Mega quick hits (part II)

1) I find this case of the Indiana woman charged with feticide to pretty fascinating.

2) The inefficiency of smaller government through tax breaks.

3) Headlines says it well, “Republicans have new plan to cut taxes for top 0.2%”  Priorities!

4) The Blackpoll Warbler weighs only 4 ounces.  Scientists have now confirmed it nonetheless flies 1700 miles nonstop over ocean.  Amazing!

5) Alabama’s former top judge pens a scathing indictment of our system of judicial elections.  Of all the wrongness in American democracy, judicial elections are certainly near the top.

6) I love the THX audio logo.  Therefore I loved this history of it.

7) I was quite interested to learn that alcohol taxes have gone way down because they are not indexed to inflation.  That’s bad, as it means more people will die from alcohol:

From a public health perspective, alcohol taxes are important. “Quite simply, alcohol taxation and other measures that increase the price of ethanol are effective in promoting the public health and safety, ” writes Duke University’s Philip J. Cook in his 2007 book Paying the Tab. “Higher prices are conducive to lower rates of underage drinking, traffic fatalities, and sexually transmitted disease.”

The logic here is simple. Higher taxes make alcohol more expensive. More expensive alcohol makes people drink less of it. And when people are drinking less, they’re less likely to suffer costly health problems or do stupid things like drive drunk.

8) For all those predicting the utter failure and doom of Obamacare, it’s not easy to be so wrong.  Chait on their dilemma.

9) Never thought I’d be linking the American Conservative, but good for them for a nice summary on why police brutality is systemic, not anecdotal.

10) California is taking a more sane approach to sex offenders.  Alas, given how politically toxic this issue is, we should not expect much of a spread in the sanity.

11) How to hire like Google does.

12) Fred Kaplan on why the Iran nuclear deal is a very good deal.

13) Big New York magazine feature on Hillary’s 2016 run that totally brings the political science.  Going into my course readings next semester.

14) The North Carolina legislature’s efforts to take over local politics finds its way into the NYT.

15) Why paid sick leave is good policy and how it is actually making some progress in Washington.

16) Denmark’s policy reserves antibiotics for sick pigs, rather than giving them to whole herds.  Would be nice if we could do the same.  And, if you think this would make our pork cost too much, nope:

Researchers at Iowa State University ran numbers to determine what it would cost American pork producers to put a Danish-style control system in place. The total was only $4.50 per animal, less than three cents more for a pound of pork — a pittance if it means keeping antibiotics that save human lives effective.

17) Apparently my ears are somewhere between 40 and 50 years old.  Good, because so is the rest of me.

18) Why does college cost so much anyway?  Sorry, no simple answers.

19) Connor Friedersdorf on how Rolling Stone’s UVA rape article violated the most simple, basic standards of journalism in pursuit of a good story.

Said Rosen, “None of those schools felt quite right. What kind of ‘feel’ is this? It’s feeling for a fit between discovered story and a prior—given—narrative.” What if, he argued, “a single, emblematic college rape case” does not exist? “Maybe the hunt for such was ill-conceived from the start,” he wrote. “Maybe that’s the wrong way for Rolling Stone to have begun.” And I think he is correct that searching for confirmation of a preexisting narrative is a common problem in narrative journalism generally and a factor that led Rolling Stone astray here.

Still, there is one sense in which Erdely’s account of her process seems dubious to me. The story of a fraternity that used gang rape as an initiation ritual for pledges would obviously be worth exposing if it were true. But no one familiar with the reality of rape on college campuses should’ve construed such a story as emblematic of the problem. Gang rapes absolutely happen. As Robby Soavenotes, Rolling Stone could’ve easily written a story about one that happened at Vanderbilt.

19) Chait also draws some interesting conclusions on the matter:

One of the peculiar, unexamined assumptions is that fraternity members are capable not only of loutishness or even rape, which is undeniable, but the sort of routine, systematized torture we would normally associate with serial killers or especially brutal regimes. The story describes a gang rape as a fraternity initiation ritual, complete with members referring to their victim as “it,” the way Buffalo Bill dehumanized his captive in Silence of the Lambs.

You don’t need to feel much affinity for Greek culture — I certainly don’t — to question whether depravity on this scale is plausible. It’s the sort of error that could only be produced in an atmosphere of unquestioned loathing. Caitlin Flanagan, who has reported extensively on the pathology of fraternity culture, told Hanna Rosin that Rolling Stone’s gang rape scene beggared belief. But Flanagan and Rosin have both offended the left in different ways, so their skepticism merely served to convince Rolling Stone’s defenders that the story’s skeptics were motivated by anti-feminism:

Yep.  I remember finding this story somewhat incredible when first reading it, but didn’t actually want to say so for this very reason.

20) Needle exchange programs are great policy.  Too bad too many politicians are convinced that they are encouraging drug use, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Mega quick hits (part I)

Your long overdue quick hits.  My apologies.

1) Given the role of wealthy donors in politics, it should be no surprise that across the political spectrum, all politicians are largely in step with the desires of the wealthy.

2) An 1000 year old Anglo-Saxon recipe for eye infection treatment actually works.

3) If you want to learn what you take notes on, do it by hand, not a laptop.

4) Among the many subtle ways we abuse our prisoners, is gouging them and their families for the costs of keeping in touch via phone call.  It’s just wrong.  Maybe there’s change afoot.

5) Interesting Wired piece on the war over the health risks of vaping.  It’s clearly better to vape than to smoke and clearly better to do neither.  Can’t we leave it at that?

6) It’s died down for the moment, but Chris Kromm on why North Carolina’s proposed RFRA is even worse than Indiana’s.  Will be interesting to see if this comes back here.

7) The simple rule to prevent the next Gerrmanwings disaster– two personnel in the cockpit at all  times.  Period.

8) Men in Quebec who took advantage of a “daddy only” quota for parental leave were doing 23% more housework and child care years after actually taking the leave.  Clearly, we need more of these policies.

9) Multiple servings of red meat per day seems to be not good for you.  But if it’s less than that, it’s probably not harming you at all, so don’t sweat it.

10) Ian Millhiser argues that the Supreme Court is (and continues to be) a “malign force in American history.”

11) Adam Davidson sums up the economic evidence on “job-stealing immigrants.”  Short version: there’s a near-consensus among economists that immigrants are not taking jobs Americans would otherwise be doing.

12) I enjoyed this “personality habit” quiz at the NYT.  Apparently I’m a “questioner.”

Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect, they meet only inner expectations. Once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it—but only if they’re satisfied about the habit’s soundness and usefulness. They resist anything arbitrary or ineffective; they accept direction only from people they respect. Questioners may exhaust themselves (and other people) with their relentless questioning, and they sometimes find it hard to act without perfect information. If you’re thinking, “Well, right now I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework,” yep, you’re probably a Questioner!

13) Is there anything that’s fair to poor parents and families?  Not truancy laws, writes Dana Goldstein.

14) Jon Cohn makes not a bad case that Rand Paul’s medical specialty helps to explain his politics:

The split [specialists as Republicans; generalists as Democrats] makes sense if you understand the very different work these doctors perform — and the money they get paid for it. Specialists’ clinical interactions tend to be episodic: A surgeon called in to remove a gall bladder, repair a ligament or install a stent is probably meeting his or her patient for the first time — and may have little contact, or even none at all, with that patient once the procedure and rehabilitation are over. Such encounters may reinforce a

14) What not to worry about in teaching pre-school children how to read?  You mean other than the fact that you are an obsessive parent if you are worried about this?  Just read to your kids.

15) I first learned about Pantones in a Duke magazine article about “Duke blue” years ago and found the concept fascinating.  Loved this NYT story on the subtle difference in pantone between Duke blue and Kentucky blue.

16) The victim of a false rape accusation at UVA tells his story.  Yes, of course the vast majority of rape accusations are truthful; but that doesn’t mean we universities should be denying due process to the accused.

17) Chait on why conservatives hate the Iran deal.  Because they hate all deals.

18) No, tax cuts still don’t pay for themselves.  And, yes, laughably, Arthur Laffer is still an economic guru in the Republican party despite his ideas being completely discredited among serious economists.

19) If you consider our micribiome, you can forget about humans and chimps being 98% similar.

20) Enjoyed this Marketplace story on how German universities control costs.  (No climbing walls, among other things; and no beloved sports teams).

Quick hits (part II)

1) This nice post from the Economist on how females are out-classing males in education throughout the developed world has been sitting open in my browser deserving it’s own post for too long.  So, here it is.

2) Jamelle Bouie makes a good case that Patty Murray should be the next Democratic leader in the Senate.

3) Republicans of late have been suggesting they actually care about inequality. John Cassidy just says follow the money in their latest proposed budget:

As long as a Democrat occupies the White House, there’s practically no chance that G.O.P. spending cuts will be enacted, marking the Price budget as more of a political wish list than an actual funding bill. But wish lists matter, too, especially for a Party that is supposedly trying to change its public image. And in 2015, it seems, the most that the Republicans can hope for is to shower more gifts on the wealthiest households in America, while depriving poor families of health care, food stamps, and college tuition.

4) So apparently “the left” has a problem with Mark Kleiman’s great idea for prison reform.  I’m very much with Kleiman.  It’s good to have people suggesting we need to radically re-think our incarceration nation, but I’m not a big fan of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.  And Kleiman’s proposals would be a very good improvement.

5) Back to John Cassidy as I enjoyed his take on Ted Cruz.   Also, I have to say that Cruz’s “imagine a world without the IRS” is just preposterous pandering to the most ignorant.  So, is that a world without any federal income tax (how does that work?) or a world where people get to cheat on their taxes with impunity (ask Greece how well that works out)?

6) I was just commenting in class the other day how the NFL is a model of socialism.

7) Philip Gourevetich sure knows how to write about tragedy (he wrote the definitive book on the Rwandan genocide), so he certainly has a thoughtful commentary on the recent horrible air crash tragedy.

8) As if our completely over-reliance on prison isn’t enough, we make life way too hard for former prisoners to get jobs.  Most importantly, we’re pretty stupid about what the statistics actually show:

Consider that over-reliance on background checks inevitably screens out qualified, trustworthy job applicants. More than one in four adults in America has a criminal record, and the vast majority of them currently pose no threat to public safety and will not go on to commit crimes in the future: Most recidivism occurs within three years of an arrest, and beyond that point, recidivism rates begin to decrease so dramatically that a criminal record no longer indicates that a person is more likely to be arrested than someone without a record. At the same time, some individuals who commit violent crimes—such as the San Francisco Uber driver charged with attacking a passenger with a hammer—have no prior criminal record that would show up on a background check.

9) America’s police kill way too many people. It doesn’t have to be this way.  And a great Vox interview with an enlightened police chief on how we need to change police training and culture so less people needlessly die.

10) With all the focus on the corrupting potential of money in campaigns, it’s easy to overlook the hugely distorting effects of all the money in lobbying.

On poverty and pregnancy

Interesting post on Wonkblog about the sex lives (and reproductive outcomes) or rich and poor women.  Here’s the key summary:

Poor women are five times as likely as affluent women to have an unintended birth, new research from the Brookings Institution shows — and that drives inequality.

The difference boils down to contraceptive use, not sexual activity. There is no “sex gap” by income, researchers emphasized. Promiscuity doesn’t vary along class lines. Access to the most reliable forms of birth control, however, does.

Definitely part of the problem.  But it is clearly not just access to LARC’s, etc., part of it is different in intentional (or unintentional) actions relating to sex.  I found this graph rather striking.

Now you know me, I’m not going to blame poor women for their plight of unwed motherhood, but it is also clear that their choices have something to do with it.  This graph is not about usage rates of the most effective forms of contraception, but using any contraception, period.  Wealthier women become far less likely to engage in unprotected sex.  Of course, part of the reason some people are poor is because they are not very good at weighing the future consequences of their actions and make poor decisions.  Obviously, unprotected sex is often one of these poorly considered actions (by the man as well, of course, though far more often it is the woman who bears the brunt of these decisions).

Not to suggest that we shouldn’t have more inexpensive, readily available contraception available for poor women.  We totally should!  And it would make a difference.  That said, I strongly suspect that the impact would ultimately be limited as the same factors which lead one to be financially poor, probably lead one to make highly sub-optimal decisions about sex and reproduction.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the lateness on part II– busy weekend.

1) Really enjoyed this Rob Christensen column on how we need to consider historical political figures in their context.  Former NC Governor Charles Aycock is getting thrown under the bus for basically the same racial positions as Abraham Lincoln.

2) Connor Friedersdorf’s take on Ferguson is terrific.  He points out that, truly, the racist emails really were the least of it:

Establishing these glaring perverse incentives—effectively compromising the city’s criminal-justice system to increase revenue—is enough to disgrace Ferguson’s leaders all on its own, whether one regards them as civic imbeciles or moral cretins…

Little wonder that black people in Ferguson took to the streets after the killing of Michael Brown. Sooner or later, some event was bound to push them over the edge into protest, and even if Officer Wilson acted totally unobjectionably in that encounter, it wouldn’t change the fact that the general lack of confidence expressed in municipal and police leadership was well-founded. A DOJ investigation was long overdue, and so are major reforms. The full DOJ report can be found here.

3) Free Range parents responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that means) in Maryland.  There’s so many unfortunate, dysfunctional families out there.  Wouldn’t it be great if CPS focused there resources on them that happy families who are not paralyzed by irrational fear of their kids being kidnapped?

4) Sad, compelling story of a former UNC football player who is now homeless and sure seems to be suffering from CTE.

5) I actually don’t understand why we can’t do a lot more along the lines of this awesome Australian project that generates electricity from the tides.

6) I love the circus because of all the awesomeness from the humans, but hate that elephants have to suffer at the same time.  So pleased that Ringling is dropping the elephants from the circus.

7) Enjoyed this story on the fastest American female teenager ever and on what it takes to succeed long term as a competitive runner.

8) A Republican congressman thinks illegal immigrants are committing a murder a day.  Shockingly, he’s wrong.

9) I could totally go for Daylight Savings time year round.  Mornings I’m always hanging out inside anyway.  Give me more light in the evening.

10) John Cassidy on why the Federal Reserve needs defending.

11) A debate on Colorado on whether IUD’s are contraception or abortion.  Seriously?!  Good to know Republicans are against a method of birth control that dramatically cuts teen pregnancies and actual abortions.

12) It pains me to learn (from Krugman, no less) that my favorite food is apparently, quite Republican.  That won’t stop me!

13) An Economist friend of mine wrote this interesting Op-Ed about replacing a gas tax with a vehicle miles tax.  It will never happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

14) With the political debate about net neutrality, it’s worth being reminded that the government invented the internet.

15) Charter schools may have their place, but they are certainly no panacea for our education problems.  And their lesser accountability (by design) is clearly bringing with it a host of problems.

16) Last word– Ta-Nehisi Coates is, of course, terrific in writing about the Ferguson report.

Quick hits (part II)

1) A better way to prevent young Muslim men in the West from being radicalized?

2) Republicans are all about how state and local government is better.  Except when the local government wants to do something the radical conservatives in charge of state governments disapprove of.

3) Give your babies some peanuts!  Among other things, a really interesting case on what has been the conventional medical wisdom for a number of years appears to have been 180 degrees wrong.

4) So, maybe the universe had no beginning at all?  Sure, I can wrap my head around that.

5) Personally, I’m so annoyed at all the feminists picking on Patricia Arquette for making a statement for equal pay for women at the Oscars.  Amanda Marcotte’s complaints strike me as exactly what’s wrong with feminism.  For one, I agree with Arquette’s implicit complaint that liberal politics has been too focused on identity politics and not enough bread-and-butter economic issues.

6) I had no idea China was trying to fund a canal through Nicaragua.  Sounds like an absolutely epic boondoggle.

7) Excellent piece from Nate Cohn reminding us that Republicans in blue states are actually really important.

The blue-state Republicans make it far harder for a very conservative candidate to win the party’s nomination than the party’s reputation suggests. They also give a candidate who might seem somewhat out of touch with today’s Republican Party, like Jeb Bush, a larger base of potential support than is commonly thought.

It’s easy to forget about the blue-state Republicans. They’re all but extinct in Washington, since their candidates lose general elections to Democrats, and so officials elected by states and districts that supported Mr. Romney dominate the Republican Congress.

But the blue-state Republicans still possess the delegates, voters and resources to decide the nomination. In 2012, there were more Romney voters in California than in Texas, and in Chicago’s Cook County than in West Virginia. Mr. Romney won three times as many voters in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City than in Republican-leaning Alaska.

Overall, 59 percent of Romney voters in the Republican primaries lived in the states carried by President Obama.

8) I didn’t know about the Siberian crater problem and it’s connection to global warming.  Fascinating.

9) Speaking of Russia, enjoyed this take on the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

10) We all take spreadsheets for granted these days, but they really are a pretty amazing invention.  Loved this Planet Money story.

11) The Republican plan for fighting ISIS is amazingly similar to…. what Obama is actually doing.

12) Great Jon Stewart clip on all the hate from Fox on the announcement of his leaving the show.

13) Maria Konnikova on the dangers of leaning in.

14) Ezra Klein once again reminding us that moderates are not actually moderate at all.

15) On how the color blue is actually a recent innovation.  Seriously.  Loved the Radiolab referenced in this post.

16) All the evidence you need for the existence of white privilege.

17) I so hate the Food Babe.  I’ve been meaning to write my own post disparaging her, but I’ve fallen short.  These two do a great job.

18) I was quite amused at how shocked my stepmother was at Christmas-time when we explained we don’t bathe our kids every night.  You would have thought we said we have them sleep outside in the winter.  Of course, there’s absolutely no reason you need to bathe children every day.  (Of course, now that David is a teenager he will definitely develop a smell if he goes too long).

19) Lolita is one of my favorite books ever.  Enjoyed this piece on it for being one of the Guardian’s top 100 novels.  I came across it when “Vladimir Nabokov” surprisingly posted the link in my FB feed.

Soccer grandmas

So, this is really cool, my research on parenthood and politics made it into an Atlantic piece on “Boomer Grannies.”  Of course, Laurel and I have not actually done any research on the grandmother vote, but neither has anybody else and ours certainly comes closest.

It makes a certain amount of sense that the soccer moms of yore are making a reappearance as a key voting bloc. Boomer Grannies are more world-weary than gracious, more educated than docile; their concern for posterity extends beyond the traditional “maternal” interests of education and healthcare. Today, these grandmas are just as interested in the implications of foreign-conflict intervention and tax reform as they are in paid leave and anti-poverty initiatives…

It makes a certain amount of sense that the soccer moms of yore are making a reappearance as a key voting bloc. Boomer Grannies are more world-weary than gracious, more educated than docile; their concern for posterity extends beyond the traditional “maternal” interests of education and healthcare. Today, these grandmas are just as interested in the implications of foreign-conflict intervention and tax reform as they are in paid leave and anti-poverty initiatives…

Part of this cohort’s grandmotherly concern for posterity may have to do with its shared experience of parenthood itself, says Laurel Elder, a professor of political science at Hartwick College who, along with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, has published the only study of how being a mom affects choices at the ballot box.

“We’ve found very consistent motherhood effects,” she told me. “Even when you’re controlling for other variables, motherhood predicts more liberal attitudes. Being a mom makes you more supportive on government spending on education and daycare and on a whole range of social-welfare issues: spending on the elderly, spending on the poor, overall government services.”

But do these effects continue when the kids those moms raised leave the house? That’s a complicated and under-explored question. Elder said that “even mothers of grown children are more liberal.” Members of this younger generation of grandmothers are still concerned about posterity, but are also committed to advancing their own interests, prioritizing women’s workplace issues like equal pay and paid leave.

Laurel and I have only done one study (a conference paper never delivered due to a hurricane) on the political impact for parents of grown children, but if “boomer Grannies” catches on, we’ll have to do more with this.

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