Quick hits (part I)

1) It’s hard out there for a pollster.  Nice piece on why it is getting harder and harder to do accurate polling these days.

2) It’s going to be harder than ever for NC to have enough good teachers given how the Republicans in charge feel about education.

3) Wonkblog with a great series of maps on America’s ethnic/racial demographics.

4) Europe’s biggest problem (one we fortunately do not share) is it’s low birth rate.

5) The destruction of defendant’s rights.

6) How working mothers are good for kis:

The researchers find statistically significant differences in outcomes for both boys and girls, though the outcomes are different.

  • Daughters of working moms grow up to earn more money, in part because daughters of working moms are more likely to be employed and more likely to be employed in a supervisory role.
  • Sons of working moms don’t have significantly different economic outcomes, but dogrow up to be more likely to spend time taking care of family members or doing household chores.

In other words, the adult children of mothers who held jobs when they were little kids are likely to grow up as adults who are somewhat less gender-conforming. Their daughters “lean in” more in the labor market, and their sons “lean in” more at home.

7) With all the other big Supreme Court news (yeah, I’ll get to Obergefell), hardly anybody noticed part of the new deal getting rolled back with a ruling on raisins.  Yes, raisins.

8) Another little noticed, but important, Supreme Court case on race and criminal justice.

9) The NC legislature wants to eliminate Driver’s Ed (my oldest just finished the classroom portion a week ago).  There may or not be good reasons to do this, but their justification is embarrassing.

Their argument for no longer requiring 120,000 teenagers to take drivers ed is that it is too expensive for families. The reason that it is too expensive for families is the Senate Republicans ended the state’s $26m appropriation to teach it, putting cost on families. Gotta admire their audacity if not their logic.

10) With Seinfeld coming to Hulu, loved Todd VanDerWerf with a piece on how Seinfeld changed television.  And Matt Zoller Seitz writes about how Seinfeld paved the way for the TV anti-hero we are so familiar with now.

 

11) Fascinating story of a a DC area man recorded the horrible things an anesthesiologist said about him while he was under.  He won a bunch in a lawsuit.

 

12) Tom Edsall with a really good piece on why don’t the poor rise up:

People today, Ray continues, “are not only able to make choices in an ever-expanding range of situations, but they are also compelled to do so.”

In effect, individualization is a double-edged sword. In exchange for new personal freedoms and rights, beneficiaries are agreeing to, if not being forced to, assume new risks and responsibilities.

In addition to opening the door to self-fulfillment, “the rise of individual rights and freedoms has its price,” writes Nikolai Genov, a sociologist at the Berlin Free University in “Challenges of Individualization,” published earlier this year.

Placing an exclusive stress on the expansion of rights and freedoms of individuals by disregarding or underrating the concomitant rise of individual responsibilities brings about social pathologies. They undermine solidarity as the glue of social life.

As a result, individualization can come “at the expense of various forms of common good in general, and of various forms of solidarity in particular,” Genov observes…

All of which brings us back to the question of why there is so little rebellion against entrenched social and economic injustice.

The answer is that those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.

Do they think we’re stupid

The arrogance mendacity of the NC Republican legislature truly is breathtaking.  They have taken to lying about their education cuts by pretending things like inflation-adjusted (and population-adjusted) calculations simply don’t exist.  Here’s Mark Binker’s fact check:

As he debated an amendment to the $21.5 billion proposal, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, the chamber’s senior budget writer, called attention to the fact that, in terms of raw dollars, the Senate budget would spend more on K-12 education than any of its predecessors. House and Senate budget writers still need to come to a compromise deal before a final budget bill will be sent to Gov. Pat McCrory.

“This budget spends more on K-12 education than ever in the history of this state – ever,” Brown said.

That paved the way for Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, to huff and puff and blow down the notion that lawmakers should be considering anything other than what they’re actually spending.

“It always kind of makes me nervous when someone stands up that probably never made a payroll in their life, probably is not too used to signing the front of a check, but they want to start talking about real dollars, adding inflation, arbitrary figures, this and that,” Apodaca said. “This is dangerous because we deal in actual dollars. That’s what the world deals in – actual dollars.”

Saying that the Senate shouldn’t deal in “fairy tales,” Apodaca continued, “I feel like I’m in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with some of the terminology coming out of that back row,” a reference to Democrats who occupy the back row of seats in the Senate chamber.

Seriously?!  Just wow.  If you are going to talk about “most ever” or any such formulation and not take into account inflation (much less population growth), you are either a complete moron or completely nefarious in trying to fool people.  As if “real dollars” or “inflation-adjusted” is some sort of craziness?  WTF!!!  Apodaca is literally an embarrassment to the human race.  And, hooray, he’s a key figure in making policy for my state.

Given that most of my readers surely have beyond a middle-school education, I’m not going to bother with the rest of Binker’s fact check or any further explanation on just how wrong the Republicans are here.  Though, I will mention the facts that show just how much of a cut we’ve had to K-12 education:

Figures produced by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division show that, in constant 2008 dollars, education spending has dropped from $8.1 billion in the 2007-08 budget year to $7.3 billion starting July 1 if the Senate budget were enacted.

Put another way, North Carolina K-12 system has roughly 10 percent less buying power at its disposal than it did 10 years ago…

Using raw, unadjusted dollars, the state Senate budget would spend $5,386.44 per student next year. That’s more per pupil than was spent during the heart of the recession in 2010 but less than pre-recession years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Those numbers look worse when adjusted for inflation, showing that, in 2008 dollars, North Carolina would spend $4,736.71 per pupil under the Senate budget proposal versus $5,511.08 10 years ago.

I’m going with stupid and evil to explain this.

Quick hits (part II)

These should have gone up yesterday– sorry.

1) Toddlers have a sense of justice–probably not that much of a surprise to those who have raised toddlers– but this is a cool experiment with puppets.

2) Generic Concerta not as effective as brand Concerta, but somehow the FDA says it’s okay anyway?!  (At least for 6 months).  How is this okay?!

3) Jamelle Bouie argues that in order be “authentic” Hillary should just go full-on policy nerd.  That would certainly appeal to me.

4) Onion on Charleston and guns:

FAIRFAX, VA—In the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting that left nine dead at a church in South Carolina, sources confirmed today that National Rifle Association officials had already started up with their shit about what would be an even greater injustice. “What happened in Charleston is a terrible tragedy, but what would be even worse is if we reacted to this event by passing laws infringing on our constitutional rights,” said NRA board member Charles Cotton, who, right on cue, let loose the same predictable flood of steaming horseshit about how the real threat facing Americans comes from legislators who would attempt to restrict access to firearms.

5) If Republicans in NC can’t win something fair-and-square, they are plenty open to rigging the rules– in this case, judicial elections.

6) Nobody wants to talk about menstruation (I’m not afraid!  I also buy feminine hygeine products unashamedly), but it is an important health and education issue for many women and girls in the developing world.

7) Both Drum and Chait with nice posts on how John Kasich is utterly unqualified to be the Republican nominee for president as he thinks there is a moral case for expanding health care access.  Chait:

Kasich came face to face with the actual political choice faced by American politicians: whether to support the coverage offered under Obamacare for the poor, or to leave them with nothing. Kasich actually came out and said that taking health insurance away from extremely poor people is immoral.

This was completely beyond the pale, infuriating conservative activists. Kasich has found himself increasingly alienated within the party…

There are plenty of Republicans who believe that their party must veer back toward the center on economics, or social issues, or both. The overwhelming majority of them, however, go about this project with the utmost caution. They don’t openly challenge the moral foundations of their party’s most sacred pieties.

8) Matt Yglesias on his lessons from paternity leave.  Number one– dads get credit just for being adequate.

9) Jon Cohn dives into the latest polls on Obamacare.  This is a really important point:

6. If it’s health care, people assume it’s Obamacare.

So what’s the mystery factor? The best guess is that people are holding the law responsible for all of the problems of the health care system — including those like rising deductibles, narrowing hospital networks, or even long waits at the doctor’s office that most experts believe have little or nothing to do with the law itself.

10) Cool NYT feature on how there’s been dramatic improvement in survival from heart attacks, not from any new medical technology, but from way better coordination of the humans involved.  Time if of the essence, and in some places, they’ve figured out how to get things done much faster– and it’s not easy.

11) Alas, too many members of Congress are still in the pocket of for-profit universities (a nice example of how money indeed does matter in influencing politics) and fighting against much-needed rules to stop these places from basically scamming their students and the American taxpayer.

12) Clarence Thomas joining the majority in the Texas confederate flag license plate case ultimately shows that– like every other justice– he ultimately just decides what he wants and then looks to justify it.  And Mark Joseph Stern on how two other recent opinions show that he is not actually interested in meaningful analysis (and also profoundly lacking in empathy):

As a straightforward application of federal and constitutional law, Brumfield’s case is an easy one. Thomas’ dissent is an effort to muddy the waters, to pass off his own retributive notions of morality as rational legal logic.

13) Who says we can’t teach non-cognitive skills?  The latest research from a project in Chicago is really heartening and suggests we should be doing a lot more programs like this.

14) Seth Masket with a nice column on how Donald Trump shows that money on its own cannot buy political office and that political parties are really important;

Money can help a bit more in primaries and caucuses, but only so much. Studies have shown that, at least in presidential elections, endorsements by politicians are a far better predictor of who will win the nomination than fundraising.

Here’s where Donald Trump comes in. By virtue of his celebrity, he can certainly attract media attention. (Indeed, he got far more attention for his announcement last week than did Jeb Bush, who is widely seen as one of the more likely candidates for the nomination.) And by virtue of his substantial personal fortune, he can buy all the things a presidential candidate needs—offices, staffers, advertising, planes, etc. He could literally spend a billion dollars on winning the Republican presidential nomination and still be a billionaire when it’s over.

But here’s the catch: He won’t win it. He’ll never get close to the Republican nomination, for the very simple reason that party insiders despise him. They think him a clown and an embarrassment to the party.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Fascinating piece on the complete cultural inversion in recent times of which sex society thinks wants more sex (not that long ago, women were seen as the rapacious sex fiends).

2) I kept meaning to write a post on Hillary’s stand for voting rights.  I never did.  But, Chait, Jamelle Bouie, and Seth Masket all see her position as both good policy and good politics.

3) I had no idea there was a backlash against the whole “grit” thing.  Whether we want to talk about “grit” or not, though, I’m definitely supportive of the idea of teaching kids to improve their non-cognitive skills.

4) Should have included this with last night’s Charleston post.  The Economist:

The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America’s political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.

5) Chipotle is working to design a better tortilla— the secret is fewer ingredients.  I like the existing tortillas well enough, but almost never eat them (I’m a burrito bowl guy) due to the 300+ (!) calories per tortilla .

6) Okay, I was going to write a a post on this college professor who is scared of his liberal students because of the rampant, new PC-ism (see Laura Kipnis), but I’m not scared of mine.  Although, maybe I should be– if anybody in my department is going to get in trouble for saying the wrong thing, it’s me.  I suspect this is still pretty much only a problem in elite liberal arts colleges.  Of course, I hope I don’t find out the wrong way.

7) JP says this is the best thing he’s read on Rachel Dolezal.  That’s a good endorsement.

8) Why we should keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 (short version, we tend to only pay attention to the bad stuff these days).

9) Why do we even need males, you may ask?  Here’s why:

The researchers found that when sexual selection was removed and beetles were paired up into monogamous couples, the population’s health declined rapidly and the bugs were wiped out by the 10th generation. Conversely, beetles that had a strong influence on sexual selection, where intense competition saw 90 males trying to compete to reproduce with only 10 females, were more resilient to extinction.

“To be good at out-competing rivals and attracting partners in the struggle to reproduce, an individual has to be good at most things, so sexual selection provides an important and effective filter to maintain and improve population genetic health,” said Gage. “Our findings provide direct support for the idea that sex persists as a dominant mode of reproduction because it allows sexual selection to provide these important genetic benefits.”

The study suggests that sexual selection plays a crucial role in sifting out harmful genetic mutations, as competition means females are less likely to mate with genetically inferior individuals.

10) In 3/4 of cases of non-complicated appendicitis, antibiotics can solve the problem.  So why do we keep cutting out appendices?  Mostly, it seems, because we always have.

11) Had an open tab on this nice German Lopez piece on marijuana legalization for far too long.  Basic point, yes “Big Marijuana” would not be a good thing.  But surely better than our current status quo.  Interestingly, he argues the most viable long-term option is not decriminalization– as many, including me, have advocated– but full-on commercialization:

Other policies fall short of fixing all the issues caused by prohibition. While decriminalization would reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests, it would leave in place a black market that would continue to fund drug cartels. And while legalizing pot in more limited ways — by allowing only growing and gifting — would deplete some of the demand for a black market, it’s likely some form of legal sales is necessary to satisfy demand for the most widely used illicit drug in the country (although experts are watching Washington, DC, to see how grow-and-gift turns out).

This leaves legalization supporters with one feasible option to address the full scope of issues that concern them: commercialization. The other options are, for better or worse, either politically impractical or wouldn’t be able to greatly reduce black market demand for pot.

12) I had no idea how many animal hybrids were out there, seemingly just to satisfy human curiousity, while leading to animal suffering.  While we’re at it the Echidna is no hybrid, but it sure is freaky.

13) You already know how evil civil forfeiture is, but one more sad story on the matter can never hurt.  Hopefully, the unfortunate victims of this will learn that you really need to forget about travelling with significant cash (of course you should be able to do so in America, but as long as this policy is allowed to persist, it’s just folly).

14) Noted Libertarian (former NC Gubernatorial candidate) and Duke Political Science professor, Mike Munger, weighs in on the LaCour affair.

15) In some ways, the poor are more rational about money than the wealthy.

16) Is your inflation-adjusted middle class salary really better than you think?  This has kicked off an interesting discussion.

17) Interestingly, and distressingly, parents of obese children seem to be in an amazing amount of denial on the matter.

18) Was having a nice back-and-forth with a former student (a libertarian, frustrated as all with the GOP) and I sent him this great piece by Jon Chait (from a few years back) on how tax cuts for rich people truly has become the over-riding ideology of the contemporary GOP.  I don’t know if I’ve linked it here before or not, but it’s quite good and it made quite an impression.

19) Last post on Game of Thrones for a while.  Just nice to see another take so similar to my own on the ultimate boring-ness of the White Walker army.  On a related note, Yglesias is (rightly) disappointed in the de-emphasis on the political scheming from whence GOT actually derives it’s name.

20) We’ll end on an uplifting note involving a stuffed Hobbes that once was lost, but now is found.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Bail is incredibly unfair to poor people.  We should fix it.  John Oliver’s segment.

2) The FIFA-produced Sepp Blatter biopic just made $607 in box office in America.

3) Maria Konnikova explains how the lessons of the Stanford Prison Experiment are far more complicated than you think.

4)I know there’s all sorts of complicated stuff going on, but I can’t help thinking that– to a disturbing degree– police office in Baltimore are just being petulant for being asked to be held accountable.

5) Republicans are playing catch-up when it comes to modern digital campaigning.

6) The City of Raleigh has improved tremendously in recent years.  Why?  Government action; not the free market.

7) Vox with what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy.  Obviously, that’s just a pipe dream, but it does help explain a lot of the key issues in expanding our use of renewables.

8) Can reading make you happier?  It does for me:

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

9) Dahlia Lithwick argues that a finding for the plaintiff in King v. Burwell would be a huge political win for the Democrats and that this fact may factor into the justices’ calculus.

10) How Disney World has left the middle class behind.  Disney’s daily admission is now $105.   When it opened in 1971, it was the equivalent of $20 in 2014 dollars.  As long as people are willing to pay their ever-higher prices, they will keep raising their prices.  The Greene family will not be contributing to this cycle.

11) Lots of differences between Iceland and the US, but I agree with Yglesias that it’s definitely a good thing to put bankers in jail.  As long as the finance types only have to worry about their companies losing money and just maybe losing a job, they will do horrible, criminal things.  Throw a few of these guys in jail– where they belong– and things will change.

12) I’m not even going to say exactly what this Vox article is about (it involves toilets), but I will say I did come to this solution on my very own decades ago.

13) Good to see that, at least in some places, school systems are realizing that kindergartners should be playing.

14) I really don’t like the taste of any beer I’ve ever had and pretty much never drink it.  Nonetheless, I found this Wonkblog post on the history of why Americans prefer bland beer to be fascinating.

15) Economists on Westeros.  I especially liked this first one.

From Ryan Decker, an economist who blogs at Updated Priors:

To me, the most striking economic fact about Westeros is the lack of focus on saving. Given the length of winters and the fact that winter means little or no food production, why isn’t every house focused like a laser on storing food and developing better food storage technology? If I were (the late) Tywin Lannister, the only weapons I’d buy would be the ones used to guard my storehouses. I’d be sending gold by the cartload to Highgarden in exchange for food. I’d be looking at the advanced civilizations in the east for storage technology ideas (as Eric Crampton has noted at offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com, Westeros could really benefit from more glass).

16) I think I like Whole Foods new rating system.   There definitely is more to food than being organic (I do think organic is good, but surely over-rated by many consumers) and it’s good to see Whole Foods taking that into account.

17) I’ve kept meaning to do a post on the horrible, inhumane way we treat the pigs we raise for food.  I have failed my porcine friends (doubly-so, as I had some good barbecue at Smithfield’s last night), but here’s a nice Wired post.  And a Fresh Air interview on the matter.   I really, really wish we could just treat our animals better and pay more for our meat.  Of course, the only way we will get there is with substantially more government regulation.  This is definitely a case where unfettered capitalism fails us.  (If you want to talk externalities, it does not get any worse than living near an industrial hog farm).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Using DNA, scientists have uncovered the genetic origins of modern Europeans (and those of European descent).  I had never heard of the Yamnaya, but their expansion into Europe 4500 years ago was key.  Fascinating stuff.

2) The Dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell argues that Social Sciences (hmmm, he didn’t say Humanities, though) are as important as STEM fields.

3) Indigenous people have way less back pain.  I’ve been pretty good so far, but this is one part of aging I definitely worry about.

4) Enjoyed Connor Friedersdorf’s take on Hastert.  Regardless of what the man did, should it really be a crime to withdraw your own money from the bank?

5) How one woman has made women with, interesting (?) faces all the rage in fashion modeling.

6) Plenty of charts on the decline of American social capital.   (I.e., why can’t we all just get along?)

7) The TSA doesn’t really work very well.  And maybe that’s okay.

8) I’d argue for John Williams as the greatest orchestral composer of the 20th century.  Here’s a ranking of his movie scores (personally, I’d put Indiana Jones #2, but this is a great list).

9) What poverty does to the young brain.  Of course, for conservatives, that’s no excuse.  Poor kids just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, damnit!

Over the past decade, the scientific consensus has become clear: poverty perpetuates poverty, generation after generation, by acting on the brain. The National Scientific Council has been working directly with policymakers to support measures that break this cycle, including better prenatal and pediatric care and more accessible preschool education. Levitt and his colleagues have also been advocating for changing laws that criminalize drug abuse during pregnancy, since, as they pointed out in a review paper, arrest and incarceration can also trigger the “maternal stress response system.” The story that science is now telling rearranges the morality of parenting and poverty, making it harder to blame problem children on problem parents. Building a healthy brain, it seems, is an act of barn raising.

10) Yes, they do teach creationism in science class in Louisiana.

11) The General Motors bailout was quite successful.  Somebody forgot to tell Republican presidential candidates.

12) Mark Ruffalo on “not a feminist.”

13) The story of Kalief Browder is horrible and everything wrong with American criminal justice.  And now he’s dead of suicide and undoubtedly a victim of the injustice done to him.

14) Love this visualization of how famous brand logos have evolved over time.

15) Does smoking marijuana interfere with math skills?  An intriguing natural experiments suggests, yes.

 

 

 

The United States: A Constrained Meritocracy

I was reading the latest analysis of of family income and graduation data in the Upshot, and it is as depressing as ever:

 Here’s another startling comparison: A poor teenager with top scores and a rich teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. In both groups, 41 percent receive a degree by their late 20s.

And even among the affluent students with the lowest scores, 21 percent managed to receive a bachelor’s degree, compared with just 5 percent of the poorest students. Put bluntly, class trumps ability when it comes to college graduation.

Poor students are increasingly falling behind well-off children in their test scores, as recent research by Sean Reardon at Stanford University shows.

That is, any poor children who manage to score at the top of the class are increasingly beating the odds. Yet even when they beat the odds in high school, they still must fight a new set of tough odds when it comes to completing college.

And here’s the very telling graph:

college

I was reading a really good article on liberal versus conservative views on meritocracy earlier this week (damned if I can remember where I read it), but basically, Republicans were arguing that since hard work is still rewarded, we have a meritocracy.  Truth is, though, in this country if given the choice to have your child born rich or smart, your child is much better off if you go with rich.  Of course, at every level of society, those who are smart and hard-working do better than those who lack these traits, but it’s pretty obvious that the mediocre rich tend to fare better in life, but all the smartest and hardest-working from among the poor.  That’s surely not my version of a meritocracy.

Sure, some people can escape and move significantly up the ladder to higher income/education/social status.  And some “deserving” even do fall significantly down.  But for the most part, that smart, hard-working kid in the ghetto (and I use the word intentionally), might end up being the manager at a Foot Locker, while the mediocre kid from the rich, white suburbs ends up in middle-management at a bank.  And the mediocre (or worse) kid from the ghetto?  You don’t want to be that.  In contrast, my FB feed of high school friends tells me that the mediocre kids (not that all my friends were mediocre, of course) from the rich, white Suburbs all do quite well thank you.  That’s the American “meritocracy” we live in.

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