It takes money to pay teachers more

As my readers know, I’ve long advocated for significantly higher teacher salaries as a major starting point for improving education (treating teachers like professionals and recruiting more ambitious people into the profession).  And, the American public seems to be largely in agreement that teachers should be paid more.  Vox:

Support for raising teachers’ salaries cuts across party lines. Nearly 90 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans think teachers don’t get paid enough. [emphasis mine]

The survey of 1,140 adults, conducted April 11 through 16, gauged public opinion on the wave of teachers strikes sweeping through the nation. Teachers in West VirginiaOklahoma, and Kentucky all walked out of class in recent months to pressure state lawmakers to spend more money on schools or teachers (or both). Their success has inspired teachers in Arizona and Colorado to prepare their own work stoppage.

The AP/NORC poll shows that these teachers have a lot of support, though not everyone agrees with their strategy. About 78 percent of adults surveyed said schools don’t pay teachers enough, and 52 percent said they support educators who are going on strike to demand higher salaries (25 percent disapprove of strikes). Adults who knew about the recent teacher walkouts were more likely to support the idea of teachers striking — 80 percent of them did.

It’s great that even about 2/3 of Republicans recognize the value of higher teacher salaries.  But, then there’s this:

In the AP/NORC poll, half of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve education funding. The view was shared equally by parents and adults without children. However, Republicans and independents were far less willing than Democrats to pay higher taxes. Only 38 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents said they would, compared to 69 percent of Democrats. [emphasis mine]

And there’s the damn rub!  I’m sure Republicans think that states can just magically cut all the “waste, fraud, and abuse” (heck, state’s don’t even have foreign aid to cut) to enable millions in teacher pay.  If you really value something, you should be willing to pay for it.  I remember an editorial a good twenty years ago about Republicans in the Virginia legislature looking to find more money for roads (always a major issue in VA), but not willing to raise taxes for it or cut any government programs.  The proposed solution? Alchemy.  Alas, too often it seems that Republicans are hardly more serious than alchemy when it comes to making the hard choices need to address our problems.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) I hope EMG is reading this, because this story about how there are simply too many wild Mustangs in the American west and the solution is to allow mountain lions to eat them reminds me of one of my favorite student papers ever, “they shoot horses, don’t they?”

Nearly all wild horses live in the Great Basin of Nevada and surrounding states, in some of the most forbidding land in America. Congress began protecting the herds from slaughter in 1971. Ever since, the bureau has overseen them and has managed the population like an uber-rancher. The bureau rounds up thousands by helicopter each year, literally putting them out to pasture, on confined tracts to try to keep the wild numbers steady.

It doesn’t really work. Because the bureau has always seen the horses as livestock, not wildlife, it has never tried to understand the mustang’s place in the Western ecosystem, or tried to take advantage of the ancient relationship between the horse and its main predator, the mountain lion.

That’s a loss. There are valleys in the West where herds don’t increase because they are kept in check by the big cats. This natural management is not only free and sustainable, but also ensures that wild horses remain as they should — wild. Despite this evidence, the bureau has said repeatedly that wild horses have “no natural predators.”

2) Maybe America is too big to govern effectively (maybe, but I suspect other aspects of our system of government present larger problems):

In fact, large nations turn out to have what the political scientist Pippa Norris has called “democratic deficits”: They don’t fully satisfy their citizens’ demands for democracy. For one thing, citizens in large nations are generally less involved in politics and feel they have less of a voice. Voter turnout is lower. According to the political scientist Karen Remmer, smaller-scale political entities encourage voting in ways large ones can’t by “creating a sense of community” and “enforcing norms of citizenship responsibility.” In addition, small countries promote political involvement by leaning heavily on forms of direct democracy, like referendums or citizen assemblies.

A second problem is political responsiveness: The policies of large nations can be slow to change, even if change is needed and desired. In a book published last year, the sociologists John Campbell and John Hall compared the reactions to the 2007-2008 financial crisis in Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland. These three small countries didn’t cause the crisis; a homegrown Irish housing bubble notwithstanding, the shock wave they dealt with came from America. But though the countries were economically vulnerable, Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hall observed, this vulnerability fostered unexpected resilience and creativity, generating in each nation “a sense of solidarity or ‘we-ness’” that brought together politicians, regulators and bankers eager to do whatever was necessary to calm markets.

3) Like this Vox essay arguing that liberals need to get over Citizens United.  There’s plenty that we can do to improve finance, we just need to do it.

4) Really interesting idea that the breakdown of democracies is seeded within their constitutions:

But this erosion of democratic norms is ultimately driven by deeper factors. In many democracies, the roots of breakdown reside in democratic constitutions themselves.

Over two-thirds of countries that have transitioned to democracy since World War II have done so under constitutions written by the outgoing authoritarian regime. Prominent examples include Argentina, Chile, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and South Korea. Even some of the world’s early democracies, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, were marred by deep authoritarian legacies. Democratic institutions are frequently designed by the outgoing authoritarian regime to safeguard incumbent elites from the rule of law and give them a leg up in politics and economic competition after democratization.

The constitutional tools that outgoing authoritarian elites use to accomplish these ends include factors like electoral system design, legislative appointments, federalism, legal immunities, the role of the military in politics and constitutional tribunal design. In short, with the allocation of power and privilege, and the lived experiences of citizens, democracy often does not restart the political game after displacing authoritarianism.

Furthermore, barriers to changing the social contract in countries that inherit constitutions from a previous authoritarian regime are steep. These constitutions often contain provisions requiring supermajority thresholds for change. And elites from the authoritarian past who benefit from these constitutions utilize their power to pass policies that further entrench their privileges.

5) James Hohman on why McCain opposes Gina Haspel and why it’s important:

— What precisely are the “values” McCain is referring to? Whatever might have resembled a national consensus on that question has eroded these past few years. That’s why giving definition to something seemingly as anodyne as “American values” became a flash point during Haspel’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I believe very strongly in American values and America being an example to the rest of the world. That is why I support the fact that we have chosen to hold ourselves to a stricter moral standard,” Haspel said. “My moral compass is strong. … My parents raised me right. I know the difference between right and wrong. … I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that is immoral, even if it is technically legal.”

— But every time Haspel was asked to elaborate about the “stricter moral standard” she said she supports, the 33-year agency veteran leaned on the letter of the law like a crutch. Haspel promised she would not revive the CIA’s interrogation program, even if ordered by Trump, because she “fully” supports the current “standards for detainee treatment required by law.”

The Republican-controlled Congress passed an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, quarterbacked by McCain, which limited interrogation techniques to those contained in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3. That version explicitly rejected practices such as waterboarding, forcing detainees to pose in a sexual manner and placing hoods or sacks over the heads of detainees…

— One of the reasons America is great is her historic willingness to reckon with the sins of the past. In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a detailed report, much of which remains classified, that concluded the techniques used by the CIA were neither useful nor legitimate.

But most Republican members of the intelligence committee were eager to avoid any discussion about the appropriateness of the U.S. government’s conduct during the aughts. “We shouldn’t be talking about what happened 17 years ago,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “We should be talking about what’s going to happen 17 weeks or 17 days from now.”

6) Really interesting take on the connection between sports and 9/11 has ultimately led to more political division on sports:

In my mind, though, all that cannot be decoupled from what Sept. 11 has done to sports. What was once ostensibly a unifying moment in the country has helped transform sports, with flags and flyovers, kneeling and protests — into the most divided public spectacle this side of Congress…

But it also changed how sports were sold, packaged, perceived and marketed. In ballparks across America, in every sport, sports was a healing balm for a broken country. Particularly in New York during those early years after Sept. 11, Americans could look at one another and feel everything was going to be all right, could mourn the 343 firemen killedduring the attacks, the 37 Port Authority personnel and the 23 New York City police officers, and thank the ones who survived — but also get angry, and demand revenge on their attackers and obedience from their countrymen…

The veterans said that they are grateful that it looks like Americans care about them. But they are also resentful of being used as shields to prevent any criticism of the country or the military. The soldiers know they serve so Americans can speak their minds, not be cowed into obedience.

They also don’t want to throw out the first pitch nearly as much as they want jobs and the Department of Veterans Affairs fixed.

7) Amazing tempest in a coffee in vegan muffin at Duke University.  Honestly, this has become a way overblown racial matter simply because the Duke VP who oversees dining establishments wants to make sure they are not playing profanity-laced music in Duke dining establishments.

8) Yglesias on how Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen are crowding out the Democrats’ message:

In concrete terms, the problem with the Daniels issue for Democrats is it doesn’t really add anything to what everyone already thinks about Trump. People who stuck with a thrice-married birther who claimed Hillary Clinton literally founded ISIS through the “grab ’em by the pussy” controversy aren’t about to be suddenly scandalized by the news that he engaged in some legally questionable tactics to cover up an affair with a porn actress. It’s wrong to say that the carnival aspects of the Trump Show don’t do him any harm — his approval ratings remain underwater despite healthy economic conditions — but it’s hard for the circus to hurt him more at the margin given everything that’s already happened.

Democratic Party leaders, for exactly this reason, aren’t talking about Daniels; they’re talking about issues they think can cut into Trump’s base and/or improve their own image among voters. But they’re having a hard time breaking through.

9) Drum on the decline of Evangelicals and their political backlash:

The first decade of the 21st century was a tough one for evangelical Protestants. Their numbers fell, their political influence waned, their most popular leaders died off or retired, and they got badly crushed on the issue of gay rights and gay marriage. By 2012 the movement was in pretty sorry shape, and it only got worse after Obergefell.

Then Donald Trump came along and threw them a lifeline. Sure, he was a philanderer, a faker, a liar, an avatar of mammon, and very plainly not a religious man himself. But Trump made evangelicals the same offer he makes with everyone: he’d adopt their causes as his own and fight for them publicly, but only in return for unconditional public support. Maybe it was a devil’s bargain, but they took it. If you had lost 20 percent of your followers in the past decade and watched helplessly as modern culture steamrolled nearly everything you believe in, you might have too.

10) EJ Dionne, “We know a lot about Trump’s misdeeds. But most of all we know there’s more to come.”

Yes, there is much more to learn here, and we know by now never to assume that any development in this saga can be seen as the beginning of the end. We have no idea yet how this story will end or who, except perhaps for Mueller, will write its conclusion.

But we know enough to conclude that (1) the Russia connection to Trump World runs very deep, and Mueller is no doubt exploring its many tributaries; (2) if Trump is profoundly altering Washington, it is to make the most old-fashioned forms of influence-peddling more common and more blatant; (3) we need to figure out if any of the money sloshing around has found its way to Trump; and (4) Trump will play as fast and loose with fundamental changes in policy as he does with ethics and the truth.

 All four are worrying. The last is also scary.

11) A baby translator than can also help diagnose autism!

12) Bari Weiss‘ NYT piece on “The Intellectual Dark Web” was all the rage this week.  Saletan’s take.

13) Found this Politico take on liberal turned seemingly-endless Trump apologist, Alan Dershowitz, really interesting.  Whereas this piece helps Dershowitz come off as more than just an intellectual hired-gun looking to cash in, honestly, he has a huge intellectual blind-spot by failing to appreciate the context of his commentary as funneled through Fox News.

14) Hey fish, think you safe from birds under the water?  Not so much.  Awesome video here.

15) Ezra Klein with the case for optimism in today’s must-read piece:

The triumphant story we tell about American history can obscure both the extent of our progress and the fragility of our consensus. To see what we are, or what we may become, requires clarity about what we have been. And what we have been is violent, disordered, undemocratic, and illiberal on a scale far beyond anything the United States is undergoing today.

You do not need to go back to the country’s early years — when new arrivals from Europe drove out the Native Americans, brought over millions of enslaved Africans, and wrote laws making women second-class citizens — to see it.

Just a few decades ago, political assassinations were routine. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered on the streets of Dallas. In 1965, Malcolm X was shot to death in a crowded New York City ballroom. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, as was Robert F. Kennedy. In 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, standing about arm’s length from President Gerald Ford, aimed her gun and fired; the bullet failed to discharge. Harvey Milk, the pioneering gay San Francisco city supervisor, was killed in 1978. President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981; the bullet shattered a rib and punctured a lung.

For much of the 20th century, the right to vote was, for African Americans, no right at all. Lynchings were common. Freedom Riders were brutally beaten across the American South. National Guard members fired on, and killed, student protesters at Kent State. Police had to escort young African-American children into schools as jeering crowds shouted racial epithets and threatened to attack…

During this era, there were regions of America that arguably weren’t democratic at all. In his book Paths Out of Dixie, Robert Mickey argues convincingly that much of the American South was under one-party authoritarian rule until the mid-20th century. It was only “with the abolition of the whites-only Democratic primary in 1944 and continuing up through the national party reforms of the early 1970s” that the South — and thus America — actually democratized.

This is not a counterintuitive take on American history, by the way. Among experts, it is closer to the consensus. The Varieties of Democracy project, which has been surveying experts on the state of global democracies since 1900, gave the US political system a 48 on a 1-100 scale in 1945 and a 59 in 1965. It was only after the civil rights movement that America began scoring in the 70s and 80s, marking it as a largely successful democracy.

The era that we often hold up as the golden age of American democracy was far less democratic, far less liberal, far less decent, than today. Trump’s most intemperate outbursts, his most indecent musings, pale before opinions that were mainstream in living memory. And the institutions of American politics today are a vast improvement on the regimes that ruled well within living memory. [emphasis mine]

Quick hits (part I)

1) I love books and as much as I like to shop at Amazon, there’s nothing like a real bricks and mortar book store.  The Greene family loves hanging out at our local Barnes & Noble (and yes, we buy things there).  It would be such a shame for them to go out of business. Dave Leonhardt:

At first glance, this seems like a classic story of business disruption. Barnes & Noble and Borders were once so imposing that they served as the model for the evil corporation trying to crush independent bookstores in the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Then the world changed. The old leaders couldn’t keep up. Such is capitalism.

Except that’s not anywhere near the full story.

The full story revolves around government policy — in particular, Washington’s leniency, under both parties, toward technology giants that have come to resemble monopolies. These giants are popular, because they provide good products and service. But they have also become mighty enough to vanquish their competitors and create problems for society.

For most of American history, the government viewed giant corporations of any kind as inherently problematic. Their size gave them too much power — to eliminate competition, raise prices, hold down wages and influence politics. So the government passed laws to restrain businesses and occasionally broke up the largest, like Standard Oil and AT&T.

In the 1970s, however, a new idea took hold: Size was not a problem so long as prices remained low. Bigness could even be good, because it promoted efficiency and thus lower prices. The legal scholar Robert Borkwas the most influential advocate for this view, and it soon guided the Supreme Court, the Reagan administration and pretty much every administration since.

But the theory has two huge flaws, as a new generation of scholars, like Lina Khan, is emphasizing. One, prices are not a broad enough measure of well-being. Wages, innovation and political power matter as well. If prices stay low but wages don’t grow — which is, roughly, what’s happened in recent decades — consumers aren’t better off. Two, regulators have focused on short-term prices, sometimes ignoring what can happen after a company drives out its rivals.

The book business is looking like a case study. Amazon is taking over, yet has never run into antitrust scrutiny. It has reduced prices, after all. It sells many e-books for $9.99 and hardcover best sellers at a big discount. So what’s the problem?

Plenty. Amazon has been happy to lose money on books to build a loyal customer base, to which it can then sell everything else. “Amazon isn’t primarily concerned about books these days,” Oren Teicher, who runs an association of independent bookstores, told me. “They are far more focused on getting consumers into their ecosystem so they can sell them every other product under the sun.”

But the artificially low prices have created a raft of problems. Fewer books are commercially viable. Publishers are focusing on big-name writers. The number of professional authors has declined. The disappearance of Borders deprived dozens of communities of their only physical bookstore and led to a drop in book sales that looks permanent.

All the while, many writers and publishers are afraid to criticize Amazon. They’re not being completely paranoid, either. When publishers have fought Amazon, it has sometimes punished them by disrupting sales. Internally, Amazon executives have described small publishers as a “gazelle” — and itself as a cheetah.

2a) Excellent 60 Minutes segment on the problem with prescription drug prices.  1) Obscene greed at the expense of suffering human beings, and 2) an American health care system that legally prevents proper price controls (like exists in most of the rest of the world) to allow that extreme greed.

2b) Drum on the insane, only-in-America, variance in MRI prices:

The price [for an MRI[ varies from about $400 to $2,800 at different hospitals. But even within a single hospital, the price varies between $500 and $1,800 depending on who your insurer is. That’s because some insurers are able to negotiate better deals than others. Needless to say, these differences may very well translate into different copays and different out-of-pocket costs for patients. And if you have a high-deductible plan, that can mean thousands of dollars.

This might all seem kind of crazy, but it’s the free market at work. And thank God for that. If we had the government interfering and setting prices, everyone would be paying the identical $380 Medicare price for a lower limb MRI, just like they do in France and Japan. There’s no telling what havoc this could wreak on the salaries of hospital CEOs.

3) Fathers who exercise have smarter babies.  At least among mice.  Damn, epigenetics is fascinating stuff.

4) Research from my graduate school friend David Kimball on how stereotypes of voter fraud are (unsurprisingly) inextricably linked with racial stereotypes.

5) George Will is no fan of Mike Pence:

It is said that one cannot blame people who applaud Arpaio and support his rehabilitators (Trump, Pence, et al.), because, well, globalization or health-care costs or something. Actually, one must either blame them or condescend to them as lacking moral agency. Republicans silent about Pence have no such excuse.

There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

6) And Dana Milbank is no fan of Tom Cotton (and honestly, what decent, non-totally-xenophobic) person is?

7) This NYT feature on first-person accounts of the grey areas of sexual consent was disturbing in so many ways.  And, not to get all moralistic, but, two things… 1) stop getting so damn drunk and then having sex, and 2) is it so crazy to think maybe you should know somebody at least a bit before you have sex?

8) Virginia shows the way on fighting the Opioid crisis and it’s not complicated: treat it like the public health issue it is and use Medicaid.

9) As somebody with -10 vision, damn do I appreciate what my glasses do for me.  I hate to think of all the people desperately in need of glasses who cannot get them.  We should definitely do more in this area.  Also, damn are glasses obscenely over-priced in America.

10) Now that’s what you call a headline, “She was told her perpetually runny nose was from ‘allergies.’ It was a brain-fluid leak.”

11) Loved this interview about “bullshit jobs.”  So glad I don’t have one:

Sean Illing

What are “bullshit jobs”?

David Graeber

Bullshit jobs are jobs which even the person doing the job can’t really justify the existence of, but they have to pretend that there’s some reason for it to exist. That’s the bullshit element. A lot of people confuse bullshit jobs and shit jobs, but they’re not the same thing.

Bad jobs are bad because they’re hard or they have terrible conditions or the pay sucks, but often these jobs are very useful. In fact, in our society, often the more useful the work is, the less they pay you. Whereas bullshit jobs are often highly respected and pay well but are completely pointless, and the people doing them know this.

Sean Illing

Give me some examples of bullshit jobs.

David Graeber

Corporate lawyers. Most corporate lawyers secretly believe that if there were no longer any corporate lawyers, the world would probably be a better place. The same is true of public relations consultants, telemarketers, brand managers, and countless administrative specialists who are paid to sit around, answer phones, and pretend to be useful.

A lot of bullshit jobs are just manufactured middle-management positions with no real utility in the world, but they exist anyway in order to justify the careers of the people performing them. But if they went away tomorrow, it would make no difference at all.

And that’s how you know a job is bullshit: If we suddenly eliminated teachers or garbage collectors or construction workers or law enforcement or whatever, it would really matter. We’d notice the absence. But if bullshit jobs go away, we’re no worse off.

12) If you read one thing this weekend, read the story of the 19-year old Ukrainian who posed as an American high school student.  Amazing story.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I like this take on all the Superhero/comic book movies through the lens of opportunity cost of better films not made:

Marvel’s commitment to pretty good filmmaking has made it enormously successful and helped reshape the business of studio filmmaking. But it has also come at a cost — not only for superhero movies, but for ambitious studio filmmaking writ large…

The deeper problem is not so much Marvel as its imitators and boosters. As the major studios continue to chase the reliable returns of Marvel’s business model, and critics continue to celebrate Marvel’s merely satisfactory efforts as better than they really are, the likely outcome is that Hollywood studios will focus even more of their resources and top-tier talent on the production of movies that are watchable, even enjoyable, but aspire to little else. Smaller-budget films and television will fill in some of the gaps, as they already are, but the grandest productions will be reserved for the cautious and competent.

2) I’m excited to be using John Pfaff’s Locked In for my Criminal Justice Policy summer class starting in a couple weeks.  Here’s a nice summary of his key arguments.  Short version: blame prosecutors.

3) It’s not easy to change a country’s alphabet.  I’d love to look at the politics of this.  I almost wonder if you need an autocrat to force it.  There’s huge long-term gain, but that gain is down-the-road, and short-term, what a pain!  The case of Kazakhstan moving from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

4) McSweeney’s presents a “generic college paper.”  I feel like I read a few of these this week ;-).

5) Eric Posner and Glen Weyl on the corporate monopoly power behind our new gilded age is really, really good:

In the past two decades, growth rates in the United States have fallen to half of what they were in the middle of the 20th century. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent has nearly doubled since the 1970s, while the share of income going to all workers has fallen by nearly 10 percent.

These are the marks of our new Gilded Age. It’s tempting to blame impersonal market forces such as globalization and automation for widening inequality. But the true villain would be familiar to anyone who lived through the previous one: market (that is, monopoly) power…

Today, market power takes new forms, but the solution is the same: antimonopoly laws and laws protecting workers, but updated for the problems of the 21st century.

The era of “supply-side economics” championed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — which called for tax cuts, deregulation and narrow antitrust enforcement — explains a lot of our current predicament. The key assumption of that era was that markets work best when the government focuses exclusively on enforcing contract and property rights.

This theory turned out to be wrong — not because it celebrates the market but because it misunderstands it. Two centuries earlier, Adam Smith pointed out that the easiest way for businesses to earn profits is not by slashing costs and innovating but by agreeing among themselves not to compete — to exert market power to raise prices or lower wages.

This sort of agreement is now illegal, but businesses have nevertheless found new and creative ways to achieve monopoly profits, while antitrust enforcers have fallen behind.

6) Love Benjamin Wittes game-theorying out whether Mueller subpoenas Trump.

7) How’s that Republican tax cut working out?  Krugman:

In short, the effects of the Trump tax cut are already looking like the effects of the Brownback tax cut in Kansas, the Bush tax cut and every other much-hyped tax cut of the past three decades: big talk, big promises, but no results aside from a swollen budget deficit.

You might think that the G.O.P. would eventually learn something from this experience, realize that tax cuts aren’t magical, and come up with some different ideas. But I guess it’s difficult for a man to understand something when his campaign contributions depend on his not understanding it. [emphasis mine]

8) Why, yes, Arizona’s teacher pay is so low that they bring in low-cost teachers from the Philippines.  Ugh on so many levels.

9) I have an 18-year old about to not leave home.  Looks like I should kick him out and give him money.  Here’s some interesting research from NCSU.

A recent study finds that young people who get financial support from their parents have greater professional success, highlighting one way social inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next.

“The question underlying this work was whether parental support gives adult children an advantage or hinders their development,” says Anna Manzoni, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and author of a paper on the work…

Specifically, Manzoni found that the more direct financial support young people received from their parents, the higher their occupational status. This was particularly true for college graduates who got direct support from their parents.

On the other hand, young people who received indirect financial support by living at home had lower occupational status. Again, this was particularly true for college graduates.

10) Some very cool visualizations of segregation in America.

11) Oh my goodness.  This is clearly just a not-very-funny, old department store joke.  Not sexual harrassment. And, hey, the whole big story was at a Political Science conference.  Ruth Marcus:

But for goodness’ sake, let’s maintain some sense of proportion and civility as we figure out how to pick our way through the minefield of modern gender relations. Not every comment that offends was intended that way, and intent matters. Maybe check in with the speaker before going nuclear? Maybe consider that there is a spectrum of offensiveness? That not every stray statement by a 76-year-old man warrants a resort to disciplinary procedures?

Because making a federal case, or even a disciplinary one, over a stray elevator remark is not only, well, frivolous — it’s also counterproductive. Take a culture of eggshell fragility. Pair it with a hypersensitive disciplinary mechanism. What you get is a result that serves only to diminish real, and continuing, instances of truly offensive behavior.

12) The Vox headline says it all, “How Medicaid work requirements can exempt rural whites but not urban blacks.”

13) I hate lying in politics.  Sure, politicians are going to spin things, but, ugh, the outright lies.  We’ve got a bunch of Democrats competing against each other for the County Commissioners.  The challengers claim that the controversial decision of the incumbents to buy a failed golf course to turn into a park (we need parks, sounds good to me) is “bailing out a failed golf course.”  Even if you think our dollars should be spent otherwise, this is just a flat-out lie.  Any chance I was going to vote for the challengers went out with that mailer.

14) Paul Waldman on Democrats taking to Republican style of politics:

For many years, Democrats have been convinced that the American people, and even their Republican opponents, are open to persuasion. If they could just have the opportunity to explain why their policies are morally right and practically effective, they could win almost anyone over.

Republicans, on the other hand, harbored no illusions about persuading Democrats of anything. Instead, they had a much more hard-headed view of how politics works.

And now it seems that Democrats are finally coming around to the GOP’s way of thinking.

That has broad ramifications for the future of American politics, not just in how elections are run but how policy is made…

But that strategy has not been met by the other side, which adopts a categorical opposition to any compromise. The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:

  1. Take maximal positions that excite your base
  2. Win elections
  3. Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like

This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.

So many Democrats have concluded that with an electorate as polarized as ours, persuading the other side on almost anything has become basically impossible. If that’s true, and if mobilization is what wins elections, then one important question when crafting policy proposals (especially at a time like now when they’re out of power and can’t actually pass anything) is: “What version of this is going to get our base most excited?

15) Big jury verdict against NC hog farmers for externalizing their pollution onto their neighbors.  But NC’s hog-farm-friendly laws probably dramatically limit the impact.

16) People who think they know a lot about politics just think they know a lot:

Individuals expressing belief superiority—the belief that one’s views are superior to other viewpoints—perceive themselves as better informed about that topic, but no research has verified whether this perception is justified. The present research examined whether people expressing belief superiority on four political issues demonstrated superior knowledge or superior knowledge-seeking behavior. Despite perceiving themselves as more knowledgeable, knowledge assessments revealed that the belief superior exhibited the greatest gaps between their perceived and actual knowledge. When given the opportunity to pursue additional information in that domain, belief-superior individuals frequently favored agreeable over disagreeable information, but also indicated awareness of this bias. Lastly, experimentally manipulated feedback about one’s knowledge had some success in affecting belief superiority and resulting information-seeking behavior. Specifically, when belief superiority is lowered, people attend to information they may have previously regarded as inferior. Implications of unjustified belief superiority and biased information pursuit for political discourse are discussed.

Quick hits (part II)

Busy weekend of soccer coaching plus feeling like crap from a nasty cold equals really late quick hits.  On the bright side, I’ve got quotes for pretty much all of them.  Enjoy.

1a) South Carolina has under-funded and brutal prisons.  Yeah, they committed crimes, but they are still humans.  Many died needlessly in a recent riot.  John Pfaff:

Although the state is often held up as a criminal justice success story after a 2010 sentencing law reversed decades of rising incarceration rates, its system has faced legal challenges for years over how it is run. Only a few states spend less per prisoner than South Carolina, and while the national inmates-per-officer ratio is on the order of five to one (at least according to data from 2005, the most recent data we have), at Lee on the night of the violence the ratio was much, much higher. Initial reports said there two guards per housing block, with 250 men in each block. Later reports suggested that there may have been four guards per block, not two, but that wouldn’t really paint a better picture either: 63 to one is still an unacceptable ratio.What is clear is that South Carolina’s prisons are underfunded and understaffed — about 30 percent of all positions are vacant, and low pay and low morale have made it hard to retain corrections officers. The facilities are poorly maintained, and programming is inadequate for the size of the prison population. All these factors are policy choices driven by budgeting, and all of them contribute to prison violence.

 Prisons need not be like this. Facilities in countries like Germanylook almost nothing like prisons in the U.S., even though they often detain people convicted of serious violent crimes. The institutions are well-maintained, and correctional officials — who view their jobs more as social work than law enforcement — are well-paid and well-trained. While most correctional officers in the U.S. receive, at most, three months of training before being sent into a prison, in Germany the minimum is two years. Treated in a less adversarial manner in more humane settings, those held in European prisons tend to respond accordingly.

1b) And Historian Heather Ann Thompson:

Today, seven young men — men who were someone’s child, father, sibling or partner — are dead because we allow our nation’s correctional facilities to be run brutally. But, thanks to their cellphone keyboards and cameras, those who live in this terrible place can tell us what really goes on, and how we might change it.

They are desperate for state senators to pass new laws so that South Carolina prisoners have “an incentive to get out in society and live life again.” They argue that officials could eliminate the contraband problem simply by allowing cigarettes and cellphones to be sold in the canteen (instead of sold to them by guards, who can get upward of $1,700 for a phone). They would be less hungry if state officials would simply allow their families “to send inmates packages of food” and they’d be more productive and better able to re-enter society, they tell us, if prisons simply reinstated classes in “life skills and trades.”

2) Nice article about Pope Francis.  The key paragraph as far as I’m concerned:

But it is Francis’ prioritizing of social justice over culture-war issues [emphasis mine] such as abortion that has caused the sharpest internal divisions, with a small but committed group of conservative cardinals publicly suggesting that he is a heretical autocrat leading the faithful toward confusion and schism.

You know what Jesus talked about pretty much all the time?  What we now call “social justice issues.”  Culture war issues, not so much.

3) On how Charleston, WV is giving up its needle-exchange program despite all the evidence that these programs work:

The research is unambiguous: Needle exchanges reduce the spread of bloodborne diseases like hepatitis C and H.I.V. and do not increase drug use. They’ve been shown to reduce overdose deaths, decrease the number of needles discarded in public places and make it more likely that drug users enter treatment. They also save money: One recent study estimated that $10 million spent on needle exchanges might save more than $70 million in averted H.I.V. treatment costs alone.

Health experts say the programs create relationships between deeply addicted people and the health care system, an essential step if they are to be reintegrated into society. “It’s the most low-threshold way for people who use drugs to have contact with any kind of public health professional,” said Alex H. Kral, an epidemiologist with RTI International, a nonprofit research organization. “And that’s a powerful intervention.”

4) I am emphatically in favor of joint bank accounts and not separate accounts for married couples.  Kim and I do not to even the tiniest degree have my money and her money.  It’s all “our money” damnit.  The sub-head–“It doesn’t signal a lack of trust—to some, it’s a way for spouses to show they trust each other more”  of this Atlantic article strikes me as far as rationalization far more than reality.

A joint bank account has, traditionally, been a sign of commitment. As newlyweds start their lives together, it is perhaps the clearest way for them to say, to each other and to the world, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”

But these days, some young couples are skeptical. “There has been a generational change,” said Joanna Pepin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland who studies the organization of money in romantic relationships. “The research we have shows that, cross-culturally, more people are keeping money separate.” Indeed, a Bank of America study published earlier this year seemed to suggest that Millennial married and cohabitating couples were more likely to hold separate accounts than previous generations were.

Pepin says this trend is particularly pronounced among low-income couples, who are likelier to value access to their own earnings over the show of commitment and loyalty that comes with the decision to merge finances, a quality often prioritized by higher-earners.

Some of this has to do with Millennial marriage trends more generally. Compared to previous generations, Millennials get married later in life, and thus significantly more of them live together before marriage. Because cohabiting couples are far more likely than married couples to keep finances separate, a certain inertia develops. “Once you’ve established your relationship norms,” Pepin asked, “why would you change them?”

When today’s young adults do decide to get married, many of them are further along in their careers, with a better sense of who they are and what they contribute to their workplace. One 29-year-old I talked to, a medical resident in San Francisco, told me that for those who believe one’s bank account offers a clear reflection of a person’s work ethic or success, it can be hard to cede control. “It’s about wanting to maintain one’s sense of identity, individuality, and autonomy,” said Fenaba Addo, an assistant professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

When I asked several married Millennial couples why they decided to keep their finances fully or partially separate, one reason came up more than any other: A joint bank account seemed to blur each individual’s financial contributions at a time when women are earning more than they used to. “If we just had a joint account, it would bring an uneasy feeling—a sense of inequality,” said Zack Pasillas, a 26-year-old office worker from Orange County, California. Zack’s wife, Karina, works in customer service at the local water company. She knows that, in the future, she’ll likely make less money than Zack, but that makes her even more eager to keep their finances separate. “When buying him gifts, when picking up the tab at dinner, I like knowing that I am also contributing to this relationship,” she said. “It’s my work—it’s my money.” Another Millennial I talked to worried that, if he and his wife merged bank accounts, their relationship might begin to conform to antiquated gender roles, with the man in charge of all the finances. The concept of a joint account, to him, felt dated…

Indeed, the 20- and 30-somethings I spoke with all felt strongly that separate bank accounts don’t signal a lack of trust—if anything, they said, it’s a sign that partners trust each other more. Zack and Karina Pasillas have a clear understanding that, if either of them needs money, they’ll help each other out. Their debts are due, and their salaries come in, at different times of the month, so sometimes one will cover the other. “It’s about having trust that, if needed, I can cover her end, and she can cover my end, too,” Zack Pasillas said.

No, no, no!  It’s a marriage, it’s not about “her end” or “my end” it all “our end”!  Of course, I expect my Millennial readers to disagree ;-).

5) Good stuff on why Trump supporters don’t mind his lies.  Like most everything else in politics, it comes down to motivated reasoning:

The results of the experiments, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, show that reflecting on how a falsehood could have been true did cause people to rate it as less unethical to tell — but only when the falsehoods seemed to confirm their political views. Trump supporters and opponents both showed this effect.

Again, the problem wasn’t that people confused fact and fiction; virtually everyone recognized the claims as false. But when a falsehood resonated with people’s politics, asking them to imagine counterfactual situations in which it could have been true softened their moral judgments. A little imagination can apparently make a lie feel “truthy” enough to give the liar a bit of a pass.

These results reveal a subtle hypocrisy in how we maintain our political views. We use different standards of honesty to judge falsehoods we find politically appealing versus unappealing. When judging a falsehood that maligns a favored politician, we ask, “Was it true?” and then condemn it if the answer is no.

In contrast, when judging a falsehood that makes a favored politician look good, we are willing to ask, “Could it have been true?” and then weaken our condemnation if we can imagine the answer is yes. By using a lower ethical standard for lies we like, we leave ourselves vulnerable to influence by pundits and spin doctors.

6) This amazing, prize-winning photo was disqualified for using a taxidermied anteater.

Marcio Cabral had faked The Night Raider with a taxidermy anteater — a charge he denies.

Marcio Cabral/Natural History Museum

7) Really interesting interview with Helen Fisher on sex and love.  Ends with her formula for a happy marriage:

You talk to a psychologist, and they’ll probably give you a different answer, but I can tell you what the brain says about happiness in a longterm partnership. There are three brain regions that become active when you are in a longterm, loving relationship.

A brain region linked with empathy, a brain region linked with controlling your own stress and your own emotions, and a brain region linked with what I call “positive illusion,” the ability to overlook what you don’t like about somebody and focus on what you do.

You want a happy marriage? Do all those things that psychologists and others might suggest, but this is what the brain says: Express empathy, control your own emotions, and overlook the negatives in your partner and focus on the positives.

8) As great as a college education is, it’s definitely not for everyone.  We need to do a better job teaching trades and getting the right people into them.  NPR:

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.

“Parents want success for their kids,” said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. “They get stuck on [four-year bachelor’s degrees], and they’re not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check.”

In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor’s degrees.

Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require less than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.

“There is an emphasis on the four-year university track” in high schools, said Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report. Yet, nationwide, three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven’t earned degrees within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At four-year private colleges, that number is more than 1 in 5.

“Being more aware of other types of options may be exactly what they need,” Cortines said. In spite of a perception “that college is the sole path for everybody,” he said, “when you look at the types of wages that apprenticeships and other career areas pay and the fact that you do not pay four years of tuition and you’re paid while you learn, these other paths really need some additional consideration.”

9) Liked Brian Beutler on how journalists should deal with stolen/hacked information:

In the brave new world of mass hacking—and particularly of the kind of hack-and-dump tactics deployed against Clinton—the tradeoff is different, and in some ways should be less severe. Whatever we gleaned from the contents of Podesta’s emails or the DNC emails, reporters were aware of, and should have been able to incorporate, one cardinal fact: the source materials were the the spoils of an extremely serious crime.

That shouldn’t make stolen information off limits—a lot of great journalism is the fruit of crime—but it does make the information part of a larger story. In Clinton’s case, the larger story was that some entity (likely Russian intelligence, though the Trump campaign did its level best to muddy those waters) was trying to sabotage the campaign of one of America’s two major party presidential candidates, to tip the election to her opponent. That’s a huge deal, even if the “entity” is Trump’s fabled 400 pound man in New Jersey. Don’t believe me? Publish all of your emails online and see how it alters your horizons. Or tell Bob Woodward he should’ve been more interested in what the Watergate burglars stole than in why they stole it. The crime isn’t always as important as the loot, but it often is, and major media outlets have clearly struggled devising new editorial standards to account for that.

The main impediments to implementing such standards aren’t technical or even that subjective. They are hardwired professional incentives that reward reporting the latest news as quickly as possible in a competitive environment. Reporters and editors and anchors and producers make judgment calls about what’s important and what’s not all the time. They know how to use their platforms to emphasize some pieces of information over others, and present stories in ways that are proportionate to their news value. The problem is the economic pressures of journalism often force journalists to ask not “what will give consumers the clearest sense of what’s happening in the world?” but “what is the most recent thing I’ve learned?”—and then to report whatever the answer is.

That’s too bad, because a more considered approach to information dumps like the Podesta emails would address many of the concerns raised by critics of 2016 campaign coverage—or at least concerns about the stolen-email half of the media’s email fixation—and leave the public better informed than it is under the current paradigm. It would help protect American democracy against a repeat of the subversion we witnessed in 2016. And it would still leave plenty of room for people to argue on Twitter about Clinton’s private email server—the greatest political crime in the history of the world.

10) Bonus.  Finally got a somewhat decent video of one of my U18 players doing his awesome flip-throw throw-in.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fshgreene%2Fvideos%2F10105334870663339%2F&show_text=0&width=267

Quick hits (part II)

Better late than never edition.

1) Jennifer Rubin on the cowardly, underminer of the rule of law, Mitch McConnell:

Let’s cut through all this: Republicans are petrified of provoking Trump (“the bear”), whom they treat as their supervisor and not as an equal branch of government. The notion that Congress should not take out an insurance policy to head off a potential constitutional crisis when the president has repeatedly considered firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defies logic. By speaking up in such fashion, McConnell is effectively tempting Trump to fire one or both of them. That will set off a firestorm and bring calls for the president’s impeachment.

“There is evidently no limit on the complicity [McConnell] is willing to shoulder,” argued Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics counsel during the Obama administration. “Even as bipartisan support for the legislation is emerging in both houses of Congress — or perhaps because it is emerging — he stands in the way.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the rule of law for McConnell to take this position when the president has reportedly tried twice to fire Mueller, and discussed it frequently, and is now agitated over the Michael Cohen developments. McConnell will be fully as responsible as Trump if the special counsel is fired.”

2) Good for NC taxpayers that 600 people who don’t actually qualify are no longer getting taxpayer subsidized NC Employee health insurance.  What the article totally fails to address, though, is the costs involved– not at all inconsiderable based on my experiences– of auditing every single policy.

3) Someone sharing this “Chick-Fil-A invades NYC with it’s blatant Christianity” take referred to this– tongue half in cheek, I think– as “why Trump won.”  Not all that far off.  I eat at Chick-Fil-A all the time.  Great fast food and the best service by far in fast food.  And Jesus never comes up at all.

4) How can you not love a story of escaped baboons.

5) Amazingly this headline is not an exaggeration, “Homework assignment asks students to list positive aspects of slavery.”  Un-amazingly, it’s in Texas.

6) NYT re-emphasizing the point that conservative political parties the whole world over except climate change.  Except our very own Republican Party.

7) How Trump lied to get in the Forbes 400.

8) Yglesias with an interesting case for Comey:

The greatest safeguard we have against the dangers of Trump’s highly personalized style of leadership and frequently expressed desire to reshape all institutions to serve his personal goal is that officials and bureaucrats have the power to say no. Comey, whatever else he did, said no to his boss and was fired for his trouble. America needs more government officials who are willing to take that stand. In many ways, Comey is not the hero the United States deserves. But in a critical moment, he may be the hero we need. [emphasis mine]

9) Trey Gowdy is a dishonest partisan hack who is pretty good at convincing journalists he’s not.  The truth will out, though.  To wit, the GOP statement on the Comey memos.

10) And Brian Beutler on Comey:

NPR’s Carrie Johnson pressed Comey on this point, asking “[W]as that your job? Was it your job to worry about those things?”

“I think so,” Comey responded. “As the director of the FBI I think my job is to worry about how—despite what your mother told you about not caring what other people think—as the director of the FBI, the public trust is all you have in that institution. And so yes, worrying about that had to be part of the job description of the Department of Justice—I mean, of the leader of the FBI.”

This would be a powerful argument in a political climate where both major ideological factions felt equally committed to a kind of factual politics. That Comey describes the conspiracy theories Republicans propounded about the email investigation as “politics [as] there always have been,” suggests he suffers from a continued blindness to asymmetries in American political life that allowed him to be bamboozled.

Comey reveals here, as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent noted, that he left the institutions of justice vulnerable to bad faith actors angling to manipulate him. Like many journalists, Comey succumbed to a false assumption of balance—that all politics is just politics. He couldn’t and can’t grapple with the idea that one party is less beholden to empiricism and truth than the other, and uses that leeway to undermine neutral institutions unless those institutions do the bidding of the GOP. [emphasis mine]

Honestly, I’m increasingly seeing the bad faith of the Republican Party as the key defining political feature of our time.  And while Democrats have their own occasional foibles, this is so not a “both sides!” issue.

11) Oh man you’ve gotta love NC social conservatives:

The N.C. Values Coalition is urging North Carolina parents to keep their children home on Monday to protest what it calls “graphic, gender-bending, promiscuity-promoting sex education” being taught in public schools.

Conservative activists are upset about what’s taught both in sex education and in programs meant to build acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender students. They want parents to respond by keeping children home from school as part of Monday’s nationwide “Sex Ed Sit Out” campaign and to vote for candidates who support their views.

In North Carolina, the N.C. Values Coalition wants parents to both keep their children home Monday and to write a letter to their principal explaining their decision.

“This is a national movement to encourage schools to stop using taxpayer dollars to teach programs which are intended to encourage early sexualization of children, causing them to question their own gender and to normalize sexual behaviors that most parents don’t agree with,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition.

Suffice it to say my kids will be in school tomorrow ;-).

12) Teaching a big Intro to American Government class is a very different experience than teaching my upper-level classes.  But I really do value doing it.  Nice piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on the value of having high-quality, tenure-track professor teaching intro courses:

To a student who has never encountered a discipline before, the professor teaching the introductory course is the discipline, Chambliss said. “If the physics professor is cool, then physics is cool.” If the professor is dull, the student will think the same of the discipline. If the professor is so dull that the student never takes another physics course, well, that impression could hold for the rest of her life.

That’s one reason Chambliss advocates that colleges put their very best professors in front of as many students as possible, as early as possible. That doesn’t mean every senior professor needs to teach introductory courses, he said — it’s a matter of departments moving a few people around, and rewarding them for their efforts.

Professors and administrators often see a major as a coherent whole, he said. But to students, what matters is the particular course they’re taking this term. If they have a bad first experience, they’re unlikely to stick around for a second one.

13) There’s been a huge row about race and IQ of late involving Ezra Klein and Sam Harris.  That said, easily the best thing I’ve read to come out of this has been Yglesias‘ terrific piece about how Charles Murray (author of the infamous The Bell Curve, and the genesis of the current contretemps) is really all about very conservative public policy, not science at all:

The actual conclusion of The Bell Curve is that America should stop trying to improve poor kids’ material living standards because doing so encourages poor, low-IQ women to have more children — you read that correctly. It also concludes that the United States should substantially curtail immigration from Latin America and Africa. These are controversial policy recommendations, not banal observations about psychometrics…

These claims about the baleful impact of social assistance spending are not uncontroversial claims about science. Indeed, they are not claims about science at all. And since they constitute what Murray himself views as the upshot of his book, and because Murray is a policy writer rather than a scientist, it is correct and proper for fair-minded people to read the book for what it actually is: a tract proposing the comprehensive revision of the American welfare state along eugenicist lines.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1a) The loss of so many newspaper reporters is not just bad for the newspaper, it is bad for those of us who believe in democracy and accountable government.  Subscribe to your local newspaper, damnit!  I mean it.  Here’s the sad take on the loss of journalism in California:

The body count is staggering.

In my 43 years as a journalist, armies of trained bloodhounds have been run out of newsrooms where I’ve worked, victims of layoffs, and buyouts, and battle fatigue. I’ve lost so many hundreds of colleagues, I can’t keep track of where they ended up.

These were smart, curious reporters, photographers and editors who told stories that defined place and time and made us all know each other a little better. They covered the arts and the local sports teams. They bird-dogged city councils, courts, law enforcement, school districts and other agencies that spend our tax dollars, bearing witness, asking questions and rooting out corruption.

There is less watching today, even though California’s population has nearly doubled since I began my career, and we are all poorer for it.

It might seem like the opposite is true — that there’s more information available than ever, because of incessant chirping on cable news, nightly car chases on local outlets, digital news sites and social media news feeds.

What’s lost when the reporters go

But what’s vanished or been greatly diminished in far too many places is good, solid reporting on local and state affairs, and we don’t even know what that has cost us through mismanagement, misuse of funds and outright corruption.

1b) Some small hope…Report for America modeled after AmeriCorps.

2) Krugman on the advances in renewable energy technology and how our problems going forward are more political than technological.

3) The NYT Magazine story of Liberty University’s on-line education empire is something else.  Their business model is to provide the crappiest possible education with less oversight than for-profit on-line universities get.

4) It’s kind of crazy that in 2018 SNL is doing a send-up of Les Miserables about ordering lobster.  But I loved Les Mis and I loved this.

5) Spend money on paying other people to do housework (if you can, obviously) for the good of your marriage.  This one definitely reduces friction in the Greene household:

Many of us are busy at work, but even at home, there is a lot of work to do. Meal preparation, cleaning, yard work, home maintenance and child care consume considerable time for the typical American.

Much of it isn’t fun, contributing to friction in relationships and taking time away from more pleasant activities that increase happiness. Instead of bickering over who will do the vacuuming, would family life be better if we just outsourced the job?

One survey found that 25 percent of people who were divorced named “disagreements about housework” as the top reason for getting a divorce.

In a working paper that cited that survey, scholars at the Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia examined whether buying timesaving services could improve relationships. The study, which involved over 3,000 people in committed relationships across a variety of tests, revealed that those who spent more money on timesaving services were more satisfied with their relationships, in part because they spent more quality time with their partners.

6)  NYT Op-ed: “The Ethical Case for Having a Baby With Down Syndrome”

7) How often do people use guns in self defense?  Way less than the gun rights crowd says:

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It’s a common refrain touted by gun rights advocates, who argue that using guns in self-defense can help save lives. But what is the actual number of defensive gun uses?

According to the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of gun owners say they own a gun mainly for protection. But for years, experts have been divided over how often people actually use guns in self-defense. The numbers range from the millions to hundreds of thousands, depending on whom you ask.

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually..

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook toldThe Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

8) Our Lieutenant Governor is an embarrassing, far-right loon.  Hopefully, he’ll be trounced when he runs for governor in 2020.

9) California billionaire Tom Steyer has been wasting a ton of his money on a quixotic quest for impeachment.  If he really wants to impeach Trump, he’s definitely wise to direct more of his money to encouraging youth turn-out in 2020 in swing states like NC.  Now that’s how to spend your political money.

10) Pretty cool example of what you can now do to create totally fake video.  I’m not as worried as many because if this stuff really becomes pervasive, the only people who believe it will be the ones already believing the Pizzagate stuff anyway.

11) So a couple weeks ago, I linked to a Rolling Stone story about the environmental degradation caused by the pork industry in North Carolina (actually, I forgot the link, but had an extensive quote).  Much to my surprise (I’m not exactly Kevin Drum in my readership numbers), the CEO of the NC Pork Council emailed me to stop spreading mis-information.  You can decide whether you want to believe Rolling Stone or the NC Pork Council.

12) There’s a huge gender disparity (way too many men largely due to selective abortions) in India and China.  This is very, very not good for society:

othing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.

The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.

Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.

“In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,” warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females — the equivalent of almost the entire population of California, or Poland, who will never find wives and only rarely have sex. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were determined that their child should be a son.

India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.

13) Can you imagine your kids’ school becoming the nipple police against a 15-year old girl?  Ugh.

Meredith Harbach, a University of Richmond law professor whose 2016 paper explored sexualization and public school dress codes, said the problem arises when schools impose gender-specific requirements based on sex stereotypes.

In the case of Lizzy, for example, the school is “foisting this notion that unrestrained breasts are sexual and likely to cause disruption and distract other students,” Ms. Harbach said. But this kind of messaging that targets young women — your skirt is too short, you look too sexy, you’re distracting the boys — “deflects any and all conversation about appropriate mutually respectful behavior in schools between boys and girls,” she said.

“Who is disrupted actually? It’s Lizzy. Whose learning experience is impacted?” Ms. Harbach said. “It doesn’t sound like other kids had a major disruption, but she sure did.”

14) The editor of the 2nd most prestigious journal in political science (and one I interned for wayhe took the journal’s website to defend himself back when) is embroiled in a sexual harassment controversy.  And it went to quite a new level this week, when .

15) I used to joke that Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block was one of two books that changed my life.  Actually, it really did make as much positive impact as any book I’ve read (barely beating out, Healthy Sleep, Happy Child).  Really enjoyed this NYT profile of Karp.  My greatest regret is that the book came out in 2002, two years too late for our first and most difficult baby.  It would’ve helped with David soooo much.

16) Nice take via a James Fallows correspondent, on what Comey did wrong vis-a-vis Trump and Clinton.

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