Quick hits (part I)

1) I have to do the occasional conference call for the NC Advisory Board to the US Civil Rights Commission.  Indeed, it is a horrible way to conduct any kind of meaningful business.

2) I almost never play video games, but I spent January 2015 obsessed with Half-Life 2.  Never played anything else nearly as good.  Sad that there will almost surely never be a Half-Life 3.

3) Drum is right.  We should absolutely have an affirmative Constitutional right to vote.

4) Will the new overtime rules hurt workers?  Maybe.  Will the new overtime rules hurt workers as much as all the business lobbies have been saying?  No way in hell.

5) Not surprisingly Trump’s energy policy and his energy policy speech were both a complete joke.  Why does the media have to keep pretending he has the slightest clue what he’s talking about.  And, as David Roberts points out, it once again shows he’s a horrible judge of people and their positions.  Not a good thing to have in a president.

6) So, this short animated film is charming and creepy.


7) A lot of people did not like the Revenant.  I really did.  Maybe a little too long, but I was never bored.  This review seemed about right to me.

8) Sure, part of the reason women earn less than men is that they choose lower-paying occupations.  But what about the fact that when occupations become dominated by women, they pay less?  That’s a real problem.

Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

Once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

And there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. “It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance,” Ms. England said. “It’s just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.

9) You know another really smart policy much of Europe does that we don’t?  Universal child benefit.

10) On a related note, Jon Cohn takes a look at Clinton’s child-care policy proposal and says yes, it is expensive, but the payoff would be huge.  Of course, there’s no way Republicans would ever agree to something like this.

11) I totally fell for this optical illusion.  I wish I had looked harder before reading what was really going on.

12) What does the rest of a hand model look like.  Of course, hand models always make me think of poor George Constanza’s hand modeling career cut tragically short.

13) Harold Pollack on the future of single-payer and the difficult politics of cost control:

A sensible single-payer program should say no to questionable or overly costly interventions more often than our current system is able to do. Private insurers lack the public legitimacy to reject dicey therapies. Medicare is susceptible to pressure from industry, provider, and patient groups.

It’s especially hard for private insurers to refuse coverage for a particular drug, device, or surgical procedure once Medicare agrees to pay. (I haven’t even mentioned bitter social policy disputes over immigration, abortion coverage and birth control. I’ll get into these later.)

A single-payer system requires tougher mechanisms. The Affordable Care Act established the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Yet IPAB and most other cost-containment efforts encounter fierce bipartisan congressional resistance. The ACA unwisely limits the use of economic tools such as cost-utility analysis in coverage decisions. An effective single-payer system requires real economic analysis to determine who is covered for what service, and at what reimbursement rates.

14) I’m still embarrassed at my teenage years arguing with my mom that, of course, women should never be Catholic priests.  The arguments, even from a theologian in the NY Times, against women being ordained strike me as so weak.

15) What it feels like to have to use the wrong bathroom.

16) This New York City office building post-it war is so cool.

17) A healthy breakfast is no more or less important than any other healthy meal.

18) Peter Beinart on the foolhardiness of Hillary’s email server and what led to such a poor decision:

That’s the key question. What matters about the Clinton email scandal is not the nefarious conduct that she sought to hide by using her own server. There’s no evidence of any such nefarious conduct. What matters is that she made an extremely poor decision: poor because it violated State Department rules, poor because it could have endangered cyber-security, and poor because it now constitutes a serious self-inflicted political wound. Why did such a smart, seasoned public servant exercise such bad judgment? For the same reason she has in the past: Because she walls herself off from alternative points of view.

19) Very interesting take on Austria and what “National Socialism” is really all about.

20) Michael Gerson on all the conspiracy-loving support for Trump.

21) I found this theory about how the conditions for the beginning of life on earth to be truly fascinating.

22) Dahlia Lithwick on how the Supreme Court’s decision about racism in jury selection was no great victory:

This ruling is obviously the right one, but it’s important to understand how limited an opinion it really is. Most prosecutors don’t use green highlighters and the letter B to perform publicly the extent of their racial intentions. This is a strange outlier case, made stranger by a state’s open records laws and the completely implausible arguments proffered to explain the prosecution’s conduct. There is nothing in Monday’s opinion that would really limit the use of peremptory challenges that come wrapped in plausible-sounding explanations, even when the underlying intent is to strike black jurors.

Race taints everything about our capital punishment system just as it taints our elections. It simply simmers under the surface, and there it will stay. Despite the fact that it infects every single part of jury selection in some places, as Rob Smith recently noted in Slate, racism in our system of capital punishment won’t be addressed soon, it seems. Study after study reflects the fact that black jurors are struck far more frequently than white ones. Foster gave us a way to talk about it but not a way to fix it.

Right!  Must racially-motivated prosecutors are not dumb enough to highlight all the Black jurors on a list.  And what is also really appalling is that the Georgia courts did not even admit that this was racism!  And you should also follow the link to the Rob Smith piece.

23) Neanderthals build mysterious cave structures.

24) Open tab for too long– too many elite American men are obsessed with work:

Even before men and women enter the workforce, researchers see this values gap and its role in the pay gap. A new study of several hundred NYU undergrads (elite students, not average 20-year-olds) found that young men and women with similar SAT scores express starkly diverging visions of their ideal job. Young female students, on average, say they prefer jobs with more stability and flexibility—“lower risk of job loss, lower hours, and part-time option availability”—while male students, on average, say they prefer more earnings growth, according to researchers Matthew Wiswall, at Arizona State University, and Basit Zafar, of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…

Rich American men, by comparison, are the workaholics of the world. They put in significantly longer hours than both fully employed middle-class Americans and rich men in other countries. Between 1985 and 2010, the weekly leisure time of college-educated men fell by 2.5 hours, more than any other demographic…

But something else is clear: There is a workaholic mania among educated wealth-seeking American men, who seem uniquely devoted to working any number of hours to get rich. Remember the lesson of the Stanford study: Sometimes, the winners of a tournament are the ones who choose not to enter it.

No thanks.  I’ll take my leisure time and time with my family over lots of money any day.

25) Speaking of family time.  Happy anniversary to me.  And my wife.  22 years today.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

6 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Jon K says:

    4) I remember the effects of the old overtime rules from my stint as a manager for Radio Shack. Once I became a salaried employee (about 28 K + bonus) I became a slave to the company. All mangers were expected to work a minimum of 51 hours per week. Since hourly employees were never to exceed 40 hours managers were expected to cover any gaps in the schedule personally. I often worked 60 and 70 hour weeks. I guess it was generous that Radio Shack paid me 5 bucks an hour for anything worked over 51 hours, but it sure didn’t feel that way. If these rules force retailers to treat store mangers as people rather than robots then they will be a good thing.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #8 Fields that have paid less as women became the majority of workers: teachers and veterinarians. Soon doctors will join in.
    But the worst threat is from robots killing jobs for all. How will be keep our consumer economy going when significantly fewer people have jobs and the money to buy?
    Oddly, Barry Goldwater had a proposal called the negative income tax which might point the way.

    • ohwilleke says:

      Jobs are not a fixed quantity good. Unemployment arises from a failure of entrepreneurship, not from a shortage of jobs.

      Once upon a time 90% of the population was made up of farmers, now it is less than 2%. We found other worthwhile things for people to do and will continue to do so. We may not be able to predict today just what new jobs will be invented, but whole new industries will emerge to employ people when robots do the jobs they used to do. ATMs didn’t even reduce the total employment level in the banking industry. We don’t worry that life is worse without live operators connecting every telephone call today, and without elevator operators in every elevator. And, all of the states except Oregon manage just fine without full service gas stations.

  3. ohwilleke says:

    #3 Tend to disagree. Many expansions of the franchise have arisen due to lack of a uniform federal definition of the franchise, including women’s right to vote and a reduction of the voting age to 18. Putting it in the federal constitution would be a barrier to future efforts to expand the franchise, for example, to permanent resident non-citizens (as is the case in New Zealand for all elections and in the EU for some elections), to 16 and 17 year olds (such as in the recent Scottish Independence election), and because I don’t envision it passing without having too much felon disenfranchisement. We already have a mechanism in the constitution to reduce the political power of states that disenfranchise too many people although it has fallen into disuse.

  4. ohwilleke says:

    #22 The real story is that the Georgia trial court and Georgia Supreme Court found no jury selection violation in the face over overwhelming evidence that racially based jury selection occurred. The prosecutor’s conduct, not long after it was declared illegal was less shocking (old habits die hard), than the willfully obtuse judicial conduct and the necessarily dishonest testimony of the prosecutors in the case about their non-racial motives.

    But, Batson is a problem that isn’t going to go away because race is more predictive of likelihood to be pro-defense on a petite jury than most other kinds of data available to prosecutors at the jury selection stage and prosecutors naturally want to win.

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