Quick hits (part I)

1a) The loss of so many newspaper reporters is not just bad for the newspaper, it is bad for those of us who believe in democracy and accountable government.  Subscribe to your local newspaper, damnit!  I mean it.  Here’s the sad take on the loss of journalism in California:

The body count is staggering.

In my 43 years as a journalist, armies of trained bloodhounds have been run out of newsrooms where I’ve worked, victims of layoffs, and buyouts, and battle fatigue. I’ve lost so many hundreds of colleagues, I can’t keep track of where they ended up.

These were smart, curious reporters, photographers and editors who told stories that defined place and time and made us all know each other a little better. They covered the arts and the local sports teams. They bird-dogged city councils, courts, law enforcement, school districts and other agencies that spend our tax dollars, bearing witness, asking questions and rooting out corruption.

There is less watching today, even though California’s population has nearly doubled since I began my career, and we are all poorer for it.

It might seem like the opposite is true — that there’s more information available than ever, because of incessant chirping on cable news, nightly car chases on local outlets, digital news sites and social media news feeds.

What’s lost when the reporters go

But what’s vanished or been greatly diminished in far too many places is good, solid reporting on local and state affairs, and we don’t even know what that has cost us through mismanagement, misuse of funds and outright corruption.

1b) Some small hope…Report for America modeled after AmeriCorps.

2) Krugman on the advances in renewable energy technology and how our problems going forward are more political than technological.

3) The NYT Magazine story of Liberty University’s on-line education empire is something else.  Their business model is to provide the crappiest possible education with less oversight than for-profit on-line universities get.

4) It’s kind of crazy that in 2018 SNL is doing a send-up of Les Miserables about ordering lobster.  But I loved Les Mis and I loved this.

5) Spend money on paying other people to do housework (if you can, obviously) for the good of your marriage.  This one definitely reduces friction in the Greene household:

Many of us are busy at work, but even at home, there is a lot of work to do. Meal preparation, cleaning, yard work, home maintenance and child care consume considerable time for the typical American.

Much of it isn’t fun, contributing to friction in relationships and taking time away from more pleasant activities that increase happiness. Instead of bickering over who will do the vacuuming, would family life be better if we just outsourced the job?

One survey found that 25 percent of people who were divorced named “disagreements about housework” as the top reason for getting a divorce.

In a working paper that cited that survey, scholars at the Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia examined whether buying timesaving services could improve relationships. The study, which involved over 3,000 people in committed relationships across a variety of tests, revealed that those who spent more money on timesaving services were more satisfied with their relationships, in part because they spent more quality time with their partners.

6)  NYT Op-ed: “The Ethical Case for Having a Baby With Down Syndrome”

7) How often do people use guns in self defense?  Way less than the gun rights crowd says:

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It’s a common refrain touted by gun rights advocates, who argue that using guns in self-defense can help save lives. But what is the actual number of defensive gun uses?

According to the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of gun owners say they own a gun mainly for protection. But for years, experts have been divided over how often people actually use guns in self-defense. The numbers range from the millions to hundreds of thousands, depending on whom you ask.

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually..

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook toldThe Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

8) Our Lieutenant Governor is an embarrassing, far-right loon.  Hopefully, he’ll be trounced when he runs for governor in 2020.

9) California billionaire Tom Steyer has been wasting a ton of his money on a quixotic quest for impeachment.  If he really wants to impeach Trump, he’s definitely wise to direct more of his money to encouraging youth turn-out in 2020 in swing states like NC.  Now that’s how to spend your political money.

10) Pretty cool example of what you can now do to create totally fake video.  I’m not as worried as many because if this stuff really becomes pervasive, the only people who believe it will be the ones already believing the Pizzagate stuff anyway.

11) So a couple weeks ago, I linked to a Rolling Stone story about the environmental degradation caused by the pork industry in North Carolina (actually, I forgot the link, but had an extensive quote).  Much to my surprise (I’m not exactly Kevin Drum in my readership numbers), the CEO of the NC Pork Council emailed me to stop spreading mis-information.  You can decide whether you want to believe Rolling Stone or the NC Pork Council.

12) There’s a huge gender disparity (way too many men largely due to selective abortions) in India and China.  This is very, very not good for society:

othing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.

The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.

Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.

“In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,” warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females — the equivalent of almost the entire population of California, or Poland, who will never find wives and only rarely have sex. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were determined that their child should be a son.

India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.

13) Can you imagine your kids’ school becoming the nipple police against a 15-year old girl?  Ugh.

Meredith Harbach, a University of Richmond law professor whose 2016 paper explored sexualization and public school dress codes, said the problem arises when schools impose gender-specific requirements based on sex stereotypes.

In the case of Lizzy, for example, the school is “foisting this notion that unrestrained breasts are sexual and likely to cause disruption and distract other students,” Ms. Harbach said. But this kind of messaging that targets young women — your skirt is too short, you look too sexy, you’re distracting the boys — “deflects any and all conversation about appropriate mutually respectful behavior in schools between boys and girls,” she said.

“Who is disrupted actually? It’s Lizzy. Whose learning experience is impacted?” Ms. Harbach said. “It doesn’t sound like other kids had a major disruption, but she sure did.”

14) The editor of the 2nd most prestigious journal in political science (and one I interned for wayhe took the journal’s website to defend himself back when) is embroiled in a sexual harassment controversy.  And it went to quite a new level this week, when .

15) I used to joke that Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block was one of two books that changed my life.  Actually, it really did make as much positive impact as any book I’ve read (barely beating out, Healthy Sleep, Happy Child).  Really enjoyed this NYT profile of Karp.  My greatest regret is that the book came out in 2002, two years too late for our first and most difficult baby.  It would’ve helped with David soooo much.

16) Nice take via a James Fallows correspondent, on what Comey did wrong vis-a-vis Trump and Clinton.

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