Quick hits (part II)

1) Richard Hasen on how the balance of the Supreme Court may well be the most important outcome of the next presidential election.

2) Drum on what Ben Carson really means when he says “political correctness.”

3) If we listen to Huckabee (and lots of Republicans on guns), e.g., we might also not try to do anything about Iran either.

4) Oh damn did I love this Vox interview with Brookigs scholar Jeremy Shapiro on Putin and Syria:

It’s a little bit depressing that on both sides we’ve gotten into this kind of machismo foreign policy, where we think that whoever appears strongest and most macho is winning. As if that has any meaning in international relations. This is not a pissing contest. Boldness rarely has benefits in international relations, particularly for status quo states like the United States. Caution is a good thing, and boldness is rarely rewarded…

The truth is that everybody’s critical of the Obama policy in Syria, and nobody has a better alternative. I’ve never fucking heard one. And if you heard something that even resembles a good idea on Syria in the Republican debate I would eat my head.

There is a lot of pressure in US politics, particularly under a presidential campaign, to “do something,” to look tough. And one of the advantages of being a powerful country is that you can do stupid things for a long time and it won’t affect you that dramatically.

So we have a history in this country of doing things that aren’t good for us, but we don’t suffer on the scale that some countries experience. So the Vietnam War, we survived it pretty well — the Iraq War, ditto. We have the possibility of doing that again [in Syria]. It won’t be the fall of the American empire if we do, but how many times can you make these kinds of mistakes?

5) Not surprisingly common beliefs held by anti-immigration folks have little connection to reality.

6) The latest study does not link breast feeding with a child’s IQ (quite importantly, this controls for mother’s socio-economic status).

7) Big Steve on the lameness of all the pro-gun arguments.

8) Great Onion headline: “Man Can’t Believe Obama Would Use Tragedy To Push Anti-Tragedy Agenda.”

9) On a related note, another sad retread (from a 2014 mass shooting) that’s really good, “There is no catastrophe so ghastly that America will reform its gun laws.”

10) David Brooks with some hard truths on our mass incarceration problem (i.e., it’s not just letting out non-violent drug offenders, etc.).

11) Seattle schools have responded to the racially-biased use of school suspensions by dramatically cutting school suspension.  Good for them.

12) John Cassidy on the Republican response to the shooting:

The Republican Party has long exercised a veto on any meaningful addition to the gun laws. And among its current crop of Presidential candidates, there is no sign of anybody breaking ranks. Reaction to the shooting ranged from nonexistent to predictably depressing. As far as I could see, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, the third- and fourth-place candidates in the polls, didn’t say anything on Thursday about what had happened in Oregon. In a message on Twitter, Jeb Bush called the massacre a “senseless tragedy.” Donald Trump, in an interview with the Washington Post, referred to it as a “terrible tragedy.” He also said, “It sounds like another mental-health problem. So many of these people, they’re coming out of the woodwork.” Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon, took a similar line. “Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” he said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.”

As if only America has people with violent mental illness.  No, only America has them routinely shoot up strangers.

13) North Carolina’s Republicans again taking the position that local government is better.  Unless local government wants to pass liberal laws, of

14) I so love how smart crows are.  Here’s a fascinating new study that shows that have (wisely) learned to fear death in their fellow crows.

15) Very nice piece from Seth Masket arguing that it is far too early to suggest that party elites no longer control nominations as The Party Decides crowd has been arguing.

Basically, it’s still really early. At this point in the 2012 election cycle, Rick Perry was the poll leader. It was Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani at this point in the ’08 cycle. Wesley Clark was heading to an easy Democratic nomination at this point in ’04. Oh, and Teddy Kennedy was beating Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination at this point in the 1980 cycle. It’s actually pretty rare for the poll-leader a year out from the election to get the nomination. So just by that metric alone, a Donald Trump nomination would be highly unusual.

16) You might have seen mention of the New Yorker article back in July about the massive earthquake and tsunami overdue to strike the Pacific Northwest.  Finally got around to reading it.  Fascinating!  And scary.  And a really well-written article.  Somebody needs to turn this into a post-apocalyptic (as it will be for that region) novel.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Nice Amy Davidson piece on Carly Fiorina.

2) Chait points out that the US Republican party is about the only major political party within advanced Democracies that denies climate change.  They are really out on a limb by themselves.

3) I knew that the placebo week of birth control pills is what gives women on the pill their period, but as one of my correspondents was blown away by this fact, thought I’d share this interesting Atlantic piece on the psychology of forgoing periods (as is the case with many LARC’s).

4) I don’t know why I’ve put off for so long this great Australian comic takes on the insanity of Americans and guns video, but I finally watched.  Overdue.  This is great.

5) Actually something from this week before the latest massacre: a family who tried to sue the suppliers of the Aurora, Colorado shooter (no name here) and got stuck with the gun and ammo manufacturers legal bills to show for it:

The judge dismissed our case because, he said, these online sellers had special immunity from the general duty to use reasonable care under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and a Colorado immunity law. If you couple the PLCAA law with Colorado’s law HB 000-208, (which says in essence: If you bring a civil case against a gun or ammunition seller and the case is dismissed then the plaintiff must pay all the defendant’s costs), you have an impenetrable barrier to using the judicial system to effect change in gun legislation in Colorado.

Everyone else in society has a duty to use reasonable care to not injure others — except gun and ammunition sellers. [emphasis mine]

6) This is really cool.  Research at NCSU suggests we may be able to use fingerprints to know a person’s ethnicity.

7) Really looking forward to using Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book on women, men, and the workplace next time I teach Gender & Politics (if I had known it was coming out, I would’ve assigned it this semester).  Great interview on the Freakonomics podcast.

8) Loved this Nicholas Davidoff piece on the carefully orchestrated illusion that is football on TV.

9) I’ve been meaning to do a post working off of a Seth Masket piece on authenticity and presidential elections.  But Julia Azari has already done a better one that I would.

10) When I first heard about the Pope and Kim Davis, I was thinking I bet some conservative American bishop made this happen.  Looks like that’s the case.  Drum:

As usual with the Catholic Church, previous popes continue to have long arms even after they die or retire. It turns out that the papal nuncio, a culturally conservative guy who’s loyal to the former Benedict XVI, decided to invite Davis. The current pope apparently had no idea this would happen and may not have even known who she was. Basically, Davis was ushered in for her 60 seconds with the pope, who blessed her, gave her a rosary, and then moved along to the next person in line. It would be wise not to read too much into this.

11) Jeb Bush said something stupid yesterday (“stuff happens” to refer to mass murder).  When he said something was “retarded” he used the word perfectly correctly.  Is there really no place to use this word at all according to it’s original meaning?  If so, that’s stupid.

12) I almost never listen to “On the Media” (just too many good podcasts out there), but I was driving with NPR on the other day and really enjoyed the feisty exchange described here over whether AP is doing a disservice by moving from “climate skeptic” to “climate doubter.”

13) Loved this Richard Skinner piece for Brookings on Trump supporters.  It’s titled “do hate and racism drive Donald Trump supporters?”  You’ll just have to read it to find out :-).

14) Seth Masket on governing by sacrifice (in this case, Boehner).

15) I so love “The Princess Bride.”  I literally know more of the dialog of that movie than any other movie.  Thus, I loved this Buzzfeed list on why it is such an “important” movie.

16) Will Saletan on the incoherence of Republicans’ arguments against Planned Parenthood.

Throughout the hearing, Republicans complained that Planned Parenthood gets too much of its revenue from the federal government. Several members of the committee—Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and John Mica of Florida—protested that taxpayers were supplying more than 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s income. Duncan fumed that the Boys and Girls Club gets only a fraction of what Planned Parenthood receives. Mica explained the GOP’s underlying beef: Many Americans, including some who are pro-choice, don’t want their tax money used for abortions.

As an argument for defunding Planned Parenthood, this complaint makes no sense. Richards explained to the committee that under U.S. law, federal funds can’t be used for abortions unless the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or was caused by rape or incest. So if Planned Parenthood is getting a high percentage of its income from the government, that means much of the work it’s being paid for isn’t abortion.

17) Really nice piece in Slate on wrongfully convicted exonerees and restorative justice.


Chart of the day

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that violence against police is actually at historic lows, despite the overblown claims from many.  So, why do so many people think we’ve got an epidemic of violence against police?  Great piece in Pacific Standard that says we can pretty clearly blame the media for this one.  Here’s the key chart:

And, just to refresh on the reality:

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice column from Kareem on education under assault from right and (sadly) left:

The attack on education isn’t on training our youth for whatever careers they choose, it’s on teaching them to think logically in order to form opinions based on facts rather than on familial and social influences. This part of one’s education is about finding out who you are. It’s about becoming a happier person. It’s about being a responsible citizen. If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options, not because you were too lazy or scared to question them. But you—all of us—need the process. Otherwise, you’re basically a zombie who wants to eat brains because you don’t want anyone else to think either.

2) I’m so with Drum on the great court decision voiding the copyright to “Happy Birthday.”  Can’t wait till my family’s next birthday meal out when the restaurant can sing the real birthday song.

3) North Carolina Republicans are cutting the mental health budget for short-term savings.  Of course, those will be far outweighed by long-term costs.

4) Emily Bazelon on the intellectual battle going on over sex and sexual assault on college campuses.

5) Nice Thomas Mills piece on why he won’t be voting for Bernie Sanders.  Pretty much captures my view as well.  (And a quick skim through the comments makes me even more sure).

6) Everybody predicted that the rise of Super PAC’s would totatlly change the game in presidential primaries.  Turnst out they haven’t.

But it turns out that there are some things that Super PACs can’t do. Hard money can pay for the full gamut of campaign expenses, from hiring staff to purchasing printer toner to putting ads up on television. Super PACs can pay for television ads, but they can’t pay for campaign staff.

Perry and Walker were hoping to hang on for long enough to allow nominally independent Super PACs to flood the airwaves with supportive ads. But long before the first caucus, their hard dollars dried up, leaving them unable to make payroll.

7) Love this research that is such a compelling demonstration of the power of motivated reasoning.  Americans feel totally different about the same policy if it purportedly comes from a Democrat or a Republican.  People like to think that their issue positions drives their partisanship.  Alas, the causality works far stronger in the other direction.

8) Bill Ayers on Republicans’ fear-based, “Dirty Harry” approach to politics.

9) It ain’t easy being Chief Justice John Roberts and actually having an intellectually consistent (as opposed to ideologically/ and or partisanly (yes, I made that up) consistent) judicial philosophy.


10) So, the government’s college scorecard doesn’t rank schools, but it’s not hard to do it on your own with some basic criteria.  So NPR does.  Nice to see my alma mater as #1 for “schools that make financial sense.”  And go University of California system for so much social mobility.

11) The conservative case against the death penalty making some headway in NC (personally, I support both the conservative and the liberal case against it).

12) Jeb Bush– just as enlightened as Mitt Romney about minority voters.

13) Yeah, so I get totally freaked out by insects.  To the consternation of my wife and the amusement of my children.  But I sure would not jump out of a car I was driving leaving children behind, as this parent did at the sight of a spider.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Getting really tired of reading highfalutin commentary such as this on how powerpoint “ruins critical thinking.”  Oh please.  Powerpoint is a tool.  That’s all.  It can be used well or poorly.  But it’s got almost nothing to do with whether students learn critical thinking.

2) We so need more criminal punishments for corporate malefactors that think they can knowingly poison people and then just hide behind their corporation.  So glad this guy got almost 30 years for killing (and seriously sickening) people with peanut butter.

3) Oh, Ben Carson.  Apparently Darwin’s theory of evolution is literally from the devil.  On a related note, an interesting short essay on how we think about evolution.  And finally while we’re at it, loved this Radiolab on how viruses may have evolved.

4) Republicans argue that if Planned Parenthood is defunded women can go elsewhere for their health care.  In actuality, of course, it just means that poor women’s health needs will be even more under-served.

5) A Washington school district that wants kids to stop playing tag (they have unspecified alternatives) because, you know, kids touch each other during tag.

6) Cass Sunstein on better government through social science.

7) Carly Fiorina does not like being criticized.  So she just lies about people.  I’m really thinking she’s not such a good person.  Also, Ezra Klein at his best on why it doesn’t even matter whether she was a good or bad CEO.

8) You know who is a good person?  Pope Francis.  John Cassidy on the symbolism in his papcy:

What has lifted Pope Francis above the political fray and reinvigorated his office in a way that could barely have been imagined under Pope Benedict, is his peerless ability to convey to ordinary people of all religions and political views his version of Catholicism—a version based largely on the life and teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. From choosing to live in a modest guest house, rather than the Apostolic Palace, to washing the feet of a young Muslim prisoner, to inviting dozens of homeless people to tour the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis has lifted up the papacy by puncturing its grandeur, infusing it with humanity, and, where necessary, cleverly exploiting the power of imagery.

9) Not surprisingly, but cool to think about, you’ve got your own personal cloud of microbes following you around.

10) The new research on the nature of student debt deserved it’s own post.  I failed long enough:

And the data suggests that many popular perceptions of student debt are incorrect. The huge run-up in loans and the subsequent spike in defaults have not been driven by $100,000 debts incurred by students at expensive private colleges like N.Y.U.

They are driven by $8,000 loans at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges. Borrowing for both of these has become far more common in recent years. Mr. Looney and Mr. Yannelis estimate that 75 percent of the increase in default between 2004 and 2011 can be explained by the surge in the number of borrowers at those institutions.

11) Eduardo Porter on the growing education gap.

12) So, remember that UNC class on loving the 9/11 terrorists?  The professor wrote a nice Op-Ed in the N&O.

13) On the “ginger supremacist” who sought to kill Prince Charles and Prince William so the red-headed Harry would be king.  Yes, very disturbed man, but I can’t help but love the idea of a ginger supremacist.

14) Seth Masket on why Walker (and Perry) dropped out.  It’s because he actually wanted to be president rather than just running a vanity campaign:

Precisely because Walker and Perry are serious politicians. This is a career for them. Walker, in particular, still has several years left in his term (in an office that isn’t term-limited), and he might make a run for U.S. Senate some day. He might also think seriously about a presidential run further down the road.

He probably could have strung out his presidential campaign a few more months on a shoestring budget, and maybe even found a few eccentric donors to back such an effort. But he’s a smart enough politician to see that probably wouldn’t have succeeded, and he’d have been humiliated in the early primaries and caucuses and just angered some donors who would have seen him as a waste of money. Better to show some discretion than go all in on a suicide mission, especially when he’s only in his mid-40s.

15) Sarah Kliff on the case of daraprim and why American drug prices are so crazy.  And with a great interview on the topic.

16) In truth, most people who have later abortions due so for a really good reason (I’ve personally known multiple cases of pregnancy with anencephaly).  It’s surely hard enough all ready for them.  Here’s a riveting first-person example.

17) I did really love this “Politically Correct Lord of the Flies” in the New Yorker.

18) Thoughtful Connor Friedersdorf piece on the problematic intellectual framework of microaggressions.

19) Really disturbing story of how Afghan warlords have boy sex slaves and American forces are just supposed to accept this part of their culture.


Quick hits

1) Really enjoyed this NYT magazine profile of Kareem.

2) As a Catholic, I’ve always been particularly intrigued by the history of Catholic-hating in America.

3) Interesting take from Chait on climate change.  Also interesting to get David Roberts‘ take on Chait’s take.

4) Jon K. will love this.  A feminist conference where they’ve decided that hand-clapping is too anxiety provoking (wtf??) and that audiences should just do jazz hands instead.  No, not the Onion.

5) No, it’s not the actual ranking of colleges promised, but the Obama administration’s efforts to collect and publish data on graduation rates, debt loads, etc., is very useful.

6) There literally is too much good TV out there.  But you should still watch Bojack.

7) The other day my oldest son asked me why they don’t know the age of the new fossil human.  I was excited to be able to send him to this article.

8) Republican state legislators who are complete idiots are always easy pickin’s.  Still, I’d prefer it if they were not in my state.  What a nutjob.

9) How the upper-middle class (income 81-98th percentile) are pulling away from everybody else (though, not as much at the 99th, of course).

10) On how Exxon knew long ago about coming problems with climate change and mobilized it’s resources for denial and obfuscation.

11) Right.  As if Carly Fiorina is going to apologize for her bald-faced lies.

12) Watched Sixth Sense with David recently.  Holds up pretty well.  So different when you know what’s coming.  Really enjoyed this 538 on the death spiral of Shyamalan’s career.

13) Had this open tab about food irradiation too long.  We should just do it.

14) Is it wrong of me to not be upset about how male Colbert’s new writing staff is?

15) Oh damn did I love this take on higher education “quit lit”:

3. If your quit lit essay primarily discusses the unbearable politics, backbiting, and general petty behavior of academics, how you’re mad (or sad) as hell and you just can’t take it anymore, and we really need to do something about all this terrible stuff before the entire academic enterprise collapses, I can only say, welcome to the whole wide world. You just wrote an “I have a job,” essay.

16) Why you shouldn’t pay your kids for grades.  Personally, I’m all about insufficient justification (which would suggest paying low dollar amounts).  Also, you need to let kids learn by screwing up their household chores.

17) Loved this little essay connecting hatred of Ewoks with feminism.

18) You might have heard about the stay of execution in Oklahoma.  Read this to understand why he shouldn’t be on death row at all.

19) Ahmed Mohammed’s school.  Not a big fan of Muslims.

20) On our toxic, anti-family work-place culture.

THE problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the “Mad Men” era, for “Leave It to Beaver” families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care — the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives…

Bad work culture is everyone’s problem, for men just as much as for women. It’s a problem for working parents, not just working mothers. For working children who need time to take care of their own parents, not just working daughters. For anyone who does not have the luxury of a full-time lead parent or caregiver at home.



Marijuana reality

So, I had an interesting experience last night.  I was working up some powerpoints for a presentation today on marijuana policy (you can see them here, if you are curious– some good graphs) with the Republican debate in the background  and they started talking about marijuana legalization.  Props to Rand Paul, who really gets this issue, including the horrible racial disparities with how it is enforced).  Alas, I also had to hear about how horrible marijuana is and how its a gateway drug.  Of course, Republicans are basically pandering to a bunch of old white people who were raised when this was the demon weed.  It’s kind of amazing just how different the oldest Americans are on the issue:


Anyway, it was kind of jarring to be looking at actual science/social science research on marijuana and hear the opposite conclusions coming from the candidates.  Among other sites I visited last night, this Rolling Stone piece is a nice list of some of the top misconceptions.  I found these two particularly useful:

4) Myth: Most pot smokers are heavy users

Fact: Between 40 and 50 percent of people who have tried marijuana report a lifetime total of fewer than 12 days of use. About one-third of pot smokers report having used mariajuana for 10 days or less in the past year. About 6 million of America’s 30 million users over the age of 12 use pot on a daily or almost-daily basis according to household survey data – a fifth of those who say they have used marijuana in the past year – but they account for about 80 percent of all marijuana consumed.

Sources: Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know


3) Myth: Marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug

Fact: Kids who use marijuana are statistically more likely to go on to use other drugs, but that doesn’t mean marijuana use causes use of other drugs. The same factors driving marijuana use probably explain use of other drugs. A report by the Institute of Medicine found “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Sources: Institute of Medicine, Time, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know

Not to say there are no issues/problems with legalizing marijuana for recreational use.  There are.  But that’s almost surely better than the status quo.  And it’s more reflective of what science actually has to tell us on the matter.


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