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.

NC legislature and God

The NC House yesterday passed a bill allowing civil magistrates (note: civil) to recuse themselves from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.  What annoys me so about this is the type of Christianity used to justify the bill.  It’s stuff like this that makes me hate “Christians” even though I am one (though, without the quotation marks):

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said the measure protects government officials from being forced to be “traitors against the kingdom of God” by taking part in same-sex marriage, which he described as “perverted and morally unconscionable.”

Yowza!  Seriously?!  So depressing to think somebody like this represents the people of my state.  Alas, he’s not alone:

“Marriage is not necessarily a right,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, citing state law that bans relatives who love each other from marrying. “We don’t allow that. Yet. That’ll be the next thing.”

“It is the goal of the secular left to destroy the family and destroy the institution of marriage,” Jones added. “Liberty is not just doing whatever you want.”

“I believe in my heart that as we’re moving further and further away from God and his word, that we can expect to see his blessings disappear,” Jones warned.

Oh please!  The stupid, it burns.  That’s it– liberals would love nothing more than to destroy families and marriage.  We should all live in hippie communes of unrelated people.  They’re onto us!  Of course, the movement away from God must be why all the Scandinavian countries are sinking into the Ocean and face constant volcanoes, fire, and brimstone.  Oh, wait.

But don’t worry, there’s non-religious stupidity on display here, too:

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, argued that magistrates aren’t the only option because individuals can go online and pay for a minister’s license to marry couples.

“It’s not going to be an issue that these people can’t get married,” Stevens said.

Right.  Because the government doesn’t have to treat people the same so long as there’s a private alternative.  Just kind of like the government doesn’t have to let Black people go to public schools, because they can go to private schools.

This really depresses me on two levels 1) that so many people share this vision of Christianity and somehow think that it should be guiding public policy in a way that is clearly at odds with basic American principles of separation of Church and State; and, 2) these ignorant people are the one’s determining public policy in my state.

Hell in a handbasket

Well, that’s clearly where America is headed given the rather substantial changes in public attitudes towards a number of “moral” question.  Via Gallup:

150526_Moral_Acceptability_Page1

Furthermore, I’m also pleased to see the small, but there, negative change on the death penalty.  Here’s the Gallup summary:

Key trends in Americans’ views of the moral acceptability of certain issues and behaviors include the following:

  • The substantial increase in Americans’ views that gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable coincide with a record-high level of support for same-sex marriage and views that being gay or lesbian is something a person is born with, rather than due to one’s upbringing or environment.
  • The public is now more accepting of sexual relations outside of marriage in general than at any point in the history of tracking these measures, including a 16-percentage-point increase in those saying that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, and a 15-point increase in the acceptability of sex between an unmarried man and woman. Clear majorities of Americans now say both are acceptable.
  • Acceptance of divorce and human embryo medical research are also up 12 points each since 2001 and 2002, respectively.
  • Polygamy and cloning humans have also seen significant upshifts in moral acceptability — but even with these increases, the public largely perceives them as morally wrong, with only 16% and 15% of Americans, respectively, considering them morally acceptable.

This liberalization of attitudes toward moral issues is part of a complex set of factors affecting the social and cultural fabric of the U.S. Regardless of the factors causing the shifts, the trend toward a more liberal view on moral behaviors will certainly have implications for such fundamental social institutions as marriage, the environment in which children are raised and the economy. The shifts could also have a significant effect on politics, with candidates whose positioning is based on holding firm views on certain issues having to grapple with a voting population that, as a whole, is significantly less likely to agree with conservative positions than it might have been in the past.

What this does not measure in intensity of opinion and that matters– a lot– in politics.  That said, in general, these shifting morals increasingly may make the Christian right an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party– at least among young people.  Who, for the record, are not going to get more conservative on these values as they age.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This was a terrific Fresh Air interview on how the government was instrumental in creating Black ghettos.  Our racial residential patterns are no historical accident or Black people choosing to live in their own places, but the result of intentional government policies designed to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods.

2) Loved this interactive feature to find the equivalent in popularity for you name from various decades (e.g., in 1900’s I would have been “Joe.”)

3) Jason Furman on the importance and success of government programs that invest in families.

4) We need to let our young kids learn through play!

TWENTY years ago, kids in preschool, kindergarten and even first and second grade spent much of their time playing: building with blocks, drawing or creating imaginary worlds, in their own heads or with classmates. But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up.

The idea seems obvious: Starting sooner means learning more; the early bird catches the worm.

But a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn…

Over the past 20 years, scientists have come to understand much more about how children learn. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent his career studying how the human brain develops from birth through adolescence; he says most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than didactic explanation. “The trouble with over-structuring is that it discourages exploration,” he says.

5) Fascinating Slate piece on the origins of race-based slavery (had never really thought about the fact that slavery existed long before, but was not necessarily based on race).

6) How some men (but not women) fake an 80 hour work-week.

7) Speaking of which, one of the reasons I so loved Mad Men was because it was such a great exploration of the role of gender in the workplace.

8) Let’s keep the gender theme rolling… a couple good links from a commenter about rape, nudity, etc., on Game of Thrones.

9) USA Today editorial on the wrongness of Chipotle’s anti-GMO policy.

10) Surprise, surprise, the Patriot Act is not actually helping the FBI catch terrorists.

11) When it comes to social issues, liberals have caught up with conservatives.

12) Not only do we need better train infrastructure, we need the War on Drugs to not blatantly and horribly violate people’s rights while they are riding trains.  Seriously, the War on Drugs just has so much more harm than good that I think only those truly ignorant of what is going on can support it.  Or fascists.

13) Yes, there was huge fraud in political science, but because of how the scientific method works, it was actually caught out pretty quickly.  And a handy chart on how to spot bad science.

14) Okay, so this Slate piece freaked me out about ticks pretty good.  Actually think I am going to spray my kids’ shoes and socks as a result.

Quick hits (part I)

This was supposed to be quick hits part II last Sunday, so this is just an indication of how behind I am.  I promise better blogging for you when I’m done my Maymester class.

1) In the interests of “promoting jobs” and ending those pesky regulations, NC is trying to do away with streamside buffers against water pollution.  I’m sure that nothing bad can come of that.

2) If you were not aware of how evil and antithetical to democracy (including here in NC) ALEC is, this news report (from a local Atlanta TV station of all places!) pretty well captures it.

3) Yes, Republicans are a lot of old white people, but that doesn’t mean the party will die off.  Here’s how Jamelle Bouie expects them to adapt.

4) Apparently being stabbed by a giant sword leads to a much slower death than is portrayed on Game of Thrones.

5) Honestly, I can never post enough on how evil civil asset forfeiture is.

6) Yglesias on Gallup poll showing Americans want to redistribute wealth by taxing the rich.

7) John Oliver on standardized testing.  Of course it’s great.  My youngest son had his first ever experience with them the past week.  Beforehand, they managed to worry a kid who was in absolutely no danger of failing that it was a real worry for him.  Also, no backpacks in school because somehow… ?

8) I’ve followed this guy’s Instagram feed for a while.  Enjoyed the story behind it.

9) Good story on the Obamacare hating man in SC who was disappointed to find out he couldn’t game the system when his eyesight depended upon it.

10) I was surprised at all the cynical takes on conclusion of Mad Men.  It was clear to me these people just did not understand Matt Weiner’s vision (and therefore should not have been writing as authorities on the show) and in this interview with Weiner, that’s pretty clear.  On the lighter side, here’s what Don Draper was thinking in his final moments.

11) A small piece of good news in the battle to protect individual liberties– the government cannot search the contents of your laptop or phone without a warrant.

12) We so totally know that 18-year olds are not really ready for the adult-world in many ways.  Yet, we typically just let foster kids (who are surely even less prepared) loose at age 18 with no more support.  That’s a horrible idea.  Kudos to Tennessee for figuring this out and creating a program that helps increase the adult success of these kids.

13) Vox’s health reporters on their 8 big take-aways from years as health reporters.

14) Great National Journal article on Amtrak and our problems with high-speed rail:

The Gulf situation is a miniature version of the chicken-and-egg question that bedevils Amtrak as a whole: Is it a waste of money because there isn’t sufficient demand for trains? Or is there insufficient demand for trains because we haven’t spent the money to create a great rail system? Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the tracks Amtrak uses are almost all owned by freight railroads. CSX, Union Pacific, and a handful of other behemoths naturally hog them, which contributes to Amtrak’s chronic tardiness, which in turn dissuades passengers from taking Amtrak. As a result, Congress cites Amtrak’s low-ridership numbers as a reason not to grant it larger subsidies, which of course are exactly what Amtrak would need in order to purchase its own train tracks. Commenting on the vicious cycle, John Robert Smith says: “You can’t disinvest in something and then beat it to death because it doesn’t perform.”

And a nice defense of Amtrak from Tim Wu.

15) I love reading about the Beanie Baby bubble and remembering fondly how my stepmother and little sisters were spending $80 on these things on Ebay and thinking it was a good investment.  There’s a new book on the matter.  And here’s an interview with the author.

16) Just a wee bit of hypocrisy in Republicans asking the Pope to say out of politics (somehow only seems to happen when he mentions poverty or climate change).

17) Oh, how I love School House Rock.  And, yes, I still show “I’m Just a Bill” every semester.  Here’s a nice bit from Mental Floss on 15 things you didn’t know about it.

18) Fox News personalities claim that they don’t actually say bad things about poor people.  Talk about a target-rich environment for Jon Stewart.  Oh my this is good.

 

The biggest political science fraud ever

I don’t think I actually ever mentioned the recent Political Study that showed amazing amounts of attitude change when a person had a talk about gay marriage with an actual gay person.  But you likely heard about it anyway, because it got a bunch of coverage– including playing a major role in a This American Life episode.

So, here’s the amazing thing– the data this is all based on was faked by a graduate student.  And the co-author on the paper, Donald Green, is one of the most esteemed names in the study of elections (by all appearances, it appears that he was duped as well).  It’s really a pretty amazing story.  Vox has the best run-down of the matter I’ve seen:

Last year, UCLA grad student Michael LaCour and Columbia political scientist Donald Green published a startling finding, based on a experiment they ran: going door to door to try to persuade voters to support same-sex marriage works, they found, and it works especially well when the canvasser delivering the message is gay. They even found spillover effects: people who lived with voters who talked to a gay canvasser grew more supportive of same-sex marriage, too…

The findings were, as it turns out, too miraculous. Green has retracted the study, and asked the journal Science to do the same. LaCour, it turned out, faked the data

LaCour was set to become an assistant professor at Princeton this July. Any reference to that job has been removed from his homepage. But the page still features a long list of media outlets that have covered his research. Just about every place you can think of covered the same-sex marriage study: This American Life, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Science Friday,Bloomberg Politics, Huffington Post, and, of course, me at Vox. We all got it wrong.

Personally, I believed the study was sound because it came from sources I trust. Ironically, Broockman — who’ll start as an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall — was the one who first alerted me to the study he’d wind up exposing as a fraud. David’s an old friend and often passes along papers he thinks I ought to cover. Here’s what he said on LaCour and Green: “Deep. Compelling. Awesome … The most important paper of the year. No doubt.”

The whole article explains how the data was faked and how the fakery was uncovered.  Likewise, I would not question anything written by Don Green that’s been through peer review.  But not many of stop to consider that data is being faked.  Certainly shows the importance of replication.  And probably the importance of replication before we all go trumpeting some world-changing result.

Chart of the day

Wonkblog nails it, so I’ll borrow their headline as well as their chart:

Why your Internet is so slow and your commute is so miserable — in one chart

You get the picture. Conversely, so many of the things we absolutely hate about modern life — traffic, slow internet, train delays, etc — exist largely because we don’t want to fork over the money it would take to make them go away. Want better roads? Raise the gas tax. Want a less terrible commute? Pay more for commuter rail. Want better internet service? Demand your telecom companies step up their game.

But none of this is likely to happen with political leadership from the top, at a national level. And we all know how that’s going.

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