Quick hits (part II)

1) How Intel made the wrong bet on the future of technology 10 years ago.

2) Contrary to what politicians and media would have you believe “normal America,” is not some small town in “the heartland,” but rather, a racially diverse, mid-size metropolitan area.

3) Jon Cohn on why it is so hard to keep health care prices down:

If you want to know why it’s so hard to fight the pharmaceutical industry and reduce spending on prescription drugs, pay close attention to a new Obama administrationinitiative and the reaction it’s getting on Capitol Hill — even from would-be allies in the Democratic Party.

The initiative seeks to change how Medicare pays for cancer therapies and other medications that physicians administer directly to patients in their offices or other outpatient settings. Under the current arrangement, Medicare basically reimburses doctors for the price of these drugs and then adds on an extra fee.

Not everybody agrees, however. The administration’s proposal has provokedintense opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and other physician groups, such as oncologists, for whom the existing system is extremely lucrative. They insist the proposed changes could disrupt the medication supply for cancer patients and other people in need of life-saving medication — arguments that some patient organizations have also made.

4) Inciting political anger is a lucrative business.

5) Actual science behind “resting bitch face.

6) The N&O on the recent federal court decision upholding NC’s Voter ID law:

One and all, these changes in state and local law would have been closely scrutinized by the Justice Department, in pre-clearance, and probably disallowed.

In upholding the recent monkey business in voter-eligibility requirements and procedures, Judge Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote with wonderful obtuseness: “In North Carolina’s recent history … certainly for the last quarter-century, there is little official discrimination to consider.” Which raises the question of what the weasel words “little” and “official” mean in context. My own judgment is that Schroeder must occupy a noiseless and newsless cocoon.

7) Extend the range of you remote car key.

8) What do you do with the prisoner/whistleblower who reports the egregious malfeasance of prison guards?  Why, in America, punish him all the more, of course.

9) I’d been wanting a piece explaining how Leicester City has basically pulled off the most improbably feat in modern sports history (seriously, it’s the maintaining this level over a full 38 game season that is so amazing) and Slate has come through:

The best tactics in the world can help you steal a couple of games you shouldn’t win. They can’t steal you a league title. To win the Premier League, you need great players, and Leicester has them. For a team operating on a limited budget, the most valuable asset is the late bloomer, someone whose growth curve shoots skyward after the big clubs have taken their look and moved on. Right back Danny Simpson and midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who made his first appearance for England in March, spent time in Manchester United’s academy. Defender Robert Huth was brought to England from Germany by Chelsea, while Kasper Schmeichel, son of Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, started his career at Manchester City. All are now regular starters for a team that is assured of finishing above those who deemed them surplus.

Leicester has somehow gotten all of these late bloomers to flower at the exact same moment. The 25-year-old Algerian Riyad Mahrez, English football’s newly anointed player of the year, has scored more goals this season than he did in his previous four of first-team soccer combined. Striker Jamie Vardy scored five goals last year in his first Premier League season and is currently on 22 and counting. Leicester’s youngest regular starter, pint-sized destroyer of worlds N’Golo Kanté, was brought over from the midtable French club Caen this summer for $8 million; he is now wanted by somewhere between most and all of Europe’s top clubs.

If any one of these players had broken out last season, he likely would have been sold off for a handsome profit. Leicester City would have gotten paid, the player would have gotten paid, and the fans would have been upset but ultimately accepted the realities of the game’s economics. Everybody would have been OK with the status quo.

10) Reagan’s tax cuts were definitely not the key to economic growth in the 1980’s.  Of course, Republicans will never stop claiming otherwise.

11) Will Saletan with the ultimate takedown of the polls say Bernie is more electable nonsense.

12) Women curse in public way less than men.  Good for them, damnit!  Seriously.  Not a big fan.  Nonetheless, it’s subtle sexism at work.

13) Yes,  Cruz naming Carly Fiorina as his VP runnnig mate was very short-term thinking, but as Seth Masket points out, VP selections are (lamentably) almost always short-term thinking.

But as we reflect on Ted Cruz’s pick, it’s worth remembering how many presidential candidates picked running mates based on immediate exigencies and naked political calculation. The multi-year scrutiny — with all the debates, speeches, ads, and punditry — that we apply to the top of the ticket is simply not in effect for the position that’s a heartbeat away from the presidency. It’s usually just a handful of people thinking about what will get their campaign through the next few months.

14) Republicans like to point to high risk pools as the key to replacing Obamacare.  Drum points out that there’s no way this would actually work.

15) And Drum again, with a brief look at a recent Pew report that interestingly shows that Democrats have a real education gap while Republicans have an age gap.

16) Our system of cash bail that punishes people for being poor is uniquely horrible and needs to be done away with.

17) I used to really like Salon way back when it was new.  I was even a subscriber.  Now, I pretty much only read it when I want to see what the far left is thinking.  This is an example of why.

18) British physicians urge a switch to e-cigarettes over the real ones.  Yes, harm reduction!  American doctors remain skeptical, but hard for me to see how this is not a positive step.

19) Love this Op-Ed from my NCSU colleague, Mark Nance, on how HB2 is part of the fruits of gerrymandering:

Of all the amazing aspects of this story, however, what is most striking is what’s not there. By most accounts, McCrory was not the driver of the bill. He likely preferred a very narrow bill to overturn the Charlotte ordinance as a strategy against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper. So where are those who really pushed the bill? Where has the GOP leadership been and why aren’t they on the front lines defending the bill? Where are the 11 Democrats who voted for it? Why aren’t they defending the good reputation of North Carolina?

The Associated Press recently went to great lengths to get comments from all lawmakers who voted for the bill, with miserably bad response rates. It took a comment from the president of the United States to get Senate leader Phil Berger to respond, an exception that proves the rule: The politicians who pushed hardest for this bill have said nothing in the face of staunch criticism. Why?

They don’t have to. About 90 percent of the legislators who voted for the bill either face no challengers in their elections this fall or won their last election by more than 10 percentage points.

20) Obama wants law enforcement to use smart guns.  Smart.  We need to create a market for these and a strong push from the federal government would really help with that.

21) Ross Douthat trying to understand how so many Republicans support Trump despite his obvious handicap in the general election:

On the evidence of past campaigns, this engagement inclines them (in the aggregate) to balance ideology and electability when they vote. That is, as engaged partisans they’re more likely to have particular litmus tests, more likely to have specific issues or causes that they care about. But they’re also more likely to loathe the other party, the other ideological team, with a passion that makes winning in November seem essential. And because they follow politics relatively closely, they’re more likely to have a clear sense of who can win and who simply cannot…

But here the model isn’t completely broken, because a majority of Republican voters don’t actually believe that Trump faces long odds, don’t agree that he’s less electable than Cruz or Kasich (or Rubio or whomever further back). Instead, since last fall Republican voters have consistently told pollsters that they think Trump is the candidate most likely to winin November. So the party’s voters are choosing electability — as they see it — over ideology; they’re just in the grip of a strong delusion about Trump’s actual chances against Hillary Clinton.

The reason for this delusion might be the key unresolved question of Trump’s strange ascent. Is it the fruit of Trump’s unparalleled media domination — does he seem more electable than all his rivals because he’s always on TV? Is it a case of his victor’s image carrying all before it — if you win enough primary contests, even with 35 percent of the vote, people assume that your winning streak can be extended into November? Is this just how a personality cult rooted in identity politics works — people believe in the Great Leader’s capacity to crush their tribe’s enemies and disregard all contrary evidence?

22) How regulating banks is like getting hockey players to wear helmets.

 

Biggest draft steal ever

Didn’t expect an NFL Draft post from me, did you?  Well, I’m all about people and institutions acting dumb by irrational fear of marijuana use.  From Thursday night:

CHICAGO – Three weeks ago, Laremy Tunsil was the likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

On Thursday, he suffered one of the most bizarre falls down the draft board in recent history after a video of him wearing a gas mask and smoking a bong was posted on his verified Twitter account just before the start of the draft.

Tunsil slid behind Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley, drafted by the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6, and Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, to the Tennessee Titans at No. 8, until the Miami Dolphins finally ended his fall at 9:43 p.m. ET at pick No. 13.

Got that?  Presumably the college football player with the potential to have the single biggest impact in the NFL slipped 12 places to #13 because someone posted a video of him using a bong.  That’s nuts!  Go Miami Dolphins for having the sense to take a steal of a pick.  This guy could be getting drunk off his ass four nights a week and nobody cares, but a video of him using marijuana and he’s player non grata?!  Just so dumb.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Fascinating NYT profile of a car salesman who obsessively decided to take on ISIS on-line.  And was arrested by the FBI for his efforts.

2) Smoking gun presentation in the VW emissions cheating.  What I hadn’t known before is they could have just made the cars a few hundred dollars more expensive instead of cheating.  When you look at their liability now, one of the most epically bad, short-sighted financial decisions ever.

3) Frank Bruni’s take on the bathroom wars.

4) Surely I’ve mentioned this before, but this is one notion that always needs disabusing– no, marijuana is not a gateway drug:

And that brings up an important flaw of the gateway theory in general. Science writers and readers are fond of saying that correlation does not imply causation, and this is a perfect example. Let’s say 11 percent of pot smokers start using cocaine, as this graphic shows. That doesn’t mean one drug led to the other. As Miriam Boeri, an association professor of sociology at Bentley University points out, poverty, mental illness, and friend groups are all much stronger predictors of drug use. Marijuana isn’t a “gateway” to harder drugs in the same way that ordering an appetizer isn’t a “gateway” to an entree: One comes before the other, but you’re eating both because you’re already at the restaurant.

5) The case (in video form) for starting school later.  It’s simple, of course– science.

6) How a Cold war command center was built under a mountain in Colorado.

7) Most spree killers are not able to be diagnosed with a defined mental illness.  Rather, they are undefinably crazy.

8) NSF found a great way to shrink the number of grant proposals– stop having deadlines.  Heck, about the only thing I an manage to do without a deadline is a blog post.

9) The neuroscience take on the philosophical question of what is reality, anyway?  Reminds me of all the stuff I used to read for fun back in my college says when I went through my phase of interest in metaphysics.

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

10) Teen birth rates are way down.  Hooray!

11) Speaking of birth, more research on the relationship between sharing a uterus with older brothers and being gay.

12) Yes indeed, so many “supersized” television episodes are simply too long and need judicious cutting.  There’s often a lack of discipline in making a streaming episode as long as you want instead of fitting it into a 23 or 46 minute block (I’m quite sure this was part of the problem with the Netflix season of Arrested Development).

13) Nice report from 60 Minutes on one of the under-appreciated problems of our current campaign finance laws– it turns politicians into telemarketers.

14) Really interesting interview on the relationship between intelligence and happiness.

Pinsker: One of the premises of your book is that people may have a sense of what will make them happy, but they approach those things in ways that don’t maximize happiness. Could you provide an example of that disconnect?

Raghunathan: If you take the need for mastery—the need for competence—there are two broad approaches that one can take to becoming very good at something. One approach is to engage in what people call social comparisons. That is, wanting to be the best at doing something: “I want to be the best professor there is,” or something like that.

There are many problems with that, but one big problem with that is that it’s very difficult to assess. What are the yardsticks for judging somebody on a particular dimension? What are the yardsticks for being the best professor? Is it about research, teaching? Even if you take only teaching, is it the ratings you get from students, or is it the content that you deliver in class, or the number of students who pass an exam or take a test and do really well in it? So it gets very difficult to judge, because these yardsticks become increasingly ambiguous as a field becomes narrower or more technical…

Raghunathan: What I recommend is an alternative approach, which is to become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you’re good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you’re going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.

15) Damn do I love articles on how the potato changed civilization.

16) With Jim Vandehei in charge, it’s no wonder Politico used to be horrible more often than not.  Just two of many pieces I saw eviscerating him for a recent clueless Op-Ed.

17) The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is pretty much perfectly suited for spreading disease among humans.

18) Conor Friedersdorf on the small tent of the social justice movement activists.

19) Loved this response to those boycotting Target over their bathrooms.

In fact, if you oppose transgender rights, you shouldn’t even be spreading AFA’s petition using their recommended #BoycottTarget hashtag because Facebook, Twitter, and Google all aced the CEI. Every minute spent on those social media giants helps them promote LGBT equality, including the T.

If you don’t want your money to go to a company that openly supports transgender people, you can’t buy an iPhone, eat an Egg McMuffin, drink a Sprite, stock up Budweiser, or fill your prescriptions at either of the nation’s two largest pharmacy chains because Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Walgreens, and CVS all scored a 100 on the HRC index.

20) Universities are much more interested in genetic diversity than diversity of viewpoints.

21) What it really means to be a political moderate (as opposed to what DC journalists think it means).

22) It really does seem like the NC Chamber of Commerce may have struck a corrupt bargain to support HB2.  They sure don’t seem to be all that interested in what actual businesses are saying.

23) Dahlia Lithwick on Bob McDonnell and the “everybody does it” defense of corruption before the Supreme Court.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Drum on how easily Donald Trump is “disgusted.”  (And this sure makes me worry about the political future of my third boy):

This brings to mind Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations, which suggests that although liberals and conservatives share a set of five innate moral roots, they prioritize them quite differently. Conservatives, for example, are especially sensitive to moral foundation #5:

Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology ofdisgust and contamination….It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.

I wonder how strongly Donald Trump scores on this particular moral foundation? Pretty strongly, I’d guess. I wonder how much it explains his approach to politics? And I wonder how much it explains his popularity with a certain subset of conservatives?

2) It costs $200,000/year to keep Lenin’s corpse looking good.

3) Enjoyed this Op-Ed on NC Republican Legislators.

4) Oregon Senator Jeff Merkely had a recent NYT Op-Ed endorsing Bernie.  This part really grabbed my attention.  I’m sorry, but Bernie or no Bernie, the world has changed dramatically and it is hard to see how Bernie returns us to a time when a single, non-college educated head-of-household could typically support a comfortable, middle-class American life.

I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

5) If your Alabama daycare is unregulated for religious reasons, you can get away with pretty much anything.

6) Cannot say I was the least bit surprised to learn that the social support that comes from marriage helps cancer survival rates.

7) The educational power of making our students uncomfortable.  Amen.

What we should not do is shelter our students. There is so much talk about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” in academe today. Many suggest that a classroom should be devoid of anything that could make students feel uncomfortable or unsettled. But history is unsettling. The present is unsettling. It unsettles with its crimes against humanity, its wars, its sex trafficking, even its presidential debates. There should be more being said about the power of discomfort.

Isn’t college by nature an uncomfortable experience? You leave your parents, your friends, your siblings, your neighborhood, even your dog. You live in a dorm where you may or may not know your roommate, you get a job, you lose a job, you date, you make love, you drink too much, you get sick, you fail a class — all of these experiences are discomforting but necessary for your development.

8) Just in case you missed the story of the student removed from a Southwest flight simply for speaking Arabic.  America at it’s worst.

9) The idea that felons cannot vote after they have paid their full debt to society strikes me as preposterous and thoroughly anti-democratic.  Good for Terry McAuliffe for remedying this in Virginia.

10) Conor Friedersdorf on how Americans have become so sensitive to harm.

11) Nice NPR piece on science and the loss of our shared reality.

Our ability to deal with climate change has clearly been adversely affected by this rejection of scientific endeavor. But facing into the winds of this strange primary season, we can see how this denial yielded other consequences, too.

If the point of science is to provide us with a method for establishing public knowledge, then its rejection is also the rejection that such public knowledge is possible. [emphasis in original] If we hold science in esteem because it represents a best practice for establishing shared facts that hold regardless of ethic, religious or political background, then denying science means denying the possibility of such facts. It implies there can be no means for establishing facts about the world and no reason to award authority to mechanisms that deliver those facts.

This wholesale rejection of a shared reality was always the great danger lying in organized, politicized climate science denial. After all, why stop with climate science? Once you get started down this road, who or what determines that it’s gone too far?

12) It’s pretty clear what HB2 is all about.

13) That phase where you are just falling asleep and in the bizarre liminal state between awake and asleep is so cool.  Should yield some interesting research.

14) How is it that B-52‘s are still in service after all these years?  Just the right engineering.

The bomber’s staying power can be attributed to many things, not least of which, according to officers in charge of maintaining the airplanes in the Command’s Directorate of Logistics, is its uniquely forward-thinking original design. “The build of the B-52 was one of both over- and, conversely, under-engineering,” said a directorate representative, who chose not to be identified, per directorate guidelines. “Its flexibility has led to its continued relevance and ability to adapt to current and emerging global threats.”

Under-engineering simply means the B-52 has plenty of physical room for growth and additional systems and components. Most aircraft are designed with tight tolerances, densely packed with hardware the airframe was designed to accommodate. You can’t just remove one thing and throw in something else, whereas the B-52 allows for that kind of swapping…

Even with the modernization, the currently flying B-52s are all about 55 years old, about the age humans start getting calls from the AARP. This is where the over-engineering comes in. “The airframe itself remains structurally sound and has many useful flying years ahead of it,” the directorate official says. “Most of the B-52 airframes are original and their longevity is a testimony to the original design engineers.” In other words, they did a killer job making a durable airplane.

15) Sadly, too many Senators seem to foolishly think the “tougher is better” approach will somehow work as effective drug policy.  Nope.  Tried that.

16) Liked this Vox post on the Harriet Tubman $20:

The $20 is a perfect incident to prompt this divide precisely because it has very little real content. There’s nothing in Tubman’s life or legacy that contradicts any points of modern-day conservative ideology or Republican Party policy ideas. But the very idea of going back through history and finding white male heroes to demote in favor of black female heroes rubs some people the wrong way.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren’s negative reaction to the news, and conservative journalist Philip Klein’s negative reaction to Van Susteren, captures the dynamic very well.

Trump himself denounced the move as “pure political correctness,” a term that has little specific content but that allows Trump to affiliate himself with the view — shared by most Republicans but not by most Americans overall — that anti-white discrimination is as big of a problem in America as anti-black discrimination.

17) Just watched The Big Short.  Just like all the critics, thought it was really, really good (of course, also very much enjoyed Michael Lewis’ book).  Also, wanted to mention, that when the film ends and “When the Levee Breaks” comes up, that is just an awesome moment.  Enjoyed reading about how hard it was to secure the rights from Led Zeppelin.

18) A two-year old kills himself with a gun.  Just another day in America.

19) An experienced water quality expert in NC complains about the anti-science approach to cleaning water in NC and loses his job.  But don’t worry, it wasn’t political.

20) Donald Trump really does have New York values– as can be seen in his acceptance of gays.

21) Don’t really like Liberal’s undue skepticism of nuclear power equated with the flat-out anti-science of conservative global-warming skeptics, but this is an interesting column from Eduardo Porter.

22) Drum says we need to stop trying to cut middle-class income taxes.  He’s right.

23) Jamelle Bouie makes the case that there is no Bernie movement.

Mass incarceration in cost/benefit terms

One of my favorite books I assign for any class is Mark Kleiman’s When Brute Force Fails.  One of his key points is that we make profligate and horribly inefficient use of our most scarce resource within the criminal justice system– prison space.  I love this NYT Op-Ed from Jason Furman and Douglas Holz-Eakin because it is a great, succinct summary of this key truth:

On the benefit side of the equation, prisons and jails play an essential role in managing violent criminals and reducing crime, particularly helping people in poor communities who are the most likely to be victims of murder, robbery or other violent crimes.

But a general rule in economics — the law of diminishing marginal benefits — applies to incarcerating additional people or adding years to sentences. Research finds that more incarceration has, at best, only a small effect on crime because our incarceration rate is already so high. As the prison population gets larger, the additional prisoner is more likely to be a less risky, nonviolent offender, and the value of incarcerating him (or, less likely, her) is low.

The same general principle applies to the length of prison sentences, which in many cases have gotten longer as a result of sentence enhancements, repeat-offender laws, “three strikes” laws and “truth-in-sentencing” laws. Longer sentences do not appear to have a deterrent effect; one study finds, for example, that the threat of longer sentences has little impact on juvenile arrest rates. Other studies have found that sentencing enhancements have only modest effects on crime. They are unlikely to meaningfully affect the overall crime rate or generate meaningful gains in public safety.

Moreover, in many cases the analysis suggests that adding prisoners or years to sentences can be harmful. A growing body of research shows that incarceration and longer sentences could increase recidivism. Individuals may build criminal ties while incarcerated, lose their labor-market skills and confront substantial obstacles to re-entry after release. A new study finds that each additional year of incarceration increases the likelihood of re-offending by four to seven percentage points after release.

The bottom line: The putative benefits of more incarceration or longer sentences are actually costs…

Incarceration plays an important role in promoting public safety, and imposing prison sentences for criminal conduct has moral and practical dimensions. But the criminal justice system should be designed to ensure that the benefits of incarceration exceed the costs.

Yes, yes, yes.  And much like our massively inefficient health care system, we have a massively inefficient criminal justice system where, again, the costs are not just in dollar and cents, but human suffering.  This needs to change.

Compromising on marijuana

There’s a smart middle-ground on marijuana.  Alas, we are going right beyond it.  Michael Specter:

It’s not that I think marijuana should remain illegal; based on the evidence from our stunningly ruinous war on drugs, smoking pot should be no crime. [emphases mine] The Portuguese long ago abolished most penalties for personal drug use, a decision that has proved surprisingly successful in curbing crime and returning addicts to society. (A few years ago, I wrote about Portugal’s approach to drugs for this magazine.) Still, the opposite of inane laws ought not to be blind acceptance…

What do we know when we swallow a marijuana gummy bear? Is it like a hit of good pot? Is it like three? For that matter, is a hit of good pot like it was five decades, or five years ago? Or even five months ago? Nobody seems able to answer those basic questions.

“Right now, people don’t know,” Raphael Mechoulam, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School, recently told National Geographic. Mechoulam has done much of the seminal work on the chemical composition of cannabis. “For it to work in the medical world, it has to be quantitative. If you can’t count it, it’s not science,” he said.

At the moment, we certainly can’t count it. What is too much? Should you be allowed to drive after a hit of pot? Or three? Is a hit the equivalent of a glass of wine or half a bottle of vodka? What about when a bit of pot is combined with a beer or two? How does a police officer judge the sobriety of a person who is high? Right now, people mostly just guess…

I am not suggesting that we all dust off our copies of “Reefer Madness,” or that getting high is inherently wrong—as long as you know how high you are getting and what it is you are smoking. But we don’t. It is a strange country that is filled with people who object to life-saving vaccines, insist on labelling G.M.O.s, protest the use of pesticides that, when used correctly, have not been shown to cause harm, and yet seem ready to smoke whatever a dealer hands them to put in their pipes.

And Vox’s German Lopez:

Toward the end of Prohibition, John D. Rockefeller Jr., the powerful businessman who supported the US ban on alcohol, admitted defeat. Seeing the effect Prohibition had on America, he concluded that the policy was doomed. So in the 1930s, he underwrote astudy that laid out how to legalize alcohol while strictly regulating it. The study shapes alcohol policy to this day, as Garrett Peck explained for Reason.

Today, opponents of marijuana legalization are in a similar position as Rockefeller — but they don’t want to admit it. Polls show steadily growing support for legalization over the last few decades, four states and Washington, DC, have legalized pot, and more states seem likely to follow in 2016. But opponents of legalization have rejected the idea that they are losing — and remain dedicated solely to stopping legalization.

 As a result, the US is getting stuck with a bad drug policy — the exact kind of policy that opponents of legalization fear so much. If they want to stop it, they’ll have to follow Rockefeller’s steps and admit defeat…
But there are alternative legalization policies that prohibit or limit commercialization, such as creating a state monopoly that puts the state government in charge of sales (much like state-run liquor stores), allowing only nonprofits to sell marijuana, or legalizing marijuana but only allowing possession, gifting, and growing without allowing sales (like DC does).

Yet no activist is really pushing for the alternatives. Pro-legalization advocates aren’t interested, since they’re winning despite concerns about commercialization. And anti-legalization groups like SAM have taken the stance that they will oppose legalization in any form, because they truly think they can stop it from happening.

 

I think most people who have taken a fair look at marijuana realize that even full-on legalization with full-on commercialization is preferable to the ruinous status quo policies.  But we can do better and have smarter policies regarding a drug that is not some miracle free of any downsides.  There’s smarter ways to legalize marijuana than current approaches, alas, unless things change, we won’t be seeing them.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Richest zip code in Oklahoma cannot even afford an art class in public schools?  Pathetic.  This is what you get from a Republican war on taxes and public schools.

2) The adult skills every 18-year old should have.  Not a bad list.  Need to work on these with my 16-year old.

3) The absurd primary of the car in American life.

4) Interesting take on why the Republican Party won’t be able to wrest the nomination from Trump.

5) Yes, campus rape is a genuine problem.  But, boy do I hate when people lie and mislead with statistics.  Here’s a nice, succinct video on the matter.  Meanwhile, my university this week was encouraging people to believe that 1 in 5 women on campus will be raped.  (Reality check).

6) Aren’t you glad that people like Jeff Sessions are making important public policy decisions for this country?  Good people don’t smoke marijuana!!

 

Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R.-Al.) spoke of the need to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Oh, and the government spent $18 million eradicating marijuana plants last year.  Ugh.  Even worse, the money for those efforts came from civil asset forfeiture.  It’s like the trifecta of bad policy.  Meanwhile, the public increasingly knows better.

7) Hillary Clinton and Kevin Drum in defense of politics.

8) Well done billboard funders, well done.

9) Finding answer to disease in genetic superheroes:

“I had an a-ha moment,” says Friend. “If you want to find a way of preventing disease, you shouldn’t be looking at people with the disease. “You should look at people who should have been sick but aren’t.”

These people, unbeknownst to them, carry genes that all but guarantee that they’ll get fatal diseases. And yet, somehow, they’re completely healthy. They might carry other genes that mitigate their risk. Or perhaps, some aspect of their diet, lifestyle, or environment shields them from their harmful inheritance. Either way, Friend reasoned that if he could find these “genetic superheroes,” and work out the secrets of their powers, he could find ways of helping others to beat the odds.

10) Why teachers need to know the wrong answers.

11) Open tab too long– Yglesias on the anti-free trade backlash that doesn’t really exist.

12) You know would be awesome?  Basic scientific literacy among Republican members of Congress.  Presumably, that’s too much to ask for.

13) I loved David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.  Had as much of a lasting impact on my thinking (and that of my wife) as any book I’ve read in recent years.  I’m very much looking forward to his Capture.

14) Great Dahlia Lithwick on the insanity that is Charles Grassley on judges:

Wait, what? So the problem for Grassley isn’t “political” justices—it’s justices appointed by Republicans who don’t advance “conservative policy” 100 percent of the time. And with that, he revealed his real issue. His Senate floor attack isn’t about depoliticizing the court at all. It’s about calling out Roberts for being insufficiently loyal to the Tea Party agenda when he voted not to strike down Obamacare.

What is really being said here is that there is only one way to interpret the Constitution and that is in the way that “advances conservative policy.” According to Grassley’s thinking, a justice who fails to do that in every single case before him or her is “political” and damaging the court. By this insane logic, the only way to protect the court from politics is to seat nine Chuck Grassleys and go home. And to achieve this type of court he will stop at nothing, including trash talking the entire institution from the Senate floor

 15) One of my best friends from way back at Duke is in the photo of this story about surf gangs.  Fascinating story, though my friend’s only involvement was looking at the beach.
16) The Post on the difficulty of being McCrory in today’s Republican party.
17) The best 71-second animation you’ll watch today.  Indeed.
18) Innovation is overrated.
19) Post editorial in favor of Kasich:
IN A different election year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich would not be the moderate in the Republican presidential race. An instinctual tax-cutter who wears his religion on his sleeve and signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, Mr. Kasich is more Jack Kemp than Bob Dole. Yet it is a sign of how cracked the GOP has become that Mr. Kasich is the only Republican left in the race who acknowledges many of the principles essential to this country’s democracy.
 20) Time magazine ran a horrible cover story on the national debt.  Yglesias wonderfully deconstructs it’s awfulness (as do good pieces in Wonkblog).  Shame on Time.  Drum with the succinct take:
 Sigh. Matt Yglesias draws my attention to this week’s cover ofTime, a Trump-friendly warning that we’re all doomed thanks to the national debt. Matt takes apart this inane argument just fine, but I’ll do it more quickly: You will never have to pay down this debt. Nor will your children. Or your grandchildren. Just forget about it.

And if we ever do have to pay some of it down? We’ll get to pay it off over decades, just like any other debt. And the rich will pay a bigger share than you. But I guess “You might someday owe $145 per year” doesn’t make a very good magazine cover.

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