Quick hits (part I)

1) This is a terrific piece on the strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton as a politician by Ezra Klein.  I’ve been meaning to write a post about it. Just read it.  Really.

2) As long as I am quick-hitting stuff I meant to give their own post… this Dara Lind piece on sex offender registries is a pretty much perfect case study in how good intentions can lead to bad policy.

3) Biblical literalism and the new Noah’s Ark reconstruction.

4) Trump’s message to NC is increasingly less relevant.

5) The right-wing lies and myths about Hillary’s health are just plain wrong.  And the mainstream media should call them out on this.

6) A liberal professor with his take on why all the liberal professors.

7) A teacher shared her evidence-based policy on homework (that is, there’s little evidence it helps) and it went viral.  There’s actually nothing new here, but presumably good that people are starting to pay attention.

8) I’m so with Drum… if you’ve got something more than one simple thought to say, write a damn blog post!  Enough with the tweetstorms!

9) John McWhorter (by the way, I love how he has gone full-bore on being a public intellectual– I’ve loved pretty much everything I have read by him) on the changing language of race.  I especially like this part:

Notably, black has persisted robustly alongside African-American—note how clumsy “African American Lives Matter” would seem. The reason is that despite the persistence of racism after the early ’70s, few could say that black people since then have lived under the bluntly discriminatory, life-stunting conditions that blighted all black lives then. As such, African-Americandidn’t have as much ugly thought to replace, which is why it always had a slight air of the stunt about it, always felt as a bit in quotation marks. Black never connoted the ugly-newsreel/segregated water-fountain pain of Negro and colored, and African-American was created not because black had become especially freighted with negative associations, but because the hyphenated conception of identity had become so attractive and in vogue at the time. I personally have always found African-American clumsy, confusing, and implying that black history since 1600 was somehow not worthy of founding an identity upon, and I only use it when necessary. Yet I would never have ventured this relatively idiosyncratic position about Negro and colored.

10) Find out how well Facebook knows your politics (and actually very handy advice for modifying the ads you see).

11) Harry Enten on house effects among various pollsters.  As long as you analytically take these into account, the poll can still be useful.

12) I’m pretty good with delay of gratification, but the idea of putting something aside for 72 hours before buying it sounds like a good one.

13) Sensible password rules.  Enough with one special character, one upper-case, etc.

14) Interesting take on how Gawker was done in (shared by pretty much every journalist I know on social media).

15) Jonathan Ladd thinks Trump’s epically bad campaign means he has a lot of potential upside.  Definitely the right idea, but I honestly think, too late:

Yet as you may have noticed, things are different this year. The Trump campaign is so weak that it appears to be affecting the race. Political science models predicting the 2016 election based on various fundamentals (i.e., variables that ignore the two candidates and their campaigns) mostly predict a very close election or a Republican victory. Trump is vastly underperforming these fundamentals. He is currently somewhere between 5 and 10 points behind in pollingaverages.

The reason is that his campaign is weaker than any in the modern media era. There is arguably a bigger mismatch relative to the opposing campaign than in any presidential election in American history. The many errors of messaging by Trump and his campaign staff are too numerous to list here.

The bottom line is that he has presented himself in ways that have little appeal beyond the Republican base, some of whom will vote for him because they like his message and others out of partisan loyalty. But many other Americans who would be willing to vote Republican this year are repelled by Trump.

The strange thing is that this means the details of Trump’s campaign tactics matter a lot. Normally, both campaigns are competent enough that they are deep into the diminishing marginal returns for campaign communication. But this year, the Trump campaign has been so weak, I don’t think diminishing returns have really kicked in yet. Trump could improve his fortunes a lot if he managed to run a weak but essentially normal presidential campaign.

16) Money is all good for college athletes when it comes to gold medals.  Just another example of the NCAA’s epic hypocrisy.

17) Face transplant a year later– impressive progress.

18) Social science approaches to improving voter turnout.

19) Are private prisons highly problematic?  Indeed.  But in terms of what’s wrong with our criminal justice system, they are probably not even in the top 10 problems.  That’s because, they are not nearly as widespread as their critics believe.  

20) Speaking of prisons, it’s pretty shameful Ramen seems to have replaced cigarettes as black market currency because we can’t even seem to feed prisoners enough decent food.

21) Melania Trump’s “diary.”  Good stuff.

22) The hundred best films of the 21st century.  I’ve seen a few.  Not enough.  I would say the Angry Birds movie is one of the 10 worst I’ve seen this century.


23) A new book says ADHD is over-diagnosed and medication is over-prescribed.  I don’t dispute that.  That said, I’ll go on record as saying a correct diagnosis and stimulant medication has made a huge difference for my son:

Influential patient-advocacy groups insist that only now is the true prevalence of A.D.H.D. finally being recognized after being drastically underestimated — akin to the spike in autism diagnoses once the narrowly defined condition was broadened into a spectrum in the 1990s. But Schwarz makes a convincing case that the radical expansion and promotion of A.D.H.D. has resulted in the label being applied in ways that are far beyond the needs of a historically underserved community, while nonpharmaceutical methods of treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (which have been proved to complement the effectiveness of medication) are overlooked.

24) Toobin on how Ted Cruz is still running for president.

25) Love this xkcd:

Linear Regression


Quick hits (part I)

This will be an Olympics heavy week– sorry, but I love them.

1) Texas set to execute man who did not kill anyone (nor pay/direct anybody to kill someone).

2) Parenting advice that really works:

If the David Brookses of the world were honest, their parenting advice would begin: Have a healthy kid, live in an affluent area (with low crime and good schools), be from a socially privileged demographic, and make a decent amount of money. From there on, it’s pretty much coasting.

Working so far (though I wonder if my oldest might not be on a better track with better parenting).

3) How Giuliani is ruining his reputation in service to Trump.

4) NYT Editorial says to stop treating marijuana like heroin.  Hell, yeah.

5) The second in Nicholas Thompon and Malcolm Gladwell’s conversations about Olympic track is likewise fascinating.

6) In a similar vein, I was totally fascinated by David Epstein’s discussion of the 800m race.

7) Why the French Burkini ban is stupid and how it fits into very different conceptions of religion and public life in France versus the US.

8) Somebody made up a crazy fake PPP memo (about their secret poll of Trump at 74% in Florida) that a bunch of wingnuts actually believed.  Really good stuff.

9) Have their been occasional sexist comments during network coverage of the Olympics?  I’m sure.  But I’m with Drum.  And, honestly, as you know I love Vox, but sometimes they really go off into SJW territory.

10) The “Carolina Comeback” that wasn’t.

11) Julia Azari asks whether America’s political parties aren’t too resilient for their own good:

Though there’s some benefit to the stability of a longstanding system, the long, rigid reign of two parties also limits the flexibility of American politics, reducing complex national decisions to simple binary contests and yoking together seemingly unrelated ideas—gun control, tax reform and health care, for example—in ways that make it impossible for any of them to move forward

This problem also creates problems for the parties themselves, in ways big and small. On the small side, as the Democratic coalition has become more diverse and reliant on voters who are people of color, Democratic state parties have run into some criticism for celebrating Jefferson-Jackson Day—usually an annual fundraising gala that celebrates two historic, slave-owning Democrats, hosted by a party that now prides itself on embracing racial equality. For the Democratic Party, there’s a point at which celebrating the heroes of its troubled past jeopardizes its political necessities for the future.

For Republicans, the problem is more immediate and profound: The party’s history of ideological unity and organizational continuity will tie future Republicans to the Trump candidacy, regardless of efforts to distance themselves from his positions. The story of parties’ remarkable resiliency gives a sense of how they’ve survived so long, but also how their survival might prevent American politics from representing all citizens and facing modern challenges.

12) Durham, NC is listening to science and not the whiners and moving their high school start times later.  Good for them.  Would love Wake County to do the same (especially as I have 3 high-schoolers to go).

13) This NYT feature on the history and fragility of Michelangelo’s statue of David was so fascinating (if, a little longer than needed).

14) Really, really good piece from Yglesias on the relative role of economic anxiety (very little) versus racial resentment (very much) on support for Trump.

15) Also a nice piece from Yglesias on how Trump’s first campaign ad shows he is doubling down on being Trump:

Donald Trump is running his first campaign ad for the general election, and it offers all the proof you’ll need that, in a fundamental sense, no meaningful change of approach can or will ever emanate from his campaign.

Because this is an ad, it’s professionally done and well-considered in its language — it’s not an off-the-cuff remark or full of anything so crazy that it will make lifelong Republicans cringe. But there’s nothing in here about free markets or traditional family values or America’s role as the world’s indispensable nation and guarantor of liberty.

 Instead it’s a pretty simple proposition — Hillary Clinton will let foreigners kill you and Donald Trump won’t [emphasis mine]

16) And Nate Silver argues that in his shakeup of campaign staff, Trump is doubling down on a clearly losing strategy.

17) Former Baltimore narcotics cop talks about the problem of cops being bad role models for each other.

18) Good for the Chinese Olympic swimmer being willing to discuss her period.  It really is crazy how taboo we treat such an ordinary part of women’s lives.

19) I’m sorry, say what you will, but race-walking is just stupid.  Worse than the breast stroke.  And hurdles are not like a slow swimming stroke, they test your ability to run and jump.

20) Continuing the Olympic roll, I love this 538 chart on how serving affects your chances of winning a point in various sports (especially as my son David was just asking me about this the other day).  You do not want to serve in beach volleyball.


21) Yeah, the Supreme Court is important, but this lifelong Republican ask how you can even consider that when you think about giving Trump control of our nuclear arsenal.

Stop lying about voter fraud!

It’s truly appalling that Republicans in North Carolina seem to think a key to winning elections is making it harder for people to vote in anyway possible.  Who cares about democracy when you’ve got the values of the Republican party to worry about.  From the N&O:

The N.C. Republican Party encouraged GOP appointees to county elections boards to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays.

NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request.

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting…

Early voting schedules must be approved by the three-member Board of Elections in each county. Because the state has a Republican governor, two of three members on each board are Republicans, while one is a Democrat – generally appointees recommended by their party’s leadership.

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Just lovely.  And the fictionalized justification for this blatantly anti-democratic (small “d” of course) approach?  Voter fraud!

Woodhouse suggests limiting early voting hours because the sites allow voters to use same-day registration – a practice the voter ID law sought to eliminate.

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it,” he wrote. “Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

Damn this makes me mad.  Okay, I’m not going to curse in my blog, but I really want to when I read stuff like this.  Same day registration is simply the best way to get more citizens participating in our democracy.  Period.  And there’s zero evidence that it is more prone to in-person voter fraud (in fact, it is almost assuredly going to lead to less of this already vanishingly rare type of fraud).

I don’t like to use the term “evil” too much in politics, but this sure as hell comes close.  Woodhouse is working directly to undermine confidence in our elections and thereby our democracy based on a complete fiction and by supporting a policy which is, at it’s hear, anti-democratic.

Oh, and actual in-person voter fraud?  Philip Bump:


…we turn to the much-cited 2014 analysis of voter fraud reported by The Post. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt looked at 14 years of voting and found 31 possible incidents of in-person voter fraud, comprised of approximately 241 fraudulent ballots.

A lot of those incidents were far from proven, mind you. Here’s his description of one questionable incident:

Nov. 2012: A vote was apparently cast at the polls in the name of Evan Dixon in the general election in San Diego, CA; there is an Evan Dixon listed as dying 11 years earlier. It is not clear whether the two are the same person, or whether the death reports are accurate, and poll book records do not appear to have been investigated to determine whether the record of voting represented an impersonated signature or a clerical error.

The most significant chunk of those 241 are from 145 ballots that were cast between 2008 and 2011 in Michigan, where names, dates of birth and addresses of people who cast ballots matched those of people who’d died. Again, it’s not clear if that’s because someone had been signed in incorrectly at the polling place or if there had been some other clerical error. But for Levitt’s expansive tally, it counts.

So that’s 241 ballots — out of 1 billion cast.

Photo of the day

One more from Hanging Rock state park.  Very cool to be able to go behind this waterfall.


The (surprisingly close) NC Senate race

I’ve been meaning to write a post on the NC Senate race for over a week now, but I’ve finally gotten around to it.  Nothing against Deborah Ross who I’ve met and I like, but she’s clearly not the strongest candidate the Democrats could have potentially put forward.  A former state legislator without any leadership position is not the most impressive resume.  I had been thinking that her relative weakness as a challenger might make this race easier for Burr than it should be in what is a tough year for Republican senators in blue and purple states.

But, let’s give Ross some credit; I was wrong.  Here’s Thomas Mills:

The US Senate race in North Carolina is getting more attention and Republicans are getting more nervous. Yesterday, Real Clear Politics moved the race from Lean Republican to Toss Up, indicating challenger Deborah Ross is going to give incumbent Republican Richard Burr a run for his money. And a Roll Call article this morning says the Democrats path to a Senate majority may run through North Carolina

Ross has impressed the political world. She out-raised Burr two quarters in a row and quickly put together a statewide campaign. Last week, she was the only challenger offered a chance to speak at a DSCC briefing for donors. Ross is clearly seen as one of the cycle’s rising stars.

That’s huge.  I wasn’t sure Ross would perform strong enough to earn the outside money that the DSCC and the SuperPAC’s spend so strategically.  Well, she sure has.  And if her fundraising isn’t enough, she’s doing really well in the polls, too:

Down the ballot, incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr is trailing Democratic challenger Deborah Ross in North Carolina by two points among registered voters, 46 percent to 44 percent. (Last month, Burr was ahead by seven points, 48 percent to 41 percent.)

Wow!  Even if that poll is over-estimating her support, that is some serious movement in the polls that very likely represents something real.  At this point, the race looks like a toss-up, and for Democrats, that is a great thing.  In an interview with a reporter yesterday, he wondered about the impact of her being an ACLU lawyer.  Those of us over 40 remember Michael Dukakis attacked as a “card-carrying member” of the ACLU in 1988, but I wonder about how effective that line of attack is in 2016.  My prediction is we’re about to find out (my guess– not all that effective any more).  This may drive Ross down a bit, but I just don’t know.  The person who’s really got to worry about being pulled down, though, is Richard Burr, through no fault of his own.  Harry Enten:

Unless Trump’s position improves, Republicans will be able to maintain control of the Senate only if enough voters split their tickets, voting Republican for the Senate but not in the presidential race. And the polls suggest that could happen: The Republican candidate for Senate is leading in a number of states where Trump is facing a deficit. At the moment, Sen. Marco Rubio is up in Florida, Joe Heck is ahead in Nevada (which would be a Republican pickup of Sen. Harry Reid’s seat), Sen. Richard Burr leads in North Carolina, Sen. Rob Portman is holding off Ted Strickland in Ohio, and Sen. Pat Toomey is hanging on in Pennsylvania.

But all those Republican candidates are leading by 5 percentage points or less. In the last presidential election cycle, 2012, a numberofRepublicanSenate candidates faded down the stretch, and some, such as Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, lost healthy-sized leads as the summer turned to fall. In an era in which fewer people are splitting their tickets, the advantages currently enjoyed by the Republican candidates for Senate aren’t secure. If Trump’s troubles continue or worsen, he could take down these Republican candidates with them…

In other words, voters’ views on Trump may be influencing their Senate vote. If that happens across the country and Trump continues to trail, it could lead to a Democratic majority in the Senate come 2017.


Of course, that remains to be seen, but my guess is that Trump makes this Senate race closer– to the Democrats’ benefit– than it otherwise would be.

Photo of the day

So, a little behind on blogging because I took yesterday off to go hiking at Hanging Rock State Park in NC.  Wow!!  I didn’t even know this place existed till I saw this article in the paper last year.  I had no idea such a cool place existed just a couple hours from my house.  Anyway, here’s David and I atop the hanging rock.  If you live in NC… go!


Observations on my national media fame

So, I was on CNN today!  Watch here.  Don’t worry, it only will take 7 seconds of your time, starting about 32 seconds in.

Or, if you don’t feel like watching, it’s just a 3 1/2 minute piece on how the presidential campaigns are battling over North Carolina (and how the Clinton campaign seems to be way out ahead on this).  What was interesting in thinking about this was how much effort went into a 3 1/2 minute segment.  Not only was the on-air reporter there (and she was really smart and knew her stuff), but her producer, and the cameraman who had way more and more impressive equipment than the local people.

They spent an hour with me for that 7 seconds.  Not to mention time and effort on the part of the producer just arranging the interview.  Now, I’d like to think I gave them way more than 7 seconds of benefit by providing all sorts of good analysis to help shape their story, but still, that was an hour of work with just a few seconds visual to show for it.  Plus, the Clinton HQ, plus Trump people, plus the suburban Republican women in the Cary Whole Foods parking lot (I was pleased to recognize the location I suggested), and maybe even more shots I’m forgetting.

Wow.  That was a lot of work and surely not cheap.  But good for CNN.  From an economic standpoint, you can certainly understand why they would rather have a couple of talking heads just arguing in a studio.

But, hey, I’m glad I got my 7 seconds.  And even though I though my point was rather anodyne, my wife was impressed enough🙂.




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