Quick hits (part II)

1) So, in addition to the refugee thing, our governor now wants the state to join a lawsuit about transgender restrooms.  More evidence that McCrory will try and get re-elected by appealing to the GOP base in 2016, rather than 2012’s strategy of appearing a moderate acceptable to Democratic voters.  (Not that Democrats are going to the mattresses on transgender bathroom issues, but it speaks to a culture war focus to gin up GOP base support).

2) I saw a drug ad yesterday that advertised the drug as the most prescribed for a particular condition.  Why in the world then, does it need to be advertising directly to consumers?  Nice Op-Ed in NYT against this practice.

3) Judge Posner certainly understands what “undue burden” means.  And a nice piece on it from Dahlia Lithwick.

4) Fascinating society in Northern Syria based on radical notions of gender equity:

‘‘The battle made me think of women differently,’’ he told me. ‘‘Women fighters — they saved us. My society, Yazidi society, is more, let’s say, traditional. I’d never thought of women as leaders, as heroes, before.’’

Mirza heard about the academy at a refugee camp, and here his education in feminism had continued. He and his fellow students studied a text that Ocalan wrote on gender equality called ‘‘Liberating Life.’’ In it, Ocalan argues that problems of bad governance, corruption and weak democratic institutions in Middle Eastern societies can’t be solved without achieving full equality for women. He once told P.K.K. militants in Turkey, ‘‘You don’t need to be [men] now. You need to think like a woman, for men only fight for power. But women love nature, trees, the mountains. … That is how you can become a true patriot.’’

5) Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers.

6) Are good doctors bad for you health?  Quite possibly.  Excellent column from Zeke Emmanuel:

One thing patients can do is ask four simple questions when doctors are proposing an intervention, whether an X-ray, genetic test or surgery. First, what difference will it make? Will the test results change our approach to treatment? Second, how much improvement in terms of prolongation of life, reduction in risk of a heart attack or other problem is the treatment actually going to make? Third, how likely and severe are the side effects? And fourth, is the hospital a teaching hospital? The JAMA Internal Medicine study found that mortality was higher overall at nonteaching hospitals.

7) On the rising prominence of on-line polls.

8) Dylan Matthews on how the media has no idea how to deal with Trump’s shameless lying.

9) George Will’s take on the overly-sensitive students in recent college protests.  I could deal without Will’s smugness, but some more good examples of this all going too far.

10) John Cassidy on the latest pharmaceutical merger:

Read, in his statement explaining the proposal to merge with Allergen, said that it would help put Pfizer “on a more competitive footing within our industry.” This was a reference to the fact that other big pharma companies, such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis, are headquartered in countries with lower corporate tax rates than the United States. However, there is scant evidence that being based in the United States has handicapped Pfizer or made it more difficult for the company to raise capital.
To the contrary, being based in the United States enables Pfizer to exploit the vast reservoirs of technical expertise that reside here, and to access federal support for scientific research. For example, according to the company’s Web site, it has dozens of collaborative projects with the National Institutes for Health. And being headquartered in the United States certainly hasn’t prevented Pfizer from making a lot of money. Over the past two years, the company has generated almost nineteen billion dollars in net profits.

11) What to do about those prosecutors who abuse their authority with no concern for Constitutional rights?  Prosecute them.  A thousand times, yes.

12) Nice piece from early-childhood expert (and Matt Damon’s mom!) on putting way too much emphasis on testing and academics at way too early an age.  Kind of depressing.

13) The highest bridge in the world.

14) Jamelle Bouie on why “fascist” is the most appropriate term for Donald Trump:

With that said, it is true that there are fascist movements, and it’s also true that when you strip their cultural clothing—the German paganism in Nazism, for example—there are common properties. Not every fascist movement shows all of them, but—Eco writes—“it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.” Eco identifies 14, but for this column, I want to focus on seven.

They are: A cult of “action for action’s sake,” where “thinking is a form of emasculation”; an intolerance of “analytical criticism,” where disagreement is condemned; a profound “fear of difference,” where leaders appeal against “intruders”; appeals to individual and social frustration and specifically a “frustrated middle class” suffering from “feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”; a nationalist identity set against internal and external enemies (an “obsession with a plot”); a feeling of humiliation by the “ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”; a “popular elitism” where “every citizen belongs to the best people of the world” and underscored by contempt for the weak; and a celebration of aggressive (and often violent) masculinity.

If you are so inclined, Bouie spells out how these apply to Trump.  But I think it is plenty obvious.

15) Not impressed by Mockingjay Part 2.  One movie would have been plenty sufficient.  More so, the source material just wasn’t that great.  Suzanne Collins came up with a terrific idea for The Hunger Games.  It was a great idea for one book, not three.

16) Nice long read in Wired on how humans got such big brains.

Infographic of the day

From a recent Vox post on antiobiotic resistance:

For a new Lancet series on superbugs, researchers visualized the various modifiable drivers of antibiotic resistance. As you can see, they found that human antibiotic misuse and overuse was one of the single biggest contributors. It was followed only by the abuse of antibiotics in agriculture [emphasis mine] (another big problem that you can read about here).


Quick hits (part II)

1) Girls aren’t meaner than boys– it only looks that way:

So how do we account for girls’ relational infamy? The answer may have little to do with how, or how often, girls are unkind, and more to do with the chain reaction that is set off when girls are on the sharp end of a peer’s stick.

Evidence suggests that girls, more than boys, are injured by social mistreatment. We’ve long known that girls place a higher premium on their interpersonal relationships than boys do, so it follows that they become more upset when their relational ties are threatened. Indeed, research finds that, disproportionately, girls harbor painful thoughts and feelings when hurt by their peers. They fret about why they were targeted, wonder if they had it coming, and strategize about how to befriend the antagonist.

To soothe their bruised feelings girls, more than boys, reach out to their friends . Turning to peers puts girls in touch with valuable social support, but we also know that recruiting friends to analyze social slights in detail can actually deepen a girl’s emotional distress. In contrast, boys who are hurt often seek out distractions— they stop thinking about hard feelings by thinking about something else. This may render boys less fluent in the language of their emotions, but they tend to feel better, faster.

2) Plenty of cross-national evidence (via Vox) that welfare doesn’t make people lazy, but helps get them out of poverty.

3) The uncertainty of “sanctuary cities” in NC after a new state law.

4) Sure, the Star Wars prequels don’t match the originals.  Don’t hate.

5) Nothing like liberals arts college protesters.  The ones at Smith want to bar all journalists except those that disagree with them.   College meets kindergarten.

6) Love the story behind the famous image of a toddler throwing a tantrum in front of Obama in the Oval Office.

7) Mockery is so fun.  But I do agree with Drum that it will not change many minds (on the Syrian refugees, or anything else).

8) So, did you know the meaning of “Netflix and chill”?  Was quite surprised to learn this from my students this week.  So far, I have not been able to convince my wife we need more Netflix time together.

9) So, about that “crime wave” caused by #blacklivesmatter?  Not so much.

10) I do find this issue of copyright and Anne Frank’s diary to be really fascinating.  Nice column on the trouble with present copyright law.


The foundation dedicates all the earnings from the diary to charitable ends, but its move underscores what many copyright experts and public advocates see as a disturbing perversion of copyright principles. Instead of providing a limited monopoly to creators to promote the flow of artistic works to the public, it’s become a practically limitless source of income to creators’ heirs–sometimes generations removed–and corporate rights holders.

“There’s no way a 95-year copyright term is an incentive for anyone to create anything,” says Dennis Karjala, a law professor at Arizona State who led the opposition to the Copyright Term Extension Act, the 1998 federal law known as the Sonny Bono Act after its chief promoter in Congress. The act set copyright duration at the author’s life plus 70 years, or 95 years after publication for works done for hire.

The act wasn’t aimed at encouraging artistic expression, Karjala says. It was pushed by corporate entities such as the Walt Disney Co., which would soon lose rights to the earliest films featuring Mickey Mouse. “They were all concerned about the cutoff of the royalty spigot,” Karjala says.

Rather than promote the flow of works into public view, copyright here and abroad has become a tool for keeping works out of the public domain.

11) How our microbiome (may) shape autism.  My guess is that microbes shape all sorts of aspects of human behavior that we don’t yet appreciate.

12) Are you hating Muslims?  Exactly what ISIS wants you to be doing.

Extremist groups feed off of alienation, some counterterrorism experts say, and Islamist militants deliberately aim to make Muslims in the West feel isolated and turn against their own communities.

13) Great piece on the research of NCSU professor Walt Wolfram on Southern accents.


14) Today’s college students really do approach college living with a different mindset.

Particularly in the way things have unfolded at Yale, students’ social-justice activism has been expressed, in part, as the need for care from authority figures. When they experience the hurt that motivates them to political action, they’re deeply disappointed with parental surrogates for not responding adequately or quickly enough to support and nurture them. The world in which it’s not bizarre for a young person to rebuke someone for failing to “create a place of comfort and home,” or to yell, “Be quiet … You’re disgusting!,” and storm away, is the world of family, where a child in pain desperately desires empathy and understanding from a parent. The online scorn heaped on the student who was filmed behaving this way represents an unproductive refusal to compassionately translate her behavior across the generational divide. In a piece called “Hurt at Home,” another Yale student wrote, “I feel my home is being threatened,” and contrasted her comforting relationship with her father to the care she felt students emphatically did not receive from the master of Silliman College. Yale tells its students that the residential college is their “home away from home,” but this generation might be the first to insist so literally on that idea.

15) With disgusting amounts of xenophobia on the loose, it’s also helpful to remember Japanese internment.

16) Drum on the anti-science leadership of the House Science Committee:

In any case, Smith is a disgrace, and it’s a disgrace that Republicans allow him to chair a committee on science. Smith’s view of science is simple: if it backs up his beliefs, it’s fine. If it doesn’t, it’s obviously fraudulent. This is the attitude that leads to defunding of climate research or banning research on guns. After all, there’s always the possibility that the results will be inconvenient, and in the world of Smith and his acolytes, that can’t be allowed to stand. Full speed ahead and science be damned.

17) The “quiet eye” and coordination in athletes.

18) Ezra Klein on how America only pretends to value moms.

19) Jonathan Cohn on the trouble Obamacare is facing with individual policies:

As HHS acknowledges, the remaining uninsured tend to be the hardest to reach. This includes those don’t qualify for subsidies or receive only modest assistance, and don’t find the insurance affordable or valuable. What’s more, people shopping for coverage on the exchanges are finding that the policies have high deductibles and limited physician networks. If insurers raise prices, the danger is that more and more people will decide such coverage is simply not worth buying — even if it means paying the penalties.

The Affordable Care Act has already accomplished a great deal — slashing the uninsured rateand providing millions with consumer protections like the guarantee of coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. But enrollment could stagnate.

So what would happen then? It’s impossible to be certain, but many experts think the subsidies would function as a built-in safeguard against a severe market collapse — “the news about United does not presage a death spiral,” Kingsdale said — because that financial assistance keeps coverage cheap for millions of lower- to middle-income people, even if insurers raise their premiums. The mandate would obviously make a big difference, too.

But the law’s architects and supporters had hoped enrollment would continue growing beyond where it is today, reaching more and more people and providing as great a benefit to the affluent middle class as to the working class and poor. If enrollment stalls, the law would still be helping millions of Americans, but it would also be coming up short of expectations.

20) On the easy and unearned virtue of hating “bad” things.

21) Jedediah Purdy on Bernie Sanders and the history of socialism.

22) Speaking of Bernie, anecdotally it was clear to me that my students strongly prefer him over Clinton.  Actual polling (and quality polling done by my colleague Mike Cobb) shows this to be very much the case.  Sadly, Ben Carson also leads among NCSU students.

23) So, back in my classic-rock-loving teen years, I listened plenty to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (Karn Evil #9 being a particular favorite).  I was at a improv class performance for my oldest son at The Cary Theater and there was a sign for Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy tonight.  I mostly thought it was interesting, but not much more.  At 7:50, I checked recent set lists on-line and decided I had to go.  Made it by 8:05 before the show started.  Turns out the show was actually sold out, but somebody had turned in an extra ticket.  Pretty cool.  Great show.

24) Really nice longer read from HuffPol and Chronicle of Higher Education on money and college athletics.  Lots of cool statistics, too (such as the good news that students at my university have to pay very little to subsidize intercollegiate athletics– at some places it is a ridiculous amount).

Antibiotics and your microbiome

This research is too close to my heart to leave for quick hits:

The study, recently published in mBio, found that just one weeklong course of antibiotics changed participants’ gut microbiomes, with the effects sometimes lasting as long as a year. After all, antibiotics don’t discriminate—as they attack the bad bacteria, the good ones are vulnerable too.

In a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial at two centers (one in the United Kingdom, one in Sweden), researchers gave participants one of four commonly-prescribed antibiotics—clindamycin, ciprofloxacin, minocycline, and amoxicillin—or a placebo. They checked on participants’ oral and gut microbiomes by analyzing the bacteria present in their saliva and feces before the experiment (to get a baseline), right after the week of antibiotics, and one, two, four, and 12 months afterward.

The effects varied depending on which antibiotic the person took, but generally, while the oral microbiome bounced back pretty quickly, some of the bacteria in the intestines suffered a crushing blow. People who took clindamycin and ciprofloxacin saw a decrease in types of bacteria that produce butyrate, a fatty acid that lowers oxidative stress and inflammation in the intestines. The reduced microbiome diversity for clindamycin-takers lasted up to four months; for some who took ciprofloxacin, it was still going on at the 12-month check-up. (Amoxicillin, on the plus side, seemed to have no significant effect on either the oral or gut microbiome, and minocycline-takers were back to normal at the one-month check-up.)

What’s more, the researchers found that while “both study populations carried antibiotic-resistance genes in their oral and gut microbiomes” before the study began, genetic analyses revealed the presence of more of these genes after people had taken the antibiotics.

“Clearly,” the study reads, “even a single antibiotic treatment in healthy individuals contributes to the risk of resistance development and leads to long-lasting detrimental shifts in the gut microbiome.”

Obviously, antibiotics save lives, but we need to be much more careful with when and how we use them.  On the bright side, it was good to see the minimal impact of amoxicllin– far and away the antibiotic my kids have been prescribed the most (and also on the bright side for my kids, it’s been a long time since any of them have needed an antibiotic).

Quick hits (part II)

1) College campus PC-liberalism amok takes on Halloween.  Prominently at Yale.

2) How Democrats also pass laws that intentionally lead to lower turnout.

3) If we are always short of nurses are we really short of nurses?

4) There’s now some interesting research on how poor people can really benefit by living in mixed income communities.  But now, some research on how it is extra tough for poor teenage boys who live near rich neighborhoods.

5) So tired of prosecutors abusing their discretion– statutory rape edition.

6) Paul Waldman on Ben Carson:

Ben Carson’s ideas about things like the pyramids, combined with what he has said about other more immediate topics, suggest not only that his beliefs are impervious to evidence but also an alarming lack of what we might call epistemological modesty. It isn’t what he doesn’t know that’s the problem, it’s what he doesn’t realize that he doesn’t know. He thinks that all the archeologists who have examined the pyramids just don’t know what they’re talking about, because Joseph had to put all that grain somewhere. He thinks that after reading something about the second law of thermodynamics, he knows more about the solar system than the world’s physicists do. He thinks that after hearing a Glenn Beck rant about the evils of Islam, he knows as much about a 1,400-year-old religion as any theologian and can confidently say why no Muslim who doesn’t renounce his faith could be president.

So what happens when President Carson gets what he thinks is a great idea, and a bunch of “experts” tell him it would actually be a disaster? What’s he going to do?

7) Chait argues that he seems to be more into running a book tour/ brand building exercise than a presidential campaign.

Carson is doing a lot of things that seem puzzling for a presidential campaign, but quite logical for a brand-building exercise. He is taking weeks off the campaign trail to go on a book tour. His campaign itself is structured much more like a scamming venture than a political one. An astronomical 69 percent of his fund-raising totals are spent on more fund-raising. (Bernie Sanders, by contrast, spends just 4 percent of his intake on fund-raising.) In addition to direct mail, Carson seems to have undertaken a massive phone-spamming operation. Spending most of your money to raise more money is not a good way to get elected president, but it is a good way to build a massive list of supporters that can later be monetized.

8) Hillary has a staffer with an arrest for using drugs.  The NY Post thinks you should care.

8b) Meanwhile Bill O’Reilly thinks it is a good idea to just execute all drug offenders.

9) Really enjoyed this Slate piece on Scalia on statutory interpretation in a child pornography case.


10) Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?  Because people mistake confidence for competence.

11) People who insist they need showy public prayer are so annoying.  And when they are HS coaches, they are so wrong.

12) Yglesias makes a strong case for easy debate questions.


13) Some nice perspective on diet and exercise and our environment from someone who recently lost 100 pounds.

14) Seth Masket says don’t count out Jeb just yet.

15) Pretty fascinating profile of a far-right conservative talk radio host and how his crazy listeners keep pushing him further to the right.

16) Math vs. Marco Rubio via Chait:

That means the brunt of Rubio’s fiscal pressure would come to bear on the minority of the federal budget that goes directly to the poor.

This is how Republican budget logic works in general. When you add up fanatical opposition to higher revenue, a political need to protect current retirees and a commitment to higher defense spending, you wind up either blowing up the budget deficit or inflicting massive harm on the poor. There are different ways to handle that problem. One of them is the Paul Ryan–circa-2011 plan of just proposing enormous cuts in anti-poverty programs. Another is the Paul Ryan–circa-2014-to-the-present plan of keeping those cuts in the budget but insisting they’re not your actual ideas.

Then you have the Rubio-Dubya method. The downside of this plan is that you don’t get Ryan-esque praise as a serious budget hawk who’s willing to look America square in the eyeball and tell us hard truths. But liberating yourself from any pretense to obeying the laws of arithmetic provides certain upsides that seem profitable for Rubio.

17) University of Missouri Law School social media policy is nuts!

18) We need too massively decarcerate.

So, the story is straightforward: America has simply created a tremendous capacity to convict and incarcerate its citizens. And, we continue to do so even though violence has declined dramatically. Prosecutors have more beds to fill and they are doing so, and as a result more arrestees find themselves serving prison sentences than ever before. And some of them may be innocent.

19) Really cool story on the emergence of the Coyolf as a new species


20) Say what you will about fast food, but a lot of the companies are taking some important steps towards a less horrible industrial food system.  Most everybody but Yum! foods, that is.  Not coincidentally, I used to love Taco Bell when I was a teenage male, but it’s probably been at least 15 years since I’ve eaten there.

The simplest explanation, however, is that Taco Bell hasn’t followed the industry because it doesn’t have to. Its customers are young, like those of its competitors, but they are predominantly male, which, according to Technomic’s 2015 food trend report, means they’re less likely to care about animal welfare.  They also aren’t quite as affluent as those who frequent other chain’s, which, Tristano points out, likely means they are more price sensitive.

“The lower you get down the price points, the more your consumer has to prefer lower prices to better animal welfare rights,” he said. “So I think it’s also reflection of how Taco Bell’s customers feel.”

21) Nice Vox article from Lee Drutman on the reinforcing feedback loop of inequality and Republican electoral success.  Read it.

You’re going to die

Recently came across a cool infographic putting various causes of death into perspective (newsflash: cardiovascular disease and cancer).  Also, cool, though, was an accompanying infographic on known risk factors:

UK risks of death infographic - atlas of risk

Quick hits (part I)

Lots of good stuff this week.  Let’s go!

1) The Economist on how libertarians hijacked liberal economics.

2) Daniel Craig on Hollywood’s sexist double-standard on aging.  And, he’s a great Bond.

3) Vox puts the shocking arrest of a SC student into the larger context of the policy of police in schools.  And some good Amy Davidson commentary on the matter.  And a good take on the racial component from Jamelle Bouie.

4) Nice NYT Editorial on the concealed carry fantasy.

5) This article about Jeb’s flailing campaign was even before his poor debate performance.  There’s just no way this guy is going to be president.

They didn’t have to look far for an explanation. All they had to do was listen to Jeb on Saturday in South Carolina.

“If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it,” the candidate said. “. . . I’ve got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

I don’t want any part of it? I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do? Elect Trump if you want? The self-described “joyful tortoise” may have just delivered the most petulant political speech since the future 37th president said “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

Bush is correct that Trump’s campaign of insults has made the 2016 GOP primary race an ugly affair. But his response — suggesting he’d take his ball and go home rather than sully himself — is precisely what has sunk Bush’s candidacy so far. Angry voters want a fighter, and Bush, justifiably dubbed “low-energy” by Trump, doesn’t seem to have it in him. The way to combat Trump’s demagoguery and race-baiting is not to look down your nose at him and say “Tut-tut.” It’s to hit Trump back with as much force as he delivers.

6) Great interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter about her new book.  Short version: our society really needs to start truly valuing giving care to others.

7) It is interesting to learn that Florida and Texas are doing surprisingly well in teaching their students.  But damn it, it would be a lot more interesting if we actually knew why.

8) Leadership mistakes of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars.  Awesomeness.

9) Are we becoming inured to TV shows killing off main characters?

10) Really good piece from Fareed Zakaria admitting his mistake of supporting the Iraq War.  Definitely a good one to read the whole thing (it’s pretty short, too):

Consider this: The United States replaced the regime in Iraq and gave the new one massive assistance for a decade. The result? Chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya but chose not to attempt nation-building in that country. The result has been chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington supported a negotiated removal of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime in Yemen and the election that followed, but generally took a back seat. The result again was chaos and humanitarian tragedy.

The reality in that part of the world is that many of its regimes are fragile, presiding over weak institutions, little civil society, and often no sense of nationhood itself. In that situation, outside interventions, however well-meaning, might not make things better. Sometimes they can even make things worse.

11) Yes, LARC’s are awesome, but they are way under-used.

12) How the disappearance of large animals, and their poop can disrupt ecosystems.

13) Why is academic writing so bad?

14) I love candy corn.  And since Sarah does too, we even eat at not just at Halloween.  Really enjoyed this National Geographic story on the history of it.

15) The Memory Palace is one of my favorite podcasts and it definitely deserves more popularity.  This episode on lead and the wrongness of America may have been my favorite so far.

16) Enough with turning things pink and thinking you are actually doing something about women’s health.

17) REI is closing its stores on Black Friday and encouraging it’s employees and customers to get outside instead.  Not that I shop at REI, but I totally plan on taking them up on it (hope to do some hiking in the NC mountains that day).

18) Happy Halloween.


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