May 16, 2015 Leave a comment
1) Interesting story of the 1 juror holding out in the Etan Patz trial.
The defendant, Pedro Hernandez, 54, had confessed to killing Etan almost 33 years after he disappeared, but there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. Defense lawyers argued that the confession, which he repeated later to a prosecutor, was a fiction made up under police pressure by a man with a low I.Q. and a personality disorder clouding his ability to tell fact from fantasy.
Given what I know of coerced confessions, if there’s no physical evidence and the chief evidence is a recanted confession, that’s sure reasonable doubt for me (it does sound somewhat more complicated than that, but the story got a little confusing).
3) Nice NYT Editorial on how racism doomed Baltimore.
4) Seth Masket makes a good point– should we really have primaries to choose candidates anyway?
5) Nice Op-Ed on how NC needs to invest in teachers.
6) Whether you want to call it a “war on science” or not, Republicans sadly don’t believe that government should be supporting science (or that legislators should be listening to what scientists have to say). John Cassidy:
Cutting NASA and the N.S.F.’s climate-science budgets isn’t going to alter the basic realities of climate change. No one needs an advanced degree to understand this. Indeed, the idea that ignoring a problem isn’t going to make it go away is one that kids should grasp by the time they’re six or seven. But ignoring a problem does often make it more difficult to solve. And that, you have to assume, in a perverse way, is the goal here. What we don’t know, we can’t act on.
“It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet,” Representative Johnson wrote. Hard to believe, but, unfortunately, true.
7) Meanwhile the state of Wyoming (that is, the Republicans in government) seems to have outlawed citizen science.
8) On the bright side, Vox presents an interesting interview with a Republican (of the liberatarian stripe) who has been convinced of climate change and why he has been (and it is a good argument):
So [Litterman] came in to talk to me and my then-colleague, Peter Van Dorn, and laid out what I thought a very powerful argument. In brief it went like this: the issues associated with climate change are not that different from the risk issues we deal with in the financial markets every day. We know there’s a risk — we don’t know how big the risk is, we’re not entirely sure about all of the parameters, but we know it’s there. And we know it’s a low-probability, high-impact risk. So what do we do about that in our financial markets? Well, if it’s a nondiversifiable risk, we know that people pay plenty of money to avoid it.
[Litterman’s] point was that if this sort of risk were to arise in any other context in the private markets, people would pay real money to hedge against it. He did it every day for his clients. Even if Pat Michaels and Dick Lindzen and the rest [of the climate-skeptic scientists] are absolutely correct about the modest impacts of climate change as the most likely outcome, it’s not the most likely outcome that counts here. Nobody would manage risk based on the most likely outcome in a world of great uncertainty. If that were the case, we’d have all our money in equities. No one would spend money on anything else. But we don’t act that way.
9) Assigned this “Bad Feminist” essay by Roxane Gay to my Gender & Politics class. I really like it.
10) Among the consensus conclusions from my Criminal Justice policy class this past semester was that we need to invest more in better police training. In Indiana and Arkansas you don’t necessarily need any training.
11) An interesting feature of the Dutch economy is that a lot of people work part-time. The Economist explains why.
12) Thanks to Mika for sharing this link on a “moneyball” approach with a Danish soccer team. Fascinating!
13) The story of a doctor who believed in “alternative medicine”– it’s oh-so-compelling when you are looking for any hope in a struggle against autism in a child– and his journey back to science.
14) Dylan Matthews on how giving money to your wealthy alma mater is about the least beneficial thing you can do with your money. Of course, I was convinced by this logic long ago, which is why Give Directly gets my money and Duke doesn’t.
15) Great Richard Thaler piece on how irrelevant things matter a ton in our economic decision making and classical economists (as opposed to behavioral economists) do their best to pretend this isn’t true:
There is a version of this magic market argument that I call the invisible hand wave. It goes something like this. “Yes, it is true that my spouse and my students and members of Congress don’t understand anything about economics, but when they have to interact with markets. …” It is at this point that the hand waving comes in. Words and phrases such as high stakes, learning and arbitrage are thrown around to suggest some of the ways that markets can do their magic, but it is my claim that no one has ever finished making the argument with both hands remaining still.
Hand waving is required because there is nothing in the workings of markets that turns otherwise normal human beings into Econs. For example, if you choose the wrong career, select the wrong mortgage or fail to save for retirement, markets do not correct those failings. In fact, quite the opposite often happens. It is much easier to make money by catering to consumers’ biases than by trying to correct them.
16) And, lastly, we’ll finish with another long excerpt. Finally got around to reading this really long essay from a former Lost writer on whether they were just making stuff up as they went along. (Apparently, much less so than I assumed they were guilty of). If you were a fan of the show (and you should be) definitely worth reading the whole thing.
First we built a world. Then we filled it with an ensemble of flawed but interesting characters — people who were real to us, people with enough depth in their respective psyches to withstand years of careful dramatic analysis. Then we created a thrilling and undeniable set of circumstances in which these characters had to bond together and solve problems in interesting ways.
Soon thereafter, we created a way for you to witness their pasts and compare the people they once were with the people they were in the process of becoming. While that was going on, we also created an entire 747s worth of ideas, notions, fragments, complications, and concepts that would — if properly and thoughtfully mined — yield enough narrative fiction to last as long as our corporate overlords would demand to feed their need for profit and prestige, and then, just to be sure, teams of exceptionally talented people worked nonstop to make sure the 747 never emptied out.
And then we made it all up as we went.