Quick hits (part II)

Busy weekend of soccer coaching plus feeling like crap from a nasty cold equals really late quick hits.  On the bright side, I’ve got quotes for pretty much all of them.  Enjoy.

1a) South Carolina has under-funded and brutal prisons.  Yeah, they committed crimes, but they are still humans.  Many died needlessly in a recent riot.  John Pfaff:

Although the state is often held up as a criminal justice success story after a 2010 sentencing law reversed decades of rising incarceration rates, its system has faced legal challenges for years over how it is run. Only a few states spend less per prisoner than South Carolina, and while the national inmates-per-officer ratio is on the order of five to one (at least according to data from 2005, the most recent data we have), at Lee on the night of the violence the ratio was much, much higher. Initial reports said there two guards per housing block, with 250 men in each block. Later reports suggested that there may have been four guards per block, not two, but that wouldn’t really paint a better picture either: 63 to one is still an unacceptable ratio.What is clear is that South Carolina’s prisons are underfunded and understaffed — about 30 percent of all positions are vacant, and low pay and low morale have made it hard to retain corrections officers. The facilities are poorly maintained, and programming is inadequate for the size of the prison population. All these factors are policy choices driven by budgeting, and all of them contribute to prison violence.

 Prisons need not be like this. Facilities in countries like Germanylook almost nothing like prisons in the U.S., even though they often detain people convicted of serious violent crimes. The institutions are well-maintained, and correctional officials — who view their jobs more as social work than law enforcement — are well-paid and well-trained. While most correctional officers in the U.S. receive, at most, three months of training before being sent into a prison, in Germany the minimum is two years. Treated in a less adversarial manner in more humane settings, those held in European prisons tend to respond accordingly.

1b) And Historian Heather Ann Thompson:

Today, seven young men — men who were someone’s child, father, sibling or partner — are dead because we allow our nation’s correctional facilities to be run brutally. But, thanks to their cellphone keyboards and cameras, those who live in this terrible place can tell us what really goes on, and how we might change it.

They are desperate for state senators to pass new laws so that South Carolina prisoners have “an incentive to get out in society and live life again.” They argue that officials could eliminate the contraband problem simply by allowing cigarettes and cellphones to be sold in the canteen (instead of sold to them by guards, who can get upward of $1,700 for a phone). They would be less hungry if state officials would simply allow their families “to send inmates packages of food” and they’d be more productive and better able to re-enter society, they tell us, if prisons simply reinstated classes in “life skills and trades.”

2) Nice article about Pope Francis.  The key paragraph as far as I’m concerned:

But it is Francis’ prioritizing of social justice over culture-war issues [emphasis mine] such as abortion that has caused the sharpest internal divisions, with a small but committed group of conservative cardinals publicly suggesting that he is a heretical autocrat leading the faithful toward confusion and schism.

You know what Jesus talked about pretty much all the time?  What we now call “social justice issues.”  Culture war issues, not so much.

3) On how Charleston, WV is giving up its needle-exchange program despite all the evidence that these programs work:

The research is unambiguous: Needle exchanges reduce the spread of bloodborne diseases like hepatitis C and H.I.V. and do not increase drug use. They’ve been shown to reduce overdose deaths, decrease the number of needles discarded in public places and make it more likely that drug users enter treatment. They also save money: One recent study estimated that $10 million spent on needle exchanges might save more than $70 million in averted H.I.V. treatment costs alone.

Health experts say the programs create relationships between deeply addicted people and the health care system, an essential step if they are to be reintegrated into society. “It’s the most low-threshold way for people who use drugs to have contact with any kind of public health professional,” said Alex H. Kral, an epidemiologist with RTI International, a nonprofit research organization. “And that’s a powerful intervention.”

4) I am emphatically in favor of joint bank accounts and not separate accounts for married couples.  Kim and I do not to even the tiniest degree have my money and her money.  It’s all “our money” damnit.  The sub-head–“It doesn’t signal a lack of trust—to some, it’s a way for spouses to show they trust each other more”  of this Atlantic article strikes me as far as rationalization far more than reality.

A joint bank account has, traditionally, been a sign of commitment. As newlyweds start their lives together, it is perhaps the clearest way for them to say, to each other and to the world, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”

But these days, some young couples are skeptical. “There has been a generational change,” said Joanna Pepin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland who studies the organization of money in romantic relationships. “The research we have shows that, cross-culturally, more people are keeping money separate.” Indeed, a Bank of America study published earlier this year seemed to suggest that Millennial married and cohabitating couples were more likely to hold separate accounts than previous generations were.

Pepin says this trend is particularly pronounced among low-income couples, who are likelier to value access to their own earnings over the show of commitment and loyalty that comes with the decision to merge finances, a quality often prioritized by higher-earners.

Some of this has to do with Millennial marriage trends more generally. Compared to previous generations, Millennials get married later in life, and thus significantly more of them live together before marriage. Because cohabiting couples are far more likely than married couples to keep finances separate, a certain inertia develops. “Once you’ve established your relationship norms,” Pepin asked, “why would you change them?”

When today’s young adults do decide to get married, many of them are further along in their careers, with a better sense of who they are and what they contribute to their workplace. One 29-year-old I talked to, a medical resident in San Francisco, told me that for those who believe one’s bank account offers a clear reflection of a person’s work ethic or success, it can be hard to cede control. “It’s about wanting to maintain one’s sense of identity, individuality, and autonomy,” said Fenaba Addo, an assistant professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

When I asked several married Millennial couples why they decided to keep their finances fully or partially separate, one reason came up more than any other: A joint bank account seemed to blur each individual’s financial contributions at a time when women are earning more than they used to. “If we just had a joint account, it would bring an uneasy feeling—a sense of inequality,” said Zack Pasillas, a 26-year-old office worker from Orange County, California. Zack’s wife, Karina, works in customer service at the local water company. She knows that, in the future, she’ll likely make less money than Zack, but that makes her even more eager to keep their finances separate. “When buying him gifts, when picking up the tab at dinner, I like knowing that I am also contributing to this relationship,” she said. “It’s my work—it’s my money.” Another Millennial I talked to worried that, if he and his wife merged bank accounts, their relationship might begin to conform to antiquated gender roles, with the man in charge of all the finances. The concept of a joint account, to him, felt dated…

Indeed, the 20- and 30-somethings I spoke with all felt strongly that separate bank accounts don’t signal a lack of trust—if anything, they said, it’s a sign that partners trust each other more. Zack and Karina Pasillas have a clear understanding that, if either of them needs money, they’ll help each other out. Their debts are due, and their salaries come in, at different times of the month, so sometimes one will cover the other. “It’s about having trust that, if needed, I can cover her end, and she can cover my end, too,” Zack Pasillas said.

No, no, no!  It’s a marriage, it’s not about “her end” or “my end” it all “our end”!  Of course, I expect my Millennial readers to disagree ;-).

5) Good stuff on why Trump supporters don’t mind his lies.  Like most everything else in politics, it comes down to motivated reasoning:

The results of the experiments, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, show that reflecting on how a falsehood could have been true did cause people to rate it as less unethical to tell — but only when the falsehoods seemed to confirm their political views. Trump supporters and opponents both showed this effect.

Again, the problem wasn’t that people confused fact and fiction; virtually everyone recognized the claims as false. But when a falsehood resonated with people’s politics, asking them to imagine counterfactual situations in which it could have been true softened their moral judgments. A little imagination can apparently make a lie feel “truthy” enough to give the liar a bit of a pass.

These results reveal a subtle hypocrisy in how we maintain our political views. We use different standards of honesty to judge falsehoods we find politically appealing versus unappealing. When judging a falsehood that maligns a favored politician, we ask, “Was it true?” and then condemn it if the answer is no.

In contrast, when judging a falsehood that makes a favored politician look good, we are willing to ask, “Could it have been true?” and then weaken our condemnation if we can imagine the answer is yes. By using a lower ethical standard for lies we like, we leave ourselves vulnerable to influence by pundits and spin doctors.

6) This amazing, prize-winning photo was disqualified for using a taxidermied anteater.

Marcio Cabral had faked The Night Raider with a taxidermy anteater — a charge he denies.

Marcio Cabral/Natural History Museum

7) Really interesting interview with Helen Fisher on sex and love.  Ends with her formula for a happy marriage:

You talk to a psychologist, and they’ll probably give you a different answer, but I can tell you what the brain says about happiness in a longterm partnership. There are three brain regions that become active when you are in a longterm, loving relationship.

A brain region linked with empathy, a brain region linked with controlling your own stress and your own emotions, and a brain region linked with what I call “positive illusion,” the ability to overlook what you don’t like about somebody and focus on what you do.

You want a happy marriage? Do all those things that psychologists and others might suggest, but this is what the brain says: Express empathy, control your own emotions, and overlook the negatives in your partner and focus on the positives.

8) As great as a college education is, it’s definitely not for everyone.  We need to do a better job teaching trades and getting the right people into them.  NPR:

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.

“Parents want success for their kids,” said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. “They get stuck on [four-year bachelor’s degrees], and they’re not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check.”

In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor’s degrees.

Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require less than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.

“There is an emphasis on the four-year university track” in high schools, said Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report. Yet, nationwide, three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven’t earned degrees within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At four-year private colleges, that number is more than 1 in 5.

“Being more aware of other types of options may be exactly what they need,” Cortines said. In spite of a perception “that college is the sole path for everybody,” he said, “when you look at the types of wages that apprenticeships and other career areas pay and the fact that you do not pay four years of tuition and you’re paid while you learn, these other paths really need some additional consideration.”

9) Liked Brian Beutler on how journalists should deal with stolen/hacked information:

In the brave new world of mass hacking—and particularly of the kind of hack-and-dump tactics deployed against Clinton—the tradeoff is different, and in some ways should be less severe. Whatever we gleaned from the contents of Podesta’s emails or the DNC emails, reporters were aware of, and should have been able to incorporate, one cardinal fact: the source materials were the the spoils of an extremely serious crime.

That shouldn’t make stolen information off limits—a lot of great journalism is the fruit of crime—but it does make the information part of a larger story. In Clinton’s case, the larger story was that some entity (likely Russian intelligence, though the Trump campaign did its level best to muddy those waters) was trying to sabotage the campaign of one of America’s two major party presidential candidates, to tip the election to her opponent. That’s a huge deal, even if the “entity” is Trump’s fabled 400 pound man in New Jersey. Don’t believe me? Publish all of your emails online and see how it alters your horizons. Or tell Bob Woodward he should’ve been more interested in what the Watergate burglars stole than in why they stole it. The crime isn’t always as important as the loot, but it often is, and major media outlets have clearly struggled devising new editorial standards to account for that.

The main impediments to implementing such standards aren’t technical or even that subjective. They are hardwired professional incentives that reward reporting the latest news as quickly as possible in a competitive environment. Reporters and editors and anchors and producers make judgment calls about what’s important and what’s not all the time. They know how to use their platforms to emphasize some pieces of information over others, and present stories in ways that are proportionate to their news value. The problem is the economic pressures of journalism often force journalists to ask not “what will give consumers the clearest sense of what’s happening in the world?” but “what is the most recent thing I’ve learned?”—and then to report whatever the answer is.

That’s too bad, because a more considered approach to information dumps like the Podesta emails would address many of the concerns raised by critics of 2016 campaign coverage—or at least concerns about the stolen-email half of the media’s email fixation—and leave the public better informed than it is under the current paradigm. It would help protect American democracy against a repeat of the subversion we witnessed in 2016. And it would still leave plenty of room for people to argue on Twitter about Clinton’s private email server—the greatest political crime in the history of the world.

10) Bonus.  Finally got a somewhat decent video of one of my U18 players doing his awesome flip-throw throw-in.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fshgreene%2Fvideos%2F10105334870663339%2F&show_text=0&width=267

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

5 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Mika says:

    #10 Great, looks like he knows how to do it!

    (ps. I had to toggle my browser size to see it)

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #4 People go into marriage today knowing the statistics of the length of marriages. For their own survival and even for their children’s economic survival, that knowledge dictates some individual control over finances. One possible compromise might be that each couple contributes an agreed on percentage of their earnings into a joint account from which the family expenses are drawn.
    Sad situation but understandable.

    • Steve Greene says:

      I’d want to see some evidence that keeping separate control over finances actually makes the post-divorce finances (especially with children involved) any easier. I suspect not.

      • R. Jenrette says:

        But it may head off a lot of arguments about what one partner spends on things the other thinks are wasteful and unnecessary. It’s the little things that get you. In any case each should have some discretionary money to spend as he/she wills or even to stash away.

      • Steve Greene says:

        Seems to me you will still think your partner is wasteful regardless of the pot of money the spending came from. But, as another quick hit said, letting the negatives go is part of a good marriage.

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