Quick hits (part I)

1) It’s hard out there for a pollster.  Nice piece on why it is getting harder and harder to do accurate polling these days.

2) It’s going to be harder than ever for NC to have enough good teachers given how the Republicans in charge feel about education.

3) Wonkblog with a great series of maps on America’s ethnic/racial demographics.

4) Europe’s biggest problem (one we fortunately do not share) is it’s low birth rate.

5) The destruction of defendant’s rights.

6) How working mothers are good for kis:

The researchers find statistically significant differences in outcomes for both boys and girls, though the outcomes are different.

  • Daughters of working moms grow up to earn more money, in part because daughters of working moms are more likely to be employed and more likely to be employed in a supervisory role.
  • Sons of working moms don’t have significantly different economic outcomes, but dogrow up to be more likely to spend time taking care of family members or doing household chores.

In other words, the adult children of mothers who held jobs when they were little kids are likely to grow up as adults who are somewhat less gender-conforming. Their daughters “lean in” more in the labor market, and their sons “lean in” more at home.

7) With all the other big Supreme Court news (yeah, I’ll get to Obergefell), hardly anybody noticed part of the new deal getting rolled back with a ruling on raisins.  Yes, raisins.

8) Another little noticed, but important, Supreme Court case on race and criminal justice.

9) The NC legislature wants to eliminate Driver’s Ed (my oldest just finished the classroom portion a week ago).  There may or not be good reasons to do this, but their justification is embarrassing.

Their argument for no longer requiring 120,000 teenagers to take drivers ed is that it is too expensive for families. The reason that it is too expensive for families is the Senate Republicans ended the state’s $26m appropriation to teach it, putting cost on families. Gotta admire their audacity if not their logic.

10) With Seinfeld coming to Hulu, loved Todd VanDerWerf with a piece on how Seinfeld changed television.  And Matt Zoller Seitz writes about how Seinfeld paved the way for the TV anti-hero we are so familiar with now.

 

11) Fascinating story of a a DC area man recorded the horrible things an anesthesiologist said about him while he was under.  He won a bunch in a lawsuit.

 

12) Tom Edsall with a really good piece on why don’t the poor rise up:

People today, Ray continues, “are not only able to make choices in an ever-expanding range of situations, but they are also compelled to do so.”

In effect, individualization is a double-edged sword. In exchange for new personal freedoms and rights, beneficiaries are agreeing to, if not being forced to, assume new risks and responsibilities.

In addition to opening the door to self-fulfillment, “the rise of individual rights and freedoms has its price,” writes Nikolai Genov, a sociologist at the Berlin Free University in “Challenges of Individualization,” published earlier this year.

Placing an exclusive stress on the expansion of rights and freedoms of individuals by disregarding or underrating the concomitant rise of individual responsibilities brings about social pathologies. They undermine solidarity as the glue of social life.

As a result, individualization can come “at the expense of various forms of common good in general, and of various forms of solidarity in particular,” Genov observes…

All of which brings us back to the question of why there is so little rebellion against entrenched social and economic injustice.

The answer is that those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Fascinating piece on the complete cultural inversion in recent times of which sex society thinks wants more sex (not that long ago, women were seen as the rapacious sex fiends).

2) I kept meaning to write a post on Hillary’s stand for voting rights.  I never did.  But, Chait, Jamelle Bouie, and Seth Masket all see her position as both good policy and good politics.

3) I had no idea there was a backlash against the whole “grit” thing.  Whether we want to talk about “grit” or not, though, I’m definitely supportive of the idea of teaching kids to improve their non-cognitive skills.

4) Should have included this with last night’s Charleston post.  The Economist:

The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America’s political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.

5) Chipotle is working to design a better tortilla— the secret is fewer ingredients.  I like the existing tortillas well enough, but almost never eat them (I’m a burrito bowl guy) due to the 300+ (!) calories per tortilla .

6) Okay, I was going to write a a post on this college professor who is scared of his liberal students because of the rampant, new PC-ism (see Laura Kipnis), but I’m not scared of mine.  Although, maybe I should be– if anybody in my department is going to get in trouble for saying the wrong thing, it’s me.  I suspect this is still pretty much only a problem in elite liberal arts colleges.  Of course, I hope I don’t find out the wrong way.

7) JP says this is the best thing he’s read on Rachel Dolezal.  That’s a good endorsement.

8) Why we should keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 (short version, we tend to only pay attention to the bad stuff these days).

9) Why do we even need males, you may ask?  Here’s why:

The researchers found that when sexual selection was removed and beetles were paired up into monogamous couples, the population’s health declined rapidly and the bugs were wiped out by the 10th generation. Conversely, beetles that had a strong influence on sexual selection, where intense competition saw 90 males trying to compete to reproduce with only 10 females, were more resilient to extinction.

“To be good at out-competing rivals and attracting partners in the struggle to reproduce, an individual has to be good at most things, so sexual selection provides an important and effective filter to maintain and improve population genetic health,” said Gage. “Our findings provide direct support for the idea that sex persists as a dominant mode of reproduction because it allows sexual selection to provide these important genetic benefits.”

The study suggests that sexual selection plays a crucial role in sifting out harmful genetic mutations, as competition means females are less likely to mate with genetically inferior individuals.

10) In 3/4 of cases of non-complicated appendicitis, antibiotics can solve the problem.  So why do we keep cutting out appendices?  Mostly, it seems, because we always have.

11) Had an open tab on this nice German Lopez piece on marijuana legalization for far too long.  Basic point, yes “Big Marijuana” would not be a good thing.  But surely better than our current status quo.  Interestingly, he argues the most viable long-term option is not decriminalization– as many, including me, have advocated– but full-on commercialization:

Other policies fall short of fixing all the issues caused by prohibition. While decriminalization would reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests, it would leave in place a black market that would continue to fund drug cartels. And while legalizing pot in more limited ways — by allowing only growing and gifting — would deplete some of the demand for a black market, it’s likely some form of legal sales is necessary to satisfy demand for the most widely used illicit drug in the country (although experts are watching Washington, DC, to see how grow-and-gift turns out).

This leaves legalization supporters with one feasible option to address the full scope of issues that concern them: commercialization. The other options are, for better or worse, either politically impractical or wouldn’t be able to greatly reduce black market demand for pot.

12) I had no idea how many animal hybrids were out there, seemingly just to satisfy human curiousity, while leading to animal suffering.  While we’re at it the Echidna is no hybrid, but it sure is freaky.

13) You already know how evil civil forfeiture is, but one more sad story on the matter can never hurt.  Hopefully, the unfortunate victims of this will learn that you really need to forget about travelling with significant cash (of course you should be able to do so in America, but as long as this policy is allowed to persist, it’s just folly).

14) Noted Libertarian (former NC Gubernatorial candidate) and Duke Political Science professor, Mike Munger, weighs in on the LaCour affair.

15) In some ways, the poor are more rational about money than the wealthy.

16) Is your inflation-adjusted middle class salary really better than you think?  This has kicked off an interesting discussion.

17) Interestingly, and distressingly, parents of obese children seem to be in an amazing amount of denial on the matter.

18) Was having a nice back-and-forth with a former student (a libertarian, frustrated as all with the GOP) and I sent him this great piece by Jon Chait (from a few years back) on how tax cuts for rich people truly has become the over-riding ideology of the contemporary GOP.  I don’t know if I’ve linked it here before or not, but it’s quite good and it made quite an impression.

19) Last post on Game of Thrones for a while.  Just nice to see another take so similar to my own on the ultimate boring-ness of the White Walker army.  On a related note, Yglesias is (rightly) disappointed in the de-emphasis on the political scheming from whence GOT actually derives it’s name.

20) We’ll end on an uplifting note involving a stuffed Hobbes that once was lost, but now is found.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Bail is incredibly unfair to poor people.  We should fix it.  John Oliver’s segment.

2) The FIFA-produced Sepp Blatter biopic just made $607 in box office in America.

3) Maria Konnikova explains how the lessons of the Stanford Prison Experiment are far more complicated than you think.

4)I know there’s all sorts of complicated stuff going on, but I can’t help thinking that– to a disturbing degree– police office in Baltimore are just being petulant for being asked to be held accountable.

5) Republicans are playing catch-up when it comes to modern digital campaigning.

6) The City of Raleigh has improved tremendously in recent years.  Why?  Government action; not the free market.

7) Vox with what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy.  Obviously, that’s just a pipe dream, but it does help explain a lot of the key issues in expanding our use of renewables.

8) Can reading make you happier?  It does for me:

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

9) Dahlia Lithwick argues that a finding for the plaintiff in King v. Burwell would be a huge political win for the Democrats and that this fact may factor into the justices’ calculus.

10) How Disney World has left the middle class behind.  Disney’s daily admission is now $105.   When it opened in 1971, it was the equivalent of $20 in 2014 dollars.  As long as people are willing to pay their ever-higher prices, they will keep raising their prices.  The Greene family will not be contributing to this cycle.

11) Lots of differences between Iceland and the US, but I agree with Yglesias that it’s definitely a good thing to put bankers in jail.  As long as the finance types only have to worry about their companies losing money and just maybe losing a job, they will do horrible, criminal things.  Throw a few of these guys in jail– where they belong– and things will change.

12) I’m not even going to say exactly what this Vox article is about (it involves toilets), but I will say I did come to this solution on my very own decades ago.

13) Good to see that, at least in some places, school systems are realizing that kindergartners should be playing.

14) I really don’t like the taste of any beer I’ve ever had and pretty much never drink it.  Nonetheless, I found this Wonkblog post on the history of why Americans prefer bland beer to be fascinating.

15) Economists on Westeros.  I especially liked this first one.

From Ryan Decker, an economist who blogs at Updated Priors:

To me, the most striking economic fact about Westeros is the lack of focus on saving. Given the length of winters and the fact that winter means little or no food production, why isn’t every house focused like a laser on storing food and developing better food storage technology? If I were (the late) Tywin Lannister, the only weapons I’d buy would be the ones used to guard my storehouses. I’d be sending gold by the cartload to Highgarden in exchange for food. I’d be looking at the advanced civilizations in the east for storage technology ideas (as Eric Crampton has noted at offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com, Westeros could really benefit from more glass).

16) I think I like Whole Foods new rating system.   There definitely is more to food than being organic (I do think organic is good, but surely over-rated by many consumers) and it’s good to see Whole Foods taking that into account.

17) I’ve kept meaning to do a post on the horrible, inhumane way we treat the pigs we raise for food.  I have failed my porcine friends (doubly-so, as I had some good barbecue at Smithfield’s last night), but here’s a nice Wired post.  And a Fresh Air interview on the matter.   I really, really wish we could just treat our animals better and pay more for our meat.  Of course, the only way we will get there is with substantially more government regulation.  This is definitely a case where unfettered capitalism fails us.  (If you want to talk externalities, it does not get any worse than living near an industrial hog farm).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Using DNA, scientists have uncovered the genetic origins of modern Europeans (and those of European descent).  I had never heard of the Yamnaya, but their expansion into Europe 4500 years ago was key.  Fascinating stuff.

2) The Dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell argues that Social Sciences (hmmm, he didn’t say Humanities, though) are as important as STEM fields.

3) Indigenous people have way less back pain.  I’ve been pretty good so far, but this is one part of aging I definitely worry about.

4) Enjoyed Connor Friedersdorf’s take on Hastert.  Regardless of what the man did, should it really be a crime to withdraw your own money from the bank?

5) How one woman has made women with, interesting (?) faces all the rage in fashion modeling.

6) Plenty of charts on the decline of American social capital.   (I.e., why can’t we all just get along?)

7) The TSA doesn’t really work very well.  And maybe that’s okay.

8) I’d argue for John Williams as the greatest orchestral composer of the 20th century.  Here’s a ranking of his movie scores (personally, I’d put Indiana Jones #2, but this is a great list).

9) What poverty does to the young brain.  Of course, for conservatives, that’s no excuse.  Poor kids just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, damnit!

Over the past decade, the scientific consensus has become clear: poverty perpetuates poverty, generation after generation, by acting on the brain. The National Scientific Council has been working directly with policymakers to support measures that break this cycle, including better prenatal and pediatric care and more accessible preschool education. Levitt and his colleagues have also been advocating for changing laws that criminalize drug abuse during pregnancy, since, as they pointed out in a review paper, arrest and incarceration can also trigger the “maternal stress response system.” The story that science is now telling rearranges the morality of parenting and poverty, making it harder to blame problem children on problem parents. Building a healthy brain, it seems, is an act of barn raising.

10) Yes, they do teach creationism in science class in Louisiana.

11) The General Motors bailout was quite successful.  Somebody forgot to tell Republican presidential candidates.

12) Mark Ruffalo on “not a feminist.”

13) The story of Kalief Browder is horrible and everything wrong with American criminal justice.  And now he’s dead of suicide and undoubtedly a victim of the injustice done to him.

14) Love this visualization of how famous brand logos have evolved over time.

15) Does smoking marijuana interfere with math skills?  An intriguing natural experiments suggests, yes.

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Dana Milbank on just how radical Republicans have gotten and how quickly it’s been happening.

2) One way I end up with quick hits is by often having 20+ browser tabs open Chrome.  Sometimes when the wrong tabs are open, the whole computer slows to a crawl.  Now I understand why, and even better, Google is fixing the problem.  Also no more ads just randomly playing when the tab has been sitting open for hours.  Already installed the Beta..

3) Yes, Ted Cruz is an idiot, but unfortunately, politicians all too rarely make the straightforward and sincere apology when they screw up, as Cruz has done in the case of Joe Biden.

4) Some great satire from the New Yorker on (fictitious) Republican attempts to use a toddler’s temper tantrum in the Oval Office for political gain.

5) Steve Benen on a Congressional hearing this week and the phony Republican arguments on King v. Burwell.

Just once, I want to hear an ACA critic admit what is plainly true: King v. Burwell is a brazenly stupid con, but they’re playing along with the charade because they really hate the president and his signature domestic policy initiative.
Pretending the case is anything but a laughingstock is, at this point, simply impossible.

6) Best way for doctors to be sued less for malpractice?  Be more open with and talk to their patients more.  Of course, I’ve known this for years ever since reading The Medical Malpractice Myth upon Kevin Drum’s recommendation of it.

7) Yet more on the state of Kansas reaping the fruits of its tax cuts.  Of course, now they are looking to raise taxes in the most regressive manner possible via increased sales tax.  That’s some redistribution for you.

8) Really enjoyed this Monkey Cage piece on political fact-checking and when it works and when it doesn’t:

What fact-checking does best is reduce or prevent inaccurate political rhetoric and may be most effective during primary races. The growing effort is helping to shape what politicians say and whether their partisans take those statements on faith or with facts.

Political fact-checking can’t do everything. The old line “I know what I believe, don’t confuse me with the facts” accurately sums up how stubbornly people can hold onto their most cherished convictions.

9) Given the choice, chimpanzees prefer cooked food.  And on a tenuously related note, I really enjoyed finally seeing “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” yesterday.  Andy Serkis is awesome.

10) Do feminists need to take women’s sports more seriously?  Maybe.  Though, I’m not sure I buy the premise that America’s sports fans would love women’s sports more if they just got more media coverage.

11) Fascinated by this story of the first ever skull and scalp transplant.

12) So, the main point of this essay was about teaching your kids to support causes even if you don’t believe in the cause.  But I was floored to learn that many people oppose Autism Speaks because they are trying to end autism.  That’s nuts!

13) Why America never adopted the metric system (or at least why not when everybody else first did it).  And I’d never heard this part before.

14) Interesting piece on why Obama should offer Snowden a deal:

Did he expose violations of law? Check. Last month, a federal appeals court held that the phone records collection program was illegal. Did he reveal abuses of authority? Check. The NSA’s inspector general has acknowledged dozens of incidents in which employees tracked phone calls and emails of former girlfriends, objects of romantic interest, or in one case an “unfaithful husband.” Did he point out gross mismanagement? Check. The mere fact that Snowden was able to walk out with a treasure trove of top-secret information more or less proves the point. Did Snowden bring to light the waste of public funds? Quite possibly, check again. The government has provided no evidence that the costly program has prevented a single terrorist attack.

Unfortunately for Snowden, the Whistleblower Protection Act contains a major exception: It does not apply to people who work for intelligence agencies, including the NSA. The Justice Department maintains that Snowden’s actions fall under a very different kind of law, the draconian and anachronistic Espionage Act of 1917. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects you as long as you believe you are doing right in leaking information about government wrongdoing to the press—even if you are wrong. The Espionage Act treats you as a traitor even if you acted with patriotic intent, as Snowden convincingly claims to have done—and even if you are right.

The chasm between the government’s encouragement of some whistleblowing and its severe punishment of other whistleblowing constitutes the limbo in which Snowden finds himself.

15) Scientists can calculate your risk of dying in the next five years based on 13 questions.  I’m as likely to die in the next five years as a British (that’s the population studied) 16-year old.

16) Woman almost dies from a broken bat.  I don’t go to baseball games much anymore, but when I do, you better believe I sit behind the net or well clear of the area quick-flying foul balls and broken bats go.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This was a terrific Fresh Air interview on how the government was instrumental in creating Black ghettos.  Our racial residential patterns are no historical accident or Black people choosing to live in their own places, but the result of intentional government policies designed to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods.

2) Loved this interactive feature to find the equivalent in popularity for you name from various decades (e.g., in 1900’s I would have been “Joe.”)

3) Jason Furman on the importance and success of government programs that invest in families.

4) We need to let our young kids learn through play!

TWENTY years ago, kids in preschool, kindergarten and even first and second grade spent much of their time playing: building with blocks, drawing or creating imaginary worlds, in their own heads or with classmates. But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up.

The idea seems obvious: Starting sooner means learning more; the early bird catches the worm.

But a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn…

Over the past 20 years, scientists have come to understand much more about how children learn. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent his career studying how the human brain develops from birth through adolescence; he says most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than didactic explanation. “The trouble with over-structuring is that it discourages exploration,” he says.

5) Fascinating Slate piece on the origins of race-based slavery (had never really thought about the fact that slavery existed long before, but was not necessarily based on race).

6) How some men (but not women) fake an 80 hour work-week.

7) Speaking of which, one of the reasons I so loved Mad Men was because it was such a great exploration of the role of gender in the workplace.

8) Let’s keep the gender theme rolling… a couple good links from a commenter about rape, nudity, etc., on Game of Thrones.

9) USA Today editorial on the wrongness of Chipotle’s anti-GMO policy.

10) Surprise, surprise, the Patriot Act is not actually helping the FBI catch terrorists.

11) When it comes to social issues, liberals have caught up with conservatives.

12) Not only do we need better train infrastructure, we need the War on Drugs to not blatantly and horribly violate people’s rights while they are riding trains.  Seriously, the War on Drugs just has so much more harm than good that I think only those truly ignorant of what is going on can support it.  Or fascists.

13) Yes, there was huge fraud in political science, but because of how the scientific method works, it was actually caught out pretty quickly.  And a handy chart on how to spot bad science.

14) Okay, so this Slate piece freaked me out about ticks pretty good.  Actually think I am going to spray my kids’ shoes and socks as a result.

Quick hits (part I)

This was supposed to be quick hits part II last Sunday, so this is just an indication of how behind I am.  I promise better blogging for you when I’m done my Maymester class.

1) In the interests of “promoting jobs” and ending those pesky regulations, NC is trying to do away with streamside buffers against water pollution.  I’m sure that nothing bad can come of that.

2) If you were not aware of how evil and antithetical to democracy (including here in NC) ALEC is, this news report (from a local Atlanta TV station of all places!) pretty well captures it.

3) Yes, Republicans are a lot of old white people, but that doesn’t mean the party will die off.  Here’s how Jamelle Bouie expects them to adapt.

4) Apparently being stabbed by a giant sword leads to a much slower death than is portrayed on Game of Thrones.

5) Honestly, I can never post enough on how evil civil asset forfeiture is.

6) Yglesias on Gallup poll showing Americans want to redistribute wealth by taxing the rich.

7) John Oliver on standardized testing.  Of course it’s great.  My youngest son had his first ever experience with them the past week.  Beforehand, they managed to worry a kid who was in absolutely no danger of failing that it was a real worry for him.  Also, no backpacks in school because somehow… ?

8) I’ve followed this guy’s Instagram feed for a while.  Enjoyed the story behind it.

9) Good story on the Obamacare hating man in SC who was disappointed to find out he couldn’t game the system when his eyesight depended upon it.

10) I was surprised at all the cynical takes on conclusion of Mad Men.  It was clear to me these people just did not understand Matt Weiner’s vision (and therefore should not have been writing as authorities on the show) and in this interview with Weiner, that’s pretty clear.  On the lighter side, here’s what Don Draper was thinking in his final moments.

11) A small piece of good news in the battle to protect individual liberties– the government cannot search the contents of your laptop or phone without a warrant.

12) We so totally know that 18-year olds are not really ready for the adult-world in many ways.  Yet, we typically just let foster kids (who are surely even less prepared) loose at age 18 with no more support.  That’s a horrible idea.  Kudos to Tennessee for figuring this out and creating a program that helps increase the adult success of these kids.

13) Vox’s health reporters on their 8 big take-aways from years as health reporters.

14) Great National Journal article on Amtrak and our problems with high-speed rail:

The Gulf situation is a miniature version of the chicken-and-egg question that bedevils Amtrak as a whole: Is it a waste of money because there isn’t sufficient demand for trains? Or is there insufficient demand for trains because we haven’t spent the money to create a great rail system? Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the tracks Amtrak uses are almost all owned by freight railroads. CSX, Union Pacific, and a handful of other behemoths naturally hog them, which contributes to Amtrak’s chronic tardiness, which in turn dissuades passengers from taking Amtrak. As a result, Congress cites Amtrak’s low-ridership numbers as a reason not to grant it larger subsidies, which of course are exactly what Amtrak would need in order to purchase its own train tracks. Commenting on the vicious cycle, John Robert Smith says: “You can’t disinvest in something and then beat it to death because it doesn’t perform.”

And a nice defense of Amtrak from Tim Wu.

15) I love reading about the Beanie Baby bubble and remembering fondly how my stepmother and little sisters were spending $80 on these things on Ebay and thinking it was a good investment.  There’s a new book on the matter.  And here’s an interview with the author.

16) Just a wee bit of hypocrisy in Republicans asking the Pope to say out of politics (somehow only seems to happen when he mentions poverty or climate change).

17) Oh, how I love School House Rock.  And, yes, I still show “I’m Just a Bill” every semester.  Here’s a nice bit from Mental Floss on 15 things you didn’t know about it.

18) Fox News personalities claim that they don’t actually say bad things about poor people.  Talk about a target-rich environment for Jon Stewart.  Oh my this is good.

 

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