Quick hits (part I)

1) I have to do the occasional conference call for the NC Advisory Board to the US Civil Rights Commission.  Indeed, it is a horrible way to conduct any kind of meaningful business.

2) I almost never play video games, but I spent January 2015 obsessed with Half-Life 2.  Never played anything else nearly as good.  Sad that there will almost surely never be a Half-Life 3.

3) Drum is right.  We should absolutely have an affirmative Constitutional right to vote.

4) Will the new overtime rules hurt workers?  Maybe.  Will the new overtime rules hurt workers as much as all the business lobbies have been saying?  No way in hell.

5) Not surprisingly Trump’s energy policy and his energy policy speech were both a complete joke.  Why does the media have to keep pretending he has the slightest clue what he’s talking about.  And, as David Roberts points out, it once again shows he’s a horrible judge of people and their positions.  Not a good thing to have in a president.

6) So, this short animated film is charming and creepy.

 

7) A lot of people did not like the Revenant.  I really did.  Maybe a little too long, but I was never bored.  This review seemed about right to me.

8) Sure, part of the reason women earn less than men is that they choose lower-paying occupations.  But what about the fact that when occupations become dominated by women, they pay less?  That’s a real problem.

Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

Once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

And there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. “It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance,” Ms. England said. “It’s just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.

9) You know another really smart policy much of Europe does that we don’t?  Universal child benefit.

10) On a related note, Jon Cohn takes a look at Clinton’s child-care policy proposal and says yes, it is expensive, but the payoff would be huge.  Of course, there’s no way Republicans would ever agree to something like this.

11) I totally fell for this optical illusion.  I wish I had looked harder before reading what was really going on.

12) What does the rest of a hand model look like.  Of course, hand models always make me think of poor George Constanza’s hand modeling career cut tragically short.

13) Harold Pollack on the future of single-payer and the difficult politics of cost control:

A sensible single-payer program should say no to questionable or overly costly interventions more often than our current system is able to do. Private insurers lack the public legitimacy to reject dicey therapies. Medicare is susceptible to pressure from industry, provider, and patient groups.

It’s especially hard for private insurers to refuse coverage for a particular drug, device, or surgical procedure once Medicare agrees to pay. (I haven’t even mentioned bitter social policy disputes over immigration, abortion coverage and birth control. I’ll get into these later.)

A single-payer system requires tougher mechanisms. The Affordable Care Act established the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Yet IPAB and most other cost-containment efforts encounter fierce bipartisan congressional resistance. The ACA unwisely limits the use of economic tools such as cost-utility analysis in coverage decisions. An effective single-payer system requires real economic analysis to determine who is covered for what service, and at what reimbursement rates.

14) I’m still embarrassed at my teenage years arguing with my mom that, of course, women should never be Catholic priests.  The arguments, even from a theologian in the NY Times, against women being ordained strike me as so weak.

15) What it feels like to have to use the wrong bathroom.

16) This New York City office building post-it war is so cool.

17) A healthy breakfast is no more or less important than any other healthy meal.

18) Peter Beinart on the foolhardiness of Hillary’s email server and what led to such a poor decision:

That’s the key question. What matters about the Clinton email scandal is not the nefarious conduct that she sought to hide by using her own server. There’s no evidence of any such nefarious conduct. What matters is that she made an extremely poor decision: poor because it violated State Department rules, poor because it could have endangered cyber-security, and poor because it now constitutes a serious self-inflicted political wound. Why did such a smart, seasoned public servant exercise such bad judgment? For the same reason she has in the past: Because she walls herself off from alternative points of view.

19) Very interesting take on Austria and what “National Socialism” is really all about.

20) Michael Gerson on all the conspiracy-loving support for Trump.

21) I found this theory about how the conditions for the beginning of life on earth to be truly fascinating.

22) Dahlia Lithwick on how the Supreme Court’s decision about racism in jury selection was no great victory:

This ruling is obviously the right one, but it’s important to understand how limited an opinion it really is. Most prosecutors don’t use green highlighters and the letter B to perform publicly the extent of their racial intentions. This is a strange outlier case, made stranger by a state’s open records laws and the completely implausible arguments proffered to explain the prosecution’s conduct. There is nothing in Monday’s opinion that would really limit the use of peremptory challenges that come wrapped in plausible-sounding explanations, even when the underlying intent is to strike black jurors.

Race taints everything about our capital punishment system just as it taints our elections. It simply simmers under the surface, and there it will stay. Despite the fact that it infects every single part of jury selection in some places, as Rob Smith recently noted in Slate, racism in our system of capital punishment won’t be addressed soon, it seems. Study after study reflects the fact that black jurors are struck far more frequently than white ones. Foster gave us a way to talk about it but not a way to fix it.

Right!  Must racially-motivated prosecutors are not dumb enough to highlight all the Black jurors on a list.  And what is also really appalling is that the Georgia courts did not even admit that this was racism!  And you should also follow the link to the Rob Smith piece.

23) Neanderthals build mysterious cave structures.

24) Open tab for too long– too many elite American men are obsessed with work:

Even before men and women enter the workforce, researchers see this values gap and its role in the pay gap. A new study of several hundred NYU undergrads (elite students, not average 20-year-olds) found that young men and women with similar SAT scores express starkly diverging visions of their ideal job. Young female students, on average, say they prefer jobs with more stability and flexibility—“lower risk of job loss, lower hours, and part-time option availability”—while male students, on average, say they prefer more earnings growth, according to researchers Matthew Wiswall, at Arizona State University, and Basit Zafar, of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…

Rich American men, by comparison, are the workaholics of the world. They put in significantly longer hours than both fully employed middle-class Americans and rich men in other countries. Between 1985 and 2010, the weekly leisure time of college-educated men fell by 2.5 hours, more than any other demographic…

But something else is clear: There is a workaholic mania among educated wealth-seeking American men, who seem uniquely devoted to working any number of hours to get rich. Remember the lesson of the Stanford study: Sometimes, the winners of a tournament are the ones who choose not to enter it.

No thanks.  I’ll take my leisure time and time with my family over lots of money any day.

25) Speaking of family time.  Happy anniversary to me.  And my wife.  22 years today.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Expert tax reporter David Cay Johnston on the real problem with Donald Trump and his taxes.

2) Your computer and TV screen are showing you way less interesting colors than they should be.

3) There’s been plenty written about how the Golden State Warriors have revolutionized, but this particular statistic really blows me away.

What amazes fans even more is the location of those shots. NBA players shoot an average of 28% from 27 feet or beyond. Most players don’t even take them unless the shot clock is running out. Mr. Curry has taken 253 such deep shots this year and made 47% of them. [emphasis mine] The result is that defenders have strayed even farther from the basket to guard him, opening even bigger spaces for his teammates.

4) Careful with what browser tabs you have open when posting screen shots.

5) How HB2 is impacting the NC tourism industry.

6) What I found most interesting about this NYT story on research using drugs in dogs to combat the aging process (with intended lessons for human longevity) is that a primary focus is rapamycin, which has been found to be particularly effective in treating my son’s genetic disease, Tuberous Sclerosis.

7) Changing just how dark Obama’s skin is in experiments changes people’s support for conservative policies.

8) In a test of science and engineering skills, 8th grade girls outperformed 8th grade boys.  Good for them.  Let’s figure out what’s happening after 8th grade and do something about it.

9) Dylan Matthews on the failure of the TSA:

The TSA has never presented any evidence that the shoe ban is preventing attacks either. “Focusing on specific threats like shoe bombs or snow-globe bombs simply induces the bad guys to do something else,” Schneier tells Vanity Fair’s Charles Mann. You end up spending a lot on the screening and you haven’t reduced the total threat.” …

The solution is clear: Airports should kick out the TSA, hire (well-paid and unionized) private screeners, and simply ask people to go through normal metal detectors with their shoes on, their laptops in their bags, and all the liquids they desire. The increased risk would be negligible — and if it gets people to stop driving and start flying, it could save lives.

10) Drum on the absurdity of Republicans wanting to impeach the IRS director.  And the Post’s Lisa Rein on the conservative war against the IRS.

11) Honestly, the craziness of Donald Trump pretending to be his own PR guy is 1) truly hilarious; 2) way under-reported.  Seriously, imagine if any other major political figure had done something like this.  It would be a lead story for a week.  Trump has so successfully lowered the bar for appropriate behavior.

12) I like this Gawker take on Trump’s strategy for attacking Clinton, “Donald Trump Hoping You Hadn’t Heard About Benghazi or Monica Lewinsky.”

13) A nice Politico analysis of Trump’s support:

Donald Trump likes to say he has created a political movement that has drawn “millions and millions” of new voters into the Republican Party. “It’s the biggest thing happening in politics,” Trump has said. “All over the world, they’re talking about it,” he’s bragged.

But a Politico analysis of the early 2016 voting data show that, so far, it’s just not true.

While Trump’s insurgent candidacy has spurred record-setting Republican primary turnout in state after state, the early statistics show that the vast majority of those voters aren’t actually new to voting or to the Republican Party, but rather they are reliable past voters in general elections. They are only casting ballots in a Republican primary for the first time.
It is a distinction with profound consequences for the fall campaign…

“All he seems to have done is bring new people into the primary process, not bring new people into the general-election process … It’s exciting that these new people that are engaged in the primary but those people are people that are already going to vote Republican in the [fall],” said Alex Lundry, who served as director of data science for Mitt Romney in 2012, when presented Politico’s findings. “It confirms what my suspicion has been all along.”

14) Greg Koger on why the Republican Party was too weak to fight off Trump.

15) Apparently a lack of resilience in college students is a growing problem.  Honestly, I have not noticed any differences in recent years.

16) No, it wouldn’t really solve our campaign finance problems if politicians spent way less time dialing for dollars.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. 

17) Derek Thompson on the inter-relationship between racism, economic anxiety, and Trump support.

18) They are razing a famous/infamous building at NC State.  It’s round!  Most everybody I know hates it, but I loved having my Intro to American Government in Harrelson 207.  Only lecture hall I’ve ever had where I felt like I could truly connect with the students in the back row.

Roughly 85 percent of N.C. State students at some point attended a class in Harrelson, which accommodated up to 4,500 students in 88 circular and windowless classrooms.

Harrelson was the most-used academic building in the UNC system for decades and became known for its uncomfortable seating, loud heating and cooling system, lack of natural light and pie slice-shaped bathroom stalls.

19) Pre-sliced apples have been a huge boon for the apple industry.  Honestly, I’m not surprised.  I eat a whole apple every day at work, but I do much prefer the sliced apple I make myself when I’m home.

20) Nate Silver explains how he got Donald Trump wrong.  Lots of really good stuff in here.

The stupidity of knee-jerk anti-GMO

I caught the end of this depressing GMO story on NPR last week.  Apparently, the marketplace– led by anti-GMO luddites– has decided that sugar from sugar beets is less worthy because sugar beets are modified to by Glysophate tolerant:

About half of all sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, and the other half comes from sugar cane. Now, for the first time, sugar traders are treating these as two different commodities, with two different prices.

It’s all because about eight years ago, nearly all the farmers who grow sugar beets in the United States decided to start growing genetically modified versions of their crop. The GMO beets, which can tolerate the weedkiller glyphosate, otherwise known as Roundup, made it easier for them to get rid of weeds…

Just in the past two years, though, that’s changed. Many food companies have decided to label their products as non-GMO. And because practically all sugar beets in the U.S. are genetically modified, those food products are now using sugar derived from sugar cane grown in Florida, Louisiana or outside the U.S. There isn’t any genetically modified sugar cane…

Maybe this would be rational if consumers were averse to sugar plants sprayed with herbicides, but that’s not it all.  It’s simply an irrational fear of things labeled GMO.  And, of course, the non-GMO sugar actually causes more use of herbicide:

Planting genetically modified sugar beets allows them to kill their weeds with fewer chemicals. Beyer says he sprays Roundup just a few times during the growing season, plus one application of another chemical to kill off any Roundup-resistant weeds.

He says that planting non-GMO beets would mean going back to what they used to do, spraying their crop every 10 days or so with a “witches brew” of five or six different weedkillers.

“The chemicals we used to put on the beets in [those] days were so much harsher for the guy applying them and for the environment,” he says. “To me, it’s insane to think that a non-GMO beet is going to be better for the environment, the world, or the consumer.” [emphasis mine]

Ugh.  And, as for GMO food somehow being “unnatural,” you know what’s “unnatural”?  Pretty much everything we eat.  It is a product of centuries of genetic modification through a process known as artificial selection.  Sure, GMO allows for far more dramatic impact on the genome, but traditional plant breeding changes things plenty. To wit, I love this Vox post on how much some of our favorite foods have changed, e.g.,

 

evolution of corn

Meanwhile, there was recently a big National Academy of Sciences review about GMO, you’ll be shocked to learn they concluded, as Brad Plumer puts it: “The best evidence suggests current GM crops are just as safe to eat as regular crops.”

Now go back to eating your GMO-free, sugar-cane sweetened cereal.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Tom Edsall takes a thorough look (it’s always thorough with Edsall) on a wide range of recent polling data about Trump, noting especially the possible social desirability bias to lead Trump to do much better in polls without a human interviewer.  Here’s his conclusions:

There are a few conclusions to be drawn.

First, the way Trump has positioned himself outside of the traditional boundaries of politics will make it unusually difficult to gauge public support for him and for many of his positions.

Second, the allegiance of many white Democrats and independents is difficult to predict — cross-pressured as they are by the conflict between unsavory Trump positions they are drawn to and conscience or compunction. The ambivalence of many Republicans toward Trump as their party’s brazenly defiant nominee will further compound the volatility of the electorate.

Finally, the simple fact that Trump has beaten the odds so far means that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could beat them again. If he does take the White House, much, if not all, of his margin of victory will come from voters too ashamed to acknowledge publicly how they intend to cast their vote.

2) Are universities too corporatized?  Yes!  But I think this “Slow Professor” take oversells the problem.

3) Why there is still a black market for marijuana even where it is legal.

4) An interesting contrary take on Grit.  I actually have Duckworth’s new book sitting on my shelf (and am cautiously optimistic it might help with my decidedly-lacking-in-grit teenager).

5) No, science isn’t broken.

6a) Oh man did this interview with liberal Sanders supporter, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank come in for sharp criticism from many PS friends on FB.

6b) As did this:

You wrote a piece a little while ago about data journalism and technocracy and the so-called expert consensus. You attacked people like Ezra Klein and the focus on political science in journalism. Can you explain how that critique connects with your broader thinking about the Democratic Party?

I would say that it reflects the culture of liberalism in the same way that there is a lot of scientific sounding stuff that liberals really eat up. They love it when something is explained to them by someone who appears to be a great authority figure. This is the culture of liberalism. A great example is to look at the New York Times op-ed page and how many of the contributors are academics. This is also a problem with journalism, generally.

OK, but is your problem that the people who are consulted as being experts are not actually experts, or that the idea of going to experts is itself problematic?

Both of those are true to some degree. It’s not, obviously, that experts are wrong across the board, but that it’s easy to conceal an agenda by covering it with expertise. It’s really easy. It’s easy to do it with numbers. There are all sorts of ways to do things like that.

I think the latter is true as well. The way I try to get at truth is more through cultural history. That’s what I sort of naturally gravitate back to all the time. I think when you try to understand everything with numbers it is obviously going to leave a lot of things unspoken and unanalyzed.

Suffice it to say that anyone who attacks Ezra Klein, using data, and using political science research to inform journalism is not going to win me over to his position.

7) Creative ways to fight Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

8) Could Macy’s troubles threaten a third of American malls?  My very own, now Macy’s-less mall is surely in trouble.

9) Is a sub two hour marathon humanly possible?  One exercise scientist thinks so and is working to make it a reality.

10) The link probably won’t work for most of you, sorry, but I was very intrigued by this article on the “Tedification” of the large lecture and the study of “proxemics.”  I used to teach my large lecture (150 students) in a surprisingly intimate room where I felt like I could truly connect with the students at the back of the room.  That building has been demolished and in the new room I have, I literally cannot see the students at the back of the room, 20 feet higher than me.  I cannot help bu think that has to be worse for learning.

Michael Tingley and Amy Donohue, both principals at Bora, say the new rooms were designed using studies of proxemics, which show that students learn better when they are closer to the professor.

“There is an evolution in technology that is changing how institutions interact with their students,” Mr. Tingley says, adding that their aim was to make large lectures have a “campfire feel.”

Lynne L. Hindman, research coordinator at Oregon State, is conducting research of her own to analyze the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the new rooms. Ms. Hindman has gathered data from lectures taught in the LInC100 arena and plans to use heat-sensing cameras to identify movement patterns of the professors who teach in them. She hopes to map students’ grade-point averages to individual seats in the classroom, to see if placement correlates to grades.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on the difficulty of covering Merrick Garland.

12) Being a truck driver used to be a great job.  Not anymore.

13) Daily diet soda in pregnancy is linked to greater likelihood of an overweight 1-year old.  And with all the expected controls.  I gotta admit… hmmmm.

14) Back when I just had two kids, we were great with getting them to bed by 7:30 every night.  I hate that my 16-year old was in bed before 8:00 every night until 2nd grade, yet my current 5-year old is rarely in bed before 8:30.  A downside of four.  Really good article on bedtimes.

And well-rested kids behave quite differently than sleep-deprived kids. In that same interventional study I mentioned earlier, the 7- to 11-year-olds who were put to bed an hour earlier for five nights were rated by their teachers (who didn’t know that they’d gotten more sleep) as being less irritable and impulsive than usual. A similar studyfound that four nights of going to sleep an hour earlier made 8- to 12-year-olds more even-keeled and boosted their short-term memory, working memory, and attention skills compared with kids who had their bedtimes shifted later by an hour. Anotherstudy found that 2-year-olds who had early bedtimes were, at age 8, 62 percent less likely than those with later or inconsistent bedtimes to have attention problems and 81 percent less likely to have aggression issues.

15) The neuroscience of why you cannot lose weigh on a diet.

16) All those “pro-business” reforms Republicans are always talking about that will increase economic growth?  Based on cross-national comparisons, not so much.  Drum:

More than likely, pro-business reforms in the US would have little to no effect on economic growth. Here’s Soltas:

Maybe the lesson here is to beware the TED-talk version of development economics. Shortening the time it takes to incorporate a small business is not a substitute for deeper institutional reforms, such as those that support investment in human and physical capital, remove economic barriers that hold back women and ethnic or religious minorities, or improve transportation, power, and sanitation infrastructure.

17) Max Boot has had enough of Trump’s Republican Party.

18) Jon Cohn explains that, yes, Hillary Clinton is a progressive.

19) Finally got around to reading Emily Bazelon’s excellent NYT Magazine piece “Should prostitution be a crime?”  In short: it depends. It is fascinating how completely divided both the feminist and human rights movements are over what the approach should be.  It also seems very clear that what policy makes sense surely very much depends on the unique history, culture, and socio-demographics of the country involved.

Quick hits (part I)

So, so much good stuff this week.  I could have spent all my time blogging and not got to all I wanted to.  Alas, I spent a lot of my time grading and got to write even less than I would have liked.  Anyway, on with the show.

1) Is Gwynneth Paltrow wrong about everything?  Yeah, you do know the answer to that.

2) Taylor Batten lets loose on the architects of HB2.

3) Our increasingly horrible efforts at providing actual justice (in the form of decent legal representation) for the poor, for example, really deserved it’s own post.

4) An open letter from your horrible Facebook friends.

5) Alexandra Petri on Trump, Clinton, and the Woman Card.

6) How the new bathroom laws effect kids with special needs and their parents.  A subject near and dear to my heart.

7) Great professor humor– I would rather do anything than grade your final papers.

8) The NYT guide to really short workouts (I still try and get in their mis-named 7 minute workout once or twice a week).

9) Discrimination against political conservatives at American universities.

10) Just in case you missed this big story this week about The Biggest Loser and weight loss.  Biggest lesson seems to be, don’t ever let yourself get obese.  Wonkblog makes a good case, though, that this is actually pretty misleading.

11) Vox with research-based diet tips.  You probably already know all these (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, sustainable for you, etc.).

12) So Comcast has a new modem that lets you get fiber optic speed with old-school cable.  If this is possible, why the hell is everybody re-wiring with fiber optics?  Seems like something is missing in this story.

 

13) And back to the woman card, I make no apologies for thinking that Democrats are better off with a known skilled, competent, liberal legislator like Chris Van Hollen who happens to be a white male, than a Black woman with a much lesser political resume.  That said, there’s a lot of really good reasons to elect more women.

14) A “simple” guide to quantum entanglement.

15) Bill Ayers says he’s not afraid of President Trump.  For once, we disagree.  I think he should be.

Despite our howls of protestation about the evils of our opponents (whoever they may be), there is a center of gravity in the American political system. That center can (and does) shift over time – since the 1980s it has shifted significantly to the right, which is why repeated Republican protestations about being victims in a country about to collapse into leftist socialism are bafflingly bizarre. The conservative movement has in fact been succeeding in slow, steady increments, yet to listen to them talk you’d think they were Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

And this is why I refuse to be afraid, even if Donald Trump is elected President. Whatever else he does, he will not push the country still farther to the right – he’s not a conservative and never has been, which is why he keeps violating conservative principles on the campaign trail. He will not make the country more racist or xenophobic than it already is – all he is doing is drawing out the existing racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in the population. In a way (as some in the NYT have argued) he may be doing us a favor by bringing this nastiness out into the light where it can be more effectively countered.

Trump as President would be confronted with a badly divided and electorally weakened Republican party in Congress, quite likely a Democratic Senate that can filibuster anything he tries to do, and a vast Federal bureaucracy with decades of experience in centrist governance. Washington, DC isn’t the Celebrity Apprentice – you can’t just fire everybody and start over. If he tries – really tries – to impose his desires simply by force of will, as he has tended to do in his business life, he will rapidly find himself unable to do much of anything, and he might be impeached. His penchant for litigation will get him nowhere – who do you sue when you’re the President?

16) This advice for wannabe cheerleaders seemed reasonable to me. It’s no secret that they are after a particular look and body style, do we really need to pretend otherwise.

17) How Ramsay Bolton represents a decline in the quality of Game of Thrones storytelling.

18) I’m sorry, call me transphobic and backwards, but I am just not down with the regular use of “cisgender.”

19) High School football player shows part of his penis (which nobody actually notices) in team photo.  Full weight of the criminal justice system comes down on him.  I’m glad there’s not more serious crimes going on for them to worry about.

 

There are other costs, too: The case will take resources from the prosecutor’s office to investigate and prosecute, time and money from a trial court as it hears the case, and up to thousands of dollars for food, housing, and medical care, among other expenses, if Osborn is put in jail or prison. (According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the average prison inmate costs Arizona $24,805 each year.)

To put it another way, there’s a serious risk here that the criminal justice system will inflict more pain on Osborn and costs on society than he inflicted on anyone else — all over a high school prank that parents and the school could have addressed by themselves.

20) And how’s this for overzealous law enforcement?  Detain a kid on counterfeiting suspicion for using a $2 bill.  Ugh.

 

21) I get the feeling there’s not a lot of people like me when it comes to Radiohead.  I really like some of their albums a lot, but I don’t really love them.  That said, I absolutely love this new song and video.  Watch!!

22) And your weekend long(ish) read: Lee Drutman on the fraying of the Republican-big business alliance and what it means.

 

Why fight global warming when the weather is so nice?

Really enjoyed this Op-Ed from Political Scientists Patrick Egan and Megan Mullin.  Good (and disturbing) stuff:

In a poll taken in January, after the country’s warmest December on record, the Pew Research Center found that climate change ranked close to last on a list of the public’s policy priorities. Why?

In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, we provide one possible explanation: For a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant. Over the past four decades, winter temperatures have risen substantially throughout the United States, but summers have not become markedly more uncomfortable… [emphases mine]

Our findings are striking: 80 percent of Americans now find themselves living in counties where the weather is more pleasant than it was four decades ago. Although warming during this period has been considerable, it has not been evenly distributed across seasons. Virtually all Americans have experienced a rise in January maximum daily temperatures — an increase of 1.04 degrees Fahrenheit per decade on average — while changes in daily maximum temperatures in July have been much more variable across counties, rising by an average of just 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over all. Moreover, summer humidity has declined during this period.

As a result, most people’s experiences with daily weather since the time that they first heard about climate change have generally been positive…

To those of us who believe climate change is the most profound challenge of our age, our discovery is both illuminating and disheartening. In previous work, we’ve shown that Americans make sense of climate change in part through their personal experience of the weather. Our new findings suggest that the weather changes caused by global warming cannot be relied on to spur the public to demand policies that address the problem. By the time the weather changes for the worse later in this century, it may be too late.

And it will change for the worse. Under all likely scenarios, seasonal trends are projected to eventually reverse: Future warming in the United States will be more severe in summer than in winter. Should greenhouse gas emissions proceed unabated, we estimate that 88 percent of Americans will be exposed to less pleasant weather at the end of this century than they are today.

Fascinating combination of science and social science.  Also, damn, that sucks!  I love pleasant weather!  I know, hedonic adaption and all that, and various research suggests I’m no happier with good weather.  But I’m pretty sure I am.  For example, I just cannot get enough of this late April weather– warm, no humidity yet, and no mosquitoes yet.  I really feel like I actually enjoy my days more.  And damn it, I guess by the time I’m an old man I’ll be hating April.  Carbon tax?

Frankencows!

Loved this Wonkblog piece on what we have done to dairy cows through artificial selection:

If there were one thing Temple Grandin, who teaches animal science at Colorado State University, could change about the milk business, it would be the way the industry has messed with its cows.

“What they’ve done is basically the equivalent of taking a car, putting it in neutral, and then dropping a brick on the accelerator until it blows up,” said Grandin. “These cows are constantly in the red zone.”

The chart below shows the simultaneous fall in the number of milk cows and rise in the amount of milk each cow produces on average. There are almost 2 million fewer milk cows today than there were in 1980, but production has remained fairly stable. And guess who is shouldering the brunt of that load?

The answer, of course, is milk cows.

With bottom lines in mind, the industry has long pushed to get more out of its four-legged employees. For many years, that meant operational tweaks, such as changing barn design, altering what cows were fed and being fussy about things such as milking schedules. But more recently, it has meant screwing with the actual anatomy of the animals.

Holsteins, the majestic black and white cows that make up the vast majority of milk cows in the United States, don’t look like they used to. In fact, we have altered their genetic makeup by 22 percent since the 1970s, as Modern Farmernoted in 2014. Today’s cows are taller, heavier, have higher and larger udders, and tend to stand on differently shaped legs. [emphasis mine] And there’s a growing sense we have gone too far…

In many ways, Grandin is one of those advocates. A longtime dairy-industry expert, she divides producers into two categories: the progressives and the not progressives. The former, which she says account for about a third of the industry, have moved away from the practice of breeding “milking machines,” choosing to raise smaller cows that tend to be healthier, as well as productive over a longer period, and opting to feed their herds grass as often as possible. The latter, meanwhile, are driving up the efficiency numbers you see in the chart above, selecting for cows that tend to suffer from a number of adverse health outcomes.

1) This is just awful.  Yes, on some level any use of dairy cows is exploiting animals.  But we can do it in more or less humane ways and this is undoubtedly at the wrong end of that spectrum.  How about we pay a little more for a milk and have a little more decency in the lives of the cows.  Sounds like a more than reasonable trade-off.  (And the article makes a good case that it’s the long-term sensible thing to do as well).

2) I wish all the Cassandras who spend their time railing against perfectly healthy soybeans, etc., that have many benefits, but were created through genetic manipulation in a lab would pay more attention to the extreme genetic manipulation that happens every day through good old selective breeding practices.  I’m far more concerned by what we are doing to the cows (and chickens!) than what we are doing to corn and soybeans.

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