Quick hits (part II)

1) In Madison, Wisconsin they actually invested in replacing in lead pipes before they caused any trouble.  Alas, most cities are not willing to make the investment until it’s too late.

2) Terrific interview with a food safety expert.  I especially resent the way in which public health is held hostage to interest group politics in this area:

If salmonella is so problematic, why hasn’t the government protected consumers from it? 

There’s a case that goes back to the 1970s, American Health Association (AHA) vs. Earl Butz, who was the secretary of agriculture under President Nixon. The AHA didn’t even know about E. coli 0157, the kind that gets people really sick, back then. They were focused on salmonella, and they wanted to put a label on it that said ‘hey consumer, you need to cook this,’ and the meat industry went nuts, they said no way we’re not going to do this. So the AHA sued the government because they thought it was necessary, and the government sided with the industry, and in essence said it was a naturally occurring bacterium on meat, which is untrue, and housewives—this is actually in the case, I swear—know how to cook it, what to do to make this food safe. That mentality is just below the surface in the meat industry, whether it’s the beef, chicken, or any other facet. That sort of mentality that there’s really nothing we can do about it, and it’s really the consumer that is at fault if anybody gets sick, it’s their problem. This is exactly the argument that the industry waged in 1994, with E. coli, but there the government changed its tone because there were 700 people who got sick and 4 children who died, and it was kind of hard to ignore that.

3) On the “ag gag” law in North Carolina.  Damn it, business should be free to do any sort of horrible thing they want without fear that somebody might surreptitiously record them doing so and thereby possibly face accountability.  Thanks to NC Republicans for standing up for important values.

4) You don’t need me to tell you how amazingly unserious Republican presidential candidates are on foreign policy.  But Fred Kaplan will.

5) Just some social science showing that men are (not surprisingly) absurdly over-confident, as compared to women.

6) Howard Dean and Iowa will remain one of my favorite anecdotes to explain the role of expectations and media coverage for years to come.  So many people just don’t get what happened.  Nate Silver and friends do.  Good stuff.

7) Republicans seem to think high-deductible health plans are cure-alls for health care costs.  Evidence strongly suggests otherwise (when has that ever affected Republican legislators?).  That said, we can be much smarter about how we use deductibles.  Nice piece in the Upshot:

Some health economists say the solution to the problem may be smarter but more complicated forms of health insurance that provide patients with important care free, but charge them for treatments with fewer proven benefits. Mr. Chernew, for one, argues that ordinary deductibles are too “blunt” an instrument, but smarter insurance plans could harness economic incentives to reduce wasteful health spending without discouraging needed care. If such plans held down costs as well as deductibles, they could keep insurance affordable without as many risks. The theory behind such plans is compelling, but given how bad people are at shopping for health care, more empirical evidence is needed to know how well it works in practice.

8) What were the people at Simon Fraser University in Canada thinking when they thought this video was remotely appropriate?

9) Digging into the Iowa polls suggests trouble ahead for Ted Cruz.

10) Nice Op-Ed about the current government in NC and among other things, their disdain for public education.  And and N&O Editorial on our “teacher shortage by design.”

 

11) Interesting essay on how we shouldn’t judge people with “tramp stamps” and how we definitely shouldn’t call them that.  Am I a bad person if I’m not convinced?  Anyway, this statistics was really suprising:

For the first time in decades, women are more likely to have tattoos than men. In 2013,47 percent of women under 35 reported having a tattoo, compared with only 25 percent of men. And this rising demographic isn’t solely due to the trendiness of tattoo culture.

12) Lee Drutman reviews Rick Hasen’s new book on campaign finance and suggests we really need to move away from “corruption” and re-think about how we conceptualize the problem.

13) On how Hillary Clinton actually properly used social science in her get-out-the-vote efforts in Iowa (unlike Ted Cruz).

14) This summary of evidence on learning says highlighting and re-reading is a waste of time.  I’m very familiar with the evidence that says testing yourself is the best way to study (and I emphasize this to my students), but I cannot imagine pulling off the grades I did without marking (in the margins, actual highlights take way too long) and re-reading key passages in texts.

15) Vox interviewed some political scientists on the electability of Cruz and Trump.  Masket says Cruz is more electable than Trump, and I’m with him:

Masket said he recognized that Trump is more moderate on some issues than Cruz. But while Cruz may have more extreme policy positions, he is the better candidate, because Trump could really drive away Republican elites and voters.

Masket pointed to several issues in particular on which this group regards Trump as fundamentally unreliable: the social safety net, the military, abortion, and taxes.

“A large number of more ‘establishment’ Republican elites may bolt the party and support a third party candidate should Trump win a majority of delegates. Even if that doesn’t happen, a sizable number of Republicans might simply not vote,” Masket said in an email.

He didn’t argue that Cruz is a great general election candidate. But since Cruz has proven consistently conservative, he would at least be able to unite the Republican Party and ensure that its voters go to the ballot box.

“[Cruz] is basically in line with the party on most of its key issues,” Masket said. “Nominating him could put them at a slight disadvantage due to his extremism, but there’s little chance of him actually splitting the party.”

I sure would love for it to be either of them, though, because no doubt they would fare worse than Rubio (or anybody else from the “establishment” lane).

16) This Vox article on potential mosquito eradication frames it as bad news that the best estimates suggesting we could have the biotechnology for widespread mosquito eradication in 3-5 years.  WTF?  That kind of technology within even 10 years would be unbelievable awesome and save so many lives.

17) Beautiful example of motivated reasoning in action.  Somehow, most all Democrats are better off than 8 years ago today and most Republicans are worse off.  I actually am better off.  Or maybe I’m only imagining it because I’m a Democrat.

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.

Photo of the day

I already found this photo from an In Focus gallery of Appalachia particularly arresting and then I noticed it’s from Burnsville, NC!  That’s my wife’s hometown where I spend many days a year visiting.  And yet, I had never heard of this place.  Topic of conversation with my in-laws tonight.

A young man, who chose not to give his name, watches a concert at Snaggy Mountain Farm, a music and art based eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Burnsville, Yancey County, North Carolina, on April 25, 2014.

Kristian Thacker

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.

Photo of the day

It’s not every day one of your favorite students ends up in an N&O photo taking a selfie with Marco Rubio.  Photo of the day it is!

Sen. Marco Rubio pose for photos with supporters during a campaign rally Saturday, January 9, 2016 at the N.C. State Fairground's Gov. James E. Holshouser Building.

Sen. Marco Rubio pose for photos with supporters during a campaign rally Saturday, January 9, 2016 at the N.C. State Fairground’s Gov. James E. Holshouser Building. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

 

Marco and Me

So, Marco Rubio came to the NC State fairgrounds to give a speech yesterday.  Not nearly the spectacle of the Trump speech, but definitely glad I went.  Anyway, various observations…

First, thanks to the NC Republicans (seriously!) for moving our primary up to March.  Highly doubtful I would have already seen Trump and Rubio if we had stayed with our traditional May date.

So, Trump was at the NC State Fairgrounds as well, but had the much larger Dorton Arena (about 7,000 capacity) and the full secret service security and all that.  Rubio filled the Holhouser building (notable for housing the Village of Yesteryear, to you NC State Fair attendees).  I’m thinking maybe 1000 people.  Or at least 700-800.  Enough so that it got hot in there!  Unlike Trump, they actually checked for tickets, but I was amused at how easily I was able to talk myself in without one (they were not available anymore when I found out about the event yesterday).  Anyway, excited crowd, but felt more “normal.”  For one, no protesters or hint of them.

As for Rubio, the man certainly knows how to give a good speech.  As I’m said before, he is truly a talented politician.  He came across as super-relatable and also in command.  Definitely solid on the “candidate you want to have a beer with” test.  And pretty funny, too.

That said… the lies, my God the lies.  For most of his speech, the distortions, half-truths, extraordinarily mis-leading cherry-picked statistics, and occasional just-plain outright lies were endless.  Of course the crowd just ate it up.  You know why Hillary Clinton should not be president?  That’s right, Benghazi.  Common Core is a federal government take-over.  Obama has gutted the military, etc.  Ugh.  A nice reminder that when Rubio first rose to prominence he was a Tea Party darling.  Oh, my you really would have thought Obama was a communist agent planted to destroy America.  And, oh, we should definitely go back to you being in control of your healthcare, not the government after we repeal Obamacare and replace it with…. well, nothing apparently, except you being back in control (and, yes, Jon K, he was particularly happy with screwing up your health insurance).

Rubio’s last 15 minutes was almost none of that and it was Rubio at is best.  Painting an optimistic version of America and the future masterfully interwoven with his own personal story.  That’s the Rubio that scares Democrats.  Not the one that relies on scaring Republicans.

Quick hits (part II)

1) On the overlooked importance of curriculum in K-12 education.

2) I’ve enjoyed people’s reactions the past couple weeks when telling them I’m reading a book about super-intelligent ants that take over the world through the use of highly-evolved/super-intelligent dogs and cats that they ants created through a chemical in the water.  It was really great stuff.  Mort(e) is a both a page-turner and a thought-provoking exploration about the nature of humanity, friendship, religion, and more .

3) I kind of feel like (but am unsure) I already posted this amazing essay by John McWhorter on why English is so unique.  But if I did, there’s a lot worse things I could post twice.

4) Nice Connor Friedersdorf post on the mis-guided local politics of housing in San Francisco.

5) Drum on Saudi Arabia.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is our great and good ally. They flog apostates. They export Sunni extremism. They treat women as chattel. They flog and imprison gays. They import slave labor from abroad. They have no truck with freedom of religion or freedom of speech. Their royal family is famously corrupt. And they really, really want to start up a whole bunch of wars that they would very much like America to fight for them.

6) The partisan politics driving the NC Supreme Court.

7) On bird-watching, public lands, and the Oregon stand-off.

8) Seth Masket on how campaign finance reform contributed to partisan polarization.

9) Really enjoyed this Vox post about reading books.  Had not thought of the idea that if a book gets translated to English, that’s a pretty damn indicator that it’s good.  And, of course, the idea that books only get so long to prove themselves.

Reading is amazing; it shouldn’t be a chore, and when it became one, I stopped doing it.  The few times this year that I felt my reading stall came after spending too long with a book that failed to move me. It’s important to recognize that not every book will be a page-turner from the start, but my benefit of the doubt rarely lasts more than 100 pages…

Last year, the BBC reported that translations comprise just 2 to 3 percent of English publishing, compared with 27 percent in France and up to 70 percent in Slovenia.

In my readings this year, I noticed the flip side of the 2 to 3 percent statistic, which is this: Books translated into English are almost guaranteed to be excellent.

10) A millionaire on how extreme wealth is over-rated (hedonic treadmill!)

11) Austan Goolsbee makes the case for a new Morrill Act.  Working at one Morrill Act institution, with a degree from another this strikes me as a particulary good idea.

12) Really like Joe Nocera’s plan for how to pay college athletes.

13) Yglesias makes the case for poor, forgotten Martin O’Malley.

14) Love Joseph Stiglitz’s ideas for addressing inequality:

Instead, he swings for the fences, suggesting a massive revision in the way the U.S. economy does business. First up is the attempt to tame what is called rent-seeking—the practice of increasing wealth by taking it from others rather than generating any actual economic activity. Lobbying, for example, allows large companies to spend money influencing laws and regulations in their favor, but lobbying itself isn’t helpful for the economy besides creating a small number of jobs in Washington; it produces nothing but helps an already rich and influential group grow more rich and more influential. Stiglitz suggests that reducing rent-seeking is critical to reining in inequality, especially when it comes to complex issues such as housing prices, patents, and the power that large corporations wield.

To overhaul these behaviors and the policies that support it, Stiglitz says that America should give up what he deems the “incorrect and outdated” belief in supply-side economics, which grows from the premise that regulation and taxes dampen business opportunities and economic growth. Instead, massive changes to tax laws, regulations, and the financial sector are needed, he says, in order to curb rent-seeking. For instance, increasing tax rates, ending preferential treatment for top earners, and refining the tax code would decrease incentives to amass extreme amounts of wealth, since it would be so heavily taxed, and that tax would be difficult to shirk. Stiglitz suggests a 5 percent increase to the tax rate of the top 1 percent of earners—a move that he says would raise as much as $1.5 trillion over 10 years. He also calls for a “fair tax,” which would eliminate preferential tax treatment for money earned from capital gains and dividends—perks enjoyed primarily by people who can afford to own a lot of stock.

15) Greg Mankiw’s take on why college is so expensive.

16) Drum’s take on a little debate last week about the liberal-ness of college campuses.  From my perspective this is overwhelmingly self-selection and I’ll stick with that till I see data that suggests otherwise

17) Nice essay on the fact that we are far too ready to consider the other side in political debates to be just plain dumb.  (True, but when the leading contender on the other side is Donald Trump?  Just sayin…)

18) Loved this Linda Greenhouse column on the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to have the Constitution actually protect people:

All these years later, the decision continues to immunize government from the kind of accountability that common sense and justice would seem to require. A Colorado woman, Jessica Gonzales, tried to steer around the DeShaney obstacle in a case she brought against the town of Castle Rock after her estranged husband snatched their three children from her front lawn and murdered them. Ms. Gonzales had obtained a protective order against her husband, but even though she knew he had taken the children and knew where he had gone with them, the police ignored her repeated pleas to find and intercept him. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that Ms. Gonzales had no constitutional claim against the police.

So Joshua DeShaney Braam leaves a haunting legacy. The court receives regular requests to revisit or modify the decision, and turns the cases down without comment. For several years after the decision, I kept track of each new appeal that invited the justices to change course, but eventually, I abandoned the project. I can’t imagine the Roberts court revisiting the case.

19) This song came up on my Satellite radio the other day.  I was fascinated to learn it’s called “Ah! Leah!” I had no idea that’s what Donnie Iris was saying!  (I haven’t heard the song for years, but I’m sure I did a bunch back in the day).  Promptly went and purchased from Itunes.

20) Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you are well aware how our prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill.  Still useful to read Dahlia Lithwick’s look at how serious the problem is.

21) Solid methodology (it’s really worth reading the link to see how a study like this is designed) comes to the disturbing conclusion that attractive female students get better grades due to their attractiveness.

And yet there’s more, but that’s enough for a weekend.  I’ll save the others for later.

 

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