Quick hits (part I)

1) The State Superintendent of Public Instruction in NC suggested that NC teachers get a 10% pay raise, which would still not even bring us up to the national average.  NC Republicans, of course, think this idea entirely untenable.

2) Can we start expecting kids to get kicked out of school based on their DNA?  Maybe.  Here’s one case.

 

3) Great look at the http://www.vox.com/2016/2/5/10918164/donald-trump-morality of the presidential candidates.  Some of what you would expect; some you wouldn’t.

4) An Iowa voter confronts Cruz with the reality of taking Obamacare away.

5) Why are American colleges obsessed with leadership?  Good question.  We can’t all be leaders.

6) Great Chronicle of Higher Ed interview with the Virginia Tech professor behind the Flint/lead story:

Q. Do you have any sense that perverse incentive structures prevented scientists from exposing the problem in Flint sooner?

A. Yes, I do. In Flint the agencies paid to protect these people weren’t solving the problem. They were the problem. What faculty person out there is going to take on their state, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

I don’t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one word. I’ve done it. When was the last time you heard anyone in academia publicly criticize a funding agency, no matter how outrageous their behavior? We just don’t do these things.

If an environmental injustice is occurring, someone in a government agency is not doing their job. Everyone we wanted to partner said, Well, this sounds really cool, but we want to work with the government. We want to work with the city. And I’m like, You’re living in a fantasy land, because these people are the problem.

7) This history of Japan video is almost too awesome to be believed.  Seriously, trust me on this.

8) Is Dodd-Frank perfect?  No.  Is it actually working?  Yes, says Drum (and the data).  A more elaborate post on the same topic from Wonkblog (nicely titled “What Republicans and Bernie Sanders get wrong about Wall Street.”)

9) NFL stadiums are such a rip-off to their communities.  Let the damn owners pay for them.  St Louis will still be saddled with debt for a stadium that now becomes a white elephant.

10) Very nice piece on all that’s wrong with the college admissions process.  I don’t plan on encouraging my own kids to apply for anything more elite than our fine NC universities in part because the process has become so nuts.

11) Loved this Dylan Matthews case against NH and Iowa always being first.  Especially this Part

Iowa and New Hampshire have plenty of defenders. Their arguments are all bad. The most serious attempt to defend Iowa’s place in the system is the 2010 book Why Iowa?by political scientists David Redlawsk, Caroline Tolbert, and Todd Donovan. They argue that the caucus system creates more informed (albeit fewer) voters, and that the sequential primary system lets candidates be heard and informs voters in later primaries.

They put together a good argument, but it’s not an argument for Iowa. It’s an argument for sequential voting. Indeed, the authors conclude with a proposal for a “caucus window,”in which any number of states could hold caucuses, followed by a national primary.

“We suggest that the national parties could opt for a process in which any number of states could hold caucuses on the first voting day of the sequence,” they write. “Another alternative would have the parties retaining a sequence in which Iowa, or some other relatively small state, is granted first-in-the-nation priority.”

At most, the virtues of caucuses and sequential primaries argue for having one small state go first. But they don’t argue for that state being Iowa or New Hampshire.

12) Lessons from Flint about how we make weather and climate (and much environmental) policy.

13) What happens to your brain when you get stoned every day for five years?  It’s not great, but not as bad as you might think.

14) Loved this Onion headline, “Middle-Aged Man In Gym Locker Room Puts Shirt On Before Underwear.”  Used to see a guy like this at the OSU gym all the time and it bugged the hell out of me.

15) The real reason I’m supporting Hillary– her campaign spends the most on pizza.

16) Ezra Klein with a good take on Thursday’s debate:

And where Clinton’s experience gives her deep knowledge of virtually every facet of American policymaking, Sanders’s career has let him focus on the issues he cares about, and left him poorly informed on international affairs.

Which is all to say that Clinton has the benefits and drawbacks of an insider, and Sanders has the benefits and drawbacks of an outsider. Her view of the political system is realistic, her knowledge of the issues is deep, and her social ties are strong. All these qualities would likely make her an effective president. But they also mean she’s captured by the political system, and that she is implicated in virtually everything Americans hate about it.

Sanders’s view of the political system is idealistic, his ideas are unbounded by pragmatic concerns and interest group objections, and his calls for political revolution are thrilling. All these qualities make him an inspiring candidate. But they also mean he’ll be perceived as an enemy by the very system he intends to lead, and that his promises of sweeping change might collapse into total disappointment.

17) We’ve reached the point where conservatives have deluded themselves into believing there’s actually more racism against white people than Black people.  And I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you.

18) The government changed the font on highways signs to make them more readable.  Apparently, in real world conditions they actually were not so the font is changing back.

19) Drug shortages are leading to some real rationing and some real hard decisions.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox’s Amanda Taub has come to the same conclusion as me… Trump is using “political correctness” as an excuse for just being a jerk.

2) When you consider how common wisdom teeth extraction is, it almost has to be an overused medical procedure (I had mine out when I was 23 and it took me out of commission for the better part of a week).  What I really want to know is what are the outcomes in poor countries where people are not routinely having these teeth removed (though, surely there’s a lot of confounds with that).  Still, I cannot believe this many Americans have been this poorly served by evolution.

3) Loved this column on how the lead in Flint problem is a direct result of “small government” ideology.

4) Really interesting summary of a new book that focuses on American slavery as a slave breeding industry.

5) Michael Tesler on what a new poll shows about the populist appeal of Trump.

6) NPR story on the new research finding systematic bias against women in teaching evaluations.  I don’t doubt this is a genuine problem we should think about, but I’m still waiting for professors who get good evaluations to say they are worthless and professors with poor evaluations to admit maybe there is some value to them:

“That the situation is Really Complicated,” Philip Stark writes in an email to NPR Ed, and, he adds, it won’t be easy to correct for it. In fact, the authors titled their paper “Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness.”

These results seem pretty damning, but not everyone is convinced.

Michael Grant is the vice provost and associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He says there’s a lot of research supporting the effectiveness and usefulness of student evaluations.

“There are multiple, well-designed, thoughtfully conducted studies that clearly contradict this very weakly designed study,” he says, citing this study from 2000 andthis study conducted at his own university. His personal review of student ratings from one department at CU Boulder over nine years did find a bias in favor of men, he says, but it was very small — averaging 0.13 on a 6-point scale.

7) Teller of Penn & Teller was a high school Latin teacher before becoming a famous magician.  His take on how teaching is like performing magic.

8) Some common-sense recommendations for being more humane with how we wean cows.  Good for the cows; good for the farmers; good for the conscience of conflicted meat-eaters.  We really should do far more to ensure that our meat food supply is generated in a humane manner.

9) Really interesting piece on the evolution of single-sex bathrooms:

Today’s most-prominent arguments against inclusive restrooms are remarkably consistent with the Victorian notions that led to sex-segregated bathrooms in the first place. When the ideology of separate spheres for male and female, public and private, the market and the home reigned, the growth of women’s presence in public life led to the desire to protect women from the crude dangers of the male world. Among the legal effects was the 1873 Supreme Court holding in Bradwell v. Illinois that it was not unconstitutional for a state to deny women admission to the bar on the basis of their sex, with a famous concurring opinion that stated, “Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.” The same separate-spheres paternalism led to the designation of certain physical spaces for women apart from those for men, including bathrooms in public venues. These were safe spaces, if you will, tucked in a world in which women were vulnerable. As our society is currently experiencing a resurgence of paternalist concern about women’s sexual vulnerability—especially in the context of that great equalizer, education—it is no surprise that there would also be a new emphasis on the Victorian phenomenon of separate restrooms.

10) Great story on the Virginia Tech professor who was crucial to uncovering the Flint water problems.

11) I’m planning on reading Neurotribes and I expect to learn a lot from it.  That said, based on articles about the book and interviews with the author, the book seems to very much elide how substantially and severely very many people and families are affected by autism.

12) Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on foreign policy of Republican presidential aspirants:

Robert Gates , a Republican stalwart and former US defence secretary who served under eight presidents, has derided the party’s election candidates for a grasp of national security issues that “would embarrass a middle schooler”.

An ex-CIA director who first joined the White House under Richard Nixon, Gates joked that if frontrunner Donald Trump wins the presidency, he would emigrate to Canada. He condemned the media for failing to challenge candidates from both parties on promises he believes are unaffordable, illegal or unconstitutional.

“The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler,” Gates said of the Republican contenders at a Politico Playbook event in Washington on Monday . “People are out there making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable. Either they really believe what they’re saying or they’re cynical and opportunistic and, in a way, you hope it’s the latter because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying.” [emphasis mine]

13) Can’t say I’m all that surprised to learn that exercise far surpasses all other treatments in effectively reducing back pain.

14) Loved this John McWhorter piece on how it is not at all simple to separate a language from a dialect.  I had no idea.  It’s been sitting in an open tab deserving it’s own post for too long:

I have a Swedish pal I see at conferences in Denmark. When we’re out and about there, he is at no linguistic disadvantage. He casually orders food and asks directions in Swedish despite the fact that we are in a different country from his own, where supposedly a different “language”—Danish—is spoken. In fact, I’ve watched speakers of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian conversing with each other, each in their own native tongues, as a cozy little trio over drinks. A Dane who moves to Sweden does not take Swedish lessons; she adjusts to a variation upon, and not an alternate to, her native speech. The speakers of these varieties of Scandinavian consider them distinct languages because they are spoken in distinct nations, and so be it. However, there is nothing about Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian in themselves that classifies them as “languages;” especially on the page, they resemble each other closely enough to look more like dialects of one “language.”

15) Nice Pew summary with cool charts of demographic trends affecting politics.

16) Good piece on how Trump represents a disappearing America from Heather Digby Parton.

17) I want my genetically-modified mosquitoes!  A great way to fight mosquito-borne disease, but facing great resistance from un-trusting populations.  Yes, there’s uncertainties and things could go wrong.  If I lived in an area where people were regularly facing death and debilitation from tropical disease, I’d take the chance.

18) Just finished re-reading Animal Farm for the first time in about 30 years.  What an absolutely delightful and brilliant book.  My only complaint is that it was too short– I didn’t want it to end.

19) Nice Wonkblog summary on what scientific research can tell us about marijuana.  Short version: not a lot to worry about.  There is a reasonable debate to be had about legalizing drugs such as heroin and cocaine (and I’m increasingly of the legalize everything perspective), but with marijuana, it’s hardly even a reasonable debate anymore.  In a country where alcohol is legal, it is preposterous that marijuana is not. Also, the Wonkblog post on the research suggesting that marijuana does not, after all, affect IQ from teenage use (not that I’ll be giving it to my own teenagers any time soon).

20)And your Sunday long-read– terrific piece from John Judis on Trump, Sanders, and the meaning of populism in America.

Video of the day

Held the camera on my daughter and me while sledding down the driveway this morning.  I think the results are pretty cool (and brief).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Maybe we should be prescribing more medical marijuana and less opioids.  Seriously.

So the evidence suggests marijuana is good for treating chronic pain without any huge side effects.

What about opioids? While there is research that opioids effectively treat acute pain, there is no good evidence for their treatment of chronic pain.

2) I was annoyed at this piece arguing that there’s no such thing as a “healthy” food, only “nutritious” food where the author claimed this was not just a semantic distinction.  No, really it is.  In common usage, kale is healthy and sugar cookies are not and we all know what that means.  So, sure a zoologist might complain when you say that a snake is “poisonous”– it’s not, it’s venomous, but we all know to stay away from the bite.

3) A critic’s tour of David Bowie’s musical changes.  Yes, Bowie did some really good stuff, but from my FB feed, you would have thought all the Beatles and Rolling Stones died at one time.

4) Here’s actually my favorite David Bowie appearance ever.  From the much under-appreciated Extras.

5) Max Fisher on Bernie Sanders’ problems on foreign policy.

 

6) Drum argues that Republicans are going way too easy on Donald Trump.  He seems to have a point.

7) It’s become quite the truism that NFL coaches are way over-cautious.  Still, an enjoyable analysis looking at recent playoff games.  And the last minutes of the Green Bay game in regulation was amazing.

8) Carly Fiorina turns pre-school field trip into anti-abortion event.

9) There’s so many damn https://news.ncsu.edu/2016/01/bertone-home-arthropod-2016/ in your home (and probably even more in mine).  NC State behind this cool research.

10) Drum on Trump and “two Corinthians”

Now, nobody with a brain has ever believed that Donald Trump is a Christian in any serious sense. I don’t think he could pass a third-grade test of Bible knowledge. But today’s gaffe, as trivial as it seems, suggests more: that he literally has paid no attention to Christianity at all. In fact, given how hard that is in a country as awash in religious references as the United States, it suggests much more: Donald Trump has spent most of his life actively trying to avoid religion as completely as possible. And yet, apparently evangelicals love him anyway. Go figure.

11) And some first-rate Trump satire.

12) The myth of limited resources to support NC education.

13) Maybe Gillian Anderson getting offered less money than David Duchovny for the new X Files is sexism.  Maybe he’s a more bankable star because of work since the X Files first aired.  I’m not sure, but don’t assume the former without at least addressing the latter.

14) Loved this NYT feature on scientific research on the origins of dogs:

Modern dogs are different from modern wolves in numerous ways. They eat comfortably in the presence of people, whereas wolves do not. Their skulls are wider and snouts shorter. They do not live in pack structures when they are on their own, and so some scientists scoff at dog-training approaches that require the human to act as pack leader.

Wolves mate for the long haul and wolf dads help with the young, while dogs are completely promiscuous and the males pay no attention to their offspring. Still, dogs and wolves interbreed easily and some scientists are not convinced that the two are even different species, a skepticism that reflects broader debates in science about how to define a species, and how much the category is a fact of nature as opposed to an arbitrary line drawn by humans.

15a) A look at Jane Mayer’s new book on the Koch brothers.

15b) And Mayer’s piece on their re-branding in the latest New Yorker.  I actutally had thought they were sincere about criminal justice reform.  Now I’m not so sure.

16) Haven’t watch Making a Murderer yet, but I find the controversy fascinating.  I really liked this piece in Slate:

So, it’s not bias that unsettles me. Rather, it’s bias posing as impartiality that makes me uneasy. Because so much seems to have been left out, I now have lingering doubts that the directors of Making a Murderer ever gave the other side a genuinely fair hearing.

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the directors of the superb Paradise Lost trilogy, were consistently upfront about the injustices they felt were committed against the West Memphis Three, yet they were still able to secure interviews with the investigators who wanted to keep the three behind bars. It was largely because of the global attention the trilogy received that those injustices were (at least partially) corrected when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were released from prison in 2011. Sometimes, artistic advocacy is a very good thing, but only when it feels complete.

Whether or not you loved or hated the evidentiary back-and-forth of Serial, Sarah Koenig excelled as an investigative reporter when it came to putting all her cards on the table. The detectives and prosecutors involved in Adnan Syed’s conviction declined to speak with her, but Koenig still managed to give the prosecution’s theory of the crime real consideration, as the jury in his trial would had to have done. That added depth and dimension to her story.

17) Loved this three-way loser ending of Jeopardy.  Seriously, nobody thought to save at least $1?!

18) Seth Masket on how Republicans can stop Trump.

19) Such a good little idea on programming your phone.  I went right ahead and did this.

20) How Charlottesville, VA moms got Whole Foods to enforce their no guns policy.

21) Had an open tab on this one for too long.  How poor parents raise their kids differently than middle-class parents.

22) Can we cure unpleasant emotional memories (and PTSD, etc.) with a drug?  Maybe.

23) Great Tom Edsall piece on the nature of Republican orthodoxy today.

Map of the day

Love this from Wonkblog:

The counties shaded blue are the 462 least densely populated counties of the nation. None of them have a population density greater than 7.4 people per square mile. In 65 of these counties, the density is less than one person per square mile.

Quick hits (part II)

1) John Judis, who once argued for the “Emerging Democratic Majority” takes to Vox to caution that maybe changing demographics are not so beneficial to the Democrats.

2) Yglesias on the single-payer debate we are not, but should be having:

Medicare works because it pays providers less

Single-payer skeptics tend to be simply incredulous that government-run systems, both in the United States and abroad, are more cost-effective. Isn’t the government a legendary cesspool of waste and inefficiency? Why would a government-run system be more efficient?

Well, here’s the answer: Foreign single-payer systems pay doctors less. They also pay pharmaceutical companies less. They pay less for medical devices, too.

It turns out that Medicare uses this trick, too, offering doctors only about 80 percent of what private insurance plans pay them…

The problem, politically speaking, is that doctors and hospital administrators like money. When politicians try to take away their money, they complain and they lobby. And it turns out that most people have more confidence in doctors than they do in members of Congress, so not only does the lobbying cash count but the complaining is extremely effective.

3) And Harold Pollack on the incredibly difficult politics of creating a single payer system in America.  These two paragraphs are important:

As with ACA, the biggest winners would be relatively disorganized low-income people in greatest need of help. The potential losers would include some of the most powerful and organized constituencies in America: workers who now receive generous tax expenditures for good private coverage, and affluent people who would face large tax increases to finance a single-payer system. [emphasis mine] At least some of these constituencies would need to be accommodated in messy political bargaining to get single-payer enacted. And states would have a role to play, too, potentially replicating the messy patchwork we got with ACA reforms.

Single-payer would require a serious rewrite of state and federal relations in Medicaid and in many other matters. It would radically revise the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which strongly influences the benefit practices of large employers. Single-payer would require intricate negotiation to navigate the transition from employer-based coverage. The House and Senate would be in charge of this tension, and at risk of the negotiations among key legislators and committees who hold sway.

4) So, this is a somewhat old National Journal piece analyzing the states that will pick the president.  It’s still incredibly relevant, but I’ve had it in an open tab for far too long without ever writing a post.  So…

5) Maybe teenage marijuana use does not lead to lower IQ after all.  Maybe.

6) How will you die?  Who knows?  God?  But you can at least take a look at these cool statistics for the likeliest age and cause (short version: old from disease).

7) Tipping as we practice it is, of course, so stupid.  But as long as we’re going to continue with it, servers should definitely be pooling tips.

8) Great Dahlia Lithwick (and Sonya West) piece on Florida’s absurd law to prevent doctors from asking about guns in the home:

The result was the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act. The law provides that licensed health care practitioners and facilities: “may not intentionally enter” information concerning a patient’s ownership of firearms into the patient’s medical record that the practitioner knows is “not relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others,” and “shall respect a patient’s right to privacy and should refrain” from inquiring as to whether a patient or their family owns firearms, unless the practitioner or facility believes in good faith that the “information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” Violations of the act could lead to disciplinary action including fines and suspension, or revocation of a medical license. Proponents of such laws say these doctor-patient dialogues violate the patients’ Second Amendment rights.

If something seems amiss to you about this argument, you’re not alone. A group of three doctors, the Florida Pediatric Society, and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, joined by the Brady Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit, claiming that the gun-talk ban violates the physicians’ free speech rights. As their complaint points out, restrictions on speech (such as this one) that only apply to a particular subject matter are generally recognized as being the worst kind of First Amendment violation—a content-based regulation. In order for the government to enact a content-based regulation on speech, it must show that the law serves a “compelling” interest. The doctors explain, however, that in light of the connection between guns and injuries, accidents, and suicides, this law actually stops doctors from addressing an incredibly serious health-related topic.

9) Want to reduce political polarization?  Give to political parties, not candidates and groups.

 

10) Apparently, the state of Kansas considers using marijuana (even if clearly prescribed for medical purposes in a state where it’s legal) to be cause to take your kids away.  Yet, you can be a raging alcoholic.  Ugh.

11) Interesting take on our over-protectiveness as parents and what it says about us as a society:

In September, the journalist Selena Hoy tackled the unique independence of Japanese children for CityLab, noting that kids in that country often venture onto public transit by themselves at age 6 or 7. She found the big difference between Japan and the U.S. to be an “unspoken” sense of community. Hoy writes:

What accounts for this unusual degree of independence? Not self-sufficiency, in fact, but “group reliance,” according to Dwayne Dixon, a cultural anthropologist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Japanese youth. “[Japanese] kids learn early on that, ideally, any member of the community can be called on to serve or help others,” he says.

The path to giving American kids greater autonomy may have nothing to do with laws, but with parents putting trust—misplaced or no—in the kindness of strangers.

12) Way back when, I use to drive a Plymouth Sundance Turbo(!).  Sold it the week before I got married for a Geo Prizm because I wanted something more reliable.  Apparently turbo engines are way more advanced now and making a comeback.

13) Eric Holder takes a big step to limit the utter travesty that is Civil Asset Forfeiture.  Sadly little news coverage of this.  Thanks, Obama!!

14) Andrew Prokop on Trump and Cruz’s contrasting strategies for winning Iowa:

The upshot is clear: Cruz thinks he can win by mobilizing the traditional conservative base whose pulse he’s spent years taking. But Trump is hoping to win by using his star power and xenophobic rhetoric to transform the composition of the GOP caucus electorate. And the question of which of them succeeds will have major implications not just for the primaries but for just what the Republican Party actually is today.

 

15) On moms as the default parent.  I got an email the other day from an organization that does focus groups and they need kids.  “Moms, tell us what toys your child plays with…” began the email.  I was so pissed.  As if a typical dad could not even tell you his child liked legos or barbies or whatever.  I responded as I think Evan would love a lego focus group, but I let them have my $.02 on how the email was addressed.

16) I don’t recall super-highly recommending Frum’s Atlantic cover story analyzing the fractures within the contemporary Republican Party.  If I already did, it is certainly good enough to read again.

 

 

The year in Fully Myelinated

WordPress does a pretty cool infographic summarizing blog stats for the year.  My 2015 edition is here.  It’s always funny to see which posts stand the test of time.  Would have never guessed that my top post for 2015 was 2013’s post (mostly just an extended quote) on why potato chips taste so good.  It also features top commenters and suggests I thank them.  Not a bad idea.  Thanks Jon K, R. Jenrette, Mika, Ohwilleke, and yes, even RBGAct whom I never agree with :-).  Anyway, thanks to all of your for making my blogging worthwhile in 2016.

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