Quick Hits (part II)

1) Social science says don’t spy on your teenager.  (But if you know your teenager is reading this blog post you wrote, does that change things?)

2) Recent research finds that children of older mothers have higher cognitive ability at age 10.  If I was teaching a research methods class, I would so use this article to discuss selection bias.

3) You know I’m a fan of GMO crops, properly-used.  Alas, it can be a problem when farmers don’t use them properly and fail to plant enough refuge crops.  Some recent NCSU research:

For about 20 years, growers have made use of Bt crops to limit crop damage from pests. Bt crops, including corn, are genetically engineered to produce proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium. These proteins are harmless to vertebrates, but toxic to a specific class of invertebrate crop pests.

To date, these Bt crops have been remarkably successful. However, insect pests have shown the ability to evolve resistance to Bt proteins. In order to slow down the development of Bt resistance, farmers who plant Bt crops are urged to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops – called refuge crops. In fact, in the case of Bt corn, farmers are required to plant a section of their fields with refuge crops.

That’s because refuge crops provide fodder for insect pests that are not resistant to Bt proteins. These pests are then able to breed with their Bt-resistant counterparts, diluting Bt resistance in the overall pest population.

But compliance with planting refuge crops is variable. Some growers plant too little of their fields with Bt crops, and some don’t plant refuge crops at all.

4) Speaking of NCSU, my colleague Jim Zink with a post on how “Constitutional Veneration” is an obstacle to constitutional change.

 

5) How comedy gets made via an annotated Daily Show script.

6) Eduardo Porter on the need to think seriously about geo-engineering and climate change.

7) Great Brooks‘ column on Trump’s incompetence.  So good!

The normal incompetent person flails and stammers and is embarrassed about it. But the true genius at incompetence like our president flails and founders and is too incompetent to recognize his own incompetence. He mistakes his catastrophes for successes and so accelerates his pace toward oblivion. Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it…

Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull.

It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.

It is in its own way a privilege to be alive at the same time as a man who is the Albert Einstein of confirmation bias, a man whose most impressive wall is the one between himself and evidence, a man who doesn’t need to go off in search of enemies because he is already his own worst one.

8) Why, yes, those champions of the little guy leading the NC legislature are looking to protect massively-polluting hog farms from lawsuits.  Maybe they should try living next-door and downwind from one of these farms!

9) In case you were wondering about the nutritional benefits of human cannibalism

10) The headline says it all, “The Texas-size scapegoating of an illegal voter is a travesty of justice.”

11) A reminder that there’s really not a lot of value to an elite college beyond a good non-elite college(unless you get tons of personal happiness from following their basketball team as a student and alumnus).  Interestingly, though, for minority students, there is a very real benefit.  Thus:

Elite colleges are most valuable for the students they are least likely to admit—and least valuable for the students they are most likely to admit. More than the size and weight of many thousand envelopes currently in the mail, that is an admissions dilemma worth fretting about.

12) Of course getting on the UNC Board of Governors is all about political donations (instead of, you know, knowing and caring about higher education).  The thing is, you are not supposed to actually admit that when vying for the position.

13) I don’t love all of this essay on how Trump has “blown up” on Republicans, but there’s definitely some good stuff:

Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.

The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.

This is how Mitch McConnell ended up so hugely unpopular and despised in his own party that he attracted a high-profile primary challenger during the period when he was doing more than any other person in Washington to thwart the Democratic Party. This is how and why a deal to cut social insurance benefits with support from a Democratic president repeatedly failed to happen despite President Obama’s best efforts. And this is why Republicans couldn’t repeal Obamacare. The marginally cannier guys thought up a plausible legislative strategy for forcing through an unpopular proposal with minimum oversight, and the House Freedom Caucus guys played a key role in blowing it up because it didn’t repeal Obamacare enough.

The Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-odd true-believers (all men, of those publicly identified as caucus members, and mostly men over the age of 50), rejected the deal because it was hugely unpopular, but what they can’t grasp, or admit to themselves, is that it was hugely unpopular mainly because of the ways in which it did resemble their preferred set of policies, not because of how it diverged from them. It does not compute that a bill that follows their stated priorities—a stingier government that is crueler to its citizens of modest means—would be unpopular even among their own constituents.

14) Easily the best thing I’ve read on Trump and Syria is Frum’s take.

15) And a terrific Margaret Sullivan column on how the media so stupidly just loves any show of military force.

16) Sorry, to mess up your usual weekend quick hits plans, but here’s me at the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower yesterday.

 

 

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