Quick hits (part II)

1) Republicans have a new solution to climate change.  Just keep chanting “innovation” like a mantra while ignoring the fact that actual innovation is shaped by policy choices that Republicans are opposed to.

2) Speaking of climate change… also enjoyed this Vox piece on wind power.  Especially because it showed this cool US wind map that shows that, yes, Lubbock, Texas was indeed by far the windiest place I’ve ever lived (also, let’s go Red Raiders!).

3) Nice piece looking back on Nirvana and “Nevermind” (easily one of the best albums ever) on the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death.  I remember I was visiting OSU before starting grad school on that day.

4) And growing partisan polarization on the environment.

Line graph. The percentages of U.S. Republicans (19%) and Democrats (65%) who worry a great deal about the quality of the environment.

5) In the queue too long, but so worth reading.  Radley Balko, “The criminal justice system also has an ‘alternative facts’ problem.”

It has been nearly 10 years since the National Academy of Sciences sounded the alarm about the shortcomings of forensics. Since then, there have been countless follow-up studies, state and national commissions, reports, panels and — to underscore the conclusions those entities reached — a consistent wave of crime lab scandals all over the country.

In the past year, Voxthe Nation and NBC News have published lengthy treatises on the basic problem: Many of the forensic disciplines used in courtrooms across the United States are unreliable and entirely subjective, using methods unsupported by scientific research. Forensic malfeasance has even crept into the plots of TV police and legal dramas.

The crisis in expert testimony seems to be resonating just about everywhere except for the one place it’s most crucial: in courtrooms. But the problem is bigger than forensics and junk science. It isn’t that the courts have been duped by phony expertise or quackery; it’s that the criminal justice system has evolved to disregard its own mistakes. Courts rarely correct themselves, even when they get something fundamentally wrong. And because they make their own rules, there’s no one to tell them to get it right.

6) Likewise, too long in the queue.  Really liked this take on Elizabeth Warren’s approach to economic policy:

But the Democratic Party would be smart to embrace Senator Warren’s approach and a broader pre-distribution agenda as its next big idea because it deals with the root causes of inequality in America and therefore the voter frustration that helped make Donald Trump president.

Pre-distribution is less costly than redistribution because it mostly entails regulatory reforms rather than big spending items, like free college or job guarantees. So it would not provoke many Americans’ deep-seated mistrust of big government as much as calls for redistribution would.

Conservatives argue that pretax earnings simply reflect the free operation of the market, but they don’t. There is no pristine free market — just real-world markets thoroughly sullied by imbalances of power and regulations that favor corporations over workers. We should not be shy about revising these regulations to achieve more equitable growth. This would not undermine the capitalist economy; it would enrich it.

We tend to speak of the government and the market as adversaries in economic policy debates. They aren’t. The government makes the market work, with vast implications for public welfare. Getting serious about pre-distribution means delving into all the things that governments do to enable modern markets to function properly, from corporate law to antitrust…

The pre-distribution agenda, while rooted in the minutiae of government regulation, actually has a simple core message. It is not about rigging the system to benefit the poor and the middle class, but about unrigging it from benefiting the wealthy and the powerful. It is about shaping markets to allocate returns from economic activity more fairly in the first place rather than trying to correct inequities after the fact.

In essence, it is about giving consumers more value for their dollar and workers the wages they are due. What could be the problem with that?

7) Greg Sargent, “Trump is floundering disastrously on multiple fronts. Stop pretending he’s in control.”

8) I’ve got a number of colleagues with standing desks.  Sit down already :-).  The latest research via CBC, “There is little evidence that standing desks make you healthier or help you lose weight.”

But is it really better to stand all day, rather than sit? Can standing make you healthier, or help you lose weight?

Dr. Aaron Carroll isn’t so sure.

“In fact, there’s very little evidence at all that switching people from sitting to standing desks makes much of a difference on anyone’s health,” he said.

With the proliferation of reports about the hazards of sitting, Carroll can understand why people think standing is better, but says that the connection between poor health and sitting isn’t always so simple.

“We’re trying to argue somehow that it’s the sitting that makes people unhealthy, instead of saying that perhaps people who are otherwise unhealthy or poor or unemployed or who have other issues are sitting a lot, and that’s what’s making them unhealthy, not necessarily the sitting,” he said.

Standing is not exercise

Standing is not exercise, and jobs that require people to spend most of their day standing often tend to be unhealthier, Carroll said.

“Just standing doesn’t get you the same kinds of benefits or health effects that exercising would,” he said. “Secondly, there’s not a lot of great evidence to show that exercise is the way to lose weight. Most of the way that people lose weight has much more to do with what they’re eating and nutrition than it does with exercise.”

While standing does not bring the health benefits people think, Carroll says it is important to get up and move during the day.

“People need to get up every once in a while, walk around and be active,” he said. “There’s probably a bunch of reasons that might be a good idea, the least of which is weight loss. It might actually clear your head, it might provide you with a better work environment, it might improve your mood. All of those things are great.”

Carroll says his goal isn’t to talk people out of standing desks altogether.

“If you find that using a standing desk helps you in a personal way, it relieves pain, it makes you more comfortable, by all means do it,” he said.

Honestly, I really dislike standing for extending periods.  But I’m quite happy getting up to stretch, move around, etc., on a fairly regular basis.  Totally sticking with that.

9) Cannot wait for the nationwide rollout of the “Impossible” Whopper.  The non-animal future of meat is definitely on it’s way.

10) Pretty interesting column from David Brooks on how Canada may be showing the right way to combat poverty.

11) Some AEI guys who suggest some market-based reforms for Republicans to embrace on health care.  Not necessarily horrible ideas, but this was a clear case where the commenters understood the issue better than the writers. You would think they would notice that all those countries thaty deliver better and more care for less money are not doing this through embracing more free-market principles.  Let me know next time you shop for a cardiologist based on price and outcomes.

12) Went to Frogfest yesterday and my son asked me how it was going with amphibians and the evil fungus.  Not good.  Bonus frogfest photo below:

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

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