s because men are pigs.

I know, I know: #NotAllMen blah blah blah. That said, let’s unpack this a bit. Basically, an awful lot of men are—and always have been—volatile and unreliable. They drink, they get abusive, and they do stupid stuff. They’re bad with money, they don’t help with the kids, and they don’t help around the house. They demand subservience. They demand sex. And even on the one dimension they’re supposedly good for—being breadwinners—they frequently tend to screw up and get fired.

In other words, marriage has been a bad deal for women pretty much forever. But they’ve been forced into it by cultural mores and economic imperatives, and that’s the only reason it’s been nearly universal in the past.

Nothing has changed much about that. It’s still a bad deal for an awful lot of women, but cultural mores and economic imperatives have changed, and that means more women can afford to do what’s right for themselves and stay unmarried these days.

But there’s one exception to this: the college educated. Well-educated men are fairly reliable; they have good earning power; they generally aren’t abusive; and they’ve been willing—slowly but steadily—to change their habits and help out with kids and housework. For college-educated women, then, marriage is a relatively good deal. For everyone else, not so much.

And that’s why marriage is declining among all groups except the college educated.

3) The GMO labeling movement is about faith, not facts.  Indeed.

4) Nice Charlotte Observer editorial about Georgia’s Republican governor doing the right thing, where our’s failed to.

5) Man this political correctness on campus is so out of control.

4) Really liked this piece on breastfeeding as comfort feeding and the American ideology of child-rearing.

According to James J. McKenna, a professor of anthropology and the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame, it’s a common idea in Western parenting that parents should restrict their infants’ feeding behaviors. This idea has little to do with babies’ biological well-being, he says; rather, it developed as a safeguard against raising spoiled children whose parents schedule around their whims.

The argument stems in part from the 1928 book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, written by the American psychologist John B. Watson. In it, Watson warns against the inevitable dangers of a mother providing too much love and affection, and overly comforting children. By that logic, “comfort feeding”—breastfeeding babies to soothe them, even if they aren’t hungry—is asking for problems down the line.

But the argument doesn’t line up with their cognitive development, McKenna explains. “Infants don’t have wants. ‘Wants’ assumes a more advanced cognitive awareness,” he says. “Infants only have needs. There’s a big difference.”

“Western psychology was never kind to our infants,” he adds. “We’ve departed from natural behaviors and have given moral meaning to the recommended practices that have no science to back them up.” [emphasis mine]

5) Hillary Clinton speaks out against a sub-minimum wage for the disabled.  I don’t doubt there can be an exploitation, but as the parent of a future disabled adult who I would love to be able to work for a subminimum wage, I fear throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Alex will likely never be as productive a worker to justify the minimum wage (especially $15), but I would love for him to have a job because it would be so good for him, regardless of the wage.   Subminimum wage makes that possible.

6) Loved the recent Reply All podcast on Zardulu.  Here’s a good NYT story on her and pizza rat, etc.

7) Does NC’s right-wing Christians encourage a new law enable discrimination against Christians?

8) Nate Cohn on Trump voters and race:

There’s a remarkably strong correlation, for example, between Mr. Trump’s support and the number of racist Web searches by state. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said that the measure was the single strongest correlation of support for Mr. Trump that he could find.

Survey data point toward the same finding. For instance, support for Mr. Trump was strongly correlated with higher levels of resentment about racial issues — like the belief that black people don’t work hard enough and yet receive special favors — in an analysis of the American National Election 2016 Pilot Study.

Mr. Trump’s strength among voters with higher levels of racial resentment helps explain his strength among the new Republicans, many of whom shifted allegiance during moments when race was particularly salient in politics, the 1960s, the 1980s and even during the Obama era.

Of course, not all of the new Republicans left the Democrats because of racial resentment. The Democrats’ leftward shift on other cultural issues — like abortion and gay marriage — undoubtedly alienated many Catholics and Southern Evangelicals. The rising affluence of these same groups most likely diminished the economic appeal of the Democratic message over the last century as well.

But Nixon’s “Southern strategy” had a Northeastern component, and it drew plenty of old Democrats into the Republican Party.


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