Quick hits (part II)

1) We could use a solitary confinement case at the Supreme Court.  Maybe we’ll get one.  And Dahlia Lithwick on how Anthony Kennedy’s writing on solitary could (and should) be applied to the death penalty.

2) For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that the best evidence says we are way over-using statins.  Well, if I’m going to follow the science, maybe time to reconsider.

Two studies published Tuesday lend support to controversial new cholesterol guidelines that could vastly increase the number of Americans advised to takecholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.

One study suggests that the new guidelines are better at identifying who is truly at risk of a heart attack and should be given statins than the older guidelines are. The other suggests that treating people based on the new guidelines would be cost-effective, even with the tremendously increased use of statins.

Still not going to catch me on Lipitor anytime soon.

3) Really enjoyed this discussion of the Iran deal in the Atlantic.  The quote below is from Jeffrey Goldberg:

But on the matter at hand, the putative weakness of the current deal, well, I’m not so sure. No arms-control agreement is perfect—no arms-control agreement with the Soviet Union was perfect—but if this deal is properly implemented, it should keep Iran from reaching the nuclear threshold for at least 10, if not 20 years. I’m aware of the flaws, and I hope they get fixed. The lifting of the international arms embargo is a particularly unpleasant aspect of this deal. But I’m not going to judge this deal against a platonic ideal of deals; I’m judging it against the alternative. And the alternative is no deal at all because, let’s not kid ourselves here, neither Iran nor our negotiating partners in the P5+1 is going to agree to start over again should Congress reject this deal in September. What will happen, should Congress reject the deal, is that international sanctions will crumble and Iran will be free to pursue a nuclear weapon, and it would start this pursuit only two or three months away from the nuclear threshold. My main concern, throughout this long process, is that a formula be found that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs without having to engage them in perpetual warfare—which, by the way, would not serve to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs. War against Iran over its nuclear program would not guarantee that Iran is kept forever away from a bomb; it would pretty much guarantee that Iran unleashes its terrorist armies against American targets, however.

4) Surely you’ve read about Trump’s asinine comments about McCain’s war records.  What most struck me though about this article is how totally clueless he is in talking about religion.  Never going to work for a GOP candidate.

“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump told an audience of nearly 3,000 conservative Christian activists. “I pray, I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”

Mr. Trump also struggled to answer if he had ever sought forgiveness from God, before reluctantly acknowledging that he had not.

“If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

And Mr. Trump raised eyebrows with language rarely heard before an evangelical audience — saying “damn” and “hell” when discussing education and the economy — while also describing the taking of communion in glib terms.

“When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

Just wow.

5) A former Marine on the real barriers facing women marines.

6) Seattle is trying to aggressively enforce its recycling rules.  That means looking into people’s trash cans.  That’s where things get messy.

7) The best age to get married and avoid divorce follows a U-shaped curve.  Sweet spot is in the mid-to-late 20’s.  I’ve done well for getting married at 22.

8) Sure Trump is a joke and a clown, but Josh Vorhees makes an important point on why he does deserve substantial political coverage:

Trump’s candidacy is destined to fade away just as countless other novelty candidates have in primaries past.

None of that, however, is any reason for the media not to seriously cover Trump’s campaign today. The Donald may be a Twitter troll in a $5,000 Brioni suit, but he’s also the avatar of choice for a significant subset of the American electorate who sees themselves in his particular brand of belligerence. That view and those voters won’t disappear when Trump does. The press ignores that fact at its own peril—and at the public’s own loss.

9) Surfing as an Olympic sport?  What think you surfer friends?

10) I never eat raw tomatoes (part of my picky eating), but I certainly appreciate the dilemma that growers and supermarkets seem entirely uninterested in growing tomatoes that actually taste good.  The author doesn’t mention it, but when you look at how the Red Delicious apple has become completely overtaken by apples that taste good, I think that gives some hope for tomato lovers (the tomatoes are now out there– the trouble is getting the big growers and supermarkets to buy them).

11) And the long one… multimedia NYT feature on the lawlessness faces by stowaways on the high seas.

FIFA, sexism, and money

Okay, I’m a week late on this, but I couldn’t let it go.  As mentioned, I hugely enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup (especially that final!), but I don’t have a problem with the women players getting way less than the men.  Yes, FIFA is a horrible organization and horribly sexist (the turf!!), but that doesn’t mean that women getting less money than men is sexist, as a whole bunch of commentary I saw last week implies.  E.g., this.

According to the BBC, winners of this year’s 2015 Women’s World Cup took home a sum of $2 million. That’s no small chunk of change, but consider this: Germany, the winners of the 2014 men’s World Cup, were rewarded $35 million. For the same tournament, the women’s team was awarded $33 million less than their male counterparts. Shockingly, that $2 million reward is actually the highest its ever been. Previously, the women’s title winners were only rewarded $1 million. In fact, FIFA only announced they were doubling the amount last year.

Women's World Cup Pay Gap Chart

Here’s the thing… absent any reference to revenues, this chart isn’t really telling us much.  Did the men’s world cup bring in more than 20x the revenue?  I have no idea, but absent that information, I’m not going to automatically call these numbers sexist.

What really bothered me was all the posts saying– look at the US TV ratings, clearly this is sexism!  As I heard a commenter say, one thing we know is that Americans support American teams in major international competitions.  You think the U.S. ratings would have been close to this level for a Germany vs. Japan final?!  And also to not realize that in soccer, at least, the US is a pretty small part of the global financial influence.

Should FIFA do more to support women’s soccer?  Undoubtedly.  Should they pay the WWC players more?  Probably?  Is FIFA sexist?  Yes.  But, I still hate specious arguments about gender wage parity between women and men and this strikes me as particularly egregious case of weak arguments.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

Didn’t blog much at the beach, but still read lots of good stuff.  Many quick hits coming at you.

1) Really liked this perspective on Galileo— he was not as right as you think nor his critics as wrong.

2) Nice N&O Editorial on the latest example of NC Republicans deciding that local government is best– except when it is electing Democrats.  When Jesse Helm’s chief adviser says you’ve gone too far, you’ve probably gone too far.   And Thomas Mills on the travesty that is the NC Senate:

House Speaker Tim Moore came to power promising to show that the GOP could govern. Unfortunately, it’s not to be. The ideologues in the Senate are too busy micromanaging local governments and sticking square pegs into round, free-market holes to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. They don’t seem to care whether policies are good for the people or the state. They only care that they fit into their narrow ideological box.

3) On the science behind “Inside Out.”  And seriously, if you haven’t yet, see this movie.

4) Nice piece from Bill Ayers on using the language of religious rights to deny rights:

As one lawmaker put it in North Carolina, “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their First Amendment rights.” A cake baker has apparently also decided to take his case to court, lest he be sanctioned for discriminating against gay couples in the making of wedding cakes.

I find this argument deeply troubling on many fronts. It strikes me as a species of other arguments people make which use the trappings of commonly-held values (in this case, the language about rights and freedom) to advance the opposite

5) Enjoyed this Slate piece on how Carli Lloyd and other US women soccer stars were rejected from youth teams and how that helped lead to their greatness.

6) I hate felony murder charges.  No, you should not rob somebody trying to sell you marijuana.  But when that goes wrong and the marijuana dealer falls off the truck and dies as it pulls away (and you are sitting in the back seat!) in no way are you a murderer at all.  Except, of course, under felony murder laws.  If I were on a jury for this case there would damn well be some juror nullification.  (Interesting that it happened at the park I visit every week with Sarah while Evan has his piano lessons).

7) A urologist argues in NYT that we need to bring back more prostate screenings.  This was a great example of smart commenters that you actually see in the NYT as they were all over the problems in this argument.

8) Apparently Amy Schumer’s jokes really are racist.  I, however, am not persuaded.

9) The best stuff I read on Germany and Greek debt last week.  Thomas Piketty on how the Germans are hypocrites. NYT’s Eduardo Porter makes a similar point.   And Harold Myerson.  Not like Greece doesn’t have plenty of blame to go around, of course.  For example, their crazy pension system.

10) I hate the tendency towards over air-conditioning in the summer.  I’ve been known to run my space heater in my office in the summer.  What a waste of energy.

11) I think I’m going to have to read this book on how over-parenting is ruining our kids.  I’m definitely no helicopter parent, but I fear I am not doing enough to make my kids learn tough life lessons on their own.

When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.

12) I’m glad I don’t have to rely on public schools in Texas to teach my kids history:

THIS FALL, Texas schools will teach students that Moses played a bigger role in inspiring the Constitution than slavery did in starting the Civil War. The Lone Star State’s new social studies textbooks, deliberately written to play down slavery’s role in Southern history, do not threaten only Texans — they pose a danger to schoolchildren all over the country.

On a related note, here’s some excerpts from a 1970’s Alabama history text.

13) Maybe autism is so more prevalent now because earlier clinicians actively worked to not diagnose it.

14) John Oliver on bail is, of course, excellent.

15) The most common reasons behind unfriending on FB:

In a 2014 study, Christopher Sibona, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Denver, actually pinpointed the four types of content that are most likely to prompt an unfriend:

  1. Frequent/unimportant posts
  2. Polarizing posts (politics and religion; liberals are, for what it’s worth,more likely to unfriend over political views)
  3. Inappropriate posts (sexist, racist remarks)
  4. Everyday life posts (child, spouse, eating habits, etc.)

Also, HS friends are most likely to get unfriended.

16) Iron Giant is going to be re-released on the big screen.  So going to take all the family to that.

17) I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it never hurts to mention how near-useless the BMI is for addressing the health of individuals (there is some value as a population statistic).

18) A nearby public library that is actually inside a local HS is set to close.  Why?  People are worried about security:

The school system and Wake County partnered in the early 1980s so the Athens Drive High School library served students while also doubling as a public library.

But times have changed in terms of security at schools, said Ann Burlingame, assistant library director in Wake. High schools need to monitor who comes on their campuses, she said.

“We need to have a regard for the children and their safety,” Burlingame said…

No major security issues have been reported at the west Raleigh school. But Simmons said some parents have complained that it’s easy for library visitors to access the main part of the building.

Got that?  No actual issues in decades of use, but parents are worried.  So frustrating when the overly-fearful get to make public policy.

19) I had no idea about putative father registries.  Pretty interesting account of the laws and one disturbing case in South Carolina–yes, there are racial overtones (and the author was a friend of mine back at Duke).

 

Photo of the day

My did I thoroughly enjoy the US Women’s World Cup victory last night.  That deserves a photo of the day from this USA Today gallery:

(USA TODAY Sports)

(USA TODAY Sports)

Women’s soccer

I’ve really been enjoying watching the Women’s World Cup.  Nothing like a western hemisphere world cup for my viewing pleasure.  What I have decided is that women’s soccer is just as entertaining, and often times more so, than men’s soccer.  I try to appreciate women’s basketball, but in truth, because it is played below the rim and because of the huge emphasis on athleticism in basketball, it is a very different game.  Women’s soccer strikes me as essentially like men’s soccer, just 10-15% slower at times.  Very little of soccer actually happens with players going full speed, and when they are all at top speed, it’s all relative anyway.  Furthermore, it’s not like it is any easier to dribble a soccer ball for a man than for a woman.  Sure, men can kick the ball harder, but the women sure launch plenty of screamers.  I suspect to a casual fan, if you just blurred the player’s images a bit, they wouldn’t even recognize the game as women vs. men.  Anyway, good stuff and go USA.

I enjoyed this 538 analysis of why the US is so good at women’s soccer (and why the world has caught up):

So how did we get here? Basically, it boils down to two things: 1) Women’s soccer has been on a great run for the past 30-plus years in the U.S., to the point where it’s poised to become our most popular women’s sport, and 2) the rest of the world has been relatively apathetic and/or hostile to the women’s game…

In the late ’70s, the number of high school women playing soccer was in the low five figures. By the time America won the World Cup in 1991, there were more than 120,000. By the time it won in 1999, there were more than 250,000. Now it is approaching 20 percent of all high school female athletes — about 375,000 — and has surpassed baseball/softball as the third-most-played team sport.

Soccer has grown both by taking women from other sports and by capturing a disproportionate share of “new” female athletes as more young women began to play sports…

For as much as the rest of the world loves soccer, it has been much slower to embrace the women’s game than the U.S…

Given that we pretty much started out on a similar playing field and have devoted more interest to women playing soccer in this country, I’m actually led to wonder why it is that we’re not even moredominant.

Alas, as good as the US women are at soccer (and as similar to the men’s game as it is– as I argue) it is really tough to get fans at games:

While they are on different teams, playing different games, the women are engaged in the same uphill climb: trying to break through and gain wider commercial success in the competitive United States sports marketplace.

A confluence of chauvinism and gender biases has made the ceiling they are up against a particularly difficult one to shatter…

The million-dollar question for the W.N.B.A. — and for less established organizations like the National Women’s Soccer League, which employs most of the World Cup team — has been how to attract a wider audience to watch supremely talented professionals compete against one another.

The original US women’s soccer league had a team right here in Cary, NC.  Alas, the current one does not.  But, if you like watching good soccer, you should be watching women as well as men.

Goal of the day

Awesome.  Chile vs. Peru.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Bail is incredibly unfair to poor people.  We should fix it.  John Oliver’s segment.

2) The FIFA-produced Sepp Blatter biopic just made $607 in box office in America.

3) Maria Konnikova explains how the lessons of the Stanford Prison Experiment are far more complicated than you think.

4)I know there’s all sorts of complicated stuff going on, but I can’t help thinking that– to a disturbing degree– police office in Baltimore are just being petulant for being asked to be held accountable.

5) Republicans are playing catch-up when it comes to modern digital campaigning.

6) The City of Raleigh has improved tremendously in recent years.  Why?  Government action; not the free market.

7) Vox with what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy.  Obviously, that’s just a pipe dream, but it does help explain a lot of the key issues in expanding our use of renewables.

8) Can reading make you happier?  It does for me:

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

9) Dahlia Lithwick argues that a finding for the plaintiff in King v. Burwell would be a huge political win for the Democrats and that this fact may factor into the justices’ calculus.

10) How Disney World has left the middle class behind.  Disney’s daily admission is now $105.   When it opened in 1971, it was the equivalent of $20 in 2014 dollars.  As long as people are willing to pay their ever-higher prices, they will keep raising their prices.  The Greene family will not be contributing to this cycle.

11) Lots of differences between Iceland and the US, but I agree with Yglesias that it’s definitely a good thing to put bankers in jail.  As long as the finance types only have to worry about their companies losing money and just maybe losing a job, they will do horrible, criminal things.  Throw a few of these guys in jail– where they belong– and things will change.

12) I’m not even going to say exactly what this Vox article is about (it involves toilets), but I will say I did come to this solution on my very own decades ago.

13) Good to see that, at least in some places, school systems are realizing that kindergartners should be playing.

14) I really don’t like the taste of any beer I’ve ever had and pretty much never drink it.  Nonetheless, I found this Wonkblog post on the history of why Americans prefer bland beer to be fascinating.

15) Economists on Westeros.  I especially liked this first one.

From Ryan Decker, an economist who blogs at Updated Priors:

To me, the most striking economic fact about Westeros is the lack of focus on saving. Given the length of winters and the fact that winter means little or no food production, why isn’t every house focused like a laser on storing food and developing better food storage technology? If I were (the late) Tywin Lannister, the only weapons I’d buy would be the ones used to guard my storehouses. I’d be sending gold by the cartload to Highgarden in exchange for food. I’d be looking at the advanced civilizations in the east for storage technology ideas (as Eric Crampton has noted at offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com, Westeros could really benefit from more glass).

16) I think I like Whole Foods new rating system.   There definitely is more to food than being organic (I do think organic is good, but surely over-rated by many consumers) and it’s good to see Whole Foods taking that into account.

17) I’ve kept meaning to do a post on the horrible, inhumane way we treat the pigs we raise for food.  I have failed my porcine friends (doubly-so, as I had some good barbecue at Smithfield’s last night), but here’s a nice Wired post.  And a Fresh Air interview on the matter.   I really, really wish we could just treat our animals better and pay more for our meat.  Of course, the only way we will get there is with substantially more government regulation.  This is definitely a case where unfettered capitalism fails us.  (If you want to talk externalities, it does not get any worse than living near an industrial hog farm).

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