Quick hits (part II)

1) Really  looking forward to reading this book on the modern history of Autism and Aspergers and the doctors who defined (and mis-defined these diseases).  It’s not too far a stretch to say Leo Kanner, the doctor who was the autism expert, made my older brother’s life, far, far harder than it should have been.

2) Nice summary on all the damage total Republican control has done to NC.

3) I love that NC State researchers have created a vomiting machine to study Norovirus.

4) When liberals go too far, they should be called out.  As Drum does with those who think there shouldn’t be Chik-Fil-A in an airport.

5) Can’t say I’m surprised to learn that surgery for the most basic form of breast cancer apparently does nothing to improve a woman’s life expectancy.  I’m also not surprised that cancer surgeons are arguing that they should still be doing it.  I am sad for all the women who needlessly go physically and emotionally traumatic unnecessary treatment.

6) Jordan Weissman on Rubio and Walker’s plans to replace Obamacare:

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this idea. But it only works if the federal government sets acceptable guidelines about what sorts of plans insurers are allowed to sell. Otherwise, it would almost certainly spur a harmful race to the bottom, in which companies would flock to states with the loosest regulations, and offer cut-rate insurance offering little protection. The likely result, as the Congressional Budget Office argued years ago, is that young, healthy customers would opt for the least expensive options available, while older, sicker Americans would end up paying morefor coverage. Meanwhile, many of those invincible-feeling twentysomethings would find their health insurance wasn’t worth much once they actually needed it. And the chances are that a Walker or Rubio administration wouldn’t do much to stop that from happening…

But the big takeaway is that the establishment GOP contenders are edging toward a consensus alternative to Obamacare, a three-part plan that would potentially make insurance cheaper for the young, more expensive for the old and sick, and depending on how tight-fisted Congress felt, unaffordable for the ill. Thankfully for them, nobody should notice for a while. Everybody is still paying attention to Trump, after all.

And Jon Cohn’s take while I’m at it.

7) Nice explanation of exactly what the deal is with Hillary’s email.  Should she have done what she did?  Oh, surely not.  Is it actually that big a deal?  Not really.

8) Awesome, awesome open letter from a gay man to his future in-laws who are unwilling to attend his wedding.

9) Cory Booker admits what so few politicians are willing to– we cannot solve mass incarceration simply by easing up on drug users and non-violent felons.  We also need to admit that violent felonies are not as cut and dried as they may seem.

10) Really interesting piece in the Federalist on the Republican Party and white identity politics.

11) Love this from a former CIA analyst on how to help undermine ISIS by scamming them on the internet.  Seriously.

12) Can’t say I’m surprised to learn that science now has MRI evidence to show that it is good to read to your young kids.  But, if that convinces more people to something all parents should be doing, then that’s a good thing.

13) I was telling my son David about a new colleague and how you can just instantly tell he was a person of great warmth.  Then David asked me to define emotional warmth.  Trickier than I realized.  Here’s the first take I found.  And I think this quora take is pretty good.  Here’s my own simple definition I came up with after thinking about it: a readiness to share positive emotions with others.

14) Interesting take on the strength of Trump’s support in the polls:

In poll after poll of Republicans, Mr. Trump leads among women, despite having used terms like “fat pigs” and “disgusting animals” to denigrate some of them. He leads among evangelical Christians, despite saying he had never had a reason to ask God for forgiveness. He leads among moderates and college-educated voters, despite a populist and anti-immigrant message thought to resonate most with conservatives and less-affluent voters. He leads among the most frequent, likely voters, even though his appeal is greatest among those with little history of voting.

15) Personally, I find it quite disturbing that the solid majority of pre-natal Down’s Syndrome diagnoses lead to abortion.  And it’s great politics to try and pass a law– as Ohio is attempting— that bans abortion if a Down’s Syndrome diagnosis is the reason.   But this is so blatantly unconstitutional under Roe and Casey.  A Constitutional right based on the right to privacy does not mean you have have to provide an appropriate reason to exercise it.

16) Matt Taibbi on Donald Trump and the unleashed stupidity in American politics.  Pretty much a perfect combination.  Read this one.  (edits for language below by me)

Why there’s suddenly this surge of hatred for immigrants is sort of a mystery. Why Donald Trump, who’s probably never even interacted with an undocumented immigrant in a non-commercial capacity, in particular should care so much about this issue is even more obscure. (Did he trip over an immigrant on his way to the Cincinnati housing development his father gave him as a young man?)

Most likely, immigrants are just collateral damage in Trump’s performance art routine, which is an absurd ritualistic celebration of the coiffed hotshot endlessly triumphing over dirty losers and weaklings.

Trump isn’t really a politician, of course. He’s a strongman act, a ridiculous parody of a Nietzschean superman. His followers get off on watching this guy with (allegedly) $10 billion and a busty mute broad on his arm defy every political and social convention and get away with it. [emphasis mine]

People are tired of rules and tired of having to pay lip service to decorum. They want to stop having to watch what they say and think and just get “crazy,” as Thomas Friedman would put it.

Trump’s campaign is giving people permission to do just that. It’s hard to say this word in conjunction with such a sexually unappealing person, but his message is a powerful aphrodisiac. F**k everything, f**k everyone. F**k immigrants and f**k their filthy lice-ridden kids. And f**k you if you don’t like me saying so.

Quick hits

1) Shankar Vedantam on cognitive biases, shorter showers, and low-flow toilets.

2) Josh Vorhees on how Trump getting specific with policy proposals is bad for the GOP.  I think he’s right as this will pull candidates who can win further to the right than they want to be for the general.  To wit, we’ve even got Jeb saying “anchor babies” now.

3) The Connecticut Supreme Court with a strong argument against capital punishment.

4) How gender bias in academia is a very real thing.  My personal fight against it?  Cutting and pasting descriptive phrases from previous recommendation letters irrespective of the gender of the person I am recommending.

5) I’m sure Upworthy has sanitized this version, but it’s pretty clear that treating heroin addiction as a disease to be treated instead of a felony is a win-win, policy-wise.

6) Why is Black Lives Matter going after Bernie anyway?  Jamelle Bouie explains (short version: stategery).

7) Physician Ben Carson doesn’t really seem to understand abortion and emergency contraception all that well.

8) Seth Masket went to both a Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rally last week:

 And then, of course, there was the music. Clinton’s team played Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to warm up the crowd before the candidate’s appearance. Trump’s team played ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I don’t know what this means, but it’s entirely possible that whoever chooses songs for Clinton is a perky, empowered woman in her 20s and whoever chooses songs for Trump is a middle-aged guy with hair issues who longs for the ’80s. Or maybe they’re just trying to reach out to those demographics.

9) Are you smarter than other NYT readers?  Damnit, I wasn’t.  But my response showed some minimal intelligence.

10) Are you gluten sensitive?  Perhaps you should find another blog to read that is not so enamored with science.  And as long as we’re talking diets, I always enjoy a good takedown of Paleo (Vox style).

11) My stepmom is convinced Carly Fiorina would be a great president.  Why?  Fiorina’s daughter is her bible study.  Also, she thinks Fiorina is a great businesswoman.  Evidence says otherwise.

12) Fortunately, I have not had to spend too many nights in hospitals.  But Good God they need to find a way to let people sleep better at night without constant interruptions.

13) This new female libido drug seems as flawed as anything that’s ever made it to market.  Serious side effects for .5 more sexual episodes per month.  Sure doesn’t pass the cost/benefit test (though, many husbands surely feel otherwise during that extra session of sex every two months).  I’ve read enough to think this is a real issue that could potentially be improved with the right medication.  This drug isn’t it.

14) Call me crazy, but I don’t think national parks should be wide-open shooting ranges.  I’m okay with preserving limited, regulated areas for that purpose.  But you shouldn’t have to fear for your life (or hear constant gunfire) just because you want to go hiking or camping.

15) And your long read for the day… great, great GQ profile on Stephen Colbert.  What an amazing human.

Tipping is stupid and  unfair

I’ve written before about how stupid I think tipping is.  (No, that doesn’t make me a cheap tipper, just one who thinks the practice is inane on many levels).  Just came across a nice Wonkblog post on not only how stupid tipping is, but how unfair it is to the kitchen workers.  They often end up far less compensated that the tipped employees, despite the fact that they are the ones ultimately responsible for the quality of the food (I think most of us go out for good food, not because we are particularly concerned with how well it is carried to us, etc.).  Roberto Ferdman:

The truth is that despite what you might see on the Food Network or other cooking shows, being a cook is grueling work that’s not for the faint of heart. The slowdown in immigration over the past five years has also made it harder for kitchens to find staff since the industry is deeply reliant on immigrant labor.

But there’s another problem that’s been bubbling up for decades: Many of the people who work the kitchen have been getting short-changed — especially when compared to the wait staff serving customers.

“The back-of-house staff are typically underpaid compared to the front of the house,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a restaurant industry research firm. “It’s a really big issue.”…

Waiters, in other words, are probably making a lot more money than BLS data makes it seem. Pay Scale, which tracks salaries through crowdsourcing, estimates that in cities like Miami, Boston and San Francisco, waiters can expect to make $13 an hour in tips alone, on average. Elsewhere, tips can add well over $10 an hour to servers’ salaries.

Waiters working in big cities understand this. But so do cooks, and they aren’t happy about it.

“The fact that servers are making so much money in tips is certainly a reference point that causes cooks to be dissatisfied with their pay,” said Michael Lynn, a Cornell University professor and one of the country’s foremost experts on tipping. “That is absolutely true. It’s the way it is.”…

“It [waiting tables] can be a very high-paying job,” said Tristano. “Especially considering that many entry-level cooks earn at or near the minimum wage.”

Kitchen workers aren’t allowed to share tips. Early on, it was common practice for restaurateurs to pool together tips and then split them among their entire staff. It was also common for tips to disappear en route to the employees, likely into the pockets of management.

Realizing the need for regulation, the government intervened, creating a set of rules known as the Fair Labor Standards Act, which stipulates, among other things, that if tips are pooled, they can only be distributed among workers who “customarily and regularly receive tips.” Cooks do not qualify. Neither do dishwashers or janitors.

“You can force a waiter to share a tip with a bus boy or bartender but not with someone in the kitchen staff,” said Lynn. “It’s illegal to split tips with the cooks.”

Some restaurants are moving beyond tipping, but, then, of course, they’ve got to raise their accordingly.  Separate tipping lines on bills for the kitchen staff is just doubling down on the bad idea of tipping.  Here’s your simple solution (which some smart restaurants already practice)– 18% service charge.  Period.  Don’t whine about how tipping needs to vary to reflect service quality (see my earlier post).  Unlike tips, “service charges” can be shared across the staff.  Or just added to the overall revenue to be more fairly distributed to employees.  And the reason I advocate for the “service charge” rather than just higher food prices is that until all restaurants are doing it, it would put those charging the higher prices at a disadvantage because, of course, humans are massively (and quite predictably) irrational about such things.

Quick hits

So, had such the busy vacation this week that I probably did only a quarter as much (if that) of my usual on-line reading. Thus, you get a short, one-day quick hits.

1) So, in Kentucky they seem to think it appropriate to handcuff  8 and 9 -year old  kids with ADHD to get them to behave.

2) Not exactly photos, but a pretty awesome collection of movie stills (thanks, JP).

3) Are Republicans shooting themselves in the foot over abortion?  I actually don’t think so, but there’s a good case to be made for it.    The Vox take.   Drum has a provocative take:

Here’s an interesting recent poll question:

There’s not much need to tell you I just made this up. If it were real, this bill would get 0 percent support. Everyone who saw it would be immediately appalled at the idea that someone could be casually murdered if they were born as a result of rape or incest.

But if you ask this same question about abortion, this is roughly what you get. Very strong majorities, even among Republicans, support an exception to an abortion ban for rape and incest. Among other things, this is why I don’t believe most people who claim to believe that abortion is murder. If you support a rape or incest exception, it’s pretty obvious you don’t really think of abortion as murder.

4) I’m with this take on #blacklivesmatter and Bernie.

5) I love that Vox has so many articles about the ethics of meat-eating.  This one asks if there is a moral case for eating meat.  Let’s just put it this way… we damn sure owe our mean animals a much better life than we give them.  I wish we could do that as a society at minimum.

6) The Economist with (another) nice piece on gun ownership in America.

7) Conducted a little real estate during my recent vacation.  Had never actually heard of Redfin before a few weeks ago.  I’ve always thought many Real Estate agents earn way too much money.  My poor agent in Lubbock, Texas labored just as hard (if not harder) to sell us a $77,000 home as my dad worked to sell similar $400,000 homes in Northern Virginia (yet would earn less than 1/4 as much from that sale).  Glad to see that Redfin is bringing some meaningful disruption to this model.

8) John Oliver on Sex Education.  Of course it’s awesome.

9) Low fat versus low carb not at all settled by this research, but it does suggest that low carb does not have the metabolic advantages many believe.  The real secret?  Whatever helps the given individual best reduce calorie intake.

10) Now that’s what you call headline writing, “Carly Fiorina Comes Out in Favor of Kids Getting Measles.”

11) Chris Christie likes to pretend he is Mr. Truth-Teller/tell it like it is.  When it comes to taxes, he’s no better than other Republicans.

At that time, federal revenue is projected to equal about 19.4 percent of GDP absent any policy changes. There is, in other words, a vast budget gap that will need to be filled. Unlike his opponents, Mr. Christie has proposed specific benefit cuts that would narrow the gap somewhat. But neither his proposals, nor any other, can close the gap entirely in the absence of increased revenue. Trying to do so would leave the government paying pensions and rising interest costs (as it borrowed more and more) and devoting little or nothing to the other things Americans expect from government: defense, roads, bridges, basic scientific research, national parks and more.

Political bravery would be admitting this reality — not just the attenuated version the GOP base wants to hear — and refusing to pre-reject an entire range of policy options to deal with it. Some candidates have managed this. Though no fan of raising taxes, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for example, has never signed the pledge through several previous campaigns for office. That is the only responsible position. To sign a pledge is to make a reckless promise that locks politicians into an arbitrarily restrictive budget policy, no matter what circumstances time brings, and ignores the reality that is bearing down on the nation.

12) I feel so much safer knowing that state law enforcement arrested a bunch of people for LSD, etc., at a nearby Phish concert.

 

 

 

 

Video of the day

I’ve never even been on a sufboard, but I sure do love watching people surf 30-foot waves.  Now this is putting drones to good use.  (Watch at Vimeo for HD, of course)

Eat more blue whale?

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking Vox interview on the ethics of meat-eating and how it shaped by culture.  And, very much of it, doesn’t really have much of a rational basis (i.e., the fact that our culture is horrified by eating dogs, but does not mind at all eating pigs):

KH: Why do we eat some animals and not others?

HH: That is really interesting, and it gets to the heart of the topic that I’m interested in, which is why we love some animals and why we dislike others. Some of the reasons are just stupid. At least from an objective point of view, if you go and look at biblical rules on meat eating, they are absolutely bizarre in terms of why it’s okay to eat a cow but not okay to eat a pig. It has to do with the shape of their hooves. Why is it okay to eat one type of insect but not another type of insect? It makes no logical sense at all…

I think most of our meat choices are determined by cultural habits and things that get simply passed down from generation to generation. When I was a kid, the idea of eating raw fish would have just been hilarious, and now the idea of eating raw fish is universally accepted. In my little town in western North Carolina, a real conservative place, we have a terrific little Japanese restaurant that people flock to to eat raw fish. Why is sushi popular now when it wasn’t 40 years ago? For the most part, our food choices are governed by the same sorts of fads and fashions that govern our taste in clothing, or whether you wear your baseball hat backward or forward, or what kind of a dog you get.

KH: So it’s basically meaningless?

HH: No. And that’s the difference between deciding what animals you eat and deciding what animals you want to live with as a dog. And the reason is that meat involves killing a creature. That is the great paradox. On the one hand, we’ve evolved, I think, to be empathetic with creatures and to anthropomorphize them. So you see an animal like a puppy and you see a little bit of yourself or your kid in that puppy. But on the other hand, you see a pig — and I think little pigs are adorable — and you want at one level to empathize with the pig but on another level you want to eat that pig. The same thing is true with puppies.

Culture can overcome our natural inclination sometimes. So, for example, we find it absolutely abhorrent, the idea of eating a puppy, but in China, Korea, Southeast Asia, people commonly eat puppies. Twenty-five million puppies or older dogs are eaten each year, and they are considered delicacies. And for most of human history, it’s likely that animals were more likely to be eaten than kept as pets. So that’s why meat is so deliciously morally complicated. It is a meaningless decision on one level but, on the other, it’s very meaningful.

Yep.  The least us pork eaters can do is stop judging those who eat dogs (I’ve accomplished that much, at least).

The interview also gets into an interesting discussion of the ethical dimensions of eating different types of meat.  Honestly, I sometimes do choose chicken over pork and beef because I know it has less negative environmental impact and I figure that the chicken’s suffering is less than that of a pig or cow because the latter are much smarter.  I never considered how many individual chickens versus pigs or cows this impacts, though:

KH: A Big Mac or a chicken nugget? I mean, I suppose the Big Mac would be worse because cows seems more sentient than chickens, despite the fact that chickens are probably treated worse. I put more value on a cow’s life than a chicken’s.

HH: That’s why you’re completely wrong. You have to remember that this is the moral calculus of utilitarianism, which means basically that if you are a sentient animal, you count in the moral calculus. Well, there are 280 — and I did the math on this — there are 280 chickens in a cow. So in other words, to kill one cow, you take one life. To get the equivalent amount of animal protein, you have to kill 280 chickens. Now, by that logic, the animal of choice for animal activists to eat would be a blue whale, because there are 80,000 chicken souls to make up the soul of one blue whale. I contacted Ingrid Newkirk herself, the head of PETA, and asked her if she would agree with me on that, and she said, “Absolutely.” She said if an animal rights activist is going to eat meat, they should eat whales. Eat more whales. So that’s one of the ironies is that beef is more moral than chicken, eating a whale is more moral than eating beef.

I don’t like the use of the term “souls,” for chickens, but I’m quite comfortable saying that it’s worth killing 80,000 chickens instead of one blue whale.  280 chickens versus 1 cow… hmmm.  These are interesting and tricky moral/philosophical issues, so I think I’ll fall back on the environmental as the environmental impact for a pound of meat is pretty clear– listen to the Chik-Fil-A cows and eat more chicken.

Quick hits

1) How the year you born influences your political views.

2) How always blaming mental illness for mass shootings is a cop-out.

3) The BBC ranks the 100 best American films.

4) On how schools should be working on building non-cognitive skills.

5) The new chair of the NC GOP is completely nuts.  Here he has decided to link Hillary Clinton to the KKK.

6) Great Upshot piece by Brendan Nyhan on how to use and interpret presidential election polls.  This is going to be assigned reading for multiple classes.

7) On how the Southern Drawl is fading away in Raleigh.  Safe to say my two children born in the area don’t have the slightest hint of a Southern accent.

8) Yes, the mob justice for killer of Cecil the Lion (honestly, I think it is pretty awesome that he is losing his dental practice over this) is arbitrary and severe.  As German Lopez points out, so is very much of American criminal justice.

9) We bought What Pet Should I Get last night.  Not Seuss’s greatest, but good stuff.  That said, it’s pretty clear that he never had any intention of publishing it and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

10) Very cool NYT multi-media feature on a rogue fishing boat and the environmentalists that hounded them for thousands of miles.

11) No standing desks for me!  But some good evidence that just a little bit of movement interrupting your sitting can make a big difference.  Between my small bladder and short-attention span at work and my whiny/demanding kids at home, I’d like to think this probably works out okay for me.

12) Not all surprising, but certainly damning is the way the police officers in Cincinnati worked together to agree to a false narrative in the Dubose shooting.

13) Your long read: NYT Magazine feature on Republican efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act.  Sadly, North Carolina plays a starring role.

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