Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting piece on Apple becoming more of a luxury brand:

And so Apple is gravitating to its strength—selling a commoditized product at a very high price as a part of a semi-open (or partly closed) ecosystem of services. Indeed, another change in how the company plans to present its financial picture is a more detailed breakdown of its “services” segment, which includes iTunes, the App Store, and ApplePay, all of which presumably will be a greater share of its revenue and profit.

Look, then, at where Apple is growing and where it isn’t: It is gaining share in the wealthy countries of the European Union and in the United States, and flat (or losing) in places such as China, Nigeria, India, and the rest of the world formerly known as developing. But its profit is growing massively, and from what we can tell growing everywhere. In a world where everyone will soon have a smartphone as surely as electricity, and the middle class will likely have a tablet or some form of computer, Apple has elected to be more like Tiffany or Mercedes rather than Walmart or Hyundai. That means speaking to as an aspirational clientele for whom brand, form, and function are all of a part, and where the higher price point is at times a sotto voce aspect of the appeal.

It is hard to argue with that strategy, although it does make Apple a different sort of company than it was a decade ago, away from owning the market with a range of prices and products and toward a premier provider in a mass world. It is also hard to see that strategy not producing incredible profits and cash for the coming years, absent some tectonic disruption in communications akin to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which is not evident but not impossible. In some sense, it is back to the future for Apple, which began in the 1980s selling a high-priced, elegantly designed Mac that eschewed the mass market.

Unlike then, however, it is hard to picture Apple as a leading innovator of the next thing or things, whatever those may be. Rife with cash and focused on honing and defending a premier brand, it is more like a dynamic retailer than a tech disrupter.

2) We were having fun with this sentence last night explaining to the kids how which word gets emphasized changes the meaning of a sentence, “I never said that she stole my money.”

3) I’m no expert on unions, but public and private sector unions really are fundamentally different and it really is too easy for public sector unions to abuse their position.  And California is a great example.  Drum.

4) Americans are literally dying because synthetic insulin, a product that has been around decades, keeps going up in price by absurd amounts.  Only in America, of course.  In theory there is competition, but, really, this is market failure which means the government needs to do something– like every other damn modern country.

5) Excellent (as always) Tom Edsall piece on “how the fight over men is shaping our future.”

Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality.”

The premise underlying the guidelines is summarized in a descriptive essay on the A.P.A.’s website: “Traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.” According to the A.P.A., the persistent commitment of many boys and men to the norms of traditional masculinity helps explain why

Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school — especially boys of color.

There is widespread support for many of the recommendations in the guidelines — encouraging increased paternal involvement with children, for example, and developing better approaches to reduce bullying — and these are not in dispute…

The report notes that “in the aggregate, males experience a greater degree of social and economic power than girls and women in a patriarchal society.” This, according to the guidelines, is detrimental to men because

Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege. Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply polarized views on such findings.

According to an October 2017 Pew Research report, a quarter of Republicans said the country has not done enough to insure equal rights for women, while 54 percent said the country has done enough and 18 percent said the country has gone too far. Among Democrats, 69 percent said the country has not done enough, 26 percent said the country has done enough and 4 percent said the country has gone too far…

Many Republicans believe gender roles to be distinct and that categorical denial of hormonal or biological underpinnings to sex differences is erroneous — while simultaneously voicing doubts about the legitimacy of the science of evolution. Many Democrats defend the basic theory of evolution but remain wary of, if not hostile to, biological explanations of human behavior, in part because of their belief in the efficacy of government or other societal intervention to change behavior.

What is patently clear to those on one side of the debate is patently false to those on the other. The pressures to conform to conservative orthodoxy on the right and to liberal orthodoxy on the left sometimes seem to preclude reasonable compromise — that nature and nurture interact endlessly. Fundamental disagreements about sex and gender have become so polarized that oversimplification is inevitable, and the obvious truth that both social and biological forces are at play is cast aside. [emphasis mine]

6) Meanwhile, a record low 46% of women are satisfied how women are treated by society.  I like that, as it shows that more women than ever are aware of the fundamental problems in how our society treats women.  You cannot address a problem if you don’t admit it’s there.

7) Not much could be better than Charles Pierce taking it to Mitch McConnell:

There simply is no more loathsome creature walking the political landscape than the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. You have to go back to McCarthy or McCarran to find a Senate leader who did so much damage to democratic norms and principles than this yokel from Kentucky. Trump is bad enough, but he’s just a jumped-up real-estate crook who’s in over his head. McConnell is a career politician who knows full well what he’s doing to democratic government and is doing it anyway because it gives him power, and it gives the rest of us a wingnut federal judiciary for the next 30 years. There is nothing that this president* can do that threatens McConnell’s power as much as it threatens the survival of the republic, and that’s where we are.

McConnell declared himself in opposition to Barack Obama right from the first day in office. There’s even video. Most noxiously, in reference to our present moment, when Obama came to him and asked him to present a united front against the Russian ratfcking that was enabling El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, McConnell turned him down, flat. Moreover, he told Obama that, if Obama went public, McConnell would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Obama should have done it anyway, god knows.) McConnell issued a watery denial of these charges, but there’s no good goddamn reason to believe him.

He doesn’t have the essential patriotism god gave a snail. He pledges allegiance to his donors, and they get what they want. He’s selling out his country, and he’s doing it in real-time and out in the open. This is worse than McCarthy or McCarran ever were. Mitch McConnell is the the thief of the nation’s soul.

8) A robotic device created for female pleasure had its technology award revoked for being ““immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image.

9) NYT writes, “Doug Jones Risks His Alabama Senate Seat Over the Shutdown and the Wall.”  Ummm, Doug Jones risks his Senate seat by running against any Republican not named Roy Moore next time.

10) This story about Michael Cohen paying some Liberty University flunkie to “rig” some on-line polls is just so sad, pathetic, and so Trump and so Liberty.

11) Baby Shark is all the rage.  I actually learned of this from my pre-schooler newphew, but then learned from my kids its everywhere and I just didn’t know about it.  I especially enjoy annoying them by singing it not quite right.

12) Loved this story on why the UCLA gymnastics floor routine went viral and on NCAA versus elite gymnastics.  For the record, I love NCAA gymnastics and have really enjoyed NC State meets in recent years.

13) Even a ten minute walk has benefits for your brain.  Just move, people.

14) I don’t get why it is not standard practice to numb with lidocaine before giving children shots.  We did it this year (we’ve been using it since Alex has had to get monthly blood draws) and it really helped.

“If you ask every single child in the United States, what are you most afraid of going to the pediatrician, the answer is needle pokes,” said Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf, the medical director of pain medicine and palliative care at Children’s Minnesota.

The pain and fear around childhood vaccinations, he said, contributes to the development of needle phobias, which can make people reluctant to get flu shots and other potentially lifesaving vaccines. Thus, pediatric pain specialists hope that reducing or eliminating the pain associated with needles can potentially reduce what we now call vaccine hesitancy, encouraging parents to get those annual flu shots for themselves and their children, and generally taking away some of the fear that can get in the way of ideal health care.

“We now have noticed that since we started doing this, it’s a life changing event, kids are less and less likely to be needle phobic,” Dr. Friedrichsdorf said. “We are trying to prove it’s lifesaving.” Through an initiative called the Comfort Promise at Children’s Minnesota, the entire hospital has committed to reducing or eliminating needle pain, along with other types of pain.

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Quick hits part I

1) The lasting impact of pre-K programs is an area a study that has led to quite a range of findings about how well and how long the benefits last.  The latest findings from NC, though, are pretty impressive:

Helen Ladd, Clara Muschkin, Yu Bai, and I have tracked over one million children born in our state between 1988 and 2000 across their preschool years through the end of eighth grade. Because state funds for NC Pre-K (previously called More at Four) were allocated to some counties in some years at higher levels than in other counties and other years, some children were lucky enough to be four years old living in a county where the program was well-funded, while other four-year-old children lived in less well-funded counties. We have reported previously that while they were in elementary school, children in cohorts with average state funding demonstrated higher test scores in reading and math, less grade retention, and fewer placements into special education, compared with children in cohorts with less or no funding.

Our new analyses, just released as a working paper, show that the positive impacts of NC Pre-K and Smart Start continue through grades 6, 7, and 8. There is no fadeout. In fact, the impact grows. By eighth grade, for children in counties with average funding, NC Pre-K has reduced the likelihood of placements into special education by over one third. We find positive impacts for every group of children we studied, including economically disadvantaged as well as advantaged children; African American, Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic children; and children whose mothers are well-educated as well as those whose mothers are less well-educated.

The findings are clear: The more funding that North Carolina invests for NC Pre-K (and Smart Start), the better children will fare as they get older. The benefits from that investment will not fade out but will grow over the lives of these children.

2) I really like the idea of rating health care systems on efficiency (i.e., bang for the buck) as that is where America’s health care is so outlandishly horrible.  I’m not all a fan of using life expectancy as a key measure (mortality amenable to health care, damnit), but, still probably pretty good as a rough metric.  Anyway, in this Bloomberg study of health care efficiency, of 56 countries, U.S. comes in tied for 54th.  Just beating out Bulgaria.  The idea that Republicans essentially accept this monstrous inefficiency is so frustrating.

3) I really meant to do a post on AOC and taxes.  I love that she’s pushing a 70% top marginal tax rate.  Overton window and all that.  And, good policy.  Paul Waldman:

Naturally, just suggesting increasing tax rates at the top sends Republicans to the fainting couch, since the single most fundamental idea to which their party is devoted at this point in history is that the wealthy should pay as little in taxes as possible. But why shouldn’t we discuss it?

Instead, all of the predictions Democrats made about it at the time have come true. Republicans said the tax cut would generate so much economic activity that revenue would soar and the deficit would shrink. In fact, the deficit has ballooned; it is projected to exceed $1 trillion this year. Republicans said corporations would pass their windfall on to workers; Democrats predicted that corporations would use the money for stock buybacks, boosting share prices to benefit wealthy investors. The Democrats were right.

By now, we can say with confidence that the foundational principle of Republican tax policy — that cutting taxes for the wealthy brings economic nirvana and raising taxes for the wealthy brings economic doom — is utterly and completely wrong. It’s not even worth debating anymore. The entire history of U.S. economic policy shows it to be false, from the failure of recent Republican tax cuts to the fact that we had much higher top marginal rates4)  at some of our periods of strongest economic growth. In the 1950s and 1960s, through the postwar boom, the top rate was as high as 91 percent and never fell below 70 percent. [emphasis mine]

4) Stephen Pearlstein defends a better kind of capitalism in Vox.  I’m a fan.

How about let’s start with fixing the capitalism we have — or as Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales cleverly put it, saving capitalism from the capitalists. As I outlined in the book, I would start by getting money out of politics — corporate money but also union money. And ending the stranglehold Wall Street has put on the real economy be demanding companies be run to maximize shareholder value. And more vigorous antitrust enforcement to deal with old-fashioned consolidation and the natural winner-take-all tendencies of the new economy. We need to bring back a serious inheritance tax, a serious and reformed corporate tax and a top marginal income tax of 40 percent.

And while we are at it, why not create a new set of financial institutions — banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and pension funds — that are owned by their customers rather than by shareholders. Even a capitalist can understand the logic of an annual “dividend” for every American as his or her share of the nation’s natural and institutional bounty, particularly if it is combined with an obligation for three years of national service (my version of universal basic income).

Want to get really radical? How about ending school segregation by class the way we did with segregation by race, through enlarged school districts, magnet schools, and creative use of school choice.

I’m all for making it possible once again to organize a union without getting fired or spending the next decade in court, which unfortunately is the current reality. But there may be other, better ways to reinvigorate the union movement and give a bit more power to workers in a post-industrial economy. My guess is that many American workers don’t want the kind of union you pine for — the ones that undermined the competitive viability of their companies, the ones that rejected all pay for performance schemes and saddled companies with rigid work rules…

yes, we live in a society marked by hierarchy and inequality — and, yes, that’s intrinsic to capitalism. And, yes, power — economic power, political power — matters in terms of how the good things in life are distributed. Market fundamentalists who still insist it’s all about voluntary transactions within the context of a perfectly competitive and efficiency marketplace that neutrally and objectively sets economic outcomes are either kidding themselves or are trying to kid us.

But let’s be clear: This somewhat unsavory economic system called capitalism has lifted billions out of subsistence poverty since the industrial revolution and given us longer, healthier, happier lives to a degree not matched by any other system people have tried. And although some people have more power, money, security, and happiness than others, and some people get to boss other people around, the fault line is not between “workers” and “capital.” It’s between high-skilled workers and low, coastal metropolitan workers and rural ones, between white workers and nonwhite, men and women workers, religious workers and non-religious.

Let’s get real: The favorite politician of the oppressed, left-behind workers who you idealize is Donald Trump, while denizens of Wall Street titans and Hollywood moguls and tech billionaires back liberal candidates and causes.

5) I’ve very intrigued by this idea of affective presence.  I’d like to think I have a pretty good one.  But, I definitely know some people who have this in spades and people who are definitely lacking.

Some people can walk into a room and instantly put everyone at ease. Others seem to make teeth clench and eyes roll no matter what they do. A small body of psychology research supports the idea that the way a person tends to make others feel is a consistent and measurable part of his personality. Researchers call it “affective presence.”

This concept was first described nearly 10 years ago in a study by Noah Eisenkraft and Hillary Anger Elfenbein. They put business-school students into groups, had them enroll in all the same classes for a semester, and do every group project together. Then the members of each group rated how much every other member made them feel eight different emotions: stressed, bored, angry, sad, calm, relaxed, happy, and enthusiastic. The researchers found that a significant portion of group members’ emotions could be accounted for by the affective presence of their peers.

6) It’s even easier to legally shoot people in Florida:

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s controversial “stand your ground” statute applies to police officers, just as it does to civilians. The ruling radically expanded the boundaries of justifiable homicide to grant police immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution, and a jury trial when they claim—even in spite of overwhelming contradicting evidence—to have killed in self-defense. This modification represents the latest in a steadily creeping distortion of justice that intensifies the “shoot first, ask questions later” logic of weaponized self-defense…

“Stand your ground” makes it very difficult to dispute even the most outrageous claims of self-defense. Drafted by a consortium of conservative lawmakers and gun lobbyists, Florida’s statute became the first of its kind in 2005, stipulating that a law-abiding person has no duty to retreat from a perceived threat wherever they may legally be. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick explained, “stand your ground” laws stretch the traditional Castle Doctrine beyond the boundaries of the home, allowing you to “bring your castle wherever you go.” On the surface at least, the laws appear to grant all law-abiding persons permission to use lethal force, without first trying to retreat, in order to protect themselves from a threat. When civilians claim to have killed someone because they were in fear for their lives, a judge at a pretrial hearing may rule that their fear was reasonable, in which case they escape arrest and prosecution.

But time and an accumulating archive of evidence shows that, in spite of their apparent race and gender neutrality, “stand your ground” laws intensify existing injustices while making already criminalized populations more vulnerable.

7) How to make a lie seem true?  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  It’s almost like I can think of somebody who does this all the time.

8) John Cassidy makes the case for Elizabeth Warren:

But Warren isn’t merely talking the talk. In the past few years, she has put together a policy agenda designed to level the economic playing field in favor of workers, consumers, and small businesses. To be sure, she supports some things that virtually all Democrats now favor, such as enacting a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars, further expanding access to health care, and building more public housing. But she also has some more distinctive ideas, such as breaking up monopolies and promoting competition, making it easier for unions to organize, and forcing any public company with revenues of more than a billion dollars to set aside forty per cent of the seats on its board of directors for workers’ representatives. The latter proposal was contained in Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, which she unveiled last summer. This draft legislation would also place limits on stock-based compensation for senior executives and force companies to get the approval of three-quarters of their shareholders for any political activities they are involved in.

Seizing upon these proposals, some of Warren’s conservative critics have tagged her as an old-style socialist, but that isn’t accurate. Rather than having the government take over the commanding heights of the economy, she wants to use legislation and regulation to root out corporate abuses, correct glaring market failures, and rebalance the power relationships between capital and labor, firms and consumers, and big businesses and small businesses. “I believe in markets,” she told The Nation, earlier this year. “But markets work only when everyone gets a fair opportunity to compete.”

9) Farhad Manjoo joins the chorus (including me) telling you to meditate:

And so, to survive the brain-dissolving internet, I turned to meditation.

Don’t roll your eyes. You’ve heard about the benefits of mindfulness before. Meditation has been rising up the ladder of West Coast wellness fads for several years and is now firmly in the zeitgeist.

It’s the subject of countless books, podcasts, conferencesa million-dollar app war. It’s extolled by C.E.O.s and entertainers and even taught in my kids’ elementary school (again, it’s Northern California). The fad is backed by reams of scientific research showing the benefits of mindfulness for your physical and mental health — how even short-term stints improve your attention span and your ability to focus, your memory, and other cognitive functions.

10) Loved this list of 20 Best TV Dramas since the Sopranos.  Of course my favorite of the Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad were all there.  For my son, I leave off with this:

Quick hits (part I and only)

Sorry, just one this weekend.

And we’ll start with more Elizabeth Warren:

1) Matt Taibbi:

Media critics like Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) have pointed out that early campaign coverage is often an absurd tautology. We get stories about how so-and-so is the “presumptive frontrunner,” but early poll results are heavily influenced by name recognition. This, in turn, is a function of how much coverage a candidate gets.

Essentially, we write the most about the candidate we write the most about.

We do this with polls, but also narratives. Is Howard Dean “too liberal” to win? He is if you write 10,000 articles about it.

You’ll often see this “we think this because we think this” trick couched in delicate verbiage.

Common phrases used to camouflage invented narratives include “whispers abound,” “questions linger” and today’s golden oldie from the Times, “concerns” (as in, the prospect of Warren and Sanders running has “stirred concerns”).

Warren recently also has been hit with bad-coverage synonyms like a “lingering cloud” (the Times), a “darkening cloud” (the Globe) and “controversy” that “reverberates” (the Washington Post).

The papers are all citing each other’s negative stories as evidence for Warren’s problems. It’s comic, once you lay it all out.

2) And Peter Beinart:

Read enough news reports about Elizabeth Warren’s declaration that she is running for president, and you notice certain common features. In its story on her announcement, The New York Times noted that Warren has “become a favorite target of conservatives” and that, in a recent national poll, “only about 30 percent [of respondents] viewed her favorably, with 37 percent holding an unfavorable view.” The Washington Post observed that Warren’s claim “that she was Native American” has “come under relentless attack from Republican opponents.” It also quoted a Boston Globe editorial that called Warren “a divisive figure.” On CNN, the election analyst Harry Enten suggested that Warren’s “very liberal record, combined with the fact that Donald Trump has already gone after her” has made her a—you guessed it—“divisive figure” whose “favorable ratings are not that high.”

These observations are factually correct. But they also help create a false narrative. Mentioning the right’s attacks on Warren plus her low approval ratings while citing her “very liberal record” and the controversy surrounding her alleged Native American heritage implies a causal relationship between these facts. Warren is a lefty who has made controversial ancestral claims. Ergo, Republicans attack her, and many Americans don’t like her very much.

But that equation is misleading. The better explanation for why Warren attracts disproportionate conservative criticism, and has disproportionately high disapproval ratings, has nothing to do with her progressive economic views or her dalliance with DNA testing. It’s that she’s a woman.

As I’ve notedbefore, women’s ambition provokes a far more negative reaction than men’s. For a 2010 article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, two Yale professors, Victoria Brescoll and Tyler Okimoto, showed identical fictional biographies of two state senators—one male and one female—to participants in a study. When they added quotations to the biographies that characterized each as “ambitious” and possessing “a strong will to power,” the male state senator grew more popular. But the female state senator not only lost support among both women and men, but also provoked “moral outrage.”

The past decade of American politics has illustrated Brescoll and Okimoto’s findings again and again.  [emphasis mine]

For the record, I think there’s plenty of non-gender-based opposition to Warren, but it is disingenuous to completely ignore the gender angle.

3) Liked Michele Goldberg’s take (where she also praises Washington governor, Jay Inslee).

Inslee dreams of uniting the country — including at least some of corporate America — against an existential external threat. “This is a moment where we can all be heroes, and all of us have a role to play in this heroic effort,” he said.

Warren is ready to lead a fight — a word she uses often — against the bloated, monopolistic ruling class inside our society. “America’s middle class is under attack,” she said in the video announcing the launch of her presidential exploratory committee. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie.”

4) AOC suggests a 70% top marginal rate.  Yglesias explains that, given U.S. history, this is actually entirely reasonable.

5) A serious and thoughtful essay from Brook Lindsey on what the future of a sane, center-right, Republican Party should look like.  I wouldn’t vote for this party, but our country would be immeasurably better if this were what Democrats were fighting against/working with.

6) As for the rather sharp language on a potential impeachment, Jon Favreau is exactly right.

Of course, the NYT, apparently, does not have the power to ignore it, and it had front homepage coverage all day yesterday.

7) Really interesting Dana Goldstein piece on the various policies (and controversies) super-expensive school districts are looking at so that teachers can afford to live where they teach.  Just gotta love the wealthy homeowners who object to the “low-income housing” (specifically for educators!) bringing down their nearby home values.

8) Somehow I missed this September Amanda Ripley piece on why American colleges are so expensive.  It’s really good.

Ultimately, college is expensive in the U.S. for the same reason MRIs are expensive: There is no central mechanism to control price increases. “Universities extract money from students because they can,” says Schleicher at the OECD. “It’s the inevitable outcome of an unregulated fee structure.” In places like the United Kingdom, the government limits how much universities can extract by capping tuition. The same is true when it comes to health care in most developed countries, where a centralized government authority contains the prices.

9) Scott Alexander’s posts tend to be amazing in their thoroughness, which is why I don’t read them all that often.  And rarely read the whole thing when I do.  But even just skimming through this post on the astounding cost increases in health care and education was fascinating.

10) I actually came across a lot of interesting slightly older stuff this week while looking for readings for my syllabi.  Really liked this on education, “What If High School Were More Like Kindergarten? Students in the U.S. are being taught to focus only on becoming educated.”

After visiting a Finnish kindergarten, I felt anxiety thinking of my hyper-stressed high-schoolers. The kindergarten classroom had little seating; in fact, we were told that there were never more than eight chairs in it at a time. Instead, there were pillows and small stools placed haphazardly around the room. A large, beautiful, wooden tree created a canopy over a cozy carpet in one corner. A nook in another corner provided a quiet space for students who wanted time to reflect by themselves. Musical instruments, books, and art supplies were readily available at eye level for little hands ready to grab them.

As I observed this student-centered classroom created for independent learning and play, I wished it for my students; and even stronger still, I wished it for my own 1- and 3-year-old children. Because even though I am a public-school teacher who has an undying commitment to public education, I still worry about my own children entering school. I worry that years of driving toward academic achievement will morph them into tear-filled teenagers who have forgotten how to play. In fact, according to a separate Gallup survey, 79 percent of elementary-aged children feel engaged in school, while only 43 percent of high-schoolers do. This breaks my heart. Like Lauri Jarvilehto, I think learning matters more than education, and somewhere along the way, students in the U.S. are being taught to forget to learn and focus only on becoming educated. Even in Finland, many high-school students still find school boring, but Finland takes the issue of student boredom seriously. Recently, the country has begun a reform to rid high-schools of mandatory subjects altogether, leaning instead on “phenomenon-based” curriculum.

11) Matt Grossman with a terrific summary of what we know about ideological media bias.  Straight into the syllabus.

12) What happened to Tucker Carlson anyway?

People in media ask themselves this question with the same pearl-clutching, righteous tone they use when discussing their aunt in Connecticut who voted for Trump.

In a tweet, Jon Lovett of Crooked Media and Pod Save Americanoted, “Tucker Carlson’s transition from conservative serious-ish writer to blustery CNN guy to Daily Caller troll to race-baiting Fox News host is like ice core data on what led to this moment in our politics.”

In June, Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic, “Carlson squandered his considerable God-given talent for scrupulously true commentary, opting instead for clickbait at The Daily Caller or dumbed-down demagoguery at Fox.”

13) A former student (who should know better) recently posted about term limits.  I responded with Bernstein:

The U.S. is a large, complicated nation. It requires expertise to write laws for such a nation. Anyone can have good ideas, but it takes some real knowledge to turn them into laws. If members of Congress are only to serve for a short time, then they’re going to turn elsewhere for that expertise. Where? Lobbyists are happy to write laws if Congress will let them. So are bureaucrats in executive-branch departments and agencies. So is the president — well, not the president specifically, but the White House staff and others within an administration. Term-limited legislators would inevitably turn to one of those choices. And neither lobbyists nor federal bureaucrats are term-limited, nor are they likely to be interested in the particular circumstances of any member’s constituency.

14) I’m doing pretty damn well.  But I decided to give the NYT’s 30-day Wellness challenge a go anyway.  Starting tomorrow.

15) David Roberts on Republicans and “innovation” as the solution to climate change:

As The Hill recently noted, a growing number of Republicans have “settled on innovation as their primary position to counter progressive Democrats” on climate change. Innovation “has a critical role,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told Fox News Sunday in November, “What the US needs to do is participate in a long-term conversation about how you get to innovation, and it’s going to need to be a conversation again that doesn’t start with alarmism.”

And most notably, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), current chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote a New York Times op-ed called “Cut Carbon Through Innovation, Not Regulation.”

The US has reduced emissions recently not through “punishing regulations, restrictive laws or carbon taxes,” he writes, “but because of innovation and advanced technology, especially in the energy sector.” He touts “investment, invention, and innovation.”

There’s no arguing: These are nice words. You’d be hard pressed to find an analyst in any field of economic policy who is against invention and innovation. Indeed, I have trouble recalling a single articulation of the anti-innovation position (though I’m open to correction).

But in the remainder of the op-ed, Barrasso — who has a lifetime score of 8 percent from the League of Conservation Voters — reveals what he means, and as climate policy, it is … unimpressive.

Rather than taxes, regulation, or legislation, Barrasso is eager to offer subsidies to the nuclear industry. He also wants to subsidize various uses for carbon dioxide captured from fossil fuel combustion — like enhanced oil recovery, which uses CO2 to force more oil out of the ground. (Needless to say, Barrasso is not among the co-sponsors on any carbon tax bill.)

That’s it. There’s not so much as a mention of whether these particular subsidies to large energy incumbents might produce the emission reductions needed, or any emission reductions at all. And Barrasso frames them as an alternative to policies that cost taxpayers money — as though subsidies are free.

It isn’t a climate policy. Like Paul Ryan’s infamous child-poverty initiative, it is an attempt to repackage familiar conservative policies — in this case, sporadic subsidies to favored industries, along with a promise of deregulation — under a fresh label.  [emphasis mine]

16) Why you should not freak out about the robot revolution.

17) Drum on how Americans seem to think crime is worse elsewhere despite the local news basically being crime, weather, and sports.

18) Richard Hasen with a very pessimistic (and, sadly, realistic) case for the Supreme Court doing all it can to enshrine partisan gerrymandering.

19) Three big insights into human evolution:

I will emphasize three big insights.

First, modern humans did not originate in a bottleneck after 200,000 years ago. Our origin was much deeper in time than this.

Second, our species originated in Africa from deeply structured ancestral populations. These were much more different from each other than any human populations are today. We do not know how they interacted or which gave rise to living peoples.

Third, some of these deeply divergent populations survived in Africa until recent times. During the time of human origins, “modern” humans were not alone.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Paul Waldman with “All the ludicrous defenses Republicans offer on the Russia scandal.”

2) Of course, many Republican politicians refuse to even discuss anything bad about the president.

3) Of course the Trump administration is trying to make your air dirtier, too.  Seriously, this is not just liberal hyperbole.  Interview with a former EPA scientist.  What the hell is wrong with Republicans?!

4) And here’s a fascinating and disturbing story from NPR, “Customs And Border Protection Paid A Firm $13.6 Million To Hire Recruits. It Hired 2.”

5) And it links to an interesting AP story on absurd misuse of polygraphs in hiring.

6) Okay, finally a link that made me happy.  Alan Sepinwall ranks the best TV shows of the streaming era.  The winner: Bojack.

So far, streaming has produced one show that feels like an inner circle Hall of Famer. Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated series — about a depressed, alcoholic, narcissistic horse (Will Arnett in the title role) who was a Nineties sitcom star — is capable of being TV’s funniest show and its saddest, often within seconds of each other. It takes advantage of the serialization that streaming subscribers so often want, even as its individual episodes often stand out as instant classics. It satirizes itself and the TV business as a whole while galloping rings around almost anything that business has done over the last few years. Everything else on this list ranges from very good to excellent but flawed; this is the one unequivocally Great streaming original so far.

7) I’ve been saying for years that “judicial activism” is simply any legal decision Republicans don’t like,  In a more traditional use, it does refer to judges who are aggressive in making new law (or overturning law) through their own interpretations.  The federal judge in Texas on the ACA is a perfect example of judicial activism amok.

8) A follow-up story a year later about a 12-year old boy who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge who ended up living, but killing the motorist he landed on.

9) I’m so done with Christmas gifts.  Of course, this is the privilege of being comfortably upper-middle class.  Alas, I’m too lazy to try and invent a new tradition for my family and don’t exactly want to go cold turkey.  But once all the kids are older, definitely going to reduce to a secret santa or give to charity or something.

10) So, ten years later, it seems that, somehow, the Octomom has actually done a decent job raising her kids.  It also seems like she’s quite a liar and a little bit crazy.

11) This: “Not just Hill interns: Public office pays so little, it’s the realm of the rich and retired.”  Serving in government is incredibly important work.  We should actually compensate it like that and ensure that we get a far more diverse cross-section of society represented in public service.

12) I meant to include this in my intellectual humility post and forgot.  It’s good, “The Benefits of Admitting When You Don’t Know.”

Then again, as Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar noted, believing that you “must be right”—in other words, lacking intellectual humility—can actually stymie discovery, learning, and progress.

Given this puzzle, my colleagues and I set out to test whether intellectual humility was empirically associated with learning outcomes.

We started by measuring high school students’ intellectual humility. We had students rate themselves on statements like “I am willing to admit it when I don’t know something” and “I acknowledge when someone knows more than me about a subject.” We wanted to know: Would this intellectual humility relate to students’ motivation to learn, their learning strategies, and even their grades? What’s more, would teachers observe any differences between students with differing levels of intellectual humility?

We found that the more intellectually humble students were more motivated to learn and more likely to use effective metacognitive strategies, like quizzing themselves to check their own understanding. They also ended the year with higher grades in math. We also found that the teachers, who hadn’t seen students’ intellectual humility questionnaires, rated the more intellectually humble students as more engaged in learning.

13) Rob Christensen knows more about NC politics than almost anybody alive.  Thus, there’s plenty to learn from his column, “10 things I’ve learned in 45 years of covering North Carolina politics.”  Here’s his last two points:

9. There is a mismatch between the voters and the legislature. North Carolina is a moderate state with a slight conservative tilt, according to the annual national polls of voter attitudes conducted by the Gallup organization. But the GOP legislature has made North Carolina into a national laboratory for sharply conservative policies. The policies don’t fit the profile of Tar Heel voters.

10. Bill Snider, the late Greensboro newspaper editor and columnist, once gave this advice to young reporters: ‘From time to time, you will be tempted to write that race is no longer a factor in Tar Heel politics. Don’t do it.’ While we have come a long way, racial views are still a potent force in shaping voting preferences.

14) This look at grade inflation in the Ohio State student newspaper is amazingly comprehensive and well done.  And, OMG, the amount of grade inflation at Ohio State!

15) If you are only good read one of these links it full, it should be Eduardo Porter’s great NYT feature, “The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy.”

Rural America is getting old. The median age is 43, seven years older than city dwellers. Its productivity, defined as output per worker, is lower than urban America’s. Its families have lower incomes. And its share of the population is shrinking: the United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena.

Rural communities once captured a greater share of the nation’s prosperity. Jobs and wages in small town America played catch-up with big cities until the mid 1980s. During the economic recovery of 1992 to 1996, 135,000 new businesses were started in small counties, a third of the nation’s total. Employment in small counties shot up by 2.5 million, or 16 percent, twice the pace experienced in counties with million-plus populations.

These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer.

The Economic Innovation Group measures “distress” as a combination of data ranging from joblessness and poverty to abandoned homes and educational attainment. Since the 1990s, there has been an “intensifying ruralization of distress,” said John Lettieri, the group’s president.

 

Let the kids sleep (again)!

It’s good to know that at least some school systems are willing to put up with whiny blowback and do what’s best for the kids, i.e., let teenagers sleep a little later.  And, in Seattle, they’ve done some cool research to demonstrate the clear benefits.  Via NPR:

Researchers at the University of Washington studied the high school students both before and after the start-time change. Their findings appear in a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. They found students got 34 minutes more sleep on average with the later school start time. This boosted their total nightly sleep from 6 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 24 minutes.

“This study shows a significant improvement in the sleep duration of students, all by delaying school start times so they’re more in line with the natural wake-up times of adolescents,” says senior author Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington researcher and professor of biology.

The study also found an improvement in grades and a reduction in tardiness and absences. [emphasis mine]

Enough excuses and status quo bias.  We need to do this everywhere!  (My take from last year in the N&O.)

Quick hits (part I)

1) Emily Bazelon and Miriam Krinsky on the steps that new reform-minded prosecutors should be taking:

Our recommendations begin with the premise that the level of punishment in the United States is neither necessary for public safety nor a pragmatic use of resources. Prosecutors can address this first by routing some low-level offenses out of the criminal justice system at the start. For the cases that remain, they can help make incarceration the exception and diverting people from prison the rule, a principle advanced by the district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eric Gonzalez. Finally, prosecutors should recognize that lengthy mandatory sentences can be wasteful, since most people age out of the period when they’re likely to reoffend, and also don’t allow for the human capacity to change.

As prosecutors know, locking people up makes them more prone to committing offenses in the future. They can lose their earning capacity and housing, leaving them worse off, often to the point of desperation. And so the community is often better served by interventions like drug or mental-health treatment, or by restorative justice approaches, in which a person who has caused harm makes amends to the victim. In some cases, the best response is to do nothing.

2) Slate essay, “How I Went From Graduate School Student to Amazon Warehouse Janitor: Why is it so hard for black women like me to find full-time work in our chosen fields?”  It just might have something to do with the fact that her degrees are a BA in English and MFA in creative writing with a plan to, “start my own company doing what I love: writing and creating opportunities for other artists. I wanted to create a space where emerging visual and performing artists could receive professional development and education, network with local companies and potential clients, and expand their portfolios with themed exhibitions and performance opportunities.”  To be fair, there’s some real data on the under-employment of Black women, but this should not be the exemplar.  I quite enjoyed the comments on this one.

3) Vox reviews a bunch of Democratic health plans for (near) universal coverage.  You will be unsurprised to learn my favorites were the two center-left thinktank plans.  And, yes, Medicare for all would be great if we were starting from scratch.  But we’re not and that therefore imposes huge non-monetary costs (in addition to the financial ones, that I am fine with).

4) Of course the Trump administration wants to roll back clean water regulations.

5) Didn’t do much more than skim Andrew Sullivan’s essay on how we all have religion and we have replaced real religion with political tribalism.  But, damn, Pesca’s takedown was good.  Ezra Klein is on the case, too.

6) Yeah, it’s not just the name-brand big Pharma ripping us off. The generic makers have quite the cartel:

What started as an antitrust lawsuit brought by states over just two drugs in 2016 has exploded into an investigation of alleged price-fixing involving at least 16 companies and 300 drugs, Joseph Nielsen, an assistant attorney general and antitrust investigator in Connecticut who has been a leading force in the probe, said in an interview. His comments in an interview with The Washington Post represent the first public disclosure of the dramatically expanded scale of the investigation.

The unfolding case is rattling an industry that is portrayed in Washington as the white knight of American health care.

7) This is really cool from Wired, “How the CIA trains spies to hide in plain sight.”

8) Great Yglesias essay on the growing anti-democracy problem of the GOP:

The steady erection of a system of minority rule that Republicans are implementing is not as dramatic as a populist putsch. But it’s actually happening before our eyes. And it’s led not by the rabble-rousing president or the unwashed masses who thrill to his rallies, but by the elite network of donors, operatives, and politicians who run the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

9) George Packer (what’s with him at The Atlantic instead of the New Yorker) hits on similar issues, “The Corruption of the Republican Party: The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.”

10) Former federal prosecutor, on the National Enquirer publisher: “AMI’s Immunity Deal Is a Disaster for Donald Trump.”

11) So, Americans way over-freakout about stranger abductions of children.  But every now and then it does happen and it’s horrible.  Like this 13-year old NC girl who was raped and murdered.  What’s even more awful is that if local law enforcement had followed through on a DNA hit on a rape case in 2016, the murderer would already surely have been in prison.  So sad all around.  And some heads should roll.

12) Enjoyed the science of growing a perfect Christmas tree.  Do love the NC fraser firs we get every year.

13) I love Melissa and Doug’s classic wooden toys.  Our kids have gotten lots of enjoyment out of them over the years.  Enjoyed this Vox feature on the company.

14) Well, ain’t this interesting, “Movies Starring Women Earn More Than Male-Led Films, Study Finds.”  My son applies the Bechdel test to pretty much everything we watch.

The research also found that films that passed the Bechdel test — which measures whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man — outperformed those that flunked it.

“The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” said Christy Haubegger, a C.A.A. agent who was part of the research team. “They’re a marketing asset.”

15) Prediction, Mark Harris will never represent North Carolina in the U.S. Congress.  The Post, “N.C. congressional candidate sought out aide, despite warnings over tactics.”

16) New breakthrough means maybe Moore’s law is safe for a while yet.

17) My home county, Wake, is geographically quite large.  It’s not uncommon for parts of the county to have snow and ice while others are safe to drive.  This invariably leads to calls to break up the county into smaller districts.  Our recent absurd (for December) amounts of snow led to a terrific tweetstorm about the history of the unified county schools and the role of this system in desegregation.   WCPSS is still overly cautious on weather (especially when somebody says, “hurricane!”), but this was a great education for local residents.

College is expensive

So, I had a college-level meeting scheduled this week where we were going to learn about “postvention.”  Well, that’s a new one for me, so I looked up the university administrator who was going to educate us on this.  Nothing against any of these particular people– and the only one them on this page I have worked with is very competent.  But this is why college is so expensive.  This is a lot of very-well compensated (it’s public record) administrators who don’t really have anything to do with the university’s core missions of teaching, research, and extension.  Listen to the job description of the Vice Chancellor leading this division:

Dr. Mullen provides leadership and vision for over 50 departments and administrative units in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. Responsibilities include oversight of a $120 million budget, 570 faculty, professional and administrative staff, and approximately 2,500 student employees. In this role, Dr. Mullen is responsible for curricular and co-curricular programming and support services that contribute to the success of all 35,000 students at NC State.

I’m not at all arguing that we should eliminate student affairs.  But that’s a lot of people and a lot of money.  University administration has grown way faster than other elements of the university and that’s a major driver of costs (nice summary here).

Anyway, you look at any one of these administrators and it probably seems pretty easy to justify their role.  And again, as far as I know, everybody at the page I linked is a good person doing a good job.  But, overall– college is too expensive and this is undoubtedly part of the problem.

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