Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice NYT feature on how Amazon is integrating its human and robot workers.

2) Really nice, thoughtful, Garrett Epps piece on religious freedom vs LGBT rights.

3) Some other countries starting to fine parents who don’t vaccinate their kids.  Hell, yeah.

4) You know I love the Post, but this piece on “alternate nostril breathing” is literally one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in there (and that includes Marc Thiessen columns):

Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure. It can clear toxins and respiratory systems — shodhana translates to purification and nadi to channels, so the intent of the practice is to cleanse different systems of the mind and body.

5) Love this from Mark Joseph Stern— Supreme Court justices predict the future all the time, but they are really bad at it.

6) Maybe don’t let your kid start tackle football before age 12.

7) Hell, yes, police need better training to deal with people with autism.  Thing is, though, they need much better training to deal with people with basic human weaknesses and flaws.  Far too much training on weapons and not nearly enough on conflict de-escalation, etc.

8) Why today’s teens are less about sex, drug, and rock ‘n roll (okay, at least the first two):

 

When 17-year-old Quattro Musser hangs out with friends, they don’t drink beer or cruise around in cars with their dates. Rather, they stick to G-rated activities such as rock-climbing or talking about books.

They are in good company, according to a new study showing that teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade…

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to really be responsible till your late 20s,’ well then the brain will respond accordingly,” he said.

Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.

If the delay is to make room for creative exploration and forming better social and emotional connections, it is a good thing, he said. But “if it’s fear-based, obviously that’s a concern.”

Among teenagers now, “there is a feeling you’re getting of, ‘Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. . .Why don’t I stay with my friends and away from anything that has heavy consequences, like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases?'”

Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” she said. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.'”

With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance.

“They’re absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them.”

9) Title IX is awesome when used appropriately.  Laura Kipnis shows how you take a good thing way too far.

10) This feature on Rod Blagojevich in prison was so fascinating.

11) Loved Drum on Trump’s tweets yesterday, “Trump Triples Down on White Racial Grievance Mongering.”

12) Re-thinking Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, especially as it applies to humans.

13) I don’t doubt that, in some cases, attempts at gender equity in Silicon Valley may have gone too far, but few things strike me as more pathetic as the new breed of men out there who are convinced women are out to get them and there’s some sort of witch hunt going on.

14) Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann on how Trump is forcing others to step up and save our democracy:

But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him…

A broad and powerful movement has arisen to defeat Trump and Trumpism. Its success will be a triumph worthy of celebration.

But this is not just an end in itself. It is also an essential first step toward a new politics. It will be a politics that takes seriously the need to solve the problems Trump has exposed. It will nurture our dedication to the raucous but ultimately unifying project of democratic self-government. For it is our shared commitment to republican institutions and democratic values that makes us one nation.

15) So loved this article on the science of hurricanes and why this season has been so bad:

Hurricanes exist to cool the tropics. The vast majority of sunlight beats down in the 23 degrees north and south of the equator. Without something to disperse the energy toward the poles, Earth’s climate would become unbalanced, quickly.

These planetary heat engines sprout from relatively weak clusters of thunderstorms — waves of low pressure from the coast of Africa — and fester in the warm waters of the Atlantic. They feed on tropical moisture and the sun’s intense energy and, eventually, if they get large enough, will start to spin thanks to Earth’s top-like motion.

16) Can teaching Civics save democracy?  I doubt it.  Also, where are the school systems that don’t?

17) Should you buy Tom Brady’s new exercise book?  Only if you don’t believe in science:

The problem with this notion is that exercise science has never heard of muscle pliability.

“It’s balderdash,” says Stuart Phillips, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an expert in muscle physiology.

In scientific terms, he says, muscles that are soft tend to be muscles that are sick. “When folks do little or nothing, as, for instance, during bed rest, then their muscles get very soft,” he says.

Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have not conducted or published clinical trials of muscle pliability. Neither has anyone else. On the huge PubMed online database of published science, I found only one experiment that contains the words pliability and muscles, and it concerned the efficacy of different embalming techniques.

The book’s sections on diet and nutrition similarly lack supporting evidence, although not common sense.

18) Thomas Mills on Confederate monuments in NC:

Yesterday, the Republicans leaders of the legislature told the State Historical Commission to deny Governor Roy Cooper’s request to move Confederate monuments from the grounds of the state Capitol to the Bentonville Battlefield. Their request makes two things clear: The law they passed was meant to protect the monuments, not establish an orderly process for removal like the GOP claimed, and, second, they want to make this fight about race to drive out their base. [emphases mine]

Senator Phil Berger called Cooper’s request political theater, but it’s Berger who using the stage to advance his cause. He could have let the Historical Commission debate the matter and issue an opinion. Instead, he let the press and his base know that he’s standing up for the statues because he wants the argument to play out in the 2018 elections.

Midterm elections usually hurt the party in the White House and Republicans need something to drive their base to the polls. The fight over hundred-year-old monuments is just what they’re looking for. Native rural white Southerners who make up a large portion of the GOP base want the statues to stay. Younger people, especially African-Americans, want them gone. It’s a wedge issue and dog whistle that would make Jesse Helms proud…

Berger claims he wants to prevent the state from trying to “rewrite history” but that’s exactly what the current monuments were intended to do–and did so successfully for almost a century. If Berger’s sincere, he should also urge the current monuments be put into historical context and recognize that they were originally erected at a time when any opposition to them was being suppressed through violence and intimidation.

But Berger’s not going to do that. He’s letting his base know that he’s with them and hoping for a fight that inflames passions. And like gerrymandering and his voter suppression law, he’s letting African-Americans know that their opinions and history really don’t matter much.

Berger and the Republican leadership’s sense of history is really quite good. They understand that race is still a potent and driving force in Southern politics. Today, they’re cynically exploiting it for political gain and betting dividing North Carolina is better than uniting it.

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We have got to change high school start times

I was meaning to write a post based on a recent Rand analysis that finds there’s a huge economic benefit to moving school (mostly high school) start times later.  I was slow in writing that up, but did have a great email discussion with an NC State Chemistry professor, Jim Martin, who is on our local school board.  Then, Aaron Carroll had a great piece in the Upshot summarizing all the evidence.  Instead of blogging that, I decided I’d write an Op-Ed for the N&O based on the data and my discussion with Jim Martin on all the political opposition this would bring.  Just maybe, this can help get the local political conversation going a bit.  I particularly wanted to address the fact (elided by Carroll and the Rand summary), that the benefits accrue to the general fund, but the costs are borne almost exclusively by education budgets.  Yep, that damn tyranny of separate budgets.  So, because it’s mine, here’s the whole Op-Ed:

The evidence is clear – it is time for North Carolina high schools to move back their start times for the vast majority of high school students and many middle school students. Here in Wake County, most high schools and some middle schools begin their day at 7:25 a.m. (and, in the extreme case of Apex High, 7:10 a.m.). Such early start times necessitate students getting up at 6 a.m. or even earlier. The research on school start times is compelling – early start times and wake-up times have negative impacts on our students and our communities.

Many blame modern life and smartphones, and question, “Well, can’t they just go to bed earlier?” The answer is no. Adolescent biology is different, and the truth is that teens’ natural biological clocks favor a later bedtime. Add a high-school wake-up time of 6 a.m. to that and all of a sudden the broadly-recommended nine to 10 hours of sleep for an adolescent becomes a literal impossibility. Studies have shown that when school start times become later, students respond not by staying up later but by getting more sleep.

As pretty much everybody knows, a well-rested human is a better-performing human, and the same goes for high school students. Perhaps the quickest, easiest way to achieve improved student performance across the board is not by addressing controversial issues like teacher pay or Common Core (though these are important issues), but actually letting our kids get enough sleep. The data are clear that districts that have shifted to later start times have better student performance.

Surely changing when high school starts would be expensive, with additional transportation and other logistical costs. Ahh, but there’s the rub. The latest systematic research from the highly-respected Rand Corporation says that later start times will actually result in considerable savings – where the economic benefits substantially outweigh the costs. While additional buses and drivers cost more, these costs are more than offset by the increased future economic productivity of well-rested students, as well as avoiding the costs (including loss of life) of early morning, fatigue-induced automobile accidents. The benefits Rand calculated did not even include the positive benefit of lower juvenile crime, which criminologists agree would decrease with fewer unsupervised hours in the afternoon.

With so many compelling arguments for later start times, it should be an easy change – right? How can people oppose healthier, more productive high school students while saving the state money? If only politics were that simple. The reality is, unfortunately, far more complicated.

 The first complicating factor – always a key source of friction in politics – is who pays the costs and who receives the benefits. In this case, the costs would come out of county school budgets. Alas, those same county school budgets will not reap the financial reward that comes from more productive (and alive, having avoided fatal car accidents) future citizens. While this clearly makes economic sense on the state level, it is hard to see school boards taking steps to increase their short-term costs when the benefits are long-term and do not even directly accrue to the county.

The second major complicating factor is status quo bias. People and organizations do not like major change and push back hard against it unless given a compelling reason. And this is a big change. All the evidence-based arguments of student health and economic benefit will come crashing up against the reality that this represents a major adjustment for teachers, administrators and families.

So, how to overcome these problems and bring about the change that will so clearly benefit our adolescents and our communities? This is a case where real political leadership is needed. If evidence for the benefits to young people and society outweighing the costs were enough, our high school students would already be starting at 8:30 a.m. We need politicians and intellectual leaders to clearly and prominently make the case that the difficulties of change are more than worth bearing and that counties will not be financially penalized for doing right by their students.

OK, then, politicians: time to step up and show us you are willing to listen to the evidence and take some concrete steps to benefit our students, schools and communities.

 

One chart (on teaching) to rule them all

This whole article in Quartz on what America does wrong on teaching is excellent.  Pretty sure this will make it into the Public Policy syllabus.  Now, of course, there’s so much more to school performance around the world than relative teacher pay, but this depressing chart really tells us a lot:

What this chart tells us in stark terms is that the United States simply doesn’t value teachers.  So many of our other problems flow from that.  If we valued teachers we’d invest more in them and get more of America’s best and brightest in in the profession and take more seriously what it takes for them to succeed.  Do all that, and America’s schools get noticeably better.  These two paragraphs capture a lot:

Money and prestige matter. The highest performing education systems always prioritize the quality of teachers says Andreas Schliecher, head of the education directorate at the OECD. “Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter. Rather than putting money into small classes, they invest in competitive teacher salaries, ongoing professional development and a balance in working time.”

US teachers spend 38% more time in front of the classroom than their international peers: 981 hours compared to an OECD average of 712 per year. This is time that they are not collaborating with peers, honing their knowledge of their subject or the practice of teaching.

It’s somewhat of a chicken and egg problem in that we don’t pay teachers enough because we don’t value them enough.  And one reason we don’t value teaching is that we (accurately) see it as a low-paying profession.  I’d love it for some forward-thinking school system to find a way to blow this up and just start paying teachers a ton more and let all the benefits flow from that.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Right up my alley– gut bacteria may be a key to weight loss:

Using feces samples, Danish researchers analyzed the ratio of two gut bacteria, Prevotella and Bacteroides, in 62 overweight people. For 26 weeks, they randomly assigned them to a low-fat diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables and whole grains or a diet comparable to that of the average Dane.

Those on the high-fiber diet with a high Prevotella to Bacteroides ratio lost an average of 10 pounds of body fat, three and a half pounds more that those on the diet with a low ratio.

Obviously, there’s a long way to go on this topic.  But I fully expect that people will be losing weight by modifying their microbiome within the next 10-20 years.

2) I loved this Science story about NC State paleontologist Mary Schweitzer.  Great story of paleontological controversy over dinosaurs, but I loved learning that Schweitzer started out as a young-earth creationist.

3) Is Apple charging too much for the Iphone X?  Maybe.

With the iPod—Apple’s first successful stab at market dominance—Apple had begun with a high price but quickly dropped it. Over the next few years, the iPod underwent amazing transformations, each one introducing vast improvements and—wait for it—much lower prices. It was a classic instance of Moore’s Law, which explained how tech devices can quickly get both cheaper and dramatically better.

But the iPhone was different. It was introduced with $499 at its top price—and 10 years later, its successor costs twice as much. Apple is treating Moore’s Law as if it were a jaywalking statute. Even the second-rung phone announced today, the iPhone 8—albeit a substantial upgrade to the current top-line model—starts at $699.

I love my Iphone.  But, yes, it is a rip-off (especially what Apple makes you pay for additional memory).

4) Haven’t followed it that closely, but the acquittal of police officer Jason Stockley does seem really, really wrong.

5) Of course Trump’s fraudulent voter fraud commission is using private emails.  Lock them up!

6) Nicely reported piece by Michelle Cottle on why cutting taxes will be harder than Trump thinks.  “Failure is always an option.”

7) A policy that will both punish the poor and increase the deficit?  GOP is all over that.

8) How the opioid epidemic made Vox’s German Lopez far more skeptical of full drug legalization:

Meanwhile, the government responded very slowly. The opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s, particularly with the birth of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin in 1996. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the Drug Enforcement Administration rescheduled some opioid painkillers to put harsher restrictions on them. And it took until 2016 for Congress to pass a law that attempted to seriously address the epidemic.

In fact, the federal government pushed doctors to prescribe opioids through the “Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign” campaign in the 1990s and 2000s, as drug companies misleadingly marketed opioids to treat chronic pain. And in some cases, different levels of government loosened access to opioids after lobbying from drug companies — by passing laws that, for example, required insurers to cover the drugs.

And while Purdue Pharma was eventually fined for its horribly misleading marketing for OxyContin, the hundreds of millions it paid added up to peanuts compared to the tens of billions it’s reaped from the drug.

As a result, a lot of people have died: In terms of overdoses, the opioid epidemic is deadlier than any other drug crisis in US history — more than crack, meth, and any other heroin epidemic. In total, more than 560,000 people in the US died to drug overdoses between 1999 and 2015 (the latest year of full data available) — a death toll larger than the entire population of Atlanta. And while many of these deaths are now linked to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl, the source of the epidemic — what got people started on a chain to harder drugs — was opioid painkillers, and legal painkillers were still linked to most opioid overdose deaths as of 2015 (although there are signs that changed in 2016).

This was exactly what anti-legalization activists have warned about: Companies got a hold of a dangerous, addictive product, marketed it irresponsibly, and lobbied for lax rules. The government’s regulatory response floundered. The government even worked with the drug companies in some cases — under the influence of lobbying, campaign donations, and drugmaker-funded advocacy groups. And people got addicted and died.

Looking at this crisis, it slowly but surely dawned on me: Maybe full legalization isn’t the right answer to the war on drugs. Maybe the US just can’t handle regulating these potentially deadly substances in a legal environment. Maybe some form of prohibition — albeit a less stringent kind than what we have today — is the way to go.

9) The fact that Mark Joseph Stern thinks DeVos is taking the right steps on campus rape, make me feel all the more confident that indeed she is.

10) This Op-Ed in support of keeping Confederate statues struck me as laughably bad:

Already across the nation there are moves afoot to take down monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, and to rename countless institutions, schools, towns, and much more. These efforts are part of an immense national effort which has at its origin small, hard core Communist groups, like the Workers’ World Party in Durham – the same group that cheers on Kim Jong Un in North Korea – who wish to completely erase nearly all American history, to rewrite totally all our past, to purify it of all perceived “impurities.” Once begun, where do they – where will it – stop?

But like all violent forces that wish to purify the past, these efforts end in a kind of intellectual and spiritual madness that devours us all and knows no end. For it is not just Confederate monuments, it is monuments to Vietnam veterans, to the Founders of this nation, to doctors, to women, to children … anyone who did not share a strict Marxist vision of society a century ago … that are now targeted.

Riiiiiight.  The communist menace, coming for our monuments.  What is this?  1952?

11) Still need to read Coates‘ big piece on race and Trump, but I still found George Packer’s rejoined quite compelling:

At the heart of American politics there is racism. But it’s not alone—there’s also greed, and broken communities, and partisan hatred, and ignorance. Any writer who wants to understand American politics has to find a way into the minds of Trump voters. Any progressive politician who wants to gain power has to find common interests with some of them, without waiting for the day of reckoning first to scourge white Americans of their original sin. This effort is one of the essential tasks of politics.

12) Seth Masket on the foolish attempts to silence Hillary Clinton.

13) James Fallows‘ very positive take on her book.

14) And I thought Ezra’s interview with her was really, really good.

15) Greg Sargent: “Hillary Clinton’s new book blasts Republicans and Russia. She’s 100 percent right.”

16) Why, yes, the NC legislature does need to stop governing by whim and decree.

17) Jon Bernstein on how Democrats’ embrace of Sanders’ single payer is not actually the equivalent of “repeal and replace.”

18) I’m not sure if this is how to fix it (sounds good), but if you want to reform criminal justice in America, you probably want to start with prosecutors offices.

19) This Quora post is actually the best thing I’ve ever read on white privilege:

What people are saying is:

  1. Denying you are lucky is silly.
  2. Stop looking bewildered every time a short person can’t reach something. We’re sick of explaining this incredibly simple concept.
  3. We know there are things you do not have (i.e. even higher shelves).
  4. We know there may be other things preventing you reaching the high shelves. Maybe you have bad elbows or arthritis. Short people with arthritis are still below you. You are still lucky you are tall.
  5. It works out well for most people, for the grocery store to put most things on medium shelves.
  6. If you can help shorter people with things on higher shelves, do so. Why would you not do that? Short people can help you with stuff on lower shelves.
  7. We are annoyed that the people who run the grocery store put all the best stuff on the top shelves.
  8. There are a lot of people who are putting things on higher shelves because they hate short people. Don’t associate with those people. They want everything to be about this height:

Same with white. Advantages. It doesn’t mean you’re rich. It doesn’t mean you’re luckier than a lucky black guy. Nobody wants you to be crippled with guilt. Nobody has ever wanted that, or means those things.

It means you have an advantage, and all anyone is asking is that you *get* that. Once you get that, it’s pretty straightforward to all the further implications.

20) Thanks to Irma and decaying infrastructure, Florida is awash in human sewage.

21) John Judis— who once argued that demographics are inevitably on Democrats side, no longer believes that is the case.  He makes the case for an economics-based Democratic politics of the future:

The second fact about elections is that conservatives in both parties have repeatedly defeated left and center-left candidates by dividing their natural constituency—the bottom two-thirds of America’s economic pyramid—along racial or ethnic lines. The Democrats who have successfully countered this divide-and-conquer strategy didn’t turn their backs on the civil rights of African Americans or Mexican-Americans, or on a woman’s right to choose; rather, they emphasized the fundamental interest in prosperity and peace that unites the working and middle classes. Think of Bill Clinton’s “putting people first” campaign in 1992, or Obama’s reelection effort in 2012, when he spent the year contrasting his vision of a country in which “everybody gets a fair shot” with the GOP’s “same old you’re-on-your-own philosophy.” …

If Democrats try to win future elections by relying on narrow racial-ethnic targeting, they will not only enable the Republicans to play wedge politics, they will also miss the opportunity to make a broader economic argument. Not long ago, I spoke with Mustafa Tameez, a Houston political consultant who made his name helping to elect the first Vietnamese-American to the Texas House. The momentum in American politics, he believes, is with Democrats who stress “an economic message rather than ethnic-identity politics. We can’t buy into the conservative frame that the Democrats are a party of the minorities.”

This thinking runs contrary to the “race-conscious” strategy touted by Democrats who believe that a majority-minority nation is a guarantee of victory. Sorry to say, but it’s not going to happen. The best way for Democrats to build a lasting majority is to fight for an agenda of shared prosperity that has the power to unite, rather than divide, their natural constituencies. There is no need, in short, for Democrats to choose between appealing to white workers and courting people of color. By making a strong and effective case for economic justice, they can do both at the same time.

22) Your absolute must-read for today– the resegregation of Jefferson County

Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting interview with Judge Richard Posner, who, better-late-than-never, recognizes that our justice system is not exactly fair to poor people.

2) So, we’re actually having an interesting debate on whether we need to have reporters out there standing in 150mph winds during a hurricane.

3) The guy who invented the stupid password rules (one uppercase, one special character, etc.) totally regrets it.  What we really need– long, easy to remember passwords.  Thisisareallylongpassword is way better than Ttg9!yt6.

4) Enjoyed this explanation on all the stuff that went right to keep Irma from being an epic catastrophe.

5) Also, we need to do a better job communicating to the public what hurricane forecasts really mean.

6) Equifax and the whole credit reporting industry is so evil and so insulated.  Farhad Manjoo is right that they should not get away with it (they will).  I also love Drum’s simple solution:

The time for small-bore proposals is over. It’s time to make the credit agencies—and others—pay for their flagrantly careless behavior. When they allow someone to steal your identity, they’re the ones who should pay the price, not you.

7) Pretty good satirical video of helping with homework that I love, because Toto’s Africa.

 

 

8) Olympic-sized events rarely work out for the host city.

9) Love this Vox appreciation of the humor in “Bojack Horseman.”  So, dark, yet so much brilliant comedy.

10) David Roberts on how the mainstream media turned HRC’s “gaffes” into scandals based on pretty much nothing is terrific:

If you put these two together — an intensely hostile and dishonest conservative movement combing every word and act for anything that can be distorted, plus a mainstream press endlessly credulous toward each new faux scandal — and then add, in 2015, an intensely hostile and only moderately more informed Bernie Sanders coalition feeding in their own faux scandals from the left, you have, to put it mildly, a inclement information environment for Clinton.

So sure, it makes sense, in isolation, to say that she shouldn’t have bungled that sentence about coal workers. She shouldn’t have used that email server her husband had in the basement. She shouldn’t have given speeches to banks. All of that is true enough.

But note that when mainstream critics talk about these things, it’s never the things themselves that are the problem. It’s always the optics: “how it sounded” or “how it looked.” If you unpack that a little — “she should have known how it would look” — here’s what it means: She should have known that anything she does or says that can be spun to look bad will be spun to look bad, and the MSM will pass along the spin uncritically, so she shouldn’t have done or said anything that can be spun to look bad.

11) The Amish use smartphones?!

12) I’ve never actually seen discrimination against politically conservative professors in my 17 years as a tenure-track professor.  The problem Arthur Brooks overlooks, is massive selection bias.

13) I’ve been meaning to do a post on single-payer, but for now, Drum reminds us that hospitals (and hospital systems) are the costs villain in American medicine, not insurance companies.  I actually feel like the understanding of this fact is something that separates those who understand health care policy from those that think they understand health care policy.

This is the not-so-hidden story of exploding medical costs. We’ve become so accustomed to hating on insurers that we hardly notice that hospital consolidation is a much bigger villain. When a big insurer has a local monopoly, it can usually negotiate lower prices from hospitals because the hospitals have nowhere else to go. But when there are lots of insurers and only one or two local hospitals, it’s the hospitals that have the upper hand. They can charge high prices because the insurers have no choice except to do business with them. As hospital systems get steadily larger and rope in more and more physicians, their effective competition decreases and they have the ability to demand ever higher prices.

Insurance companies are hardly innocent bystanders in the health care system, but if you want to really target the drivers of higher costs, look to the source: the actual providers of medical services. That means doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers. That’s where the real money is.

14) My kind of Christian.  John Pavlovitz on Jemelle Hill.

The White House joined in the caucasian outrage, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaring that Hill’s comments constituted a “fireable offense.” Maybe it’s me, but if calling the President a white supremacist is a fireable offense—then him actually being one sure as heck should be.

This is the heart of the hypocrisy on display here, and the reason Hill isn’t wrong, even if you disagree with her conclusions or her methods.

You don’t get to hire Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and Jeff Sessions—and simultaneously mount a high horse of righteous indignation at the suggestion that you’re probably a bigot.

You don’t get to spend a lifetime exemplifying the absolute insulation from accountability that is white privilege—and get to play the victim card when a black woman asks why that is.

15) Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has based ruling on sex offenders on junk science.  Rulings based on junk science are still rife through our criminal justice system.

16) From prison to a PhD program at NYU.  But not Harvard.

17) Great article on sexism and politics in Germany and the fascinating historical role of Communist progressivism on gender under East Germany.

18) Some interesting new political science research.  More asymmetry!

Recent studies indicate that the wealthy receive more representation from their members of Congress, though this relationship may be more pronounced in Republican compared to Democratic districts. However, drawbacks in existing survey data hamper efforts to delineate the relationship between income and representation with precision, especially at the highest income levels. In this paper we use new data to explore the relationship between wealth, the party identity of elected officials, and representation in greater depth. We develop several alternative models of the relationship between income and representation, and compare them with models employed in previous empirical research. We test each of these models, using two different data sets containing large numbers of wealthy individuals and very granular measures of income. Our results suggest that individuals with Democratic congressional representatives experience a fundamentally different type of representation than do individuals with Republican representatives. Individuals with Democratic representatives encounter a mode of representation best described as “populist,” in which the relationship between income and representation is flat (if not negative). However, individuals with Republican representatives experience an “oligarchic” mode of representation, in which wealthy individuals receive much more representation than those lower on the economic ladder.

19a) So, remember Drutman on the doom-loop.  Chait says just blame Republicans.  And he makes a damn good point.

Whether or not the Times was correct to use this research, and whether or not it treated Clinton fairly overall, is not the point. What matters is that Democratic politicians need to please a news media that is open to contrary facts and willing — and arguably eager — to hold them accountable. The mainstream media have have its liberal biases, but it also misses the other way — see the Times’ disastrously wrong report, a week before the election, that the FBI saw no links between the Trump campaign and Russia and no intention by Russia to help Trump. One cannot imagine Fox News publishing an equivalently wrong story against the Republican Party’s interests — its errors all run in the same direction.

Whatever interest liberals may have in finding congenial media, they don’t dismiss the mainstream media out of hand in the way conservatives have been trained over decades to do. When the conservative news media criticizes Republicans, it is almost always to play the role of ideological enforcer, attacking them for their lack of fervor. One party has a media ecosystem that serves as a guardrail, and the other has one that serves only as an accelerant.

19b) Drum, largely agrees, but argues the Republican Party is not the root of the problem:

There’s much more at the link, where Chait describes the asymmetry between the parties well. I don’t disagree with a word he says. However, I want to stress one small qualification. America is a democracy, and parties survive only if they gain popular support. Over the past couple of decades, we liberals have marveled at the steadily increasing lunacy of the Republican Party, confidently predicting at every turn that eventually the fever has to break. But it hasn’t. Republicans have won the presidency at the same rate as usual. They have won the House. They have won the Senate. They control state governments. They control county governments. There are still a few blue enclaves like California where Democrats truly control things, but not many. Generally speaking, the only thing Democrats truly control in America is its big cities. Urban mayors are almost uniformly Democratic.

In other words, the problem is not the Republican Party. The problem is that lots of people vote for the Republican Party. The lunacy will stop when that does. [emphasis mine]

20) Lastly, here’s your must-read of the week (from Politico!) on how increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is making our plants less healthy.  Seriously.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat?

What Loladze found is that scientists simply didn’t know. It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”

 

Enough with leadership already

This Alvin Chang piece in Vox on all the ways the college subtly discriminate against poor students is terrific.  You should read it.  Short version: the values that poorer kids learn are a mismatch for the values of wealthier kids and the values of what are expected by college faculty and administrators.

Lots, can be said about this article, but I’m going to be lame and stick to an almost tangential point.  What is with college’s obsession with “leadership”?!  Here’s a chart of what college administrators think are the most important skills for students:

Really.  It is more important that our students learn to be a leader than to solve problems?  Or do independent research?  Or work together with others?  Give me a break!  Sure there are some leadership skills that are helpful to people, but clearly, not everybody is a leader, and clearly, you can be a very successful college graduate without having significant leadership skills.  Far less so, if you haven’t learned problem-solving and working with others.

I would argue that my own “leadership skills” are pretty modest at best (in fact, I was just joking around with my soccer team about this last night), but clearly I’ve done alright for myself in life.  You know what really helped?  Problem solving skills, working with others, research skills, etc.  Of course, leadership plays an important role in our society, but I think there’s some interesting research to be done on college’s disproportionate emphasis on the value of leadership.

Oh, and just a reminder, think about reading the piece for all the excellent stuff in there that has nothing to do with what I just wrote about.

Schools for profit

The title of this NYT magazine feature really captures it, “Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools.  Its Children Lost.”  In fairness, properly done, there seems to be a useful place for charter schools in our broader public school ecosystem.  Alas, under the influence of wealthy ideologues, like Betsy DeVos, Michigan charter schools have come to represent the worst pathologies of Republican ideology.

First, they are incredibly poorly regulated, because, obviously, all government regulation is bad.  Secondly, they exist primarily as a profit-making venture for many.  Now, this is a problem beyond Michigan (including NC) and so corrosive.  I’m sorry, but it just creates a set of horribly perverse incentives for private businesses to look to be profiting of off K-12 education (and higher education, too, for that matter).  At least maybe the rest of states can see Michigan as a model of what not to do.  Alas, I suspect few Republican state legislators will be so enlightened.

Some key excerpts:

The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. In the case of Carver, interested parties have included a for-profit educational management organization, or E.M.O., in Georgia; an Indian tribe in a remote section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and a financial firm in Minnesota. “That’s all it is now — it’s moneymaking,” Darrel Redrick, a charter-school proponent and an administrator at Carver at the time I visited, told me. [emphases mine]

Redrick can pinpoint the precise moment he experienced this revelation: “One of my former principals — this is like 10 years ago, at another school — he said: ‘Redrick, I can tell you why we don’t kick kids out. This child right here represents $6,700.’ ” The principal was referring to the per-pupil state funding at the time. “And if you put out 10 kids, Red,” the principal went on, “that’s about $70,000. And where are we going to get that money?” …

In a 2002 book that Miron wrote with Christopher Nelson called “What’s Public About Charter Schools?” the authors consider two different charter models deployed by states: competitive and collaborative. While the collaborative approach encouraged the public and private sectors to “share innovations,” Michigan favored the other approach: “Engler wanted to lift public schools,” Miron told me, “but he believed in getting as much competition as quickly as possible. It became the Wild West state: Push, push, push.” While other states — Miron cited Ohio, Texas and Arizona — also emerged as exemplars of the “competitive” model, most have since reintroduced some regulation. “Michigan is still an outlier,” Miron said. “No state comes near us when it comes to privatization.”

The results have been stark. The 2016 report by the Education Trust-Midwest noted:

Michigan’s K-12 system is among the weakest in the country and getting worse. In little more than a decade, Michigan has gone from being a fairly average state in elementary reading and math achievement to the bottom 10 states. It’s a devastating fall. Indeed, new national assessment data suggest Michigan is witnessing systemic decline across the K-12 spectrum. White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income — it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live….

 

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