Quick hits (part II)

1) It’s amazing how low Donald Trump has successfully set the bar for his behavior.  Seriously, just imagine if Hillary Clinton had pledged $1 million of her own money to veterans and never delivered.

2) When, when, when will our foreign policy start treating Saudi Arabia as our enemy, as they actually are, than as an ally?

3) Oh man did I love this Upshot piece on how the problem with TSA (and many government bureaucracies) is that they don’t consider the wasted time of their customers a “cost” of what they do:

The agency accounts for direct monetary costs in great detail. In 2015, it spent $7.55 billion. That comes to about $10 per passenger-trip, of which $2.50 is defrayed by a tax added to airline tickets.

But T.S.A. ledgers don’t capture the cost of wasted time. Suppose, for example, that a passenger budgets an extra hour to make sure she catches her flight. The value of this hour surely exceeds the $2.50 she pays to the T.S.A. in tax. And for nearly anyone, it also exceeds $10. But you won’t find such calculations in the agency’s accounting.

That’s not entirely the T.S.A.’s fault. When Congress cut the agency’s budget last year, it didn’t account for the value of passengers’ time. This omission is a common government failing. A Department of Motor Vehicles budget does not include time spent waiting for a driver’s license, nor does the I.R.S. budget account for the hours we spend filling out tax returns.

This glaring omission creates perverse incentives for government agencies. Cutting staff improves an agency’s bottom line, while wasting citizens’ time has little material consequence for it aside from expressions of annoyance and outrage in tweets and articles (like this one).

4) That whole states with Republican governors thing is really limiting HRC’s possibilities for a running mate.

5) James Hamblin on the problem with emphasizing calories on the new Nutrition Facts labels.

6) A good take on why so many studies fail to replicate.

7) I never felt guilty for sleep training my babies.  And my wife and I definitely do not lack for attachment with our children.

In a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, 43 infants in Australia, 6 to 16 months old, all healthy, but identified by their parents as having sleep problems, were randomized to three different groups. In one group, the parents tried graduated extinction, the technique in which babies are allowed to cry for short, prescribed intervals over the course of several nights. The second group tried a technique called bedtime fading, in which parents delay bedtime in 15-minute increments so the child becomes more and more tired. And the third group, as a control, was just given sleep information.

The researchers measured the babies’ stress by sampling their levels of cortisol, a hormone indicating stress, and also looked at the mothers’ stress; 12 months after the intervention, they evaluated parent-child attachment and looked at whether the children had emotional and behavioral problems.

“What we were interested in is this hypothesis that there are these long-term consequences from doing something like graduated extinction,” said Michael Gradisar, an associate professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide who was the first author on the new study.

Both sleep techniques – graduated extinction and bedtime fading — decreased the time it took children to fall asleep and graduated extinction reduced night wakings, compared to the control group. All the salivary cortisol levels were within the normal range in all three groups, but the afternoon levels in the two sleep training groups declined over time more than the controls. And there was no difference among the groups, 12 months later, in the measures of the children’s emotional and behavioral well-being.

Although critics of graduated extinction believe that strategy disrupts parent-child attachment, Dr. Gradisar said: “We couldn’t find any differences. The more studies we get, the more confident we can feel that this is actually safe to perform.”

8) On the whole, I still strongly believe that Common Core is a good thing.  That, however, does not mean that theren’t aren’t some horribly inappropriate questions I might struggle with, much less a 4th grader.

9) The irony of conservatives being upset about FB censoring conservative news.

10) Dana Milbank on Hillary Clinton’s email issue:

But what’s damning in the new report is her obsessive and counterproductive secrecy…

The stonewalling creates a firm impression, well captured by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this week when he interviewed Clinton’s spokesman, Brian Fallon: “If she didn’t do anything wrong and she had nothing to hide, why didn’t she cooperate with the inspector general?”

There is no good answer to this. And that’s why the IG report was just another of Clinton’s self-inflicted wounds, stretching back a quarter century, caused by her tendency toward secrecy and debilitating caution.

And yet, I’m pretty confident she’d make a better president than both Trump and Bernie Sanders.

11) Can we blame increasing violent crime on Republican budget cuts to government?  Maybe.

12) I love cool traffic technology.  Like this diverging diamonds intersection.

13) Thank God my almost 14-year old mentally-disabled son is able enough to use the public restroom by himself.  But barely.  And I know plenty of parents with disabled children who still need help in the restroom.  And now thanks to NC, we’ve got the bathroom police upon us.

14) Speaking of disability, really interesting take on Hodor and the ethics of disability in Game of Thrones.

Look at Tolkien, for example. If you count up the battles, skirmishes, everything like that [in the Lord of the Rings series], the fact that out of the nine [Fellowship of the Ring members], eight of them survived and only one of them is missing a finger is statistically ludicrous. Martin is playing with the idea that because somebody is a hero or a beloved character they are going to live somehow. I used to call that the kids-at-the-end-of-Jurassic-Park syndrome: They should have been raptor chow, but we can’t have the kids getting killed.

By talking about disability as a very certain set of extreme conditions, we have a tendency of setting up these walls between them and us. But what Martin does is show how very, very fragile the boundaries between wholeness and bodily vulnerability are. Only in a moment you can go from being an “able” person to somebody who is “disabled.”

15) Really, really good piece on the recent history of the NC Supreme Court and how important it is to what’s been going on in NC.  I feel bad I didn’t know all this stuff but am very glad I do now.

16) Heartbreaking story of a hiker who got lost on the Appalachian Trail, eventually starving to death.  Her body and the letters she wrote was just found years later.

17) Interesting new political science research on the values underlying our ideologies:

First, the more importance people attach to transcending self-interest on behalf of others, the stronger their preferences for the liberal label, a generous welfare state, ameliorative racial policies, cultural progressivism, political tolerance, and dovish foreign policy. Second, the more individuals prioritize respect for tradition, deference to convention, and social order, the stronger their preferences for the conservative label, smaller government, racial self-help, culturally conservative policies, political intolerance, military power, and foreign policy unilateralism. Third, the egocentric values of self-enhancement and openness to change play a small role in generating support for or opposition to ideological labels or policy positions…

To conclude, social scientists have long seen basic values as prime candidates for shaping public opinion on key issues. Our paper confirms that basic human values drive opinion formation, but with the critical qualification that not all values are consequential. Self-transcendence and conservation values stand apart from self-enhancement and openness-to-change values as drivers of public opinion. Public opinion in the United States depends on beliefs about the good and just society to a much greater extent than beliefs about the virtue of private gain.

18) Open tab too long– last month’s Atlantic cover story on being broke and middle class.

19) I liked this response to it even better.

To be sure, Gabler is perhaps not as brutally honest with himself as he might be. “I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses,” he says, while recounting his decisions to live in Brooklyn, and then in the Hamptons, while sending his daughters to private school and expensive colleges. This is keeping up with the Joneses, of course. Gabler happens to belong to a social class in which the markers of success are living in the orbit of an expensive coastal city and educating your children at an elite school, not necessarily driving a fancy car or having a second home on some Florida golf course. Yet the former often costs more than the latter would. The majority of the people in the world do not live in the New York metropolitan area, and do not send their kids to Stanford University, and yet they somehow manage to get through their days — even, I dare say, to occasionally live worthy lives and die happy.

I say this not to rake Gabler over the coals particularly; note that I too live in D.C., an expensive city, even though our money would undoubtedly go much further in exurban Virginia, or western Kentucky for that matter. Rather, I say this to suggest that the primary reason people have so much trouble saving is that they can always find a reason to justify not doing so. The details of what they’re spending on may change, but the justifications have a curiously similar sound to them.

20) Your long read.  Really good New Yorker take on the extreme liberalism at Oberlin.  The author of the piece doesn’t do much, mostly just lets Oberlin students’ own words speak to their own absurdity.

21) And Mike Munger says that universities are failing their liberal students.  Not guilty in my department, but I’m sure he has a point.

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

3 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. R, Jenrette says:

    #2 re: Saudi Arabia. We can recognize Saudi Arabia’s serious faults as an ally but it would be very dangerous to label them openly as an enemy. Do we really want all of the Middle East openly against us and uniting against what would be perceived as the common enemy? Do we want Israel to be even more threatened from all the Islamic states together?
    Rule #1 – use your assets to divide your enemies, not unite them The U.S. benefits from the Sunni’s balancing the power of the Shias. Remember why the U.S. put Saddam in power in Iraq? Unfortunately the Bush administration gave up that balance for what they thought would be a glorious and profitable exercise of American military power.
    As allies, we have more influence over allied governments than we would if openly their enemy.
    Our government is walking a tightrope right now because of Saudi threats to dump their billions in American assets on the market to punish us if certain documents regarding 9/11 and a possible Saudi role in 9/11. This would take us back to 2007 economics.
    Foreign policy is not simple.

    • ohwilleke says:

      Generally agree. But, it is not an easy balance. Saudi Arabia is one of the most important root causes of the Islamist fundamentalist terrorism in the world. It’s oil games wreck havoc on world economies – although the U.S. does not directly consume almost any Saudi oil. Saudi Arabia kept slaves until recently, executes people far too often, treats its large immigrant population like shit, and is pretty much as anti-democratic as you can get.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    #20 Call me what you will, but I can’t help reading the article and feeling a little proud that some campus institutions related to student government that I played an important role in putting in place more than twenty years ago (when we reinvented student government after it had been defunct for many years) are still alive and kicking and functioning in the manner originally intended. There is also something to be said for going to college someplace where people actually give a shit – apathy can be worse than far off center discourse. The locations are also familiar after a recent college visit with my eldest who may not love it quite as much as my wife and I did, but liked it more than anticipated. (Plus first run movies are way cheap in Oberlin).

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