Quick hits

1) Women who voted for Trump in their own words (short version: they prefer their self-delusional fantasy view of Trump).

2) This interactive feature of Obama’s legacy in chart form was really, really cool.

3) The headline mostly says it all for me, “Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do With Your Success.”  Though, I would add, “especially you, Republicans!”

4) A million reasons to miss Obama.  One of them, that he is a true lover of books.  His life and he still manages to read so much more great books than me.  In contrast, this tweet highlights a recent Trump interview on the matter of books:

5) Modern electro-shock therapy can be hugely beneficial, but it still has a very bad and outdated reputation.  Kitty Dukakis is trying to change that.

6) I hope it doesn’t make a bad feminist, but I really believe that a violent stranger rape is worse than an acquaintance rape.  That doesn’t mean the latter is okay, but, from a public order and police perspective, I know where I want my police force using their non-infinite resources.

7) What Frankenstein can tell us about the anti-vaxxers.

8) Chris Kobach is just a major league a$$hole.  And the lengths he will go to in order to prove “voter fraud” are pathetic.

9) Flesh-eating screwworms are back in the US.  I found it fascinating to read how we eradicated them 30 years ago.

10) More marijuana, less opiate abuse.  Seriously.  German Lopez:

Well, medical marijuana appears to offer one way to help deal with America’s pain problem without the risks of opioids.

The best review of the research to date on marijuana, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, looked at more than 10,000 studies to evaluate pot’s potential benefits and harms.

The review concluded that there’s “conclusive evidence” for marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain, as well as multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The review also found “substantial evidence” linking pot to respiratory problems if smoked, schizophrenia and psychosis, car crashes, lagging social achievement in life, and perhaps pregnancy-related problems — but it didn’t find any good evidence that marijuana causes health complications, such as overdose, that can lead to death.

So the evidence suggests marijuana is good for treating chronic pain, even if it may come with some nonfatal risks.

What about opioids? While there is research that opioids effectively treat acute pain, the evidence on whether opioid painkillers can treat chronic pain is weak at best.

11) Great Fresh Air interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones on school segregation`.

12) On being an “ethical parent” versus being a “good parent.”  I know I’ve been disappointed in some liberal friends who think integrated schools are great, just maybe not for their kids:

The school decision highlights the problem at the heart of moral parenting. We want to teach our children to be ethical, yet is parenting in itself a constant choice between what is best for our individual child and what is best for all children?

Are we, for example, obligated to send our child to a low-performing school because if we don’t, we are participating in the failure and neglect of underperforming schools? Or are we obligated to send our children to the “best” school that we can provide?

13) I found the story of Malia Obama’s secret trip to Bolivia, fascinating.

14) I assume most parents have already come to the conclusion that it is okay to send your sick, but recovering, kid to school:

According to a new NPR story about the often confounding process of deciding whether a slightly sick child should go to school, my husband was probably right. Reporter Katherine Hobson looks into the science behind this decision and discovers that sending an on-the-mend, but still not quite 100-percent, kid to school can be morally sound.

“The science really tells us that most disease is spread before the child gets sick,” pediatrician and pediatric emergency medicine physician Andrew Hashikawa told Hobson. He explained that, in a good many cases, keeping a child home is useful insofar as it helps the child recover, and not because it prevents others from catching whatever bug the child has. He points to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for child care illness exclusions, which are surprisingly chill. The long list of conditions that they don’t see as being cause for keeping a child home includes: common colds; runny noses; watery, yellow or white discharge or crusting eye discharge without a fever; fever without any signs or symptoms of illness; pink eye; and a rash unaccompanied by a fever or behavioral changes. After reading this list, I will be sleeping better tonight.

15) Tom Edsall asks a lot of really smart journalists and political scientists why they think the Russians wanted Trump.  Included is one of my very favorite political scientists, Gary Jacobson (not all that long ago I was in an elevator with him in a conference and told him my early undergraduate exposure to his research is one of the key things that made me want to be a PS professor).  Now, I love him even more.

Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, was outspoken in his response to my question asking why the Russians favored Trump:

His shameless mendacity, narcissism, authoritarian instincts, inability to tolerate opposition or criticism, hostility to formal institutions and the media, vast ignorance of foreign and domestic issues, indifference to constitutional restraints and eagerness to whip up and exploit xenophobia and (barely disguised) racism. We might add his affection for authoritarian leaders and other tough guys. Have I left anything out? Probably. All of these characteristics lead him to say things and propose actions antithetical to democratic norms and standards.

16a) Really interesting NYT story on a fake news “masterpiece” and the young Republican behind it.

16b) Since he’s a NC boy, the N&O also ran a piece.  As if this guy wasn’t an ass enough, his utterly false equivalance self-serving justification just kills me:

“Fake news flourished during this election cycle because it served the purpose of reinforcing these biases, and it occurred on both sides,” Harris continued. “It catered to predispositions that Americans already held, and while fake news has been widely discussed, the dynamics behind it have largely been ignored. Whether fake news remains prevalent or not (and I hope that it doesn’t), our nation cannot move forward from such a divisive election cycle if we continue to seek comfort in our own beliefs and refuse to challenge our personal world views.”

17) Presumably you’ve seen the photos going around of Trump’s inauguration compared to Obama’s.  I love that this must bother Trump so much.

18) Drum with the fine “thanks Obama” post I needed to see:

In the end, Obama wasn’t a transformative president. But that’s a high bar: in my book, FDR and Reagan are the only presidents of the past century who qualify. Still, Obama turned the battleship a few degrees more than most presidents, and we’re all better off for it. He also brought a certain amount of grace and civility to the White House, as well as a genuine willingness to work across the aisle. In the event, that turned out to be futile, because Republicans had already decided to oppose everything he did sight unseen. But he did try.

19) Loved this Freakonomics podcast episode with Raj Chetty.  Lots of good ideas on the best ways to try and reduce poverty.

20) Obama’s c.v. should he need a new law professor gig.

21) Nice Chait piece on 6 books that explain how the GOP went crazy.  This part is particularly interesting:

I was told my list could not be published because it was too partisan — to be suitable for publication, I would have to swap out some of the books I chose, and substitute some that made the case that the Democratic Party had also gone off the rails, for the sake of balance. I replied that I could not make this change because I don’t believe that the Democratic Party, in its current historical period, has gone off the rails. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats flawless, just that they are a normal party with normal problems. It contains a broad range of interest groups and politicians. Sometimes one interest group or another gains too much influence over a particular policy, and sometimes its leading politicians get greedy or make bad political decisions.

The GOP right now is an abnormal party. It does not resemble the major right-of-center parties found in other industrialized democracies. The most glaring manifestation of this is Donald Trump, the flamboyantly ignorant, authoritarian Republican president-elect. But for all his gross unsuitability for public office, Trump also grows out of longstanding trends within his party, which has previously elevated such anti-intellectual figures as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as plausible leaders of the free world not despite but because of their disdain for empiricism. And it had grown increasingly suspicious of democracy even before a reality television star with a longstanding admiration for strongmen from Russia to Tiananmen Square came upon the scene — which is why the “mainstream” Paul Ryan wing has so willingly suborned Trump’s ongoing violations of governing norms.

It is still fashionable to regard the two parties today as broadly symmetrical to each other — as, indeed, they once were for many decades. But that quaint notion has blinded many of us to the radical turn the Republican Party has taken, and which has brought the American political system to a dangerous point.

22) All the family is totally loving Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

23) This, is how you write a climate story (though, I don’t think it’s an accident that it appears to be a science writer, not a political writer):

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

In reality, the Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Would really like to see some rigorous studies of microdosing with LSD.  I think there is some real potential there.  Alas, all we are left with is lots of anecdotes– like Ayelet Waldman’s— thanks to good old schedule I.

2) Not all that surprisingly, if you want your kids to have safer sexual practices you should, you know, talk to them about sex.  Also, boys get left out of this a lot.

3) Farhad Manjoo on how Netflix is deepening our cultural divide:

Yet for a brief while, from the 1950s to the late 1980s, broadcast television served cultural, social and political roles far greater than the banality of its content would suggest. Because it featured little choice, TV offered something else: the raw material for a shared culture. Television was the thing just about everyone else was watching at the same time as you. In its enforced similitude, it became a kind of social glue, stitching together a new national identity across a vast, growing and otherwise diverse nation.

“What we gained was a shared identity and shared experience,” Mr. Strate said. “The famous example was Kennedy’s funeral, where the nation mourned together in a way that had never happened before. But it was also our experience watching ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘All in the Family’ that created a shared set of references that everyone knew.”

As the broadcast era changed into one of cable and then streaming, TV was transformed from a wasteland into a bubbling sea of creativity. But it has become a sea in which everyone swims in smaller schools.

4) Republican legislators in two states looking to abolish tenure at public universities.  Presumably, only a matter of time before NC legislators get this idea.

5) I saw “Silence” with David yesterday and we both really, really liked it.  Powerful and thought-provoking.  It certainly took it’s time, but I was never bored.

6) The real problem for teacher in NC says an NC teacher?  Not enough time.  I will totally buy that.

7) It’s Girl Scout Cookie time.  Loved this feature in the LA Times that lays out the differences in the cookies between the two bakeries.  I grew up loving “Samoas” and my wife grew up loving “Carmel Delites.”  This graphic shows that, clearly, Samoas are superior.

8) On Ivanka Trump’s fake feminism.

9) Loved this James Kwak piece on “economism” as applied to the minimum wage:

The argument against increasing the minimum wage often relies on what I call “economism”—the misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems, creating the illusion of consensus and reducing a complex topic to a simple, open-and-shut case. According to economism, a pair of supply and demand curves proves that a minimum wage increases unemployment and hurts exactly the low-wage workers it is supposed to help…

The real impact of the minimum wage, however, is much less clear than these talking points might indicate. Looking at historical experience, there is no obvious relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment: adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum was highest from 1967 through 1969, when the unemployment rate was below 4 percent—a historically low level. When economists try to tackle this question, they come up with all sorts of results. In 1994, David Card and Alan Krueger evaluated an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage by comparing fast-food restaurants on both sides of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. They concluded, “Contrary to the central prediction of the textbook model … we find no evidence that the rise in New Jersey’s minimum wage reduced employment at fast-food restaurants in the state.”

10) Seven hard questions about health care reform that Democrats need to hold Republicans feet to the fire on.

11) The areas where both experts and the public agrees on effective gun control.  Hey, maybe give these a try!  Oh, right, Republican politicians are not in these charts.

12) Neither GRE’s nor undergraduate GPA appear to be particularly good measures of graduate school success.  Well, that makes things difficult.

13) The latest PS research on Voter ID and vote suppression.  This is important:

The proliferation of increasingly strict voter identification laws around the country has raised concerns about voter suppression. Although there are many reasons to suspect that these laws could harm groups like racial minorities and the poor, existing studies have been limited, with most occurring before states enacted strict identification requirements, and they have uncovered few effects. By using validated voting data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study for several recent elections, we are able to offer a more definitive test. The analysis shows that strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections. We also find that voter ID laws skew democracy toward those on the political right.

14) Saw some pretty strong liberal pushback against this NYT piece, but I think it is worth having a reasonable discussion over whether we should be subsidizing the purchasing of sugar soda through food stamps.  Maybe that opens a Pandora’s box, but it seems that we could probably all agree this is not something the government should be subsidizing.

15) Quirks and Quarks just did a whole show on mindfulness meditation.  This segment was the best explanation I’ve yet heard.

 

16) Good stuff from Roger Cohen:

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

17) Gender bias in health care is a real problem.  How checklists can fix it.

18) Evan Osnos on the Senate confirmation process:

Trump is making an astonishing bet that he will be the first President in a quarter century to manage not to have a single nominee disqualified. And he is betting that the American people, having just elected the first modern President to refuse to release his tax returns, are, in effect, done with ethics. He is betting that, like his oft-cited prediction that he could shoot someone and not lose votes, virtually nothing that could come out after a nominee is confirmed will undermine his Presidency. He is betting, in effect, that we’re too dumb or too demoralized to care.

19) These fake books are so hilarious.

20) I may have posted this before, but if so, I just re-came across it.  I’ve been saying for years that free, widespread, encouraged IUD use is the best anti-poverty program we could have.  Jordan Weissman explains.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on how Trump’s domestic policy agenda is really GWB part II.

Bush rode into office on the strength of white working-class voters who were drawn to his heartland cultural politics, alienated by Al Gore’s aloof demeanor, and appeased by Bush’s repudiation of the hard-right orthodoxy of the congressional GOP of the era. Bush scolded congressional Republicans for seeking to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and promised to deliver a much-needed prescription drug benefit to America’s senior citizens.

“George Bush is a different kind of right-winger,” wrote the Economist’s US politics columnin April 2001, “a card-carrying conservative who nevertheless believes in active government.”

Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard called him a “big government conservative.”

None of this entailed a retreat from the Republican Party’s basic commitment to an agenda of tax cuts for high-income households and favorable regulatory treatment of businesses. It was, instead, a political strategy to make plutocracy workable. And while Bush-era deficits probably contributed to some long-term problems, the interest rate environment of the time was certainly conducive to “irresponsible” budgeting.

And, indeed, it’s very difficult to imagine Bush securing reelection in 2004 if his trillion-dollar tax cut had been paid for with cutbacks to public services. In reality, however, Bush expanded public services by lavishing new subsidies on American agriculture, introducing new health benefits on American seniors, and increasing federal K-12 education spending in exchange for the accountability reforms of the No Child Left Behind law.

When, eventually, Bush’s administration collapsed into ignominy, conservatives quickly pinpointed these big-spending ways as the reason. Even Bush’s brother Jeb found himself saying that “in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money.”

But by the time Jeb was out on the campaign trail distancing himself from his brother’s big-spending ways, Trump was kicking his butt precisely by distancing himself from the tight-fisted fiscal policies of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

2) Trump takes credit for a $1 billion investment in the US.  Drum points out that this happens about once per day, on average.

3) Wired on Apple’s need to move past the Iphone, on its 10-year anniversary.

4) And David Pogue’s take on the original Iphone from 10-years ago.  Nice reminder of how revolutionary it was.

5) Jeff Sessions should not be our next Attorney General.

6) Neurotracker has convinced professional teams and athletes that it can improve their performance by improving the mental tracking so key in many sports.  Alas, there’s no real evidence it actually does.  It’s honestly a pretty easy experiment to do (randomly assign a college or HS football, soccer, etc. team with experimental and control for a couple weeks, then test), so the fact that there’s not any such evidence makes me very skeptical.  I find the following critique compelling:

Williams, at the University of Utah, challenged the notion that tracking bouncing objects in a simulation could train or quantify anything other than a person’s ability to track bouncing objects in a simulation.

“I’ve never seen a soccer player chasing multicolor balloons around on the field,” Williams said. “It’s just not what soccer players do.”

What soccer players do, he said, is read patterns of play, anticipate what might happen next based on movements of teammates and opponents, and identify familiar sequences as they unfold. This “inside” knowledge, built up over time, promotes the effectiveness and efficiency that Ericsson argues are the hallmarks of expertise.

7) My 10-year old Evan received a mini-drone for Christmas.  A friend said, “so what do you do with it?”  My response, “crash it.”  Managed to actually get it down from 30 feet up in a tree where I stranded it within the first 5 minutes.  Loved this NYT article on Christmas drone horror stories.  We still have our and it still works and we’ve only broken to propellers.  We’ll try again when all our snow and ice melts.

8) This essay by Karl Marlantes on how Vietnam permanently disrupted Americans’ faith in their government is a must read.  (Also makes me think I need to move his novel, Matterhorn, further up my queue).

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

9) Gotta love that the guns rights folks (and DJT Jr) are arguing that we need to make it way easier to buy silencers/suppressors, through legislation titled The Hearing Protection Act.

10) Love that a Dairy Queen owner who unleashed racist rants on his customers had his franchise pulled from him by DQ corporate.  That’s the power of social media for good.

11) The insanity of trying to get even a low-level Senate confirmation from today’s dysfunctional Congress.  Though, that will change.

12) Greg Sargent on Trump’s (lying, of course) response to Meryl Streep:

It’s often argued that we should perhaps give less attention to Trump’s tweets. But Monday’s barrage gets at something important. Yes, all politicians lie. But with only days to go until Trump assumes vast power, Monday’s tweetstorm is a reminder that we may be witnessing something new and different in the nature and degree of the dishonesty at issue. Here again we’re seeing Trump’s willingness to keep piling the lies on top of one another long after the original foundational lies have been widely debunked, and to keep on attacking the press for not playing along with his version of reality, as if the very possibility of shared reality can be stamped out by Trumpian edict, or Trumpian Tweedict.

13) Among the dumbest things we do in American democracy: abysmally poor compensation for state legislators.  Because, you know, it’s not like what state governments do is important or anything.  NPR:

While a few big states have full-time legislatures with higher pay (California pays lawmakers $100,113 a year and Pennsylvania pays $85,339) but in most states, legislators are paid like it’s a part-time job.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states pay $30,000 a year or less to legislators. New Mexico doesn’t pay lawmakers at all, while those in New Hampshire make just $200 per two-year term…

Median household income in the United States was $55,775 in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

“Not paying legislators is like a very penny-wise, pound foolish thing,” given the size of state budgets and complexity of issues that legislatures tackle every year, said Stanford University political scientist Neil Malhotra.

That low level of pay also keeps many people from entering politics, said Malhotra. “There’s very, very few working class people in legislatures. This might have something to do with why a lot of legislation does not seem very friendly towards working class people.”

14) I don’t doubt that there really is something to “attachment theory” that proper bonding in very-early childhood can be key for personality throughout life, but this article is absolutely preposterous in not addressing the role of genetics in this issue.  Any parent of more than one child can sure as hell tell you that.

15) How video game designers need to engineer in just the right amount of luck.

16) The difficulty in enforcing ethics laws under Trump.

17) Yglesias reminds of what we do know about Trump and Russia:

18) The Amherst College new mascot– Hamsters.  Kind of love it.  Kind of think it’s silly to change a mascot based on the now-odious, but mainstream enough in the 18th century views, of Lord Amherst.

19) Interesting idea from Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse— many Republican politicians actually want to fight climate change but the fossil fuel industry they are beholden to will not let them.  I’m not convinced.  If true, just more profiles in cowardice.

20) Even if you have good health insurance through your employer, an ACA repeal can really hurt you, too.

21) Hooray for San Diego for not being a hostage to the NFL and refusing to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars to further enrich a billionaire.  And, on the not-so-great economics of having an NFL team in your city.

22) Some interesting research suggests conservative politicians in several countries are more attractive than liberal politicians.

23) This long, thoughtful, post from an Ohio teacher on our way over-reliance on standardized testing is really, really good:

The most critical solution to this is to untie student, teacher, and school accountability measures from testing outcomes, or to combine these scores with a variety of other measures of success. In addition, we need to dramatically reduce the time spent on testing by requiring tests in fewer grades, or not administering tests every year. No high-performing nation in the world tests all students annually…

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

24) Best explanation I’ve yet read for why recent rules changes have led to college football being so high scoring (it’s all about the blocking on the run-pass option).

25) Pippa Norris responds to the many issues raised on the whole “is North Carolina a democracy” flap.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Not responding to your exercise regimen?  You will probably respond better to a different one.

2) I think it is the NYT pushing it so much that finally got me into Mindfulness meditation (4 months in and going strong).  This page is a great explanation of what it’s really all about and how to get started, if you so inclined:

Basic mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to the present moment with an accepting, nonjudgmental disposition. The goal isn’t to stop thinking, or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making so many assumptions, or making up stories.

It’s a deceptively simple exercise — just be right here, right now, without daydreaming. But with practice it can yield profound results, giving us greater control of our actions, and making room for more kindness and equanimity, even in difficult situations. With time, mindfulness meditation can even help us better understand what causes us stress, and what we can do to relieve it.

Though mindfulness meditation was inspired by Buddhist practices, today it is available as a wholly secular practice that emphasizes stress reduction, the cultivation of focus and the development of tranquility.

“There’s a misconception that mindfulness is religious,” said Mr. Smith. “What we have to explain is that it’s a stress reduction technique and a way to get yourself stronger mentally. It’s a self-care practice.”

3a) Theda Skocpol on the need to rebuild the Democratic party from the ground up

3b) And Emma Green on the ideological reasons Democrats have neglected state and local politics:

The unevenness is partly a reflection of progressives’ reluctance to push their policy agendas through states. Historically, arguments against federalism—or the principle that power should be robustly shared between state and national governments—have centered on race. “Progressives are deeply skeptical of federalism, and with good reason,” Gerken wrote in a 2012 essay in Democracy. “States’ rights have been invoked to defend some of the most despicable institutions in American history, most notably slavery and Jim Crow.” Others see the decentralization of governing power as a way of stifling dissent, she argued.

This is one reason why the national Democratic Party has often looked to Washington to make and enforce policy. But there’s another ideological explanation, argued Ernest Young, a professor of law at Duke University, in an interview: The progressive project is ultimately about working toward a society built on one unified vision of policy and culture, rather than a diverse array of policies and cultures. “If you’re confident that you can get the right answer to something, like health-care policy, or welfare, or any number of very difficult social problems, it’s hard not to say that right answer should be equally available to everyone,” Young said, meaning that progressives believe their “right answers” should be legislated through federal policy. “If you’re a more Burkean type of conservative, and you’re skeptical that we’re ever going to find out right answers to these questions, you might favor different solutions in different jurisdictions, and see from experience what works out. That tends to lend itself to a commitment to federalism, and local governments, too,” he said.

4) Very depressing that even Obama and Democrats are refusing to take science seriously when it comes to “forensic science” (which, DNA aside, is rarely actual science).  Surely, thousands of people will continue to be falsely convicted due to this scientific and moral failing.  Radley Balko:

In September, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a scathing report on the use of forensic analysis and expertise in the criminal-justice system. The report, “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods,” looked at pattern matching forensic disciplines such as bite mark matching, shoe print matching, blood spatter analysis, fingerprint matching and hair fiber analysis. It also looked at DNA testing when investigators find biological material from multiple sources, a scenario that can bring human subjectivity into the testing. With the exception of single-source DNA testing, the report found serious deficiencies in all areas of forensics it studied.

The PCAST report was damning, but if you’ve been following these issues with any regularity, it wasn’t at all surprising. That was in September. It’s now January. And not only has the Obama administration done nothing about the report, the Justice Department has publicly denounced it. That report, along with others and an administration that seemed unusually equipped to take it seriously, presented a small window in which to reform a system. That window is about slam shut. And we’re about to be governed by a new administration that seems likely to board it up, wallpaper it and overlay it with brick. This wasn’t just a missed opportunity; it was a catastrophe. And it’s difficult to overstate the consequences.

5) I’m sure you are as shocked as I am that credit reporting agencies have been lying to consumers.

6a) What’s up with the disk storage in the Star Wars movies?  And the retro technology in general?

6b) And really enjoyed this essay on the nature of “The Force” and the return of “reverence” in Star Wars films.

6c) And this is too good, “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?

7) Trump appoints Wall Street lawyer to regulate Wall Street.  Chait’s summation, “‘“Drain the swamp’ continues to be one of the greatest cons in the history of presidential campaigns.”

8) Kevin Drum argues that people should understand gravity better and that his explanation is more intuitive than warped space-time.  I’m not so sure.

9) How religion can (indirectly) help influence the gender wage gap:

Wiseman and Dutta looked at how two different measurements of religiosity among residents of different states — belief in God and participation in religious activity — correlated with the gender wage-gap in those states. Even after controlling for age, education, marital status, occupation, time in the workforce, and other factors, they found that this correlation was rather significant: specifically, the that a three percent increase in a state’s religiosity related to a one percent increase in its gender wage-gap.

These findings are consistent with the idea that religious beliefs and institutions, even informal ones, can shape social interactions and thus economic behavior. Women’s roles as mothers and workers are shaped by religious norms and customs, even when those norms aren’t directly dictated by religious dogma.

Traditional religious attitudes might also affect employer behavior, shaping managers’ decisions about whom to hire or lay off, or a family’s decision about who should be the primary breadwinner. Zooming out, the state government’s distribution of resources — like education, health care, and parental leave — can also be shaped by prevailing cultural norms that are shaped by religious attitudes. It stands to reason that policies that have been shown to promote gender parity, like pay-transparency legislation or investments in high-quality child care, might face heavier opposition in those states where religious institutions exert more influence. (That said, the working paper didn’t make any of these claims directly — rather, it provided a jumping-off point for some informed speculation.)

10) Important changes in how Obamacare has changed the practice of medicine for the better will outlast any changes/repeal Republicans make to the ACA.

11) I’m a big fan of art and advertising paintings on the sides of buildings.  So is Atlas Obscura.  I like driving by this one on my way to work.

Image result for raleigh nehi bottling company

12) Norm Ornstein on the GOP’s ethics “disaster” (worthwhile read even with the House GOP backing off):

I have rarely been more angry or dismayed at the conduct of Congress than I was Monday night with the unconscionable, deplorable, underhanded move by Representative Bob Goodlatte to eviscerate and undermine the Office of Congressional Ethics. When House Speaker Paul Ryan and his counterpart Nancy Pelosi indicated weeks ago that they would continue OCE, the reform community—left and right—breathed a sigh of relief. Ryan, like his predecessor John Boehner, had seen the value to the integrity of the House of the office, which has been a stalwart of bipartisan and nonpartisan comity and independence. That makes this bait-and-switch action even more outrageous…

Given Ryan’s solidarity with President-elect Trump on Russian hacking—preceded by his deep-sixing any bipartisan statement during the campaign warning against foreign attempts to influence our elections—along with Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s indifference to any investigation of conflicts of interest or ethical problems with the president-elect and his cronies, this is chilling evidence that we are headed for a new age of official embrace or at least acceptance of unethical and illegal behavior. The core of America’s political system depends on real checks and balances, on a Congress that puts country ahead of party. The House leadership showed this week that party comes first. [emphasis mine]

13) Life in Elkhart, Indiana has improved considerably under President Obama.  In this partisan era, though, not even that penetrates partisan biases:

Democrats and Republicans, though, appear to be equally guilty of viewing objective facts through partisan filters–Nyhan said that there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that one party is more susceptible than the other. Though some research has indicated that even strongly partisan people are more likely to answer questions about politics correctly if they are getting paid to do so, paying Americans to listen to facts doesn’t seem a particularly realistic solution. Little will change, Nyhan said, if the environment in which political leaders and the media promote incorrect information doesn’t change.

There is, however, one way to pierce partisan biases, Nyhan said. If reality intrudes, people may be more willing to accept it. Someone can debate climate change for years, but if his house is threatened by a tide that rises every year as the planet warms, he may be more likely to accept that climate change exists.

But in Elkhart, people have jobs they didn’t have six years ago, and they’re working more hours. Their homes are worth more than they were before Obama took office, on average, and their paychecks are fatter than they used to be. Yet Obama is, and will likely remain, the president who didn’t do anything right.

14) Greg Sargent’s headline gets it (in response to some pretty deplorable comments from the WSJ Editor), “Yes, Donald Trump ‘lies.’ A lot. And news organizations should say so.”  And Media Matters with Dan Rather’s response, beginning, “a lie, is a lie, is a lie.”

15) Fascinating tweetstorm on the Podesta hack.  But seriously, just write a blog post!!

16) Seth Masket with a good piece on the 20th century model of journalism in the 21st century:

As Jonathan Ladd has written, this conception of the news is tied to a rather narrow and recent time period and may simply no longer apply. Ladd writes here:

American journalism became largely nonpartisan in the mid-twentieth century after calls for reform by Progressive Era figures like Walter Lippmann. But… these few decades were an historical aberration made possible by the lack of party polarization and a legal and technological landscape that artificially restricted media industry competition. Beyond these few decades, partisan media are the historical norm in the United States.

We hear many complaints today about the rise of fake news, false equivalencies, deeply partisan news sources, etc., but that’s actually how the political media have typically behaved. Newspapers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were often publicly affiliated with a political party and saw their role as backing that party’s candidates. We seem to be moving back to that model today.

But even if we expect a mid-20th century non-partisan model of media behavior, it’s difficult to pinpoint just where we believe the media went wrong in 2016. Did it ignore Trump’s bigotry, conflicts of interest, sexual predation, and basic ignorance on many public policy issues? Hardly. It reported on these extensively. That’s a large part of the reason Trump had historically high unfavorability ratings throughout the election year. Voters knew who he was. Many were deeply uncomfortable with him. Many of those same people voted for him anyway. According to exit polls, two-thirds of voters felt that Trump lacked the temperament to be president. Among that two-thirds, one in five still voted for him…

One area where the media really did seem flummoxed was in false equivalency. Stories about Clinton’s emails dominated news coverage despite a lack of any evidence of actual wrongdoing, and this may have hurt Clinton significantly.

In part, this is a result of the persistence of the 20th-century non-partisan model of journalism. If you’re covering scandals in one campaign, you’re supposed to cover scandals in the other. Even if the race is between Josef Stalin and Mother Teresa (this one wasn’t), coverage should approach something like balance. Indeed, it may be appropriate for the media to provide more scrutiny of the candidate it thinks is going to win in this model.

17) Nice piece on the real differences between fascism (which does not really fit Trump) and right-wing populism (which does).

18) Of course liberals need to talk about economics and race.

Understanding how Trump and the GOP effectively use race requires seeing that the right is “waging a culture war around gender, elitism, and especially race, using coded and not so coded terms to trigger strong resentments.” This is specifically designed to persuade white voters to cast ballots that are not only against their interests but suicidal for the middle class.

Yes, the economic anxiety many Trump voters felt is real and must be addressed. But addressing that anxiety exclusively would be a big mistake, according to Haney-López, because “it assumes that economic pain comes first, and so, it implies that finances are more fundamental than scapegoating.”

Racial resentment has made the rigged economy we all live in now possible.

The parties have not switched their polarities from the North to the South, and the GOP didn’t become a party that is 90 percent white with 98 percent white elected officials by accident, Haney-López notes.

19) NYT Editorial on the “stolen Supreme Court seat.”  And, yes, “stolen” is about right.

20 Nice essay in Vox on the genuine free speech problem on America’s college campus.

Super-late quick hits (part II)

1) Great stuff from Bill Ayers on the stupidity on business as a metaphor for government:

I think I’ll take my Prius drag racing.

It makes perfect sense, right? After all, a Prius is just like those cars you see tearing down the track at drag races. It has four wheels, each with an inflated rubber tire. It has an engine powered by oil-based fuel. It’s got a seat for a driver, with a steering wheel. It’s got a transmission system, and a bunch of electrical support stuff. I mean, they’re practically the same thing.

Of course, this is crazy. A Prius, despite some superficial similarities, is not a drag racer. Attempting to run mine on a drag strip is likely to fail, and cause a fair amount of damage in the process. A drag racer is built for speed. A Prius (unless you heavily modify it!) is built for gas mileage.

Along similar lines, why do so many people insist on arguing that “government should be run like a business”? …

The fact that “business” and “government” both belong to the broader category called “human organization” tells you very little about how to run the latter. The differences between them are far more important than the similarities. And like the comparison between Prius and drag racer, what is most important is the purpose for which each was built.

A business is an organization designed to produce some product or service for the wider world, usually (though not always) at a profit. A business creates what it creates. It is primarily concerned with two groups of people: the owners (who control the business, and in whose interest it presumably operates) and the customers. A business can define its own customer base, to a substantial degree, and doesn’t need to concern itself with anybody else in society. Businesses don’t even have to be all that concerned about their employees, except as these are necessary to produce the product or service.

Governments look nothing like this. They are not meant to operate at a profit, and those that do are generally regarded as corrupt and illegitimate. Governments do not produce individual goods or services, but provide public goods to a broad group of people known as citizens. Except at the margins, governments have very little ability to define who they serve, and governments that decide to serve only one segment of the population usually find themselves losing legitimacy. Legitimate governments can’t pick their “customer base”…

But the chief purpose of the government is not to be a business, but to provide a safe, secure, and fair environment in which everybody can pursue their own individual business. If businesses are like sports teams competing, government is like the referee enforcing the rules of the game.

Ultimately, the purpose of a business is to advance the interests of its owners, usually a small group of people. The purpose of a government is to advance the interests of everybody. A business is partial to itself. A good government is impartial towards all.

2) Trump’s OMB pick Mick Mulvaney thinks it’s a good idea to blow up the debt ceiling.  Ugh.  And he doesn’t think the government should fund scientific research.  Double-ugh.  And he’s part of a larger trend of Trump surrounding himself with Tea Partiers.  Triple-ugh.

3) Recently finished Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot to my 10-year old.  Perhaps the favorite book I have read my kids not written by EB White or Roald Dahl.  So good.

4) The Republican approach to health care policy?  Maybe wait before going to the ER when your kid breaks his arm.  Seriously.

5) Bipartisan Op-Ed arguing that we need nuclear power to slow global warming.  I firmly agree.  And there’s amazing technological advances in contemporary reactors.

6) Also, global warming really sucks for polar bears.  Great photo essay in the NYT.

7) So clear that we all benefit by waiting longer to merge with a lane closure and do a zipper merge.  The problem is that so many drivers are not aware and act counter-productively.  Doesn’t seem that a public service campaign on the matter would be all that hard.

8) A review of the year in cool quantum physics stuff.

9) Nicholas Kristof has a conversation with an Evangelical pastor on whether you can be Christian without believing in the virgin birth or the Resurrection.  Whether those beliefs make you a “Christian” or not, you could do a lot worse than following Jesus’ teachings in the gospels, regardless of whether you believe the other stuff.

10) John Cassidy on Trump’s challenge to democracy:

The big unknown isn’t what Trump will do: his pattern of behavior is clear. It is whether the American political system will be able to deal with the unprecedented challenge his election presents, and rein him in. Especially with a single party controlling the executive and the legislative branches, there is no immediately reassuring answer to this question.

11) I never did watch “Making of a Murderer” (mostly because it struck me as way too much of a time investment), but this really interesting New Yorker article on true-crime as entertainment from back in January (just came across it as promoted as among their most popular articles of the year) makes me glad I did not invest the time.

12) Studies less unfavorable to sugar that are funded by the sugar industry should undoubtedly draw great scrutiny.  That said, these conclusions seem reasonable:

But the scientists behind the paper said more scrutiny of sugar guidelines was needed. The researchers reviewed guidelines issued by the W.H.O. and eight other agencies around the world and said the case against sugar was based on “low-quality” evidence.

“The conclusion of our paper is a very simple one,” said Bradley C. Johnston, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto and McMaster University and the lead author of the new paper. “We hope that the results from this review can be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”

Dr. Johnston said he recognized that his paper would be criticized because of its ties to industry funding. But he said he hoped people would not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by dismissing the conclusion that sugar guidelines should be developed with greater rigor. He also emphasized that he was not suggesting that people eat more sugar. The review article, he said, questions specific recommendations about sugar but “should not be used to justify higher intake of sugary foods and beverages.”

13) Excellent, thorough, Nate Cohn piece looking at how the Obama coalition fell apart for HRC.  Make sure you read this one.

14) Not surprisingly, the relationship between the political attitudes of elite donors and the Democratic party is far more complex than the simplistic portrayals we commonly get.

15) The way in which we basically let police departments steal money from people in this country is just disgusting.  Drum is not having it and either am I.

16) Greg Sargent on why we should be terrified of Trump’s decision-making process.

17) Ezra Klein asks whether Republicans are more addicted to power or ideas.  It’s cute that he even pretends it’s a question:

We are about to learn whether Republicans are more addicted to power or to ideas. This is, it’s worth noting, a live debate. In the Bush years, the GOP cut taxes, expanded Medicare, and started two wars without paying for a dime of it. Then after Barack Obama took office, Republicans became very worried about budget discipline.

 Fiscal conservatism, liberals complained, seemed to mean Republicans could rack up debt for any reason while Democrats couldn’t even borrow to save the economy during a financial collapse (which is, for the record, exactly the time you would want to debt finance).

But the GOP swore otherwise. The Tea Party, they said, was a correction to the regrettable excesses of the aughts. Bush-era Republicans had gone Washington and become addicted to power rather than conservatism. They had betrayed their own ideas and were now being punished by their own voters. It wouldn’t happen again. The opposition to Obama’s debt financing was the principled stand of a chastened GOP, not a cynical ploy to trip up a Democratic president.

If House Republicans — and particularly the House Freedom Caucus, the most debt-obsessed of all House Republicans — decide that Trump only needs to pay half the cost of his plans, then there’ll be no more mystery. Partisanship and power, not ideas and ideology, will have proven the GOP’s real addiction.

18) Poland for a very, very disturbing case study of what can happen when populists come to power in a democracy:

The Law and Justice Party rode to power on a pledge to drain the swamp of Polish politics and roll back the legacy of the previous administration. One year later, its patriotic revolution, the party proclaims, has cleaned house and brought God and country back to Poland.

Opponents, however, see the birth of a neo-Dark Age — one that, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, is a harbinger of the power of populism to upend a Western society. In merely a year, critics say, the nationalists have transformed Poland into a surreal and insular place — one where state-sponsored conspiracy theories and de facto propaganda distract the public as democracy erodes.

In the land of Law and Justice, anti-intellectualism is king. Polish scientists are aghast at proposed curriculum changes in a new education bill that would downplay evolution theory and climate change and add hours for “patriotic” history lessons. In a Facebook chat, a top equal rights official mused that Polish hotels should not be forced to provide service to black or gay customers. After the official stepped down for unrelated reasons, his successor rejected an international convention to combat violence against women because it appeared to argue against traditional gender roles.

Over the weekend, Warsaw convulsed in street protests amid allegations that the Law and Justice party had illegally forced through a budget bill even as it sought to restrict media access to Parliament.

 

18) David Leonhardt suggests maybe Democrats have been bringing knives to a gun fight.  I think he might be right, but it’ll be a helluva mess if bullets just start flying everywhere.

If he were merely a rogue politician, this story would be a local one. But too many Republicans elsewhere have begun to ignore political traditions, and even laws, to exert power. While Democrats continue to play by more genteel rules, Republicans have subscribed to the Capone school of politics (as Sean Connery fans can recite): “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”

 

19) Must-read NYT piece on Steve Kerr and how we was shaped by his father, who was assassinated as president of American University in Beirut in 1984.

[Super-late] Quick hits (part I)

What can I say, I’ve been enjoying hanging with family, watching movies, reading, and taking time off from blogging.  But, I should be able to knock this off during a Boxing Day American Ninja Warrior marathon 🙂

1) Dan Hopkins on an important part of the election story– late deciders really did break for Trump in large numbers.

2) Maria Konnikova on the concept of time travel as a cultural invention.

3) Running as a thinking-person’s sport:

Running seems to require a greater amount of high-level thinking than most of us might imagine. The sport seems to change how the brain works in surprising ways, according to a new report.

The study, published this month in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that the brains of competitive distance runners had different connections in areas known to aid in sophisticated cognition than the brains of healthy but sedentary people. The discovery suggests that there is more to running than mindlessly placing one foot in front of another.

4) The ideal parent for many teenagers– the potted plant parent.  Fortunately, my teenager wants more out of me.

5) Drum on Trump’s mafia approach to government:

On a more serious note: Are you fucking kidding me? The Trump Organization is going to poach business away by “encouraging” foreign governments to see the benefits of holding their events at a Trump property? And Newt Gingrich thinks we should just go ahead and change the law to allow this kind of thing? And if nobody salutes when that gets run up the old flagpole, then Trump should just go ahead and issue pardons to anyone who gets harassed by overzealous prosecutors.

What country do I live in, anyway?

6) Tim Wu on how the airlines collude on their absurd ticket change fees.

7) NC Capitol reporter extraordinaire, Mark Binker, with a long-piece on “who killed the HB2 repeal.”

8) And Rob Schofield with “three simple truths”

#3 – Conservatives never really wanted repeal. This is the ultimate truth about HB2, of course. As soon as rumors of a repeal (even Berger and Moore’s lame proposal of a quasi-repeal that would have taken effect in 6 or 8 months) emerged, the religious right turned apoplectic and used all of its powers within GOP circles to save their treasured monument to discrimination. That’s why Berger couldn’t even pass his disingenuous “cooling off period” proposal: conservatives in his own ranks wouldn’t support it. And when Democrats rightfully balked at what they saw as a clear double-cross, the whole thing fell apart.

The bottom line: HB2 was, is and always will be a terrible stain on North Carolina’s national and international reputation. It has damaged thousands of lives and cost billions of dollars. Tragically, however, the conservative powers that be in this state do not see it this way. And as long as these people retain complete control over the levers of political power and adhere to their backward and bigoted views, things are unlikely to improve.

9) If you have access to the Chronicle of Higher Ed (they put most of their stuff behind a paywall, but I read this off a link from their FB page), this story on how little the pursuit of college athletic scholarships pay off for most athletes is really, really good.

10) Betsy DeVos and the failure of school choice in Detroit.

11) I’ve always been annoyed by my fellow political scientist/political pundit, Steffen Schmidt, for referring to himself as Dr. Politics.  Anyway, it turns out that he’s been telling reporters about his “focus group.”  The reality?  That focus group is just the people he talks to.

12) Yglesias with the emails again.  And he’s right again:

More broadly, the further the email issue receded into the past the less credible it seemed that a major historical turning point could really have hinged on something so trivial.

And certainly one can imagine a variety of scenarios in which Clinton might have won the election despite her email woes. More successful economic policymaking from the Obama administration could have done the trick. So could a better campaign message or better targeting of resources. It was, after all, a very close election.

The crucial point, however, is that in broad ideological terms, the 2016 election happened at a time when the incumbent president was popular and the insurgent demagogue promising dramatic change was not popular. The unpopular insurgent managed to win, despite accumulating fewer voters than the popular incumbent’s designated successor, largely because she had become personally unpopular thanks to a massive onslaught of criticism largely focused on her email server.

Even at the time, some of us found it hardly credible that a decision as weighty as who should be president was being decided on the basis of something as trivial as which email address the secretary of state used. Future generations must find it even harder to believe. But the facts are what they are — email server management, rather than any deeper or more profound root cause, was the dominant issue in Donald Trump’s successful rise to power.

13) What parents of early-teen boys need to know.  Short version, gender-wise, there’s a language gap, empathy gap, and attention gap.

14) Republican legislators in Wisconsin trying to micromanage the classes at UW.  How dare they teach a course called “The Problem of Whiteness.”

15) This is cool– how numeracy can combat motivated political reasoning:

Numeric political appeals represent a prevalent but overlooked domain of public opinion research. When can quantitative information change political attitudes, and is this change trumped by partisan effects? We analyze how numeracy—or individual differences in citizens’ ability to process and apply numeric policy information—moderates the effectiveness of numeric political appeals on a moderately salient policy issue. Results show that those low in numeracy exhibit a strong party-cue effect, treating numeric information in a superficial and heuristic fashion. Conversely, those high in numeracy are persuaded by numeric information, even when it is sponsored by the opposing party, overcoming the party-cue effect. Our results make clear that overlooking numeric ability when analyzing quantitative political appeals can mask significant persuasion effects, and we build on recent work advancing the understanding of individual differences in public opinion.

16) NC makes the NYT editorial page again for all the wrong reasons.

17) Really love the Christian Science Monitor’s Patrick Jonsson.  We have super-interesting conversations when he interviews me; he’s thorough; and he uses some of my more interesting quotes.

To Professor Greene, it is about more than partisan politics.

“People call this blatant partisanship, but that’s an insult to partisanship,” he says. “This is blatant undermining of democratic norms.”

18) Among the vacation reading, loved Megan Abbot’s You Will Know Me.

19) Charles Pierce on drug companies pumping opiates into West Virginia:

I guarantee you that, somewhere in the inter-office correspondence files of the various drug companies, there is a memo identifying these places as target-rich environments for legalized dope peddling. I guarantee you that, somewhere, somebody got a big old Christmas bonus for dropping nine million doses of oxy into a town with 392 inhabitants. The average American corporation doesn’t have the moral conscience with which god endowed the sea slug.

20) Lee Drutman on how Trump could be a popular president and how to stop that from happening.

21) New York’s Jesse Singal lays out the clear case for Trump’s impeachability.

22) Interesting thoughts on the photos of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.

23) Really good piece from Yochi Dreazen on Putin, Russia, Trump and the emails.

24) Used to love reading Nietzche back when I was in college.  Interesting in interview in Vox on how Nietzche can inform us today:

Sean Illing

And these grand “isms” that dominated the 20th century — communism and fascism in particular — are very much the kind of political religions Nietzsche anticipated, right?

Hugo Drochon

That’s right. These are attempted answers at this question of what mankind ought to become, but they’re still stuck in the shadow of God for Nietzsche, and that’s because they’re still founded in these unchallengeable dogmas — about history, about human nature, about the future.

These are all mistaken insofar as they claim their vision of morality or politics is the only one possible, the only true one. What the death of God made clear, or should have made clear, is that there are no absolutes.

What he wanted to say is that there can be many different ways of existing, and societies should be organized in such a way that they allow for the possibility of many types of existences and not insist that there must be one answer, one truth, one morality.

25) One of my longest ever open tabs– Aaron Carroll on how to measure a medical treatment’s potential for harm (number needed to harm) versus potential benefit (number needed to treat):

In other words, for about every 1,500 women assigned to get screening for 10 years, one might be spared a death from breast cancer (though she’d most likely die of some other cause). But about five more women would undergo surgery and about four more would undergo radiation, both of which can have dangerous, even life-threatening, side effects.

Thus, N.N.H., paired with N.N.T., can be very useful in discussing the relative potential benefits and harms of treatments. As another example, let’s consider antibiotics for ear infections in children. There are many reasons that parents and pediatricians might consider treatment. One commonly cited reason is that we want to prevent serious complication from untreated infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t do that, and the N.N.T. is effectively infinite. Antibiotics also won’t reduce pain within 24 hours. Antibiotics have, however, been shown to reduce pain within two to seven days. Not all children will see that benefit, though. The N.N.T. is about 20 for that outcome.

Antibiotics can cause side effects, however, including vomiting, diarrhea or a bad rash. The N.N.H. for side effects in this population is 14.

This means that when a child is prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection, it’s more likely that he will develop vomiting, diarrhea or a rash than get a benefit. When patients are presented with treatment options in this manner, they are sometimes more likely to agree to watchful waiting to see if the ear infection resolves on its own. For most children with ear infections, observation with close follow-up is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) “Drain the swamp” makes a good sound-bite, but if you are going to go into a swamp, you want a guide who knows their way around it.  Lee Drutman:

But the reality of democracy in the world’s largest economy and third most-populous country is that national policymaking is complicated. It requires considerable knowledge and experience to understand the rules and resolve trade-offs. If you get rid of experienced policymakers and bureaucrats who understand these rules and trade-offs, it’s not as if the problems of modern governance go away. Decision-makers simply rely more on private lobbyists, who are only too happy to fill the void by supplying decision-makers with expertise and know-how.

This is a harder story to tell, because it lacks a three-syllable chant. But democracy is a system for making hard trade-offs among competing interests. And to make those trade-offs fairly and intelligently requires knowledge and experience. The surest way to empower special interests is to make government dumber. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Trump has proposed to do.

2) David Leonhardt on the disappearing American dream.

3) Great tweetstorm from Jay Rosen on the media under Trump.  Ominously titled, “Winter is Coming.”

4) Really interesting new research on the evolution of whales.  It seems that in addition to the question of “why did whales get so big?” is “why did smaller whales go extinct?”

5) Dahlia Lithwick and David Cohen argue it’s time for Democrats to fight like Republicans.  There’s something to be said for fighting harder, but it’s not too much of a democracy when both sides decide to ignore the norms of democracy.  That’s a quandary.

6) NC is one of only two states in the country that automatically charges 16 and 17-year olds as adults.  My representative and friend, Duane Hall, is fighting to change this.  He’s got the support of police and the Republican NC Chief Justice.  Hopefully, the Republicans in the legislature will go along in a rare burst of common sense.

7) Westworld was a really imperfect show, but I mostly enjoyed it.  Very much enjoyed this discussion with the creators about how video games influenced the intellectual design of the show.

8) NPR’s Kat Chow on all the meanings of “politically incorrect.”

9) Now that Star Wars is expanding it’s stories, like Rogue One, some additional story ideas.

10) Really interesting NYT magazine piece on the various efforts, via genetic engineering and other means, to make peanuts less allergenic:

But an unresolved question is how many of the 17 known allergenic proteins scientists can actually edit out of the peanut. Ara h 1 helps the seed store energy for growth, for example, while Ara h 13 helps fight off fungi. Researchers may discover that removing every allergy-causing protein may have the unintended consequence of destroying the viability of the plant itself.

11) Zack Beauchamp with how we would cover Russia’s election hack if it happened in another country.

12) In case you missed SNL’s Walter White to head DEA.

13a) Shocking, I know, but some on-line “bargains” really aren’t such bargains.

13b) And a related piece on how list prices lost their meaning.

If some Internet retailers have an expansive definition of list price, the Federal Trade Commission does not.

“To the extent that list or suggested retail prices do not in fact correspond to prices at which a substantial number of sales of the article in question are made, the advertisement of a reduction may mislead the consumer,” the Code of Federal Regulations states. The F.T.C. declined to comment.

“If you’re selling $15 pens for $7.50, but just about everybody else is also selling the pens for $7.50, then saying the list price is $15 is a lie,” said David C. Vladeck, the former director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “And if you’re doing this frequently, it’s a serious problem.”

Hey, that’s government regulation.  Bad!  Businesses should obviously be allowed to lie all they want.  That’s capitalism, baby!

14) We should probably think of obesity like cancer– a constellation of related diseases:

Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of nutrition at Harvard, likes to challenge his audience when he gives lectures on obesity.

“If you want to make a great discovery,” he tells them, figure out this: Why do some people lose 50 pounds on a diet while others on the same diet gain a few pounds?

Then he shows them data from a study he did that found exactly that effect.

Dr. Sacks’s challenge is a question at the center of obesity research today. Two people can have the same amount of excess weight, they can be the same age, the same socioeconomic class, the same race, the same gender. And yet a treatment that works for one will do nothing for the other.

The problem, researchers say, is that obesity and its precursor — being overweight — are not one disease but instead, like cancer, they are many. “You can look at two people with the same amount of excess body weight and they put on the weight for very different reasons,” said Dr. Arya Sharma, medical director of the obesity program at the University of Alberta…

If obesity is many diseases, said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the obesity, metabolism and nutrition institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, there can be many paths to the same outcome. It makes as much sense to insist there is one way to prevent all types of obesity — get rid of sugary sodas, clear the stores of junk foods, shun carbohydrates, eat breakfast, get more sleep — as it does to say you can avoid lung cancer by staying out of the sun, a strategy specific to skin cancer.

One focus of research is to figure out how many types of obesity there are — Dr. Kaplan counts 59 so far — and how many genes can contribute.

15) If Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein say we should take trade deficits seriously, we probably should.

16) Paul Blest on how the NC legislative Democrats need to fight back.  I think he’s right:

So for Democrats, now is the time to stop being complicit in their own humiliation. Their votes don’t matter, so the best way to make their voices heard is to show solidarity with people who care deeply about changing this state’s reputation as a “testing ground for alt-right and ultra-conservative ideas” and protest alongside the

m.Legislators using protest as a tool would be nothing new this year. In March, North Carolina Senate Democrats walked out on the HB 2 vote, and in June, Democrats in the U.S. House staged a sit-in to force a vote on a (bad) gun control bill. For minority caucuses that are being bowled over by the majority, it’s a great strategy in that it garners media attention, which in turn helps North Carolinians who might not be totally aware of what’s going on. Maybe a few of them could risk arrest; after all, the sight of a few Democratic lawmakers getting hauled down to the police station would almost assuredly wake people up.

Would Moore be pissed? Sure, but who cares? The country is already watching, so let Moore ram his bills through a half-empty chamber, let Representative Paul Stam go on tangents about the seventeenth century to half-asleep Republicans, and—most important—let the entire country see how authoritarian North Carolina has become.

18) Drew Magary is back with his annual profane and hilarious hater’s guide to Williams Sonoma.

19) Excellent piece from Sarah Kliff who interviews a bunch of Trump voters in Kentucky who are oh-so-sure Trump would never actually take away their ACA health insurance.  Maybe they should have taken him seriously and literally.

20) I think I might have mentioned that I loved the movie “The Arrival.”  So good.  Read the short story upon which it is based, “Stories of your Life” with my son, David, this week.  As we all know, the book is usually better than the movie, but David and I both strongly agreed that in this case, the movie was better.  The short story was quite good, but that was really a hell of a screenplay by Eric Heisserer.

 

%d bloggers like this: