Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice Krugman column on slavery’s long-lasting impact on American society and politics.

2) Loved this Vox piece on how the voice for Siri was created (by a human) and on how voice artists work.

3) Some days I hate how much email I get.  Definitely some good suggestions in here.  Some I already use (Doodle!).  And my favorite piece of advice:

“If we email each other three times over the same issue, it’s time for one of us to pick up the phone.”

4) Why North Carolina lawmakers just back-tracked part way on the state’s Voter ID law.

5) Enjoyed Toobin’s take on King v. Burwell.

For writing the opinion upholding the law, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., is being hailed (and denounced) as a latter-day Earl Warren—a Republican appointee who turns out to be a secret liberal. This is hardly accurate. Roberts is still the author of the Shelby County case, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, and an eager member of the court majority in Citizens United and all the other cases that undermined our system of regulating political campaigns. But as his restrained and cogent opinion in King demonstrated, he is not a partisan ideologue. Quoting liberally from opinions by Justice Antonin Scalia, Roberts made the commonsensical observation that a law must be interpreted as a whole, not by the analysis of a few stray words here and there. And the context of the full A.C.A. compelled the obvious conclusion that the subsidies were intended to go to individuals on both the federal as well as state exchanges. The law would otherwise make no sense.

Meanwhile, George Will writes that this is all part of the liberal project to overthrow the Constitution.  Seriously.  It’s just amusing to me that so many still seem to see Will as a more reasonable, sober conservative.  If only.

6) Really enjoyed this essay on why “white privilege” is not the problem.  Does not explicitly mention John Roberts, but certainly akin to his idea that the best way to get past racism is to stop talking about race at all.  I don’t necessarily agree with all this,  but it is very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

7) Also enjoyed Reihan Salam’s same-sex marriage take:

Back in 2005, Peter Berkowitz, a conservative political theorist, made the case that the triumph of same-sex civil marriage was all but inevitable. The reason he gave was that arguments that can be made in the language of individual freedom almost always win out in the constitutional realm over those grounded in other considerations. One could argue that the debate over abortion is a clash between two interpretations of what individual freedom demands. Do we protect the autonomy of women or do we protect the rights of unborn children? The fact that both sides of the abortion debate can be rooted in the language of individual freedom has kept the debate alive.

But the debate over same-sex marriage is different. Advocates of same-sex marriage insist that the organization of intimate relations should be left up to the individuals in question, an idea that has become an article of faith among modern Americans. Proponents alone are rooting their arguments in individual freedoms. Critics of same-sex marriage, in contrast, tend to emphasize the potential harms children might experience as society moves away from traditional marriage.

8) Got in a huge argument on FB about the problem of sexism in Jurassic World.  I really don’t like the way this essay seems to suggest every dumb thing a female character does or every poor writing choice is inherently “sexist.”  Sure there’s some valid points here, but I would argue that when you are alienating the likes of me from your feminism, you are doing more harm than good to the feminist cause.

9) Do conservatives have more self-control than liberals?  At least one study says so.

In a series of three studies with more than 300 participants, the authors found that people who identify as conservative perform better on tests of self-control than those who identify as liberal regardless of race, socioeconomic status and gender.

They also report that participants’ performance on the tests was influenced by how much they believed in the idea of free will, which the researchers define as the belief that a person is largely responsible for his or her own outcomes.

10) Your big long read for the week– an interesting take from a British science journalist arguing that climate science is way politicized, alarmist, and harming scientific credibility.  There’s definitely some important ideas in here worth really thinking about and considering, but the author (a genuine science journalist, but also a Conservative MP in Parliament), is clearly very political in his take, which very much undermines his credibility.  As for me, on the whole big picture thing, I would say that if chances of catastrophe are not likely, but simply non-trivial, that’s still a damn good reason to try and do something about it.

Do they think we’re stupid

The arrogance mendacity of the NC Republican legislature truly is breathtaking.  They have taken to lying about their education cuts by pretending things like inflation-adjusted (and population-adjusted) calculations simply don’t exist.  Here’s Mark Binker’s fact check:

As he debated an amendment to the $21.5 billion proposal, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, the chamber’s senior budget writer, called attention to the fact that, in terms of raw dollars, the Senate budget would spend more on K-12 education than any of its predecessors. House and Senate budget writers still need to come to a compromise deal before a final budget bill will be sent to Gov. Pat McCrory.

“This budget spends more on K-12 education than ever in the history of this state – ever,” Brown said.

That paved the way for Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, to huff and puff and blow down the notion that lawmakers should be considering anything other than what they’re actually spending.

“It always kind of makes me nervous when someone stands up that probably never made a payroll in their life, probably is not too used to signing the front of a check, but they want to start talking about real dollars, adding inflation, arbitrary figures, this and that,” Apodaca said. “This is dangerous because we deal in actual dollars. That’s what the world deals in – actual dollars.”

Saying that the Senate shouldn’t deal in “fairy tales,” Apodaca continued, “I feel like I’m in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with some of the terminology coming out of that back row,” a reference to Democrats who occupy the back row of seats in the Senate chamber.

Seriously?!  Just wow.  If you are going to talk about “most ever” or any such formulation and not take into account inflation (much less population growth), you are either a complete moron or completely nefarious in trying to fool people.  As if “real dollars” or “inflation-adjusted” is some sort of craziness?  WTF!!!  Apodaca is literally an embarrassment to the human race.  And, hooray, he’s a key figure in making policy for my state.

Given that most of my readers surely have beyond a middle-school education, I’m not going to bother with the rest of Binker’s fact check or any further explanation on just how wrong the Republicans are here.  Though, I will mention the facts that show just how much of a cut we’ve had to K-12 education:

Figures produced by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division show that, in constant 2008 dollars, education spending has dropped from $8.1 billion in the 2007-08 budget year to $7.3 billion starting July 1 if the Senate budget were enacted.

Put another way, North Carolina K-12 system has roughly 10 percent less buying power at its disposal than it did 10 years ago…

Using raw, unadjusted dollars, the state Senate budget would spend $5,386.44 per student next year. That’s more per pupil than was spent during the heart of the recession in 2010 but less than pre-recession years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Those numbers look worse when adjusted for inflation, showing that, in 2008 dollars, North Carolina would spend $4,736.71 per pupil under the Senate budget proposal versus $5,511.08 10 years ago.

I’m going with stupid and evil to explain this.

Quick hits (part II)

These should have gone up yesterday– sorry.

1) Toddlers have a sense of justice–probably not that much of a surprise to those who have raised toddlers– but this is a cool experiment with puppets.

2) Generic Concerta not as effective as brand Concerta, but somehow the FDA says it’s okay anyway?!  (At least for 6 months).  How is this okay?!

3) Jamelle Bouie argues that in order be “authentic” Hillary should just go full-on policy nerd.  That would certainly appeal to me.

4) Onion on Charleston and guns:

FAIRFAX, VA—In the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting that left nine dead at a church in South Carolina, sources confirmed today that National Rifle Association officials had already started up with their shit about what would be an even greater injustice. “What happened in Charleston is a terrible tragedy, but what would be even worse is if we reacted to this event by passing laws infringing on our constitutional rights,” said NRA board member Charles Cotton, who, right on cue, let loose the same predictable flood of steaming horseshit about how the real threat facing Americans comes from legislators who would attempt to restrict access to firearms.

5) If Republicans in NC can’t win something fair-and-square, they are plenty open to rigging the rules– in this case, judicial elections.

6) Nobody wants to talk about menstruation (I’m not afraid!  I also buy feminine hygeine products unashamedly), but it is an important health and education issue for many women and girls in the developing world.

7) Both Drum and Chait with nice posts on how John Kasich is utterly unqualified to be the Republican nominee for president as he thinks there is a moral case for expanding health care access.  Chait:

Kasich came face to face with the actual political choice faced by American politicians: whether to support the coverage offered under Obamacare for the poor, or to leave them with nothing. Kasich actually came out and said that taking health insurance away from extremely poor people is immoral.

This was completely beyond the pale, infuriating conservative activists. Kasich has found himself increasingly alienated within the party…

There are plenty of Republicans who believe that their party must veer back toward the center on economics, or social issues, or both. The overwhelming majority of them, however, go about this project with the utmost caution. They don’t openly challenge the moral foundations of their party’s most sacred pieties.

8) Matt Yglesias on his lessons from paternity leave.  Number one– dads get credit just for being adequate.

9) Jon Cohn dives into the latest polls on Obamacare.  This is a really important point:

6. If it’s health care, people assume it’s Obamacare.

So what’s the mystery factor? The best guess is that people are holding the law responsible for all of the problems of the health care system — including those like rising deductibles, narrowing hospital networks, or even long waits at the doctor’s office that most experts believe have little or nothing to do with the law itself.

10) Cool NYT feature on how there’s been dramatic improvement in survival from heart attacks, not from any new medical technology, but from way better coordination of the humans involved.  Time if of the essence, and in some places, they’ve figured out how to get things done much faster– and it’s not easy.

11) Alas, too many members of Congress are still in the pocket of for-profit universities (a nice example of how money indeed does matter in influencing politics) and fighting against much-needed rules to stop these places from basically scamming their students and the American taxpayer.

12) Clarence Thomas joining the majority in the Texas confederate flag license plate case ultimately shows that– like every other justice– he ultimately just decides what he wants and then looks to justify it.  And Mark Joseph Stern on how two other recent opinions show that he is not actually interested in meaningful analysis (and also profoundly lacking in empathy):

As a straightforward application of federal and constitutional law, Brumfield’s case is an easy one. Thomas’ dissent is an effort to muddy the waters, to pass off his own retributive notions of morality as rational legal logic.

13) Who says we can’t teach non-cognitive skills?  The latest research from a project in Chicago is really heartening and suggests we should be doing a lot more programs like this.

14) Seth Masket with a nice column on how Donald Trump shows that money on its own cannot buy political office and that political parties are really important;

Money can help a bit more in primaries and caucuses, but only so much. Studies have shown that, at least in presidential elections, endorsements by politicians are a far better predictor of who will win the nomination than fundraising.

Here’s where Donald Trump comes in. By virtue of his celebrity, he can certainly attract media attention. (Indeed, he got far more attention for his announcement last week than did Jeb Bush, who is widely seen as one of the more likely candidates for the nomination.) And by virtue of his substantial personal fortune, he can buy all the things a presidential candidate needs—offices, staffers, advertising, planes, etc. He could literally spend a billion dollars on winning the Republican presidential nomination and still be a billionaire when it’s over.

But here’s the catch: He won’t win it. He’ll never get close to the Republican nomination, for the very simple reason that party insiders despise him. They think him a clown and an embarrassment to the party.


The latest on the NC Budget:

While senators sparred over sales tax distribution and local tax options, the main point of contention was the proposal to cut 5,200 teacher assistants in the coming school year – a $57.5 million cut – while giving a corporate tax break of $109 million next year.

Republicans argued that the TA cut is needed to help pay for an additional 3,200 teachers to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through first grade – an $80 million item in the budget.

“We have a finite amount of money, and we want to spend that money the best way we can to educate kids in the classrooms,” said Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, arguing that studies show smaller class sizes are the most effective way to boost education outcomes in primary grades.

Democrats pointed to the corporate tax break as evidence the state could easily afford both the teacher assistants and the additional new teachers, and they tried repeatedly to amend the bill to reduce the tax cuts and redirect the money to education.

Geez, if only there was a way to pay for education without cutting education.  What a dilemma for the Republicans.  If only, there was some way they didn’t have to cut corporate income taxes.  (Among other things, the evidence seems pretty clear that most corporations are far more interested in the quality of education in a state than the corporate tax rate– they are not exactly flooding into Kansas these days).

Thomas Mills on our joke of a legislature:

Republicans often complain that government programs pick winners and losers. Nobody is choosing winners and losers more than the GOP Senate. Winners are quite clearly people who are already doing well. Losers are the rest of us.

Senate Republicans are following the model of their ideological soulmate, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. The tax cuts they promised would spur huge economic progress have failed to deliver so they are doubling down and cutting taxes more. To offset the transfer of the tax burden to the middle class, they are gutting the biotechnology center, ending driver’s education, and again stiffing our most experienced teachers and most other state employees.

Like the Senate itself, it’s an ideological document, not a practical one. It’s all about keeping money in the pockets of individuals and nothing about public investments that help the state as a whole. It’s governing by Ayn Rand…

The GOP ideologues are living in a fantasy world. They believe that if they just cut taxes and regulation low enough, they’ll create a business environment that will attract industry, spur innovation, and lead to massive economic growth. Unfortunately for them and for us, the rest of the country isn’t living in that world. Other states are investing in infrastructure, offering incentives, and using government investments to create an atmosphere attractive to industry and entrepreneurs. That’s where business will go, including some currently located here.

So far, the states living in the real world are winning. The ones trying to transform the country into a free-market utopia are losing. We’re competing with Kansas. Everybody else is playing on a different field.  [emphasis mine]

Quick hits (part I)

n1) I’m going to put this great Amanda Taub, JD, piece about why you shouldn’t go to law school unless you really, really want to become a laywer #1, to make sure DJC doesn’t miss it.  Especially because she rejects law school as an all-purpose degree. Also, it is now officially required reading for any student who asks me for a law school recommendation.

2) There’s been much debate on Hillary Clinton’s popularity and what it means, of late.  I like Yglesias‘ take.  And especially Chait’s and his focus on negative partisanship.

. The most important force in American politics is “negative partisanship”— people forming nearly unshakable habits of voting for one party or the other based not on affirmative loyalty but on antipathy toward the opposing party. In a world of negative partisanship, high levels of popularity are nearly impossible, and/but also not required in order to win.

3) I’ve got a decent bit of faith in the progress of science and technology to prevent us from having the horror-show post antibiotic future described here, but it is definitely worth worrying about.  For what it’s worth, I expect dramatically new treatments that don’t rely on traditional antibiotics.  I think that approach will, of necessity, have to be replaced.

4) There’s much advantage to be gained by NC by continuing to invest in solar.  Of course, for our Republican legislature, investing in future energy sources is just silly hippy stuff.  Ugh.

5) Fascinated by the the SC decision in the Elonis vs. US decision this week.  How on earth is it okay for a person to communicate threats like that.  I guess the point is it’s not if you just have better jury instructions?  Garrett Epps take is the best I’ve seen.

6) Very much deserving of it’s own post, but… Laura Kipnis’ Kafka-esque Title IX investigation simply for writing an essay about campus sexuality and the culture of victimhood.  (If you can’t read that, Eric Wemple hits some major points).  Of course, Chait is on the case.  And David Brooks weighs in, too.

7) You bet it’s about damn time we reign in federal prosecutors.  Also, it strikes me as really, really stupid to put somebody in prison for life just because they were courier-ing a lot of cocaine.  You get a lot less time for your typical murder.

8) Truly bizarre story in NYT Magazine about a Russian agency that basically spends all its time in elaborate internet hoaxes, trolling, etc., in America.

9) Love Drum’s take on why libertarians are so overwhelmingly male:

So here’s the quick answer: hard core libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious  and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.

Most of them are wrong, of course. In a truly libertarian culture, nearly all of them would be squashed like ants—mostly by the same people who are squashing them now. But the fantasy lives on regardless.

10) Supreme Court makes logical, humane, decision about illegal immigrants.  Alito and Thomas hate it.

11) Jeb Bush is doing well in the fundraising part of the Invisible primary.  But the getting support from party insiders part (i.e., the part you need to do to win), not so much.

12) This story of largely failed attempts to spread toilets throughout rural India is a terrific example how so often making meaningful improvements in developing nations are not just a matter of money and resources, but overcoming deeply-engrained cultural practices.

13) Do I need to be kinder with introverts when it comes to class participation?  Maybe.  But I still think (and tell my students) there are students who hate writing but they have to do it anyway.  Those who hate speaking just have to suck it up and do it anyway.  Yeah, yeah, easy for me, I’m an extrovert.  And to be fair, I can tell when I have introverts who are really trying and definitely give them the benefit of the doubt.

14) I don’t think I give too much away by saying I really disliked last week’s Game of Thrones episode.  If I basically wanted to watch zombie battles, I would have stuck with The Walking Dead.  Alas, from the rapturous positive comments I’ve seen to this episode on-line, I’m in a small minority.  On the bright side, thanks to this Vox explainer, I understand what was going on.  But I still think it makes the GOT universe vastly less interesting.

15) Did NC Governor Pat McCrory break a campaign promise upon signing recent abortion legislation?  Uh…. yeah.  The only purpose of three days waits is to make it harder to get an abortion.  And also, sending a woman’s pre-abortion ultrasound photos to be archived by the state?  Seriously?

16) A billionaire recently gave Harvard a $400 million gift to name a school after himself.  Because, you know, Harvard needs the money.

And yet, Harvard and its elite peers are by far the biggest beneficiaries of the world’s giving. According to Moody’s, the 40 wealthiest colleges and universities suck up 59 percent of all charitable support devoted to higher ed. Last year, when U.S. colleges received $38 billion worth of contributions, according to the Council for Aid to Education, Harvard alone claimed $1.1 billion, or about 3 percent, of that total.

Malcolm Gladwell was not impressed.

17) A little-discussed Supreme Court case that could make life very, very tough for Democrats in trying to re-take Congress.  And, also, I’m not a fan of the implication that Members only represent voters, not residents.

(Belated) Quick hits (part II)

1) Bill Moyers on the challenge of journalism in our plutocracy.

2) I’m with Drum.  Man do I hate it when politicians decide some particular disease needs funding because it happens to affect somebody in their own family.  The failure of empathy and vision on such matters is just breathtaking.

3) The politics of facial hair.

4) Can family friendly policies be too generous?  Maybe.

5) Americans (and me) love their circumcision.  (And there’s a pretty fascinating case in here involving child custody, too).

6) Cool interactive feature on how family income affects a child’s chances of going to college.

7) I hate the tone of this piece, but it’s nice to see some conservatives admitting our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.

8) Something tells me, though, the author of the above would not admit to the pervasive racism throughout our criminal justice system.  Vox nicely summarizes it, though.

9) Pretty amazing story about the chocolate diet hoax.  You really should read this to be an informed consumer of health journalism.  Personally, I vaguely recall seeing some links about this and concluding based on the headlines that it was probably junk science with nothing there.

10) I was actually watching this Messi goal when it happened.  One of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

11) Former GW Bush administration flunkie took to the NYT in a data-free column to argue that the Democratic party has shifted even further left than the Republicans have moved to the right.  Seth Masket corrects this with a little thing called data.

12) The NC legislature passed a horrible law to prevent employees from reporting malfeasance by their employers (yes, seriously).  To his credit, our governor vetoed it.  Alas, it appears the legislature has the votes to override.

13) I’m frequently amazed at who has a “black belt” in martial arts.  Suffice it to say, earning a black belt is not what it used to be.

14) As for this academic career advice from an almost geezer?  Already on top of almost all of it.  Apparently I figured out early in my career what took him decades.  Good advice for a lot of careers actually.

15) How America became a global power in a series of maps (via Vox).

16) I love apples and I love Planet Money, so this story was just catnip for me.  That said, I do think Honeycrisp apples are good, but way overrated (and over-priced)..

Time to think

The Supreme Court ruled way back in 1992, in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, that a 24 hour waiting period to get an abortion did not present an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right for a pre-viability abortion.  They’ve never ruled on whether longer waiting periods present such a burden  A handful of states have added 72 hour waiting times in recent years, and NC looks to be the latest.  Of course, on it’s face, it is absolutely clear that this long waiting period is meant to make it harder to receive an abortion.  But legislators rarely actually admit that, as the Casey ruling defines an undue burden as existing when “purpose or effect [of the regulation] is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”   A 72 hour wait is clearly an obstacle.  Substantial?  That’s up to judges and as for now, the Supreme Court has not ruled (and there’s no sign its planning on it anytime soon).  Jeffrey Toobin had a nice piece a while back on how this undue burden standard has gradually been undermined.

Given that the current standard is 24 hours, it truly is absurd to suggest that women somehow need (i.e, must have) an additional 48.  But that’s exactly the argument Republican legislators have been making.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, in an incredibly cynical and underhanded maneuver (not that Democrats have never done similar things, but still wrong) they have tied lies to help protect women from actual threats to this abortion legislation:

Senate leaders have concocted a politically volatile bill that combines measures further restricting access to abortion – measures that sharply divide Republicans and Democrats at the General Assembly – with bills that make statutory rape laws stricter and protect victims of domestic violence…

However, Jackson said, blending abortion measures with hard-to-oppose legislative language is aimed at putting Democrats in a tough political spot. If they vote against imposing more abortion restrictions, they will also be voting against laws to protect victims of domestic violence and restrict the movement of sex offenders…

The following are among the non-abortion provisions in the bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee added to the bill Wednesday:

  • Requiring sex offenders who committed crimes in other states or under federal law to stay away from premises in North Carolina that are frequented by children.
  • Raising the penalties for committing an assault in the presence of a minor.
  • Clarifying the laws surrounding statutory rape.
  • Creating a program to make it easier for women to file domestic violence protection orders.

As for putting all these items in the abortion bill?  Oh, that was just an accident.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, monitored the meeting even though he is not on the committee. He denied Jackson’s assertion that the bill was designed to put Democrats in a hard spot.

“That’s just how the thing ended up being thrown together,” Apodaca said.

Riiiiiight.  Do they just have to lie to our faces like that?  Anyway, wrong all around.


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