Chart of the day

The demographics of smartphone ownership.  Via Pew.  I just find this interesting, especially the race and age components:

Smartphone Ownership Highest Among Young Adults, Those With High Income/Education Levels

Photo of the day

Sorry, I’ve been a slacker blogger.  I’m teaching a “Maymester” class which means squeezing a full semester into 3 weeks.  Throw in a little “political expert” consulting project on the side and blogging has fallen by the wayside.  Not to mention trying to teach Evan how to ride a bike.

Anyway, did you know that the Japanese tried to attack America with approximately 9000 balloon bombs during 1944?  They did.  Learned about it today on a great Radiolab.  And since that’s a listen, here’s a nice summary from NPR, where I found the photo.

The Japanese balloon bomb, in all its terrible splendor.

The Japanese balloon bomb, in all its terrible splendor.

US Army

Chipotle, science, and corporate responsibility

I’m going to keep eating at Chippotle, even though they are now officially anti-science, and just feel conflicted about it.  Much like I keep eating industrially-produced, non-humanely raised meat and feel bad about it.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this Jesse Singal post on Chipotle’s new official anti-science stance:

In the most extreme cases, pronouncements that clash with the scientific consensus are met with angry Facebook posts and petitions and all the other accouterments of circa-2015 internet outrage. The questions are screamed in unison: How can these people ignore science? And how can they be so irresponsible as to encourage others to do the same?

And yet when the burrito giant Chipotle announced earlier this week that it will no longer be using any ingredients that contain or originate from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, there was barely a peep from the usual guardians of empiricism — despite the fact that more than 16 major international science organizations, including the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences, have concluded that there is no good reason to avoid consuming current GMOs. The burrito purveyor hasn’t suffered much backlash yet,but its new policy certainly represents the same sort of anti-science pandering that helps fuel the anti-vaccine and climate-change-denialism movements.  [emphasis mine]

Chipotle may argue that it’s simply giving its consumers what they want (I sent them an email via their contact form seeking comment on Monday and didn’t hear back), but that position only makes sense if one ignores the larger social context. In practice, the burrito giant’s “GMO-free” stance (explained here on its website — the chain notes that because of the ubiquity of GMOs in the U.S. food supply, customers who order soda or meat may still end up consuming GMO-sourced products) seems destined help cement false ideas about GMOs in the public imagination — most relevant, that they pose a health risk…

Part of the reason GMO hysteria arose in the first place is that most people barely know what GMOs are. Yoel Inbar, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who studies human judgement and decision-making, said consumers tend to perform just a bit better than a coin flip on simple true-false questions on the subject…

Most consumers aren’t going to carefully analyze the scientific consensus on a given issue — who has time for that? Rather, they use mental shortcuts, taking cues from people and institutions they trust. Chipotle has developed a reputation for corporate responsibility and making careful decisions about the ingredients on its menu, and Chipotle ditched GMOs — therefore, GMOs must be bad. Chipotle scores points, science loses. Surely other companies looking to capitalize off of a veneer of corporate do-goodery are keeping a close eye on this.

Yep.  Alas, Chipotle’s actions speak loudly.  What actual scientists who study and understand GMO’s are drowned out.  And if you think Republicans are crazy for denying climate change, but don’t want to eat GMO food out of health concerns, it’s definitely time to check your pro-science, evidence-based credentials.

Quick hits (part II)

1) David Frum suggests that how Republicans address Americans who would lose their insurance under an Obamacare repeal will be a key question in the 2016 election.

2) Donald Rumsfeld understands the Baltimore riots– or at least he understood riots in Iraq:

While no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime. And I don’t think there’s anyone in any of those pictures … [who wouldn’t] accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.

3) A professor in Texas who decided to fail his entire class.  Unsurprisingly, the university wouldn’t let him.

4) Apparently some organic food still has mad-made chemicals.  Which, of course, is worth a big shoulder shrug.

5) A nice New Yorker post about the viral face/age recognition software.

6) Most people stop listening to music people by age 33.  I’ve added Muse since that age, but that’s about it.  I do listen to a selection of newer stuff via Pandora, but little of it really sticks with me.  (Though, for some reason, I totally love this).

7) Amy Davidson on Samuel Alito’s obsession with polygamy.

8) So, the American Psychological Association helped the Bush administration with torture.  So wrong.

9) Kids will read more if you let them choose books for themselves.  Of course, this presumes they will actually choose something (I’ve got a certain 9-year old in mind).  Actually really interesting survey results.  Kids really love funny.

10) John Cassidy on the disappointing near-silence from Republican presidential candidates on Baltimore.

11)  Just in case you were not aware, we are basically using our prisons as totally inappropriate and inadequate psychiatric hospitals.  And, no, that’s not a good thing for anybody.

12) David Brooks is really good at blaming poor people and not so good at looking at the context:

On Friday, Brooks published another fatuous piece about poverty. This time, naturally, the subject was Baltimore. Brooks tried to undercut the popular trope that funding poor communities like Baltimore will improve conditions. He writes:

The $15 trillion spent by the government over the past half-century has improved living standards and eased burdens for millions of poor people. But all that money and all those experiments have not integrated people who live in areas of concentrated poverty into the mainstream economy.

This passage is instructive for a couple of reasons. First, it illustrates Brooks’ tendency to say something true without offering anything resembling context. For instance, he notes that poor people haven’t been integrated into the mainstream economy but fails to ask why that is. We’ve tossed all this money at the problem, he seems to suggest, yet things aren’t better. How could that be? Perhaps it has something to do with history, with the residual effects of institutionalized racism and the array of structural problems that have plagued Baltimore and communities like it for decades. Dumping federal dollars into a city doesn’t erase these things.

13) A Vox interview on the history of racist policing in America.

14) Simply wearing a suit makes people think differently.  It also makes people treat you differently.

15) Great, great Connor Friedersdorf piece on how conservatives fail to take police abuse seriously.  It’s not that long– read the whole thing:

Meanwhile, most conservatives either ignored or were oblivious to the Baltimore police department’s stunning record of egregious, normalized brutality and civil rights abuses. It would be one thing if these conservative pundits acknowledged that police brutality and violations of the Constitutional rights of black people are epidemic in Baltimore but argued that other factors mostly explain Monday’s civil unrest. Agreeing on what caused the riots isn’t actually vital when taken in isolation.

What’s vexing actually predates the riots: It is movement conservatism’s general, longstanding blindness to massive rights violations by police. The myopia has somehow persisted even in an era when an hour on YouTube providesincontrovertible evidence of egregious brutality by scores of thuggish cops. Per usual, let us acknowledge the many U.S. police officers who serve their communities with honor, courage, empathy, and restraint. One needn’t disrespect them to see that bad policing is common. It is more than “a few bad apples.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Republicans have even alienated Robert Samuelson for their true dedication to helping America’s richest citizens at all costs (in this case by trying to eliminate the estate tax).

2) I’ve always found fonts rather fascinating.  But I don’t think I’d ever be in the running for a job where I looked upon poorly for using Times New Roman.

3) Loved David Simon’s marxist- based analysis (no, he’s not a communist) analysis of the situation in Baltimore.

4) I’ve always much preferred Diet Coke (and especially Coke Zero) to Diet Pepsi.  Now I’ll have even more reason to as Pepsi has decided to pander to science deniers and remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.

But the problem with appeasing customers at the expense of science is that it sets a poor precedent. And in this case it’s also unlikely to reverse Diet Pepsi’s waning appeal.

What Pepsi’s move will likely accomplish, more than anything else, is give credence to unfounded fears that aspartame is somehow more harmful or artificial than a lot of other sweeteners being used in products on supermarket shelves. That myth doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to dying.

5) Interestingly, we probably need to make it easier for kids to skip grades.

6) Nice summary of social science on the persistence of racism in America.

7) If you want to help the earthquake victims in Nepal, send money.  Not stuff and not yourself.  And that goes for pretty much any disaster.

8) Just one more unarmed teenager killed by police who thought he had a gun.  Make no mistake, this is absolutely a necessary consequence of America’s gun culture.  Yes, we need better policing, but the police in America are uniquely deathly afraid because there really are guns everywhere.

9) The smartest students (as judged by LSAT scores) are increasingly deciding against law school.  Good for them.  Especially because the job market is really, really tough for law school grads.

10) Sometimes the Onion headline nails it better than anybody:

Nation On Edge As Court Votes Whether To Legalize Gay Marriage Now Or In A Few Years

11) Wonkblog with 7 “facts” about healthy food that aren’t actually true (I’ve probably written about each of these at some point).  On a related note, a Vox post nails it with the headline, “The real side effect of a gluten-free diet: scientific illiteracy.”

12) And sticking with food, OSHA knows we should do more to keep workers safe in meat production (and really, we’re horrible at this), but just doesn’t have the budget for it.

13) The attempt to turn climate change into a moral issue and how that could change everything if it succeeds (and it’s got Pope Francis on its side).

14) Speaking of threats to the earth, how about that good old-fashioned problem of too many people (okay, guilty of the fact of helping create more than my fair share).

15) Good to know that I know far more about Premier League Football than UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who totally embarrassed himself on the matter.  For the record, I’m an Arsenal fan.

16) Jamelle Bouie’s post placing the problems in Baltimore into deep historical context.  Is excellent.  I’ve left it for last so that you actually read it.

How old do you look?

I was going to just put this in quick hits, but it’s too much fun not to get it’s own post.  A Microsoft website that uses some algorithm to guess your age and gender (pretty accurately) by your photo.  Here it is getting my daughter just right and me six years too young in my current profile photo.


Had a lot of fun with this using a number of different photos.  It had me as high as 46 and as low as 36.  On average, probably low 40’s– not bad.  And yes, always as a man :-).

And here’s a family Christmas photo.  Would love to know what it is about my son David (15) that it always thinks he’s late 20’s.

Screenshot - 4_30_2015 , 9_15_48 PM

Let me know how it does for you.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Rick Hasen on Hillary Clinton and campaign finance reform (short version: a Constitutional amendment is not a serious proposal but “red meat” for Democratic activists).

2) Experimental proof of the power of peer pressure— for good and ill– in schools.

3) I buy this argument that the bar exam is basically about keeping lawyering a cartel to protect the earnings of attorneys, rather than anything meaningful to protect legal consumers.

4) So, now I know that Art Pope’s people are the “intellectual” push behind the ludicrous idea that all public college professors in NC should teach 8 courses a year.

5) Focusing on early childhood programs is great and lead to life-long benefits.  But here’s some interesting evidence that counseling and teaching self-control to young adult males can actually still make a meaningful difference.

6) NYT magazine on just how crazy the new era of campaign finance is getting.

7) Enjoyed this Nicholas Lehman take on the challenges Hillary Clinton faces in uniting Democratic voters:

The announcement video indicates that the Clinton campaign believes that in this cycle, the core appeal to Democratic and potentially Democratic voters has to be based on economics. Voters want to hear that the generation-long stall-out of the American working and middle classes’ fortunes is somehow going to end. The problem is that, right now, the Democratic coalition seems to be in agreement on the formerly radioactive social issues—ethnicity, sexuality, values—but not on the economic issues that will define the election. In the video you can detect the hope that it will be possible to declare that the campaign is all about economics, and then to spend it talking mainly about other things. Does Hillary Clinton want to raise taxes on the rich? More heavily regulate financial institutions? Make unions more politically powerful? Throw some sand in the gears of globalization by restricting free trade? These are the kinds of questions that have historically gone along with an overriding concern with the welfare of “everyday Americans,” but they are not pleasant ones for the campaign, because in each case, a clear answer would alienate an element of the Democratic Party.

8) Was fascinated by this visual analysis of how the studio ruined the color palette of the most reason Superman movie.

9) It’s pretty clear that aspartame is essentially harmless.  But enough people are scared of it that Pepsi is eliminating it from Diet Pepsi.  All the more reason to stick with my preference for Diet Coke (and especially Coke Zero).  The Vox post also does a nice job running through the non-evidence for aspartame being harmful.

10) Nice Lee Drutman Op-Ed on how to (partially) counter-balance the huge influence of corporate lobbyists by investing in Congressional staff:

It doesn’t need to be this way. We can give the House and Senate (which account for a minuscule 0.06 percent of the federal budget) the resources to hire and keep enough of the best people, especially in key committee positions. We can bolster independent capacity for technical analysis by giving a boost to the research arms of Congress, like the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office.

While congressional salaries can’t possibly equal lobbying salaries, they don’t have to. The thrill of being on the inside is enough of a draw that congressional offices have little trouble filling openings. The problem is that staffers burn out quickly. More money, shorter hours and better working conditions wouldn’t keep everyone, but they’d keep enough good people.

11) Apparently they’ve finally changed the presidential physical fitness test as it never actually made any sense.  That said, I spent most of my 4th grade year practicing my broad jump and gained almost a foot to earn the presidential award.  One of the proudest moments of my childhood.

12) I find the concept of a bucket list somewhat silly, but if I were to start one, this place would go right to the top.  Also a nice article on it in Smithsonian.


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