Bathroom predators

One of the best posts I’ve yet read, via ScaryMommy blog.  Even the title nails it, “Stop Using your children as an excuse to be a hateful human being.”

“As a mother, how in the world could you be in support of transgender bathrooms,” wrote one person on my professional Facebook page. “You are now in support of allowing every child molester and rapist in the bathroom with your daughter because he is allowed, all he has to say is that he identifies with women

As a mother, there are a lot of ways I could respond to this. I could point out that a paltry restroom sign was never going to prevent a true predator from harming someone in the first place. I could remind everyone how offensive it is to even make the leap from talking about the transgender community to discussing sexual predators in the same sentence. I could even point out that the majority of us have probably shared a restroom with a transgender person at some point and not even known it because they just want to pee.

If you’re truly worried about child sex abuse, then as a responsible parent, it’d behoove you to know that in three-quarters of sex abuse cases, children are harmed not by pooping strangers, but by members of their own family or someone they know. Furthermore, while girls carry a one in four chance of being sexually abused before age 18, the risk for boys is one in six. If bathroom predators are truly an issue, why on earth would I be worried about my daughter but not my son?

Yep, yep, yep.  This is all about fearmongering and not a whit about actual bathroom safety.  Thank you North Carolina Republicans!

Quick hits (part I)

1) Ryan Lizza makes the case that Paul Ryan is actually still running for president.

2) If Sweden and Denmark were US states they would be among the poorest.  And yet who really doubts that they are superior places to live than Alabama and Mississippi.

3) Jim Rutenberg on the squeeze on modern media outlets.

4) Jon Cohn on the difference between Clinton and Sanders:

Keep in mind that many experts think the Sanders plan, as currently written, would actually require a lot more money than he has said — so asking him to go back and find yet more revenue, to cover the exposure these low-income Americans would face, is no small thing.

This is the point that the liberal wonks have been making. (And, yes, I am one of those wonks.) Sanders is holding up his healthcare plan as an alternative to the status quo. But the status quo is a result of real-world compromises and sacrifices. If Sanders became president and had a chance to push his plan through Congress, he’d quickly discover all kinds of other complications — like the fact that many people with employer-sponsored insurance don’t want to give it up, or that severely ratcheting down payments for doctors and hospitals would reduce access and threaten real economic disruption.

To address these issues, Sanders would have to make painful concessions. What came out of the other side of the legislative process would look very different, and less attractive, from what he’s proposing now, in much the same way that Obamacare looks very different, and less attractive, from what Obama sketched out as a candidate in 2008.

5) When it turns out the bully is your kid.

6) I’ve come to enjoy vexillology as Mike Pesca is always plugging it on the gist.  Here’s a pretty cool flag infographic to warm the hearts of vexillologists everywhere.

7) Hey, look, I’m in Mother Jones about Ted Cruz and NC’s HB2.

8) Really interesting, thoughtful, interview on free trade.  I think this part is especially revealing:

ZB: So the US policies like permanent normal trade relations with China only accelerated something that was ultimately going to happen?

GH: It was inevitable.

Once China became part of the global economy, what was going to happen was the US getting out of the really labor-intensive stuff as China moved into that, and that’s specializing, and more skill- and technology- and capital-intensive industries. It didn’t happen earlier because, for many complicated historical reasons, China just wasn’t part of the global economy. Latin America wasn’t that much part of the global economy either until the 1980s and 1990s.

9) John Oliver’s year in criminal justice.

10) Satisficing is so important.  I need to work harder at it.

11) Andrew Prokop on Kasich’s strategy for winning the nomination.

Indeed, Kasich’s actual plan seems to fit perfectly into the classic South Park“underpants gnome” framework, in which step 1 is “lose every primary and caucus except Ohio,” step 2 is “???” and step 3 is “party turns to Kasich at a contested convention.” He really does not seem to have even the slightest plan to get from step 1 to step 3.

12) Liked this list of “podcasts for grownups who still dig learning” as I already listen to most of them.  Oh, I still really dig learning.

13) Enjoyed this post from my good friend (and great promoter of my research), Matt Shipman, on how his role as a dad makes him oppose HB2 all the more.

14) Speaking of HB2, N&O editorial on the Republicans just digging in their heals come hell or high water.  It takes a big person to admit when they are wrong.  Not even any modestly-sized persons in sight.

Now it seems the Republican schisms and blind zeal that let this law pass will also obstruct its necessary repeal. Until HB2 is repealed, jobs will continue to be lost.

“We’ve had some companies choose to suspend their site selection search in North Carolina and consequently in Wake County,” said Adrienne Cole, executive director of Wake County Economic Development. “Some have said they’re taking North Carolina off the list, others have said they’re postponing things to see what happens.”

Unfortunately, Berger and Moore represent districts in less-populated areas of the state, and although their constituents might well benefit from economic development in cities (Moore’s Kings Mountain isn’t that far from Charlotte, and Berger’s Eden is fairly close to Greensboro), they have such antipathy for cities they just don’t care. They are putting an anti-urban ideology ahead of the best interests of North Carolina, a reprehensible position for two supposed leaders.

15) Being rich (or comfortably middle class) means having more money to spend to perpetuate that with your kids.

16) Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent take on the 4-4 Supreme Court and the recent immigration case.

17) Given how much I hate extended fight scenes in movie, I love this analogy about Hillary Clinton from Drum:

For some reason this got me thinking about fight scenes in movies. Bear with me here. If you watch a movie from 50 years ago, the fight scenes will mostly strike you as ridiculous. The staging is weak, the sound effects are amateurish, and the choreography is slapdash. Things improved over the next couple of decades, but then they went overboard. Fight scenes began to devour blockbuster movies, with directors all trying to one up each other. But really, a fight is a fight. After a while, there’s little new you can do, and all the CGI in the world can’t hide that. Anyone who saw the most recent Star Trek movie knows what I’m talking about. The final fight scene was absurd, tedious, and completely unnecessary. But JJ Abrams put it in because he figured his audience demanded it. And I suppose they did. But those of us who have been watching movies since the 60s or 70s found it boring and predictable.

Now on to politics. To me, Bernie is like one of those fight scenes: I’ve seen it all before. On the Democratic side, primaries have specialized in having at least one bold truthteller like Bernie in every cycle since the 1960s. Sometimes they’re lefty truthtellers, sometimes they’re “hard truths” truthtellers, and sometimes they’re a bit of a mishmash. But the one thing they have in common is that they can afford to tell the truth—in the beginning, at least—because they’re mostly running as rebels who don’t really expect to win. And if you’re not seriously trying to win, there’s no downside to being entirely candid. Who cares if you’re going to lose a few important demographics in the process?

18) Sub-hunting drones.  Cool!

19) Really enjoyed the “Steve Jobs” movie, but totally agree that with David Edelstein that there’s way too much focus on what kind of a father Steve Jobs was.

20) Damn straight buying a car should be more like buying an Apple product.  You’ll be hearing more on this from me.

21) Progressively fewer ear infections in each of my children.  My family is representative of a larger, and very good, trend here.


Quick hits (part I)

1) More evidence that anti-bacterial soaps do more harm than good (the point of soap is to actually wash the germs away, not kill them).  I’ve tried to use regular soap for years, but it can actually be hard to find the liquid soap that is not anti-bacterial.

2) Really enjoyed reading about Peggy Orenstein’s new book on girls and sex.  I think I’ll be giving this to Sarah in 8-10 years.

3) How to get your children to behave through positive behavioral reinforcement.  Maybe too late for my kids.  But I probably should try, because they sure won’t behave.

4) Just a video of a submarine surfacing through ice.  Nothing cool to see here.

5) Had this article about the lawyer who took on Dupont in an open tab for a long time.  Glad I finally read it.  Really good stuff.

Bilott doesn’t regret fighting DuPont for the last 16 years, nor for letting PFOA consume his career. But he is still angry. ‘‘The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,’’ Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, ‘‘that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing. That’s 14 years of this stuff continuing to be used, continuing to be in the drinking water all over the country. DuPont just quietly switches over to the next substance. And in the meantime, they fight everyone who has been injured by it.’’

Bilott is currently prosecuting Wolf v. DuPont, the second of the personal-injury cases filed by the members of his class. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. That trial begins in March. When it concludes, there will be 3,533 cases left to try

6) Apparently, it is quite exhausting when your full-time job is blurring out people’s exposed private parts for a television show.

7) Steve Benen on the amateurishness of Trump’s delegate operations.

8) Thanks to Pat McCrory, it’s not easy being Pat McCrory.

9) Time to re-think how we think about the “tree of life.”

Existing genetic studies have been heavily biased towards the branches of life that we’re most familiar with, especially those we can see and study. It’s no coincidence that animals made up half of the “comprehensive tree of life,” and fungi, plants, and algae took up another third, and microscopic bacteria filled just a small wedge.

That’s not what the real tree of life looks like.

We visible organisms should be the small wedge. We’re latecomers to Earth’s story, and represent the smallest sliver of life’s diversity. Bacteria are the true lords of the world. They’ve been on the planet for billions of years and have irrevocably changed it, while diversifying into endless forms most wonderful and most beautiful. Many of these forms have never been seen, but we know they exist because of their genes. Using techniques that can extract DNA from environmental samples—scoops of mud or swabs of saliva—scientists have been able to piece together the full genomes of organisms whose existence is otherwise a mystery.

Using 1,011 of these genomes, Laura Hug, now at the University of Waterloo, and Jillian Banfield at the University of California, Berkeley have sketched out a radically different tree of life. All the creatures we’re familiar with—the animals, plants, and fungi—are crowded on one thin branch. The rest are largely filled with bacteria. [emphasis mine]

10) The octopus who escaped back to the ocean.

11) NYT Editorial on the endemic racism in the Chicago PD.  Also, a good occassion to plug the old, but truly not at all dated, Courtroom 302.  

12) Evan Osnos on Trump’s convention strategy.

13) Apparently, Republicans only think Zika virus affects blue states.  Or maybe, they are just against doing something about it because Obama is for it.  Ugh.

14) Mike Munger on the beauty of the virtual classroom discussion.  It’s got it’s value, but I think Munger is over-selling it.

15) Should we have government-sponsored childcare?

In a new report published Wednesday, a group of economists argued the market alone can’t fix this problem. Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in the District, say daycare should become a national priority, a human right on par with public education, because it contributes to academic achievement gaps, among other unequal outcomes later in children’s lives.

In order to make high-quality child care — with well-trained staff and a cognitively enriching environment — available to all in the current system, many children would have to be crammed into the best day care centers and safety would have to be severely compromised, said co-author Josh Bivens, EPI’s research and policy director.“The easiest way,” he said, “would be to shove 70 kids in one class.”

Rather than encourage this dystopia, he said, America should invest more resources into building a national childcare system, one that rewards quality.

16) 538 on how a Penn State lab is predicting sunset quality.  Cool.

17) Speaking of the sun, the Sunlight Foundation on how lobbyists effectively prevent saner tax policy.

18) How about a space probe to the “nearby” star Alpha Centauri?  Mostly, this caught my eye because despite having almost no creative ability, the one good story I remember writing in elementary school was “journey to Alpha Centauri.”  The beginning and end of my career as a science fiction author.

19) This is pretty damn cool– click on the caterpillar and see the moth/butterfly it becomes.

Quick hits (part IIb)

Very busy weekend.  Had to divide up the quick hits an extra time to make sure I got it all in before Monday.

1) Drum’s good take on the new Pierson and Hacker book.

2) Linda Greenhouse on Supreme Court “hijacking.”

Really? Any belief counts, as long as it’s sincere? Any belief, no matter the consequences to third parties who don’t share the belief? Given judges’ extreme diffidence about questioning the basis for any religious belief, that’s a not-implausible reading of a statute that only the much-missed Justice John Paul Stevens had the nerve to call unconstitutional. In aconcurring opinion 19 years ago, Justice Stevens said that because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gave churches “a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain,” the law amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. “This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion,” he wrote then, “is forbidden by the First Amendment.”

3) Teenagers who are literally ruining their lives trying to get into Ivy league schools should stop trying to get into Ivy League schools.  Yeah, high school is hard work, but there’s got to be time for fun.

4) Interesting Atlantic piece on the sewage in the water for the upcoming Olympics and a look at the history and sociology of how it got to be this way.

5) We have a pretty good idea on how to make policing better.  We just need to do it.  Good interview in Vox.

A better way forward is to realize that overgeneralizing — either in terms of enforcement or prevention — is unlikely to succeed, because violence is “sticky,” meaning it concentrates among a small number of identifiable places, people, and behaviors. Focusing our attention and efforts where it matters most will get us better results and is more feasible as a matter of politics and budgets.

GL: What were some of the most promising programs? What about the worst?

TA: The best programs share a number of elements — specificity, proactivity, legitimacy — that Christopher Winship and I outline in our paper. Focused deterrence, also known as the Group Violence Intervention, has a strong track record of success around the country, especially in places like Boston, Cincinnati, and Stockton, California. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also repeatedly demonstrated strong results, especially in Boston with ROCA Inc. and in Chicago with the Becoming a Man program.

The worst strategies generally emphasize punitive scare and control tactics with youth.Scared Straight is best example of a strategy that actually increases crime among those kids who participate in the program, but there are others, such as youth boot camps and curfews. In a different area, gun buybacks are enormously popular but don’t do much to reduce gun violence.

GL: You said in the report that we should dedicate police resources to certain places. What do you mean by that?

TA: A better understanding of what we mean by “place” is very helpful. In this area it’s really important to get specific. At least in the US and likely in most of the rest of the world, crime and violence are sticky; they’re hyperconcentrated in a small number of places, people, and behaviors.

When I say hyperconcentrated, I don’t mean that crime and violence concentrate in a bad or violent neighborhood. They concentrate on a specific street corner, a specific nightclub on a certain night, or a specific liquor store. So when we look at a dangerous neighborhood, generally what we’re seeing is not a whole neighborhood but two or three hot spots. That’s very important to understand.

6) Aaron Carroll on the absurd sleep deprivation we subject our teenagers to.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

7) The lack of funding for criminal defense in Louisiana is truly shameful, unfair, and un-American (and a natural outgrowth of hard-right Republican budgetary policies).  If judges can demand states do better with prisons I don’t understand why they cannot demand states actually ensure defendants get a decent defense.

8) On the bright side, sounds like the Supreme Court might finally be catching onto the problem of criminally inadequate criminal defense in the states.

“The upshot,” Breyer concluded, “is a substantial risk that accepting the Government’s views would—by increasing the government-paid-defender workload—render less effective the basic right the Sixth Amendment seeks to protect.”

Breyer’s logic is worth following to its endpoint. He acknowledges that throwing Luis and others like her to the public-defender system would weaken her Sixth Amendment rights to effective counsel. But what does that say about the constitutional rights of poor defendants who have no other choice?

The question has national implications. Underfunding and understaffing in state public-defender systems weakens the quality of legal representation they can provide to clients. Virtually all of Kentucky’s public defenders exceeded the American Bar Association’s recommended caseload in 2015. Minnesota’s public defenders took on almost double the ABA standard in 2010—170,000 cases for fewer than 400 lawyers—and spent only an average of 12 minutes on each caseoutside the courtroom.

Some states face even greater crises. In cash-strapped Louisiana, where 8 out of 10 defendants cannot afford a lawyer, the system is on the verge of collapse. The state’s 2017 budget includes a 62 percent cut in state funding for public-defender system, with 11 of the state’s 42 offices in danger of shutting down by October. In one office, a waiting list for legal representation had more than 2,300 names on itin March. Defendants often languish behind bars, separated from employment and family, while they wait.

9) Nice Atlantic video on the surprising ineffectiveness of campaign ads.

10) John Oliver and the journalist as advocate.

Chattoo was also impressed by Oliver’s piece last summer on bail bonds in New York, in which he demonstrated that they were little more than a tool for locking up poor people. “It immediately set the agenda, and a month later, [New York Mayor] Bill De Blasio announced a complete policy change,” she noted.

Feldman argues that Oliver’s work reveals a troubling truth about traditional journalists: They often rely on objectivity as a crutch.
“That can have devastating consequences in that it leads to uncritical deference to official sources,” she says. For some journalists, she adds, a he-said, she-said approach to reporting “can be an easy way out.”

As these scholars and journalists see it, “objectivity” was always a false measure of journalistic excellence, and a superficial stand-in for more meaningful ideas like honesty, accuracy, and transparency — terms that might better describe the characteristics of a top-tier journalist.

11) Maria Konnikova on the psychology of electability.


12) Barney Frank is decidedly not impressed with Bernie Sanders.  A great read.



13) You know what, I don’t really doubt that the US women’s soccer team is the victim of gender discrimination in pay.  That said, I got so tired of all the reporting talking about them bringing in more revenue than the men (and the American tv ratings– enough with the American TV ratings in a global sport).  It was only 538 that brought up this fact below.  Now, that may be discrimination from FIFA, but given that disparity of revenue coming in, puts US Soccer in a different light to me.  Also, fair or not, we cannot ignore the marketplace for soccer and it’s not just America.

While U.S. Soccer is not responsible for FIFA prize money, it’s worth noting that the men’s prize money for losing in the round of 16 amounted to $9 million. The women’s prize money for winning the whole tournament was $2 million.

14) Ebola’s hidden impact on the eye.  Scary and sad.

In the aftermath of the epidemic, almost half of over 15,000 West African Ebola survivors have exhibited new ophthalmic symptoms that, left untreated, can lead to severe uveitis (inflammation of the eye), cataracts, and blindness. In Sierra Leone, where an already-weak health system has been leveled by the outbreak, ophthalmological capacity is dismal—the country of 6 million people has just three ophthalmologists. And the nightmare is magnified by a frightening curveball: the possibility that live Ebola virus could be replicating in the eyes of discharged Ebola survivors, pleading to be disrupted by instruments and released back into the population.

As long as that question goes unanswered, the eyes of Ebola survivors are considered inoperable. Patients who need surgery are told to go home, to wait, until researchers confirm whether their eyes are viral landmines. Meanwhile, they’re going blind.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Of course we are not completely safe from terrorism.  And, of course, that’s a good thing.

2) Some bad news… After a moratorium the feds are resuming the evil that is civil asset forfeiture.

3) I still need to read the Atlantic article on The Obama Doctrine.  That said, I really liked this bit about it:

It is true, contra the apologists, that ISIS is a Muslim problem (read my colleague Graeme Wood on this subject). Those who have read “The Obama Doctrine” know that the president believes this to be true, and that he has called on Muslim leaders and clerics to examine the causes of extremism in their community. But it is also true that Islam is the solution to the ISIS problem. The great mass of the world’s billion-and-a-half Muslims are not ISIS supporters, nor sympathizers, and it is also true, of course, that most of ISIS’s victims are Muslim. Only Islam can truly defeat this movement. One reason Obama is cautious in using heated, or overly generalized, rhetoric is that he would like to avoid a situation in which ordinary Muslims come to believe that the West despises their religion. It is a core interest of ISIS to convince non-radicalized Muslims that there is no space for them in the West. Trump and Cruz are helping ISIS make this case; Obama, and the national-security apparatus of the United States, are not interested in doing this.

4) Really interesting take on how the undue burden standard has eroded Roe v. Wade.

5) Al Franken for vp.

6) Drum on HRC’s non-scandalous email scandal.

7) Apparently real Marxism is making a comeback on the left.  Chait is not amused.

Many Marxist theorists have long attempted to rescue their theory from its real-world adherents by attributing its failures to idiosyncratic personal flaws of the leaders who took power (Lenin, Stalin, Mao … ). But the same patterns have replicated themselves in enough governments under enough leaders to make it perfectly obvious that the flaw rests in the theory itself. Marxist governments trample on individual rights because Marxist theory does not care about individual rights. Marxism is a theory of class justice. The only political rights it respects are those exercised by members of the oppressed class, with different left-wing ideological strands defining those classes in economic, racial, or gender terms, or sometimes all at once. Unlike liberalism, which sees rights as a positive-sum good that can expand or contract for society as a whole, Marxists (and other left-wing critics of liberalism) think of political rights as a zero-sum conflict. Either they are exercised on behalf of oppression or against it. Any Marxist government immediately sets about snuffing out the political rights of parties or ideas deemed reactionary (a category that also inevitably expands to describe any challenge to the powers that be). Repression is woven into Marxism’s ideological fabric.

8) There’s a tick bite than can lead to a red meat allergy.  Bizarre!  And I’m pretty sure this is what happened to a friend of mine years before they knew the tick bite was a cause.

9) The trade deficit— far more complicated than politicians (here’s looking at you, Trump) would have you believe.

10) This professor sounds like a bit of a jerk.  But I love that he took a stand on meaningless bureaucratic standards of “learning outcomes” in his syllabus:

He [Professor Woodrow Wilson] continued:

The object of education is not merely to draw out the powers of the individual mind: It is rather its right object to draw all minds to a proper adjustment to the physical and social world in which they are to have their life and their development: to enlighten, strengthen, and make fit. The business of the world is not individual success, but its own betterment, strengthening, and growth in spiritual insight. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” is its right prayer and aspiration.

Mr. Dillon, who grew up near Wilson’s hometown, in central Virginia, liked that formulation. So when he was asked to define the desired “learning outcomes” for students in his laboratory course in genetics, he pasted the entire quotation and nothing more.

But antique manifestos were not what Mr. Dillon’s bosses had in mind.

11) Norm Ornstein’s prescient August 2015 column on Trump.

12) How parents can connect with their teenagers through 80’s music (we do this all the time with the Sirius XM Big 80’s and First Wave stations).   That said, I mostly connect through 90’s and 00’s music (Weezer, Nirvana, and Muse).

13) Really, really, good Brookings piece on the complexity of medical marijuana policy:

Medical marijuana policy in the United States is putting Americans at risk. The federal government keeps people who live in states that don’t have medical marijuana programs from accessing a product that could benefit their health. And even as it prevents some people from having it, it erects barriers against research into the safety and efficacy of a product used by tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who do live in states that have legalized it.

Although there are a number of policy changes, large and small, that Congress and the administration could make to overcome the deficiencies of this system, thus far they have chosen not to do so. Yet, as numerous organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have documented, a substantial majority of Americans in every state that has been polled supports changes (in some form) to the nation’s medical marijuana laws. Gallup and CBS News polls have pegged national support for reform at between 70 and 85 percent.

While elected officials cling to the status quo, failing to recognize and address the inherent hypocrisies in the nation’s laws, patients like Jennifer Collins and her family, and business owners like Rabbi Kahn and his family, are enduring unnecessary hardships. Far from being outliers, they are typical of the many people victimized by an unjust, arbitrary, and downright harmful system that hinders access to a clinically proven medical benefit.

It is time for government to transform medical marijuana policy into a system that is rational, functional, consistent, and informed by science—not politics.

14) Our governor’s office put out a truth and myths about HB2 statement.  Suffice it to say, it did not fare well when held up to the scrutiny of a fact check.

15) I love this from one of the few Democrats who voted for the bill because it shows how utterly stupid the supporters are:

And Rep. Ken Goodman of Rockingham – one of 11 Democrats who voted yes – tweeted that “corps who threaten to boycott N.C. can’t wait to locate in Cuba.”

16) If you value it, you should be willing to pay to read it.

17) Nate Silver on how Trump hacked the media:

Put another way, Trump has hacked the system and exposed the weaknesses in American political institutions. He’s uncovered profound flaws in the Republican Party. He’s demonstrated that third-rail issues like racism and nationalism can still be a potent political force. He’s exploited the media’s goodwill and taken advantage of the lack of trust the American public has in journalism. Trump may go away — he’s not yet assured of winning the GOP nomination, and he’ll be an underdog in November if he does — but the problems he’s exposed were years in the making, and they’ll take years to sort out.

18) The culture of sensitivity at Harvard.

19) A high-level defector from Trump’s campaign let’s loose.

20) Everybody was fine with non-discrimination ordinances until opponents made them all about bathrooms.

21) The commodification of higher education.

22) Frank Rich’s good, long take on Trump and the GOP.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Apparently there are more “new” dinosaurs discovered than there are actually new dinosaurs.

2) Funny or Die with a nice satirical take on NC tourism.

3) More IUD’s already!

4) I honestly thought this “secrets to a happy life” social science was really old and well-known by now, but apparently not.  It’s the relationships, damnit!

What does it take to live a good life?

Surveys show that most young adults believe that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. But a long-running study out of Harvard suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.

5) How the TV show Friends led to the downfall of western civilization.

6) A Florida town wanted college spring break revelers to not act like hooligans.  Thanks to social media, the town took way more of a financial hit from lower attendance than they expected.  What’s spring break without acting like a drunken cretin, damnit.

7) More on the downside of empathy.  I still want my kids to have it.

8) Love the anti-Trump rant from a former Jeb! strategist:

The man who ran a super-PAC backing Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful White House run says electing Donald Trump as president would be “like putting a chimp in the driver’s seat of a tractor.”

“He doesn’t understand the presidency,” Mike Murphy said in a Weekly Standard interview published Monday.

“You don’t call up the head of Mexico and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to build a fabulous wall with first-class gold toilets and you’re gonna pay for it,’” continued Murphy, who ran Right to Rise PAC. “You don’t call up the head of Ford Motor Company and say, ‘You can only manufacture things in the U.S. or I’m going to unilaterally impose tariffs.’

“He has no understanding of presidential powers. He has no understanding of Congress. It’s like putting a chimp in the driver’s seat of a tractor. He’s not going to plow the field. He’s going to drive the tractor into the lake.”

Murphy also slammed voters supporting Trump, arguing that they are making a grave mistake by backing the real estate tycoon.

“The stakes are high,” he said. “And having problems is not a license to vote stupid. People need the tractor to plow the damn field now.

9) Particularly enjoyed Mike Pesca and Maria Konnikova taking on the intellectual emptiness that is the anti-GMO crowd.

10) John Roberts not happy with the over-politicized Supreme Court nomination process.  As if Republicans would care.

11) Kraft changed the formula for it’s Mac & Cheese and didn’t actually tell anybody about it for months because they knew customers would freak out about how they ruined it.  Smart move as nobody ever really noticed or complained.

12) Drum on the weakness of Matt Taibbi’s anti-Hillary case.

13) Should parents of severely disabled children be able to physically limit their growth so that they are easier to care for as they age?  Hell yes says me.  And I really resent those who have not spent a day caring for a severely disabled child (not that I have, but I like to think caring for a moderately disabled– though not physically so– child gives me some empathy) judging them.

14) John Oliver treats Trump’s wall as a serious proposal and shows just how unserious it is.  Great stuff.

And, Happy Easter (I’ve already had way too much candy from a Saturday Easter egg hunt).

On-line gradebooks

Really enjoyed this Laura McKenna piece in the Atlantic on how on-line gradebooks are changing K-12 education:

How did my son perform on his high-school physics test this morning? Seconds after the teacher posts his score online, I can find out. With just a few more clicks, I can also tell you how the grade affected his overall performance for the quarter, his GPA for the year, how many times he was late for school, and what he ate for lunch this week.

All of this information is readily available to parents at any time through our school district’s virtual gradebook—an increasingly popular tool that is reshaping parental involvement in schools nationwide and opening up the black box of student assessment. Experts predict that these programs will evolve using the latest technology to measure increasingly varied facets of students’ educational lives. While many parents seem to appreciate the increased connections with their schools, others—myself included—are not interested in the constant surveillance and assessment of their children…

Some parents have reported that this new software is an effective method for increasing communication between school and home. Many of my friends are very happy with this technology. One said that she learned that her daughter was struggling with reading by reviewing her marks on the online gradebook; the teacher never informed my friend of these issues. With this knowledge, she was able to get help for her daughter early in the year. Others have said that they’ve been able to correct teachers’ grading errors with these programs.

To respond the proliferation of these online gradebooks, the Harvard Family Research Project has a list of useful tips for administrators, teachers, and parents on how to effectively use these new tools. It recommends that parents strike a balance between monitoring data and allowing the child to progress at his or her own pace, noting that parents should avoid constantly checking online portals, also known as “e-hovering.”

Others are less impressed with the impact of this technology on family life. Madeline Levine, a clinical psychologist and the author of The Price of Privilege, described online gradebooks as “a miserable idea.” Teachers these days grade “everything,” even works in progress, she said, and the online gradebooks make these scores subject to constant inspection by parents—potentially discouraging kids from experimenting or making mistakes that are integral to learning.

Personally, I love this technology.  It has absolutely undoubtedly helped prevented my oldest son from failing classes he would have otherwise failed.  We tried to check on him and make sure he was turning in his assignments.  He told us he was.  Powerschool said otherwise and he was able to make them up before it was too late.  We try not to hover– no daily checks, but I love automatically getting an email each week.  The thing is, though, it is so clear that this very much depends on the individual child and his/her relationship with their parents.  With David– who earned straight A’s last semester– this technology is a godsend.  It allows quick, effective, communication between teachers, students, and parents that I can attest just doesn’t happen via email.  Now, my third child is only in 4th grade (the issue is irrelevant for my second’s special education curriculum), but I feel pretty confident in predicting I won’t really need to check Powerschool at all when he is in middle and high school.  If we were checking him constantly, it would likely be unncesseccary and just erode our relationship.  Our oldest certainly understands why we check on him.

Anyway, I can absolutely see how this technology presents some real potential problems.  But used correctly and on an individualized basis, I think it can be a very, very positive thing.


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