Quick hits (part II)

1) The Republican Senate’s delay on confirming Lorretta Lynch for Attorney General is literally historic in its wrongness.

2) There’s new research that says, no, it’s actually liberals who are happier, not conservatives.  When actually reading about it, I find it entirely unconvincing.

3) Help an NCSU professor do some cool citizen science on heartbeats.

4) Loved this history of the origins of Mad Men (my co-favorite show ever, with The Wire).

5) The good news on Obamacare just keeps coming.

6) The real story of the Irish famine and exodus.  It’s not just the potato blight, but why that was so deadly.

7) Good to know that racism in America is over and the only problem is Democrats spreading “phony racial narratives.”  Or so says old white guy who happens to be a US Senator.

8) Lincoln Peirce, creator of Big Nate comics, came to my son’s elementary school last week.  My son loves Big Nate books and Wimpy Kid books head-and-shoulders above any others.  I really enjoyed reading about the connection between these two authors.

9) So, apparently contestants on the Bachelor(ette) are basically not allowed to have any access to the outside world:

Contestants can’t have cell phones, use the internet, watch movies, or even read books, so they have no choice but to talk to each other, and to stew about their feelings for their Bachelor or Bachelorette, the object of their competitive affection.

That’s like being in solitary confinement, but with other people.  As if there weren’t enough problems with it, I have to wonder what kind of person would subject themselves to such conditions.  No books even??!!

10) Read a lot of good stuff on Robert “Bowling Alone” Putnam’s new book about poverty in America.  It’s important stuff.  Here’s a nice summary.

11) There’s been a lively debate among academics about the group-based nature of the Democratic versus Republican parties. Seth Masket does a nice job summarizing the issues and splitting the baby.

12) How climate change denying scientists are much like scientists of 50 years ago who tried to convince people that cigarettes are harmless.

13) Love my cereal for breakfast.  Thus, loved this Wonkblog post on the most popular cereals.

14) One of my students/advisees with no prior experience with animation software, made this awesome video on redistricting in NC.

15) What happens to a Texas prosecutor who gets a man put to death based on false testimony?  You know– nothing.

16) Speaking of Texas “justice,” Dahlia Lithwick writes

Last week I wrote about thesuspension of David Dow, one of the country’s most prominent capital defense attorneys. He was benched for an entire year by Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals—the state’s highest criminal appeals court—for allegedly filing a late petition in a death penalty case. The sanction was doubly bonkers, I argued, because other death penalty lawyers never seem to be sanctioned for sleeping, drinking, or otherwise rendering themselves incompetent at trial. In any event, Dow was barred from appearing before the CCA for 12 months. Which means that his death row clients—whom he represents pro bono, and who may not find other lawyers to do so—literally have their lives on the line because a motion may or may not have been filed a few hours late. Or, as one lawyer quipped after the piece was posted: “Apparently Texas finally found one lawyer to be incompetent: the one who is actually good at his job.”

 

Quick hits (part I)

So, this was supposed to be last week’s quick hits part II and then I was going to do a mid-week quick hits, but whatever, here it is.

1) Are we teaching our children that there are no moral facts?

2) On a similar note, great Lawrence Krauss piece on the importance of teaching doubt and skepticism:

One thing is certain: if our educational system does not honestly and explicitly promote the central tenet of science—that nothing is sacred—then we encourage myth and prejudice to endure. We need to equip our children with tools to avoid the mistakes of the past while constructing a better, and more sustainable, world for themselves and future generations. We won’t do that by dodging inevitable and important questions about facts and faith. Instead of punting on those questions, we owe it to the next generation to plant the seeds of doubt.

3) Do parents create narcissists by praising too much?  Maybe.  I like how the research makes an important conceptual and measurement distinction between narcissism and self esteem:

Of course, self-esteem and narcissism are two very different things. The difference has to do with how you value yourself compared to other people. “Self-esteem basically means you’re a person of worth equal with other people,” Bushman tells Shots. “Narcissism means you think you’re better than other people.”

4) Josh Barro writes about Marco Rubio’s “puppies and rainbows” tax plan.  I think that about gets it.

5) Love the Vox guide to using science to win at rock, paper, scissors.

6) NYT and Deadspin on what’s wrong with the Blurred Lines copyright ruling.  After listening to the two songs, I’ve got to agree (unlike that guy where I was like, “he totally stole ‘Won’t back down’ and just made it slower.”

7) Pi, primes, and cryptography.

8) The world’s most painful insect sting.  No thanks.

9) Synthetic genes in place of vaccines?  Just maybe.

10) Somehow, I had missed John Oliver on Ayn Rand.  As good as you would expect.

11) The really cool part of Apple’s latest product announcement is actually their battery innovations.

12) Time to end the ethanol rip-off.  Indeed.

13) Companies are doing a lot less screening of employees for drug use because– surprise, surprise– it doesn’t really work in improving workplace safety or productivity.

14) So, all this oil we are now shipping throughout the country by railroad.  The infrastructure is simply not meant for it and it is thus a very dangerous and bad idea.  Of course, we’re doing a ton of it anyway.

15) Advice to the unmarried: don’t spend so damn much on your wedding.  It’s crazy how much Americans now spend on weddings.  You know what matters?  That you have a good enough party with your family, friends, loved ones about you.  Nobody remembers how fancy the venue or the food or whatever is.  Just have a good time and save  your money.

16) Yes, a movie with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence did just go straight to video.  I had no idea.  That said, this is one of those rare books that I finished that I should have just given up on.

17) So, the estrogen replacement Premarin is still made from the urine of female horses.  It’s no fun for the horses, but this system makes the manufacturer way more money.

18) Safe to say if General Petraeus had been an enlisted soldier, he would not have gotten off so easily.

19) I gave up on Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature, in part, because I was pretty well persuaded by his case and felt like I was getting beaten over the head with it.  Sure you need good data, but you also need to make it a good story.  Anyway, according to this essay in the Guardian, Pinker is wrong and humans have not become dramatically less violent.

20) The case for free range parenting from a German parent who has moved to America.  Why do we have to be so uniquely dumb and paranoid in this country?!

21) A fascinating case of evolution in California Scrub Jays that calls into question just exactly what it means to be a species and our understandings of how speciation happens.  Good stuff.

Quick hits (part II)

1) A better way to prevent young Muslim men in the West from being radicalized?

2) Republicans are all about how state and local government is better.  Except when the local government wants to do something the radical conservatives in charge of state governments disapprove of.

3) Give your babies some peanuts!  Among other things, a really interesting case on what has been the conventional medical wisdom for a number of years appears to have been 180 degrees wrong.

4) So, maybe the universe had no beginning at all?  Sure, I can wrap my head around that.

5) Personally, I’m so annoyed at all the feminists picking on Patricia Arquette for making a statement for equal pay for women at the Oscars.  Amanda Marcotte’s complaints strike me as exactly what’s wrong with feminism.  For one, I agree with Arquette’s implicit complaint that liberal politics has been too focused on identity politics and not enough bread-and-butter economic issues.

6) I had no idea China was trying to fund a canal through Nicaragua.  Sounds like an absolutely epic boondoggle.

7) Excellent piece from Nate Cohn reminding us that Republicans in blue states are actually really important.

The blue-state Republicans make it far harder for a very conservative candidate to win the party’s nomination than the party’s reputation suggests. They also give a candidate who might seem somewhat out of touch with today’s Republican Party, like Jeb Bush, a larger base of potential support than is commonly thought.

It’s easy to forget about the blue-state Republicans. They’re all but extinct in Washington, since their candidates lose general elections to Democrats, and so officials elected by states and districts that supported Mr. Romney dominate the Republican Congress.

But the blue-state Republicans still possess the delegates, voters and resources to decide the nomination. In 2012, there were more Romney voters in California than in Texas, and in Chicago’s Cook County than in West Virginia. Mr. Romney won three times as many voters in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City than in Republican-leaning Alaska.

Overall, 59 percent of Romney voters in the Republican primaries lived in the states carried by President Obama.

8) I didn’t know about the Siberian crater problem and it’s connection to global warming.  Fascinating.

9) Speaking of Russia, enjoyed this take on the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

10) We all take spreadsheets for granted these days, but they really are a pretty amazing invention.  Loved this Planet Money story.

11) The Republican plan for fighting ISIS is amazingly similar to…. what Obama is actually doing.

12) Great Jon Stewart clip on all the hate from Fox on the announcement of his leaving the show.

13) Maria Konnikova on the dangers of leaning in.

14) Ezra Klein once again reminding us that moderates are not actually moderate at all.

15) On how the color blue is actually a recent innovation.  Seriously.  Loved the Radiolab referenced in this post.

16) All the evidence you need for the existence of white privilege.

17) I so hate the Food Babe.  I’ve been meaning to write my own post disparaging her, but I’ve fallen short.  These two do a great job.

18) I was quite amused at how shocked my stepmother was at Christmas-time when we explained we don’t bathe our kids every night.  You would have thought we said we have them sleep outside in the winter.  Of course, there’s absolutely no reason you need to bathe children every day.  (Of course, now that David is a teenager he will definitely develop a smell if he goes too long).

19) Lolita is one of my favorite books ever.  Enjoyed this piece on it for being one of the Guardian’s top 100 novels.  I came across it when “Vladimir Nabokov” surprisingly posted the link in my FB feed.

Quick hits

1) While everybody has been complaining about the silliness of the dress being black/blue or gold/white, the truth is, this really is a fascinating case of the ambiguities of human color perception.  David Pogue’s take was my favorite.  And a good one in Wired, too.

The really crazy part for me is that on Friday morning this was totally white and I could not even imagine how it could be blue.  Then Friday afternoon when I showed my kids, it was blue.  Friday night, it was white again.  As of this later Friday night writing, it’s back to blue again.  Try as I might, I cannot see it as the dingy white I did just two hours ago.  Argh!  Crazy and awesome.

2) Not generally a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but she’s exactly right to question Jeb’s decision-making in relying on all his brother’s worst advisers.  Paul Wolfowitz– seriously?!

3) Our nation’s way over-reliance on solitary confinement truly is a national shame.

4) Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members is literally one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.  I read it in a day (can’t remember the last time I did that) and laughed out loud a bunch while I was reading it.

5) Really liked this take on David Carr’s death and the stigma of lung cancer.

6) I so hate the twitter guardians of decency who seem to take such pleasure in ruining lives.  Absolute worst part of the Lindsey Stone case was how the morons basically had no sense of humor or context.  Horrible and pathetic.

7) How twin studies show that whether you believe in God or not, is significantly genetic.

8) Enjoyed this story on Dianne Rehm’s advocacy in the Right to Die movement.

9) I think Scott Walker’s moronic comments that he’s ready to face down ISIS because he faced down public employee unions mostly just show that he’s not ready for primetime (of which we’ve had ample evidence of late).  Plus, there’s something about the set of his eyes that just seems wrong to me.

10) Will Saletan on how Obama should more forthrightly call out Republicans.  Not going to happen, but it’s nice to think about:

Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.

11) Found this NYT story utterly fascinating about two French babies switched at birth and how they stayed with their non-biological families when the error was learned many years later.

12) St Louis is a great example of what goes wrong when a metropolitan area has too many local governments.

13) I’ve only watched three episodes of House of Cards and that’s all it will likely ever be.  As Alyssa Rosenberg writes, it insults our intelligence.  Also, from what I’ve seen it has basically no sense of humor (which is decidedly not the case from other great dramas of recent times).

14) If the Supreme Court actually makes the transparently political and nakedly partisan decision to strike down Obamacare subsidies, this could actually put Republicans in a real jam.

15) Our system of elected judges is truly one of the worst parts of the American system of government.  Easy pickings, of course, for John Oliver.

Quick hits

1) Never thought about it this way, but makes so much sense.  All the vitamins we add to our processed food allow us to hide what low quality so much of the food is.

2) How your gut bacteria affects your immune system.  I’d like to thing mine is why I stay so healthy (and I attribute a healthy gut microbiome to lots of fruits and vegetables).

3) How the FDA is failing to keep us safe by hiding/ignoring evidence from bad drug trials.

4) Roy Moore is a self-aggrandizing, Constitution-ignoring jerk of a judge.  That said, Emily Bazelon explains how is gay marriage decision is not as crazy as it’s been made out to be.

5) The near-death of Monticello (I really need to take my kids there) and why we shouldn’t be leaving national treasures to the private marketplace.

6) This Atlantic cover story on ISIS is really thought-provoking.  Highly recommended reading.  On the shorter side, just maybe ISIS might collapse of it’s own failure to expand.

7) How often do people in various countries shower.  Too much, probably:

Cleanliness, it turns out, has been one dirty trick. One reason early-20th-century Americans ramped up their weekly baths to daily showers is that marketing companies capitalized on the insecurities of a new class of office drones working in close quarters. As Gizmodo wrote last week, to sell products like “toilet soap” and Listerine to Americans, “the advertising industry had to create pseudoscientific maladies like ‘bad breath’ and ‘body odor.'”

True.  That said, body odor is most definitely real and I prefer not to be around it.

8) Crows are even smarter than we thought (and reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes on the matter).

9) I didn’t even watch the Super Bowl half-time show, but I think this Diary of the Left Shark is simply brilliant.  I laughed out loud several times while reading it.

10) When given the chance to weigh in, juries are much less punitive than many sentencing recommendations.  Maybe legislators need to re-think things.

11) What a wonderful tribute from one great journalist, TNC, to another, the passed away all too soon this week, David Carr.

12) At least Oliver Sacks has made it into his 80’s before contracting terminal cancer.  I think I was a teenager when I first read a Sacks book and I’ve read a ton.  I so love his infectious enthusiasm for understanding and sharing his understanding of the human brain.

13) On a happier note, this collection of best Robot Chicken clips is brilliant.  If you’ve never seen the one with Darth Vader calling the Emperor about the destruction of the Death Star, stop what you are doing and watch now.

14) Good for Walmart for raising it’s wages, but don’t pretend it’s anything other than good business in the current market:

The second reason for the raise is less specific to Walmart. The American economy’s recovery in the past few years has led to an increase in the number of jobs and a decrease in the unemployment rate—both of which mean that companies will have to start paying their employees more in order to get them to stick around.

From this perspective, Walmart’s decision is a selfish one: The company realized that it could hire workers at $7 an hour, but couldn’t hold on to them unless wages were bumped up. Aetna, Ikea, and The Gap have all come to similar conclusions. “I would expect to see many other small and large firms do the same,” Bloom says.

15) Eric Posner on just how wrong the decision to overturn Obama’s immigration action is.  It would be really, really surprising if this is not overturned at the appellate level.  Ruth Marcus takes it to the judge who ruled on the case.

16) My latest time-suck?  The oh-so-perfectly named, Trivia Crack.

17) One of my great embarrasssments of my acadmemic life is the paper I wrote on Andrew Johnson for my AP US History course.  I relied entirely too much on a source by an apologist for Johnson.  I think I got an A.  One of the reasons I really don’t like giving college credit for High School classes.  A short Slate video on why Johnson was a horrible president.

18) After the latest climbing tragedy Everest’s most dangerous route is now off limits.  Of all the things that I have read about, the Kumbu Ice Falls has totally stuck with me.  And my wife, too.  Thanks to Into Thin Air.  

19) Herbal supplements are barely regulated at all because Congress made that a policy choice.  Is it any wonder that they are full of false claims and false ingredients.

20) I’m so getting this for my next Iphone.

21) Nate Cohn on why Hillary really is a prohibitive favorite of historical proportions.

22) For a huge Seinfeld fan like me, this “What if Elaine Benes had Instagram” collection was super-entertaining.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The justification for stripping this professor from tenure over a blog posting (scary!!) is pretty pathetic.

2) It would be nice if Supreme Court Justices actually had some real world experience.  Somehow, John Roberts has never even been pulled over while driving!

3) Jon Chait with a handy reminder that Mitt Romney predicted we would face economic doom if Obama were re-elected.

4) The NYT headline, “Jails Have Become Warehouses for the Poor, Ill and Addicted, a Report Says.”  Only problem is the need to qualify with “report says.”  Sadly, this is just reality.  And the modern debtors prison part is especially distressing.

5) New Yorker’s Sarah Larson with one of the better takes on Jon Stewart stepping down.

6) Are you “gluten sensitive”?  Chances are pretty good it’s in your head.  Emily Oster in 538:

If you don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy and are experiencing distressing gastrointestinal symptoms after eating gluten — lack of satisfaction with your stool consistency, for example — there is something like a 1 in 30 chance that the gluten is potentially responsible. If you cut out gluten and it makes you feel better, great. Although it may all be in your head.

If you are cutting out gluten for any other reason, all that will happen is you’ll feel the same, but without the pleasure of bread that tastes like bread.

7) Frank Bruni on the value of a liberal arts education.  Personally, I’m still not sold on Shakespeare.

8) I’ve always been blaming my genes for the extreme picky eating of my kids.  In truth, it’s also clearly some pretty sub-optimal parenting in this regard.

9) Really  enjoyed Will Saletan’s takedown of those who argue Christianity never does any wrong.

10) Wow– the twitter police are just nuts!  Scariest part– the tweet that basically ruined Justine Sacco’s life was so obviously meant ironically, but the twitter police are apparently willfully obtuse.

11) Parents stop reading to their kids too soon.  David is 15 and we’re still going strong.  Often my favorite time with my kids each day– why end this before it’s absolutely necessary.

12) Fall and rise of US inequality in two charts.

13) Michael Tomasky on the need for raising the gas tax, and the greater need for actually leveling with the American people:

The second, broader point is this. Someday, some Democrat who wishes to take the reins of this great nation is going to have to level with the people and say look, you say in poll after poll that you want certain things—the preservation of Social Security without benefit cuts, more assistance for higher education, better day care, paid family leave. Fine. I want to give you those things. But they aren’t free. And the rich, even though they’re rich, only have so much to contribute. The top marginal tax rate just isn’t going to get much higher, and the corporate tax rate if anything should be lowered (although as loopholes are simultaneously closed). So you’re going to have to pay a little.

14) Meaningful tax reform just isn’t going anywhere in today’s Congress.

15) Investing in energy efficiency really pays off.  We should do more of it.

16) John Judis on the Republicans’ emerging advantage with white, middle class voters.  Well worth reading, here’s the conclusion:

In the wake of the dramatic gains Republicans have made during Obama’s presidency, I now read the history of the last 80 years much differently. The period of New Deal Democratic ascendancy from 1933 to about 1968 may well prove to have been what historians Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore have called the “long exception” in American politics. It was a period when Americans, panicked about the Depression, put on hold their historic aversion to aggressive government economic intervention, when the middle and bottom of the American economic pyramid united against the top, and when labor unions could claim the loyalty of a third of American workers. That era suffered fatal fissures in 1968 and finally came to a close with Reagan’s landslide in 1980.

It now appears that, in some form, the Republican era which began in 1980 is still with us. Reagan Republicanism—rooted in the long-standing American distrust of government, but perhaps with its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges sanded off for a national audience—is still the default position of many of those Americans who regularly go to the polls. It can be effectively challenged when Republicans become identified with economic mismanagement or with military defeat. But after the memory of such disasters has faded, the GOP coalition has reemerged—surprisingly intact and ready for battle.

Mega quick hits (part II)

1) Largest ethnic group in America (by country of national origin)?  Germans.  Hey, that’s me.

2) TSA jails innocent man for misunderstanding over Power Bars.

3) Love this video with the human behind Humans of New York.

4) Oh, how I loved this Slate piece on the Beanie Baby bubble of the 1990’s.  I’ll never forget my stepmother going crazy buying Princess Diana beanies, convinced of their future worth (you can pick one up for $5 on ebay).

5) The authors’ five bad habits he kicked in Finland (I’m not sure they are all bad).  Need Mika to weigh in on these.

6) Enjoyed Chait’s response to all the haters on his PC article.  Amazing (and pathetic) how many simply accused him of being an upset white man (and clearly didn’t read the article).

7) Nice EJ Dionne on the wrongness of Paul Ryan’s “envy economics.”

We should just admit it: Government inevitably redistributes all the time. Won’t bigger defense budgets help large defense companies? At a time of rising inequality, we need to pay closer attention to whether this ongoing government redistribution aggravates the problem or instead tries to make life better for those at the wrong end of economic change.

8) Linda Greenhouse on how overturning Obamacare via King v. Burwell would fundamentally change the nature of the Supreme Court (given the amazingly weak case of the plantiff, I fully agree).

9) Lawmakers in Kansas want to ban professors at state universities from using their titles in newspaper columns.

10) My favorite takedown of the right-wing idiocy that Obama had the temerity to mention that Christians have been known to do horrible things in the name of religion.   And TNC with a great takedown, too (of course).

11) Paid sick leave does not actually hurt business.  So say businesses.

12) Meanwhile, Yglesias with a nice argument on why paid parental leave is too important to be left up to employers (and, of course, the same thing could be said of health care).

13) How had I never heard before of this experimental protocol that is supposed to make you fall in love.  Maybe I should try it with my wife (are you reading, Kimberly?)

14) This article strikes me as far too simplistic, but there sure does seem to be something going on with the gut-brain connection in people with autism.

15) Why are so many Americans in prison?  It’s not drugs, not tougher sentencing laws, but the behavior of prosecutors says provocative new scholarship.

16) Two articles on phages in one weekend! (This one is better– I just discovered it).  This part is mind-blowing:

The book is full of astonishing phage statistics. There are, for example, an estimated 1031—ten million trillion trillion—phages on Earth, more than every other organism, including bacteria, put together. [emphasis mine] The average teaspoon of seawater contains five times as many phages as there are people in Rio de Janeiro. According to researchers in Vancouver, these tiny viruses cause a collective trillion trillion successful infections per second, in the process destroying up to forty per cent of all bacterial cells in the ocean every single day. Following their deaths at the hands of phages, those carbon-containing microorganisms sink down into the marine sediment, effectively removing greenhouse gases from circulation.

17) Really liked Jon Cohn’s (now at HuffPo) piece on Obama’s child care agenda.

18) The way to get parents to use vaccines?  Don’t give them a choice.  Nice interview with Brendan Nyhan:

BN: Studies have found that providers who use presumptive language, saying, ‘It’s time for some shots,’ are much more likely to have successful vaccine compliance than providers who use participatory language like, ‘What do you think about shots?’ It’s of course important to respect patient autonomy but I think, at the same time, the language providers use gives patients a cue about the strength of the medical evidence.

If you roll into the emergency room on a stretcher with a gun shot wound, no one says, ‘How do you feel about getting bullets out of you?’ They say, ‘We need to get this out of you now.’ There is a move in medicine toward participatory approaches in contexts in which the benefits are less clear. But this is an area where the science is very clear and the language we use should reflect that.

19) The fact that North Carolina cannot find a way to outlaw puppy mills (and that the American Kennel Club is fighting against outlawing them) is truly deplorable.

20) Great NYT editorial on Scott Walker’s deplorable attack on the University of Wisconsin system.

 

 

 

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