America is special

Don’t know why the author chose Scandinavian nations to compare us to (presumably, to make us look especially bad) as we’d look bad compared to anybody.  But damn, does this animated gif bring our insanity on criminal justice home.


When women run, women win. Mostly.

Perhaps the most under-appreciated fact about the lack of female political officeholders is the reality that not nearly enough women run for office.  The best social science evidence indicates very little, if any, bias against women candidates.  No, the problem is that not nearly enough women run for office due to a host of socio-cultural reasons (that, yes, of course, relate to sexism)– especially much less political ambition among women.  There’s a nice little truism– when women run, women win– to express the fact that, more than anything, we need more women running.

Thus, I found this recent political science article detailing some genuine gender bias against female candidates to be pretty interesting.  The title pretty well gets it, “Evangelical Protestantism and Bias Against Female Political Leaders” and here’s the abstract:



Gender and politics scholars have paid little attention to religion as a source of individual-level biases against female politicians. We begin to address this gap by modeling the relationship among evangelical Protestantism, partisanship, and the beliefs that males are better issue advocates and political leaders than women.


We employ logistic regression models with data from a 2008 survey administered by the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project.


We find that evangelical Protestantism, but not religious attendance more generally, is a strong predictor of whether Americans will hold biases against female political leaders. The effect of evangelical Protestantism is especially pronounced within the Republican Party.


These findings suggest a potential cause of the underrepresentation of women in the political world. They further underscore the need to control for religious denomination in future studies of gender stereotyping.

So, I guess when women run, women win.  Except where there’s a lot of evangelical voters.

Photo of the day

Wired’s photo of the week of a wildfire in California’s wine country.  Whoa.

The Atlas Fire burns east of Wooden Valley Road in Napa County, California.

Yes, I live in a Banana Republic

No, not the United States, but North Carolina.  It’s shameful and pathetic.  The latest attempts of NC Republicans to undermine the judicial branch are chronicled in the NYT:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republicans with a firm grip on the North Carolina legislature — and, until January, the governor’s seat — enacted a conservative agenda in recent years, only to have a steady stream of laws affecting voting and legislative power rejected by the courts.

Now lawmakers have seized on a solution: change the makeup of the courts.

Judges in state courts as of this year must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections. The General Assembly in Raleigh reduced the size of the state Court of Appeals, depriving Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of naming replacements for retiring Republicans.

And this month, lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide, which critics say are meant to increase the number of Republican judges on district and superior courts and would force many African-Americans on the bench into runoffs against other incumbents…

Republicans say their goal is to correct yearslong imbalances from shifts in population, ignored while Democrats held power, and to give voters more information about little-known judges in down-ballot races. “This is about making good policy,” Representative Justin Burr, who unveiled the proposed new judicial maps in a series of Twitter messages one Sunday in June, has said.

And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Since Republicans ended more than a century of Democratic rule in 2010 by capturing both houses of the General Assembly, they have justified their sometimes hardball tactics as being no different from Democrats’ ways in the past. Mr. Cooper’s narrow victory, the General Assembly rammed through laws to strip him of crucial powers.

But longtime observers of North Carolina government say Republicans’ actions are without recent precedent. And court rulings seem to affirm their point. The United States Supreme Court said this year the legislature created illegal racial gerrymanders in drawing election maps for Congress and its own members in 2011. The Supreme Court also sustained a lower-court ruling that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law was unconstitutional and discriminated against blacks “with almost surgical precision.”

“Anybody who has been around for a while will tell you what’s happened in the last few years is on an entirely different level than anything done before,” said Michael Crowell, a former associate director of the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina, who is unaffiliated with a party. “The common feature here is that so much of it seems to be designed to manipulate the election process.” [emphasis mine]

In a smart formulation Brendan Nyhan often uses– what would you think about this if you saw it in another country?  That’s right.  Banana Republic.  The callous disregard for basic principles of democracy is depressing and disgusting.

What’s wrong with Charter Schools?

The N&O is running a terrific series on charter schools in NC this week.  There are definitely a few models of charter schools that seem to have a real benefit (e.g., KIPP), especially for urban, at-risk kids.  There is a question of how scalable these are as many seem to be based on burning through young, idealistic teachers, but, they evidence suggests they really do work for many kids.  Also, they are not out to make people rich.  Alas, much of the boom in charter schools comes from for-profit companies and is just leading to further segregation.  A nice editorial summarizes the key points of the series:

▪ The early vision has expanded haphazardly. Charters work best if they remain laboratories – not, as some seem to believe, schools driven by a wish on the part of parents and founders to be independent of public education, though funded by the public. Or driven by the political views of those who support them.

▪ There have been some diversions from the original intent in the legislature’s endorsement. Charters 20 years ago were supposed to be racially and economically diverse. They’re not. Most are largely white or largely minority. And overall charters tend to be whiter and more affluent. [emphases mine] In the regular public schools, more than half of students are from low-income families. In charters, it’s one in three.

▪ The N&O series reports, because of sparse populations and lower incomes (charters aren’t required to provide transportation or meals), rural areas of the state have few charter options.

▪ The growth of charters encouraged by the Republicans in the General Assembly also has gotten the charters away from their home-grown, parent-driven beginnings. Now, for-profit companies headquartered elsewhere are getting millions in state funding for their charters. And those schools don’t perform any better overall than regular public schools

▪ The schools’ student performance, as measured alongside all other schools, seems about average.

Much to my dismay, a number of my “liberal” friends have pulled their kids out of their local, traditional schools that happen to be very diverse and do a fine job (I know, they are my kids’ schools) to go to largely white charters.  Again, these opportunities just are not realistic for many poorer families due to transportation and other logistical issues.  This article  looks at why NC Charters are richer and whiter.

I also found this article in the series about for-profit charters particularly disturbing.  Especially considering how much they are lobbying the legislature to insure their profits.  As you know, I’m not at all opposed to capitalism or free markets (where they make sense!).  Where it does not make sense is companies getting rich giving our kids an average (at best) and less diverse education.

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