Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m quite comfortable with the “native advertising” in many of the podcasts I listen to.  These are great podcasts and they’ve got to pay the bills and I’m sure I’m not alone in paying more attention to the ads when done in a clever way.  To say that this breaks down the wall of journalism and editorial certainly seems like a stretch in the podcasts I enjoy (Panopoly/Slate and Gimlet) and the idea that listeners cannot understand they are hearing a paid ad is ridiculous.

2) The NYT got it really wrong in a recent story about a supposed “criminal” investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.  Josh Marshall takes apart their defense.

3) Really enjoyed reading this ranking of all 74 Led Zeppelin songs.  Very much put me in the mood for listening to my CD box set.  I heartily agree with Kashmir at #1.  My biggest dispute is “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?” way down in the 40’s.  That song was extra special back before you could get any song anywhere because it wasn’t even on any of their albums.  And it’s awesome.

4) On the surface, it may seem perfectly reasonable to not have Medicare cover erectile dysfunction, but if you stop and think about how important proper sexual functioning is for human happiness, this is really not right.

5) The Tech world is coming to value liberal arts degrees.

6) The Solar System is really big and this video is really cool, but not for 45 minutes.

7) Found this story fascinating on how Perdue is trying to gain a competitive advantage by moving to large-scale antibiotic free chickens.  The key to their approach?  A massive focus on cleanliness.  That’s right, keep everything sterile and clean; chickens don’t get sick, and you don’t need all the antibiotics.  Hopefully, this approach will catch on across the whole industry.

SALISBURY, Md. — The floors are spotless in Hatchery 3 on the sprawling Perdue compound here. Doors have been rehung to open out, and temperature control and ventilation systems have been upgraded, all to minimize the potential for airborne contamination.

The 1.5 million eggs that arrive here each week to begin the process of becoming the company’s chicken supply are also clean, with none of the traces of feces or feathers that were common in the past. They will move into chambers that are disinfected daily with hydrogen peroxide during the 21-day incubation-and-hatching cycle, a more rigorous program. No human hand will touch the eggs during those three weeks.

It took Perdue roughly a decade to perfect the raising of chickens without antibiotics of any kind, and now it has reached a tipping point: More than half of the chicken it sells can be labeled “no antibiotics ever,” a first for a major poultry company.

8) Vox with a teacher with a list of 7 things he wishes others understood about being a teacher.

9) Meant to give this it’s own post for too long.  A great, enraged Dahlia Lithwick on a case in Virginia where a clearly innocent man was prosecuted, convicted, and served years in jail before the prosecutor sort-of admitted the case was crap:

Deirdre Enright, director of investigation for the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project Clinic (disclosure: and a friend of mine), notes that this is where the idea of justice got confused with the promise of winning. As she says, “Lunsford appears to have learned in the middle of her case against Mark that the ‘victim’s’ cell phone tower records contradicted the victim’s version of events, and corroborated the defendant’s. Leaving aside the fact that a competent prosecutor is not learning the underlying facts of her case mid-trial, this was the kind of exculpatory evidence that would cause a fair prosecutor, honoring her obligation to seek and serve justice, to dismiss the charge. Instead, she successfully argued against their admissibility in court. In the wrongful conviction world, the nicest description we have for this phenomenon is ‘tunnel vision.’ ” …

And perhaps that’s the problem right there: Facing a mountain of evidence that showed there was no way the alleged victim could be telling the truth, the prosecutor believed her, then believed her, and then believed her some more…

If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means “the system works,” I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him. [emphasis mine]

10) The super-important Voting Rights trial in NC (this could very well have national implications and could also very well work it’s way up to the Supreme Court) is now in the hands of the judge.

11) Loved this Will Saletan piece on Republicans and the Iran deal:

If Republicans win the White House next year, they’ll almost certainly control the entire federal government. Many of them, running for president or aspiring to leadership roles in Congress, are trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran. This would be a good time for these leaders to show that they’re ready for the responsibilities of national security and foreign policy. Instead, they’re showing the opposite. Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world. [emphasis mine] …

There’s plenty more I could quote to you. But out of mercy, and in deference to the many dead and retired Republicans who took foreign policy seriously, I’ll stop. This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?

12) Yes, crows are pretty damn smart.


Quick hits

1) How the year you born influences your political views.

2) How always blaming mental illness for mass shootings is a cop-out.

3) The BBC ranks the 100 best American films.

4) On how schools should be working on building non-cognitive skills.

5) The new chair of the NC GOP is completely nuts.  Here he has decided to link Hillary Clinton to the KKK.

6) Great Upshot piece by Brendan Nyhan on how to use and interpret presidential election polls.  This is going to be assigned reading for multiple classes.

7) On how the Southern Drawl is fading away in Raleigh.  Safe to say my two children born in the area don’t have the slightest hint of a Southern accent.

8) Yes, the mob justice for killer of Cecil the Lion (honestly, I think it is pretty awesome that he is losing his dental practice over this) is arbitrary and severe.  As German Lopez points out, so is very much of American criminal justice.

9) We bought What Pet Should I Get last night.  Not Seuss’s greatest, but good stuff.  That said, it’s pretty clear that he never had any intention of publishing it and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

10) Very cool NYT multi-media feature on a rogue fishing boat and the environmentalists that hounded them for thousands of miles.

11) No standing desks for me!  But some good evidence that just a little bit of movement interrupting your sitting can make a big difference.  Between my small bladder and short-attention span at work and my whiny/demanding kids at home, I’d like to think this probably works out okay for me.

12) Not all surprising, but certainly damning is the way the police officers in Cincinnati worked together to agree to a false narrative in the Dubose shooting.

13) Your long read: NYT Magazine feature on Republican efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act.  Sadly, North Carolina plays a starring role.

Republicans against public education

Sure, it’s one thing for me to complain about how many Republicans in our NC legislature are actively against public education, but it’s nice to have confirmation from Republicans in this state who actually do care about public education.  And how incredibly sad to even have to right that sentence.  If there ever should be a bipartisan issue, it should be support for public education.  Sure, I can handle disagreements about how best to do it, but the fact that so many of our “leaders” don’t actually care about NC having good public education is beyond depressing.  Anyway, great article in the N&O on the war within the NC GOP:

About two years ago, the Republican-dominated southern suburbs of Mecklenburg County elected Paul Bailey to represent them on the school board. He was endorsed by a roster of GOP officials that included three state legislators.

That made Bailey’s comments on the Republican-dominated General Assembly this week all the more striking.

“I’m extremely concerned that we have a state that is dismantling our public school system,” he said. “This state is going in the wrong direction when it comes to public education.”…

“I’m a Republican,” Bailey told me after Tuesday’s board meeting. “But I’m just tired of this crap.” …

But the sharpest criticism of state leaders came from the board’s GOP members.

“This makes me laugh, it’s so ridiculous,” Rhonda Lennon said.

“We are getting ready to open our classroom doors. … And we don’t have a clue yet if we’re going to have to (lay off) 500 teacher assistants or try to hire almost 140 new teachers,” Tim Morgan said.

Larry Shaheen, a Republican political consultant from Charlotte, says the state’s Republicans are split between those who support public education and those who believe that private business can do better than government schools. [emphases mine] In a state that’s currently dominated by the GOP, he says, that struggle will shape the state’s future.

“Regardless of your political persuasion, North Carolina has a rich heritage of public education. You can’t just dismantle it because it happens to be built by Democrats,” said Shaheen, who worked on Morgan’s and Bailey’s campaigns and counts himself in the pro-public education camp.

Shaheen’s comments conclude:

Shaheen says national tensions, including teacher unions that demonize Republicans [ed: hmmm, I wonder why], fuel attitudes in Raleigh. But he says polls support his contention that in Mecklenburg and across North Carolina, belief in public schools crosses party lines.

“Republicans have got to get better on public education,” he said, “and if they don’t, the majority in Raleigh will be unsustainable.”

Alas, this is nothing new with the guys in Raleigh, but they still have solid majorities.  I think PT Barnum had something relevant to say that very much applies to this.

The dirty little secret of decreasing mass incarceration

We’re going to have to let a whole more violent felons out on the streets.  There  was an article in the Times that there finally seems to be some real bipartisan momentum for reforming our horribly inefficient and way over-punitive sentencing laws.  That said, the accompanying article and graphs make it quite clear that this is not at all about just releasing non-violent drug offenders.  This chart is really something:


A massive share in rising prison populations is violent offenders.  The simple truth is we cannot address the overall problem without addressing what we do with violent offenders.  There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit here.  The likelihood of re-offense falls dramatically for older offenders.  And there’s plenty of ways to use technology (GPS and location monitoring with enhanced drug testing, etc.) to keep track of offenders in much more cost-effective ways outside of prisons.  But, we’re not going to solve this problem by just letting a lot of marijuana smokers out of prison.

Rubio vs. Walker vs. Bush

Hans Noel (who is about as smart a guy as there is when it comes to primaries) analyzes the recent survey of party activists to come to some interesting conclusions:

As Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy reported last week, Walker and Rubio are runaway winners when you add their first- and second-choice votes. They also dominate when you ask if there are any candidates that you could not in any way support. Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham all fall below 75 percent acceptable, as you can see in this figure. If you think (as I do) that Bush supporters are underrepresented in this ideological activist sample, you might conclude that this is mainly a contest between Bush, Walker and Rubio, with several others having some significant support.


I interpret these figures as suggesting:

1. Bush is the candidate of moderates and those who like established politicians. He draws from Kasich and Christie, as well as Rubio (more on him in a second). People who like Bush like a lot of different candidates second, but Rubio dominates.

2. Walker is the candidate of the ideological purists. He and Rubio have a lot of overlap, but he also draws from Cruz and Trump.

3. Rubio seems to bridge these two camps. He has more overlap with Bush, Kasich and Christie than Walker does, but he overlaps with Walker and Trump a lot too…

Established politicians will have more clout, and rank-and-file voters will make the actual decisions. But activists are where a lot of the action in the party is, and these activists tell a story of a factional fight between Bush and Walker, with Rubio possibly appealing to both sides.

There’s a lot still to happen, of course, but based on what we know at this point, this strikes me as a fairly probably scenario.  As of now, anybody who is not one of these three probably just does not have much of a chance.  Sure, some others will have some good runs with media coverage and the polls, but they are probably destined to just be the Cain or Santorum of 2016.

Growing out of Ayn Rand

Been too busy this week, so this post goes to my reader/student.  First, me.

I’ve always loved this Ayn Rand quote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Which leads me to the student’s experience, which he shared via email:

I read the article you posted and I have been thinking about why ayn rand was so appealing to me. I think it is because she advocates a society that sounds very appealing.  It is almost like a libertarian utopia. When I was 17-20 it just seemed like the way that the world should be.  Or the way I wished the world was.  I went to prep school and was smarter than a lot of kids whose wealth and status opened doors for them I could only dream of.  In ayn rand world none of that would happen.

Then real life happened. I saw firsthand that I needed other people. I realized that not every problem an individual faces is due to their behavior or can be overcome with hard work.

I realized that I would be dead if I lived in ayn rand’s world.  People like me would never get any help because there aren’t enough of us to be profitable to a drug company.   The consequences of a society like that are unacceptable. When I realized that I was able to step back from ayn rand.  I still find some of her ideas appealing, and I tend to want to try libertarian solutions first.   However I have come to accept that the map is not the territory.  I don’t want to live my life beholden to any ideology because they are all imperfect and imaginary. I can be predisposed to like libertarian solutions but also accept that I don’t want a libertarian Healthcare system.

I think some people never learn that things like political  ideologies are not the immutable laws of the universe. If your ideologically correct way of handling something makes it worse than it isn’t useful or correct in that situation.  I think some people like the security that blind adherence to a rigid ideology gives them. It sure makes thinking easier.

Key sentence… “then real life happened.”  I still believe libertarianism has much to recommend it, but when it is not tempered by an understanding of and experience with the real world, it is a highly problematic ideology.

Why do Republicans hate the Republican Party?

Okay, not hate, but not necessarily like so much.  Very interesting chart from a recent Pew survey:

Republicans Less Favorable Toward the GOP

I would love to see this measurement over longer time horizons.  Based on this, it looks like that 86 support around the turn of the year was the real outlier.  Are Republicans just generally more dissatisfied with their own party than Democrats?  And if so, is there something about one of the many asymmetry’s that explains this?  For example, we know that Republicans are much more compromise averse, but the nature of government (in America, at least) is compromise.  Or the nature of government is governing, and Republicans maybe aren’t big fans of that.  Anyway, this is interesting and definitely worth unpacking further.


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