Quick hits (part II)

1) Dana Goldstein reviews a new book on the for-profit college scam.

2) Costs/benefit-wise, guns in the home–especially due to dramatically heightened suicide risk– fail miserably.

3) Love a good, negative review, like the one of the new book Convergence arguing that everything is all coming together:

Watson’s apparent mastery of the ingredients and recipes of all the sciences might stagger a general reader used to the works of mortals. What will stagger the knowledgeable is the confidence with which he presents nonsense.

4) When it comes to analyzing college basketball, I love Ken Pomeroy.  Slate This article on how the metrics the NCAA uses grossly discriminate against mid-major teams is really good.

5) Sticking with college sports… all the TV money flowing in for football and basketball means that coaches of even the lowliest sports teams now well out-earn full professors.

6) Liberals are turning to MSNBC in droves.  I’d prefer the NYT, but I’ll take political engagement with cable news channels with no political engagement.

7) How intellectual humility can make you a better person.  I think the constant rejection of trying to get articles published probably serves academics well in this regard.

8) Impossible Foods Impossible Burger is about to massively scale up.  I sure do hope this is the  beginning of the end of meat.

9) Democrats are divided on how to approach Gorsuch.  Here’s an idea– it’s Merrick Garland’s seat.

10) A looming future of antibiotic resistance?  Maybe.  But I’m actually an optimist on what scientists will be able to accomplish on this.

11) Kevin Drum is right that fiscal conservatives should love national healthcare.  The problem is, more than they like saving money, they hate giving government benefits to people they think do not deserve them.  Drum  with the key reason national health care saves money:

It’s ironic, but it turns out that central governments are a lot better at keeping a lid on health care costs than the private sector. The reason is taxes. National health care is paid for out of tax revenue, and the public pressure to keep taxes low is so strong that it universally translates into strong government pressure to keep health care costs low. By contrast, the private sector is so splintered that no corporation has the leverage to demand significantly lower costs. Besides, if health care costs go up, corporations can make up for it by keeping cash salaries low. This is part of the reason that median incomes have grown so slowly over the past 15 years. Corporations simply don’t care enough about high health care costs to really do anything about it.

12) Why do comedians laugh at their own jokes?

13) Chait with a great piece on Ryan, Trump, health care, and taxes:

Liberals have been warning for years that the “alternative” Republican plan that could actually pass Congress was a mirage. There was no plan that could be both acceptable to conservative anti-government ideology and to the broader public. The dilemma Republicans find themselves in now — a plan that subsidizes too little coverage to be acceptable to vulnerable members, and too much coverage for the party’s right wing — has always been unavoidable. Whoever had to write the first version of the Republican health-care bill that would have to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and pass both chambers was given a task with impossible parameters. Ryan is being turned into the fall guy for eight years of lies that the entire Republican party, himself included, told the country and itself.

However, Ryan does appear to be the mastermind behind the legislative sequence Trump has agreed to. The plan is rooted in Ryan’s obsessive quest to pass a huge tax cut for the rich that will be permanent. That strategy requires a series of difficult steps, which — if carried out correctly at every turn — will ultimately culminate in a massive tax cut that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office as revenue-neutral after ten years, and thus avoid the arcane budgetary requirement that caused the Bush tax cuts to expire automatically after a decade. This intricate calculation, based on complying with the Senate’s budget rules, is the linchpin of the entire Republican legislative strategy.

 

14) Sometimes it really takes just a little bit of money to get a college student over the finishing line.  Good to see that some colleges realize what a good investment this is.

15) Unlike the rest of Europe, anti-immigrant, right-wing parties are making little headway in Spain.  Read the NPR story to find out why.

16) A student recently shared this with me– I missed it last year.  How Denmark treats their prisoners well and it is a win for everybody:

Still, the value of Denmark’s example to a reform-minded public lies not in replicating its particular strategies or techniques but in adopting its broader ethos — one that grants prisoners dignity and allows room for error.

This is a lesson that the United States needs to learn. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, yet we have little to show for either the money invested or the lives lost to this system. U.S. prisoners wear anonymous facility garb, eat mass produced food in assembly cafeteria lines, and spend hours on end in tiny, bleak cement cells. As President Obama noted this past week, as many as 100,000 prisoners across the United States are housed in solitary confinement. Hundreds of these prisoners are released directly to the streets every year, often with dangerous consequences: two went on shooting rampages upon release in 2013…

Officials say a zero tolerance policy is the only way to ensure safety in a facility full of felons. But in reality, such policies do little. Prisoners use drugs, escape and recidivate. In spite of invasive search routines for prisoners and visitors alike, prisons across the United States report problems with contraband from drugs to cellphones to prison-made knives. Even though U.S. prisoners are not permitted to have knives or prepare their own food for safety reasons, in 2011 the Supreme Court found that one California prisoner died unnecessarily every week — lives lost not to violence, but to medical negligence. And when a prisoner escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York in June 2015, more than 60 prisoners complained of a backlash of abusive beatings. Danish prison officials say that their prisoners act out less because they are treated humanely; they, too, are allowed to make mistakes. [emphasis mine]

17) Should have had this last week.  No, smartphones are not luxury items.  Giving up your Iphone does not exactly save you enough to buy health insurance.  Only out-of-touch Republican legislators seem to think so.

18) Dahlia Lithwick on how Trump’s own words were a key in knocking down travel ban 2.o.

19) William Ayers on political conflict on campus:

20) Speaking of which, NC State students not particularly big fans of free speech:

21) Last, and certainly not least, the latest research strongly suggests that Voter ID laws do not reduce turnout.  If you are a liberal, you were probably too ready to believe the earlier research that they do.  To be clear, I still strongly oppose Voter ID laws because they are a solution to a problem that does not exist and do disproportionately impact minorities and young people.  Just because they are not as effective at demobilization as their Republican sponsors hoped, does not make them okay.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This Andrew Sullivan essay on intersectionality as religion is a definite must-read (in response to recent Charles Murray incident):

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

2) And Frank Bruni with his take on the “dangerous safety of college.”

3) Speaking of colleges… the ongoing fiasco and horrid waste of NJ taxpayer dollars that is Rutgers athletics.

4) As mentioned, I’m reading SapiensAustralians, where I learned that one of the unsolved mysteries in the study of prehistoric humans is how they managed to get to Australia around 50,000 years ago.  The latest on what scientists are learning about the original .

5) Speaking of humans…there really seems to be an increasing problem with male sperm.  And that’s a problem for all humans.  Mine have done their part, but I worry about my sons.

6) I’m not usually a big fan of the liberal rants, but this one against rural, white, conservatives is really, really good:

Here are the honest truths that rural Christian white Americans don’t want to accept; until they accept these truths, nothing is going to change:

  • Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
  • Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and food prices would soar.
  • Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. The almost exclusively white business owners are responsible, because they care more about their shareholders (who are also mostly white) than about American workers.
  • No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
  • Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white god they want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, have a gay pastor or accept gays for membership.
  • Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their lives either, especially women they complain about being teenage single mothers.
  • Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard-earned tax dollars” any more than many of their fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy or outsourcing overseas belong to all races.
  • They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to farm subsidies, crop insurance and commodities protections, they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
  • They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • They complain about globalization, yet line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple products. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engines were made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radios made in Korea, and computer parts made in Malaysia.
  • They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
  • When jobs dry up for whatever reason, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in failing towns.
  • They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers,” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare checks every month.

And plenty more good ones in that list.

7) LeVar Ball— most insane sports dad ever?  I’m thinking so.

8) I saw “Into the Woods” at my son’s high school last night.   First time seeing it.  The kids were terrific– fabulous performance.  As for the musical itself, I’ve concluded that it’s hugely over-rated.  I agree with both these takes.

9) I love the Oxford comma.  Always use it.  It matters.

10) Helpful reminder: “learning styles” are a fiction.

11) Chuck Todd makes a ludicrous argument that big data led to polarization.  Seth Masket shoots him down.  Classic post hoc ergo propter hoc.

12) The British wiretap thing.  Seriously, just step back for a minute and think about how insane it is that somebody like Trump is a president!  The man is a toddler.

13) Are teenagers using smartphones instead of drugs?!  Maybe.  But see #11.

14) Just so we’re clear.  Steve King is a disgusting, deplorable human being.  And he’s mainstream in today’s Republican party.

15) Using artificial intelligence to prevent suicide.

16) For-profit colleges suck. They are basically a scam on poor people.  And taxpayers.  Oh, and, of course, they are making headway with the Trump administration.

17) North Carolina’s loss (HB2) is South Carolina’s gain.  Ugh.

18) Why does Trump hate cities?  Because they show that liberalism (and ethnic diversity) works.

19) Love the headline for this take on Trump’s budget, “Trump’s Budget Expands the G.O.P.’s War on Math.”

20) On how the internet is saving culture because people are willing to pay for good content (agree, says this subscriber to Netflix, HBO, NYT, etc.)

21) Since I’m just queuing this up anyway, and one of quick hits two biggest fans (DJC) is already up and 6:00, I’m moving the queue time up in his honor.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, we should admit that integrating large numbers of refugees may be hard and complicated.

2) When the headline says it all, “G.O.P. Repeal Bill Would Cut Funding for Poor and Taxes on Rich.”

3) The kids are alright.  Or, at least committing way less crime than they used to.

4) Cutting the IRS means good news for wealthy tax cheaters.  Hooray!

5) Seth Masket with the case for Democratic recklessness.

6) George Will just amuses me– bringing up the fact that liberals in the early 20th century supported eugenics to damn current liberals.  Yeah, yeah, and lots of Southern Democrats used to be racists.

7) Oh, man have I loved our super-warm winter and early spring, but there are potentially serious ecological costs:

These kinds of mismatches can upset complex relationships between animals and their environment. In the Arctic, some grasses bloom a month before normal, depriving hibernating animals of a crucial early-spring food source. Snowshoe hares turn white during the winter, and then brown during the summer, so that they can be better camouflaged against the ground. But now that snow is melting earlier in the year, many are still wearing their white coats in the spring mud—making them especially easy for predators to pick off.

These kind of seasonal mismatches are best documented in the Arctic, but researchers are increasingly finding them elsewhere.

8) Trump’s bizarre virtual conversation with Fox & Friends.

9) Marines are generally seen as holding themselves to an especially high-standard of honor.  Thus, this disgusting and pervasive sexual harassment of female Marines is especially problematic.

10) Fascinating story of an adoption gone wrong.  This situations are always so difficult.  And a college friend of mine, now law professor (Kevin Maillard) weighs in.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on the sketchy logic of Trump’s new travel ban.

12) Last wee I listened to an utterly fascinating interview of Yuval Harari by Ezra Klein and started reading Sapiens.  So good.  Here’s Harari on AI and the future of humans.

13) Time Inc. is cutting back on the magazine business.  Can’t blame them.  There was a long time when I had weekly subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly.  But that was a long time ago.

14) Read this amazing essay by a dying woman about trying to find a good partner for her soon-to-be-widowed husband.  Heartbreaking.  And then I realized it was by one of my very favorite children’s book authors– the brilliant Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  So sad.  (If you have kids in the picture book, give Yes Day and Uni the Unicorn a try).

15) Frank Bruni defends Trump against the food snobs.

16) Kristoff on the reality of Planned Parenthood.  Defunding it is just so, so stupid.

This is health care at its best, preventing diseases and averting teenage pregnancies, all while saving public money. Yet clinics like these across America are in peril because of myopic Washington politics…

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about the government paying for abortions. That’s already mostly banned. This is about paying for birth control and cancer screenings when the provider has some connection, even a remote one, to abortions…

Pence and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, I think, well-intentioned politicians driven by a revulsion for abortion. But the truth is that these clinics do more to reduce abortion rates than any army of anti-abortion demonstrators.

17) Washing your produce is probably a waste of time.  I’ll stick with it anyway.

18) Republicans in control of Congress = easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes.  That’s good– right?

19) Making up data about your cancer research is a problem.  Unless you bring in millions in grant money to your university.

20) The hallways of my department are too quiet, too.

21) I love birds.  I love pantones.  Thus, I reallyarticle loved this about the role of bird coloration in the evolution of pantone.

22) I was waiting in the dentist office this week when I randomly came across this article on twitter about how it really makes no sense to divorce oral health from the rest of human medicine.

23) This NYT feature on the shame of Baylor sports (coddling sex offenders to achieve victories) is really good.

What’s missing in the education debate

Principals.

David Leonhardt:

Virtually every public school in the country has someone in charge who’s called the principal. Yet principals have a strangely low profile in the passionate debates about education. The focus instead falls on just about everything else: curriculum (Common Core and standardized tests), school types (traditional versus charter versus private) and teachers (how to mold and keep good ones, how to get rid of bad ones). You hear far more talk about holding teachers accountable than about principals.

But principals can make a real difference. Overlooking them is a mistake — and fortunately, they’re starting to get more attention. The federal education law passed in 2015, to replace No Child Left Behind, puts a new emphasis on the development of principals. So have some innovative cities and states, including Denver, New Orleans and Massachusetts.

There is no better place to see the difference that principals can make than Chicago. I realize that may sound surprising, given the city’s alarming recent crime surge.

And yet: Chicago’s high school graduation rate has climbed faster than the national rate. The city’s teenagers now enroll in college at a rate only slightly below that in the rest of the country. Younger children have made big gains in reading and math, larger than in every other major city except Washington, which has a far better known success story. Chicago’s good news is not limited to the three R’s, either. Students are also spending more time studying art, music and theater.

The progress has multiple causes, including a longer school day and school year and more school choices for families. But the first thing many people talk about here is principals.

“The national debate is all screwed up,” Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, told me. “Principals create the environment. They create a culture of accountability. They create a sense of community. And none of us, nationally, ever debate principals.”

And, while we’re at it, it’s worth noting that our schools are not stagnating cesspools:

But like Chicago, the country has also made real progress. The national high school graduation rate has risen to an all-time high of 83 percent, from 75 percent a decade ago. In elementary and middle school, math and reading scores are higher than a decade ago.

Why? Educators have learned a lot over the last couple of decades about what works. Teaching quality matters tremendously. So do empowered principals, held accountable for their schools’ performance. Students need many hours of instructional time — as well as extracurriculars. And parents and students alike should not be trapped in a monopoly: They should have the ability to switch to a different public school if their local one isn’t a good fit.

There is no great mystery to what students need. As Emanuel said, the goal is to create the kind of support and options that upper-middle-class parents all over the country give to their own children. When that happens, it’s the single best strategy for fighting economic inequality.

I’d suggest Leonhardt puts a little much emphasis on choice, relative to these other facts.  Many top-performing school systems achieve that without a lot of school choice.  For them, there simply are no failing schools that students are “trapped” in.  That needs to be our goal.

Teacher merit pay

Let’s take a brief respite from health care and Trump.  I was recently updating my education policy lecture and taking a look at merit pay.  Good post from Daniel Pink from a few years ago that nicely captures why merit pay does not work nearly so well as all it’s proponents are sure it must:

1. Some rewards backfire. Fifty years of social science tells us that “if-then” rewards – that is, “If you do this, then you get that” – are great for simple, routine tasks and not so great for complicated, creative tasks. Since teaching is creative and complex rather than simple and algorithmic, tying teacher pay to student performance (especially on standardized tests) flies in the face of the broad evidence.

2. Contingent pay for teachers just isn’t effective. What’s more, the specific evidence – a cluster of recent studies that have examined “if-then” pay schemes in schools – has shown them to be failures. See, for instance, this piece of research by Vanderbilt University or this one by Harvard’s Roland Fryer or this study by Rand that prompted the New York City public schools to abandon its pay-for-performance plan.

3. Money is still important. The fact that “if-then” motivators often go awry doesn’t mean that rewards in general or money in particular are bad. Not at all. The research shows that money matters. It just matters in a slightly different way than we suspect. Paying people unfairly — say, when Jane makes less than June for the same work — is extremely demotivating. And, of course, low salaries can deter some people from pursuing certain professions. Therefore, the best use of money as a motivator, at least for complex work, is to compensate people fairly and to try to take the issue of money off the table.  That means paying healthy base salaries… [emphasis mine]

5. We’ve got the wrong diagnosis. The notion that the central problem in American education is lack of teacher motivation is ludicrous. The vast majority of teachers in this country are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people you’ll ever meet – folks who work their butts off in difficult conditions for little recognition. Pay for performance is a weak prescription in part because it’s based on a faulty diagnosis…

7. Teaching isn’t investment banking. I find it peculiar that we single out teachers for “if-then” pay when we wouldn’t consider it for other public servants. Should we pay police officers based on how many tickets they write or whether the crime rate in their district drops? How about compensating soldiers based on whether our borders have been attacked or how many of their colleagues have been injured or killed? Would legislators, who are behind much of the bonuses-for-test-scores push, ever agree to hinge their own pay on whether budget deficits rose or fell?

Yes!  Number one, just pay all teachers more.  A lot more.  There can certainly be some financial rewards for especially meritorious teachers, but there is just evidence that such systems will do anything to increase teacher quality.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Really enjoyed this “The Confederacy was a con job on whites.”  Good stuff.  Also interesting/depressing to read the comments and see the latest from white supremacy apologists (the fact that slavery was legal in the whole USA until the Civil War seems to be a big thing with this crowd).

2) Many have been prosecuted for less than what Sessions has done:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a seemingly false statement under oath during his confirmation hearing. Admittedly, not every potential perjury case gets prosecuted, and Sessions may well have defenses to such a charge. But as lawyers at the Justice Department and attorneys in private practice who have represented individuals accused in such cases, we can state with assurance: Federal prosecutors have brought charges in cases involving far more trivial misstatements and situations far less consequential than whether a nominee to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer misled fellow senators during his confirmation hearings. [emphasis mine]

3) This is the reality of so much politics.  There’s a needless cap on beer production by craft breweries in NC.  Big beer distributors benefit and want to keep it that way and spend lots of money on NC legislators.

4) Will ending net neutrality speed up the internet?  I doubt it.  But it’s the argument of Trump’s FCC head.

5) Big fan of John McWhorter.  This had to be about as odd a piece as I recall reading in the NYT:

But I recall another episode in which Mom’s comfort with the quirky took a different turn. One afternoon when I was 13, we pulled into our driveway at 12:29 p.m. I was fascinated at the time by ancient TV shows (I still am), and an “I Love Lucy” rerun was on at 12:30. This was before VCRs, so you had to catch shows when they were on or never see them.

Mom was getting through the front door slowly, so I squeezed past her to catch the opening credits, which to me had some kind of mystique for reasons I forget. I turned the TV on and was standing there watching Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz being written in the little heart when Mom blew in and — snap! — turned the set off and pointed me into a chair.

 “You know what’s going to happen to you if you don’t learn to be more patient?” she asked.

“What?” I said.

“You’re going to have premature ejaculations as a man! Do you know what that is?”

“No.”

“You’ll be having sex with your wife and you’ll always finish too fast. People divorce over that, you know. Think about it!”

And she turned and left the room, only to come back a couple of beats later to say: “And you know what else? Your orgasms will be weak!”

6) I suspect I’ll be making this point a lot in coming years: Fox = Pravda.  This from a story on Pence’s emails is real:

7) Nice Vanity Fair piece on the alt-left problem.  Personally, I’m against political movement that is not so interested in reality.

8) Of course Trump’s deregulating of the FDA would not actually make us healthier.

9) “Dreamer” immigrant arrested for speaking out.

10) The case that mass surveillance is not only intrusive, it’s ineffective.

11) An NC Republican legislator comes around and admits the follow of voucher programs:

So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion…

So beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, North Carolina allocated $10 million for these vouchers. That amount has increased every school year since, and for the 2017-2018 school year, North Carolina will spend some $44.84 million for vouchers. What’s more concerning is that the amount allocated to vouchers increases each year by $10 million. That means for the 2027-2028 school year, North Carolina is scheduled to spend $144.84 million on vouchers. That’s a lot of money that North Carolina will spend supporting a voucher system that every major study has shown fails at these programs’ core purpose: providing better educational outcomes for our children. All of these studies show that vouchers have, in fact, created worse educational outcomes. [emphasis mine]

12) Paul Waldman on Pence, emails, and cybersecurity.

13) Krugman Paul Ryan’s cramped view of “freedom.”

Even though Mr. Ryan says he believes that freedom is “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need,” he doesn’t want the government to do anything to help people experience that freedom. If he got his way on spending, the programs that allow the poor and struggling to buy food, housing and the other things they need would be utterly debilitated. The rich are the only ones who could be truly free in his vision of the country.

 14) Love this from Wired on the good fortune that nuclear weapons are so expensive:

The massive expense and technological complexity associated with developing nuclear weapons is one of the great strokes of luck in human history. Imagine an alternate universe where nukes were like IEDs: cheap, simple, and constructible using widely available commercial parts and materials. Would humanity have survived the discovery of nuclear technology?

Certainly not. We barely survived as it is.

In this sense, the mass destruction cost curve is protective. The diplomats, scientists, spies, and soldiers of the global non-proliferation regime do incredible work in preventing terrorists and greater numbers of countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, their extremely difficult mission would be utterly impossible if uranium was just a little easier and cheaper to weaponize. Perhaps it would be better if nuclear weapons never existed, but, given that they do, we are lucky that they reside at the very top of the mass destruction cost curve.

15) Radley Balko is just not having it with the praise of Trump’s speech this week:

Trump’s speech included plenty of lies, but they were the same lies that we’re used to hearing from this president. Because there weren’t any new lies, Trump gets praised. The speech was full of fact-free fear-mongering and ethnic scapegoating. But it’s the same variety of fear-mongering and ethnic scapegoating we’ve come to expect from this president. At least he didn’t ratchet up the demagoguery. So Trump gets praised. The speech was shallow and narcissistic. But that’s just who Trump is. It wasn’t any more shallow or narcissistic than, say, his Twitter feed. So Trump gets praised. The alleged magnanimity in the speech for which Trump is winning plaudits wasn’t just transparent and contrived; it was wholly at odds with Trump’s past behavior. His very recent past behavior. As in, his behavior from just hours earlier. But the pundit class has the memory of a tsetse fly. So Trump gets praised.

16) My wife did read to the end of quick hits yesterday.  Hooray!

Quick hits (part I)

1) I think I shared this once already, but I went back and read it more closely.  This idea of moral re-framing is really important, I think.

2) Twelve bacteria to be afraid of.

3) Thanks to computers, we can be very clear on whether there’s gerrymandering.  Here’s hoping the Supreme Court accepts the inescapable logic.  Monkey Cage:

There is a perfectly good scientific standard for determining whether there is partisan gerrymandering. This is the “partisan symmetry” measuredeveloped by Andrew Gelman and Gary King. Essentially, symmetry requires that a specific share of the popular vote (say, 60 percent) would translate into the same number of congressional seats, regardless of which party won that share of the vote. For instance, if winning 60 percent of the popular vote in a state gives the Republican Party 65 percent of the congressional seats, then the Democratic Party should also win 65 percent of the seats if it wins 60 percent of the vote.

….But as Justice Scalia pointed out in his Vieth opinion, parties do not have a right to equal representation, any more than any other social group. It is only individual voters who have a right to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution….In our book, we show that the partisan symmetry standard can be logically derived from the equal treatment of individual voters, based on recent results in social choice theory. In partisan elections, you cannot treat all individual voters equally without treating all parties equally. This means that the party that gets more votes must get more seats. This sounds obvious, but it is precisely what the Supreme Court did not accept in the Vieth case. We show — line by mathematical line — that this logic is inescapable.

4) What’s the deal with Japan’s problematic economy you are always hearing about?  Not much– they’re just getting older.  Oh, and a great way to counter-act that (and one of our keys to success)– immigration.

5) Emily Bazelon looks at how Bannon and Sessions could reshape federal law enforcement (not for the better, mind you).

6) Love this Hidden Brain podcast on the tremendous benefits of using therapy for Chicago teens at high risk for violence.

7) After DeVos hailed HBCU’s as “school choice” Yglesias with a nice piece on just how dumb the selection and confirmation of DeVos was:

the Republican Party only sabotaged itself by confirming weak nominees like DeVos. Her confirmation hearing was a gaffe-tastic disaster, and her tenure in office is shaping up to be much the same. It would not have been difficult to find someone with similar policy views to DeVos but a somewhat deeper understanding of them and some actual experience in a job that involves a heavy public communications element. Republicans count DeVos’s confirmation as a “win.” But your Cabinet is supposed to be a portfolio of assets, and she’s a huge liability.

8) Nice to see the book thrown at these white supremacists using racism as terrorism.  That says, 13 years in prison seems awfully harsh.

9) I, too, am all for more reasonable alcohol policies in North Carolina.  And as for the drinking age, I think it is ridiculous that at 18 you can go to war, be sentenced to death for a crime, and vote for president, but not buy a beer.

10) It is truly amazing and appalling the degree to which our “justice” system will forgive bad forensic “science” if it has already led to a conviction.  In this case, the absurd non-science of the “death mask.”  Radley Balko on it, as always.  This quote is the key:

As I wrote here in 2014, the main problem is that both federal court precedent and the federal code value the finality of verdicts more than justice.

11) The headline says it all, “What Trump’s travel ban ignores: Radicalized U.S. citizens pose the greatest threat.”

12) This NPR story about the problem of replacement music in streaming TV shows was really interesting.  I hate that the rights owners are so petty on this.  I also assume that at this point when TV shows buy the rights to music they also buy the rights for future digital broadcast.

13) Fred Kaplan on the absurdity of Trump’s proposed Defense increase:

Many Republicans, including Trump, like to say that the nation has fewer planes and ships than at any time since the end of World War II or since some other signpost from the distant past. Assuming the numbers are accurate, they’re irrelevant. The firepower of a single aircraft carrier dwarfs the entire fleet of any nation from earlier eras. No generals or admirals would say they’d trade the force of today with that of any yesteryear.

One might argue that the military needs more weapons of specific types to meet rising threats of a certain sort. If so, the question isn’t how much to spend but what to buy. Trump’s directive spells out no such details. Those will be filled in and hammered out later by the Office of Management and Budget, the comptrollers of the various departments, and the relevant committees in Congress. Meanwhile, simply throwing money at the Pentagon won’t necessarily solve the problems, especially if it means taking money away from other buildings in town.

14) Amanda Marcotte on the rule of not abortion, but race and segregation, in the founding of the religious right.

15) Jamelle Bouie on Trump’s deafening silence on the Kansas shootings:

Trump’s selective outrage is more than just a double standard. Like his early blitz of executive orders, it’s an important symbolic gesture. Proclaiming new draconian measures to protect police officers is explicitly siding with “Blue Lives Matter” against protesters and reformers. Likewise, elevating one kind of attack as worthy of condemnation and ignoring another is to implicitly say that one kind of assailant is more dangerous than another—and for that matter, the life of one kind of victim is more valuable than another. For Trump, “radical Islamic terrorism”—which in practice just means Islam—is the principal threat to the United States. And so any attack on a Western target (Trump is also seemingly indifferent to terrorist violence against Muslim targets) from anyone who fits that description, or who can be linked to refugees or immigration, becomes a cause for focus and attention from the White House.

The opposite is true for anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant hate crimes, or acts of terror planned or committed by white supremacists. Despite the real toll they take on communities, those attacks are of little interest to the administration. Indeed, in another largely symbolic move announced at the beginning of this month, Trump said he would revamp and rename a program designed to counter all violent extremism so that it focused on “radical Islamic extremism.” It will no longer target white supremacist groups and other racist extremists. Again, it’s a symbol and a signal: Islam is the threat, not racism or weaponized hate toward nonwhites and immigrants.

16) The “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it” billboard conflict in NC.

17) On insane prescription drug prices and how pharmaceutical companies give away free drugs to deflect attention from the problem.  Don’t tell me we need more capitalism in health care.  $4500 for a $1 drug is not working.

Patient-assistance programs like Kaleo’s have historically been used to justify exorbitant price hikes, while undercutting the political case for pricing regulation. “That has been an effective P.R. tactic that has helped to forestall regulation for half a century,” said Jeremy Greene, a medical historian and the author of the book, “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine.” Philanthropy programs, in other words, are used to inoculate the company against complaints that the full prices of their drugs are too high. “The patient-assistance programs are ways to charge much higher prices to people in insured populations,” Geoffrey Joyce, a health economist at the University of Southern California, said. “But that money gets paid by someone, generally by ending up in premiums or by being born by taxpayers.”

18) Trump’s crazy adviser, Sebastian Gorka, will literally not even admit that Islam is a religion.  Ugh.

19) This story about an Idaho teen who got a slap on the wrist for sodomizing a mentally disabled teammate with a coat hanger has one breathtakingly awful quote from the judge:

Stoker, as he sentenced Howard to community service and probation, was emphatic that the assault did not constitute a rape, the British newspaper reports.

“Whatever happened in that locker room was not sexual,” he said. “In my view, this is not a case about racial bias,” he also said.

“People from the east coast have no idea what this case is about,” he said, according to the Guardian. “But I’m not going to impose a sentence that is not supported by the law.”

Idaho values.

20) In defense of the college lecture:

Lectures are not designed to transmit knowledge directly from the lecturers’ lips to students’ brains — this idea is a false one, exacerbated by the problematic phrase “content delivery.” Although lecturers (hopefully) possess information that, at the beginning of a lecture, their students do not, they are not merely delivering content. Rather, giving a lecture forces instructors to communicate their knowledge through argument in real time.

The best lectures draw on careful preparation as well as spontaneous revelation. While speaking to students and gauging their reactions, lecturers come to new conclusions, incorporate them into the lecture, and refine their argument. Lectures impart facts, but they also model argumentation, all the while responding to their audience’s nonverbal cues. Far from being one-sided, lectures are a social occasion.

21) I really love this on how good typography could have prevented the Oscars fiasco.  So very true.

22) Should we move to open peer review?  One neuroscientist strongly thinks so.

23) Apparently a bunch of idiots at Middlebury College shouted down Charles Murray’s lecture and then attacked his car when he was leaving.  There’s some open dialogue for you.  Damn, do I hate, hate, hate, that it is liberals that act this way.  Bill Ayres‘ take:

That said: this behavior reported here by a group of Middlebury students is appalling. If free speech on a campus means anything, it means that people who are invited by members of the community – people who apparently thought he had something worth listening to – be allowed to share their views with decorum and civility. Shouting a speaker down, and then jumping on his car as he attempts to leave, are inconsistent with this notion.

The open letter referred to in the article linked above tries to square this circle by arguing, essentially, that there are certain views that are outside the boundaries of free speech protection and which therefore can and should be censured. It also argues that the airing of those views in and of itself constitutes a threat to other members of the community, a form of (their word) intimidation…

The students in question (on both sides) probably don’t see it this way, but this is a politics of force. It is a politics that says, I am right and you are wrong and I am going to use all of the power at my disposal to impose my will on you. It is as anti-democratic as anything they are protesting against. I do not envy my colleagues in the Middlebury administration as they try to untangle this mess.

24) Really interesting interview on the roots of the opioid epidemic:

At the end of the day, opioids were the solution not for patients’ problems but for doctors’ problems.

There has been a huge transformation in the past 30 years in health care delivery, beginning with a migration out of private practice into large integrated health care centers. That’s something that I call the Toyotazation of medicine — tremendous pressure on doctors within these large integrated health care centers to practice medicine in a certain way and get patients out in a timely fashion to be able to bill insurers at the highest possible level and to make sure that their patients were satisfied customers.

This was a huge contributing factor to the opioid epidemic — by giving doctors a way to just give a pill to patients to get them out the door, while also feeling like they were doing something to help patients, at least in the short term. Opioids became the proxy for a doctor-patient relationship.

The other underrecognized piece of this is what I call the medicalization of poverty. Opioids have become a proxy for a social safety net. So we have doctors routinely confronted with patients who not only have multiple medical problems — from diabetes to hypertension to asthma to cardiac disease — but also very significant psychological, social, and economic problems. Many of them are undereducated. Many of them are underemployed. Many of them are homeless. Many of them are struggling with multigenerational trauma.

Because we lack a social safety net to take care of these people, we are now medicalizing their problems, and telling doctors that they have to take care of their problems. Doctors are feeling incredibly overwhelmed in this space with this growing population of individuals with very complex biological and psychosocial problems. In the face of that, they’re prescribing opioids — because opioids work quickly, patients are grateful, and it seems to be something they can do in the face of overwhelming problems.

The other piece of it are new illness narratives that have now become commonplace. Everything from “pain is dangerous” to “people are fragile” to “the body can’t heal itself” and “doctors have superhuman abilities to heal” and “illness is an identity” and “victimhood gives you a right to be compensated.” These are illness narratives that I think create a culture in our society, which we’re not even aware of, that’s contributed to the opioid epidemic.

25) Happy Birthday to my lovely wife, Kim.  I think she reads my blog from time to time, but I doubt ever makes it to the bottom of quick hits :-).

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