Quick hits (part I)

1) I’ve been using Flickr for a while and really like it.  David Pogue writes about 7 great new features.

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.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Republicans have even alienated Robert Samuelson for their true dedication to helping America’s richest citizens at all costs (in this case by trying to eliminate the estate tax).

2) I’ve always found fonts rather fascinating.  But I don’t think I’d ever be in the running for a job where I looked upon poorly for using Times New Roman.

3) Loved David Simon’s marxist- based analysis (no, he’s not a communist) analysis of the situation in Baltimore.

4) I’ve always much preferred Diet Coke (and especially Coke Zero) to Diet Pepsi.  Now I’ll have even more reason to as Pepsi has decided to pander to science deniers and remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.

But the problem with appeasing customers at the expense of science is that it sets a poor precedent. And in this case it’s also unlikely to reverse Diet Pepsi’s waning appeal.

What Pepsi’s move will likely accomplish, more than anything else, is give credence to unfounded fears that aspartame is somehow more harmful or artificial than a lot of other sweeteners being used in products on supermarket shelves. That myth doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to dying.

5) Interestingly, we probably need to make it easier for kids to skip grades.

6) Nice summary of social science on the persistence of racism in America.

7) If you want to help the earthquake victims in Nepal, send money.  Not stuff and not yourself.  And that goes for pretty much any disaster.

8) Just one more unarmed teenager killed by police who thought he had a gun.  Make no mistake, this is absolutely a necessary consequence of America’s gun culture.  Yes, we need better policing, but the police in America are uniquely deathly afraid because there really are guns everywhere.

9) The smartest students (as judged by LSAT scores) are increasingly deciding against law school.  Good for them.  Especially because the job market is really, really tough for law school grads.

10) Sometimes the Onion headline nails it better than anybody:

Nation On Edge As Court Votes Whether To Legalize Gay Marriage Now Or In A Few Years

11) Wonkblog with 7 “facts” about healthy food that aren’t actually true (I’ve probably written about each of these at some point).  On a related note, a Vox post nails it with the headline, “The real side effect of a gluten-free diet: scientific illiteracy.”

12) And sticking with food, OSHA knows we should do more to keep workers safe in meat production (and really, we’re horrible at this), but just doesn’t have the budget for it.

13) The attempt to turn climate change into a moral issue and how that could change everything if it succeeds (and it’s got Pope Francis on its side).

14) Speaking of threats to the earth, how about that good old-fashioned problem of too many people (okay, guilty of the fact of helping create more than my fair share).

15) Good to know that I know far more about Premier League Football than UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who totally embarrassed himself on the matter.  For the record, I’m an Arsenal fan.

16) Jamelle Bouie’s post placing the problems in Baltimore into deep historical context.  Is excellent.  I’ve left it for last so that you actually read it.

Quick hits (part II)

I’ve been a horrible blogger lately.  Good stuff coming soon– I promise.  Until then, lots more good links.

1) The Supreme Court thinks it is just fine for cops to pull you over because they don’t actually know the law.

2) The Northern Lights are awesome and it is hard work to film them.

3) Tax day last week brought lots of talk about the IRS.  It really is just unconscionable how the Republican slash their budget and then complain that they can’t get anything right.  Of course, Ted Cruz says we shouldn’t even have an IRS because every one would surely pay their taxes then.

4) It’s not easy out there for cable channels that are not part of big media conglomerates.

5) So, just one more totally, obviously innocent prisoner who is languishing away in Virginia.  I would have liked a little more focus in this article on why the Democratic governor still has not pardoned him, as that is the obvious solution at this point.

6) Enjoyed this comparison of cities that have professional sports teams in all four of football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.

7) Bloomberg View with a nice editorial on how we need to defeat the NRA and actually do research on gun violence.

8) Apparently Washington state is also suffering horrible drought— especially in apple-growing regions.  I take this quite personally (I eat 2-3 apples every day).  That said, at this point in the year, the Washington Apples preserved from the Fall our pretty horrible.  I’m desperately awaiting the Southern hemisphere apples to arrive from Chile and New Zealand.

9) Yet more on the increasing evidence that, for most people, salt is pretty harmless.

10) I always enjoy pieces knocking down libertarian utopias– in this case the idea that the interrnet will somehow make government regulation obsolete.

11) Sure, professors need to reach out more to a general audience, but I’d argue that political science is doing a pretty good job at this.  The Monkey Cage, for example, has proved hugely influential (at least indirectly) among young, smart journalists.

12) I so cannot wait for the new Star Wars movie.   I’m so excited about actually seeing a Star Wars movie in the theater with my kids.  And watching this trailer, I have to say that John Williams Star Wars score probably has more emotional impact on me than about any music.

13) Regardless of what’s going on with the law, the death penalty in America is definitely on the wane (which, given its huge flaws, I would argue is a good thing).

14) In Republican North Carolina, we need more prayer and less debt:

— ​Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, and 10 other legislative colleagues are rounding up signatures for a “call to prayer for America” from fellow lawmakers, hoping to start a national movement…

“The consensus among those in attendance was that people of faith can no longer sit idly by and watch as our nation’s history and Judeo-Christian heritage are being re-written with a false narrative,” according to a handout that Sanderson passed out to his colleagues. The formal resolution says that those in Charlotte “realized the need for America to turn back to God and prayer.”

Asked what issue he thought should be the focus of the prayer, Sanderson said there were several.

“One of the greatest threats facing our nation right now is our level of debt,” he said. “I don’t know you could list all the things our nation is facing right now. There’s just many.”

15) Contrary to what you may have been told, marijuana is not a “gateway drug.”  Nicotine, however, is.

16) To their credit, the Koch brothers support much-needed criminal justice reform.  To their discredit, they don’t let this play any role at all in the Republican candidates they support.

17) The self-fulfilling power of Moore’s law.

18) How a Union general stopped Raleigh from being destroyed after Lincoln was assassinated.

19) You know what’s crazy?  How much we rely on Alcoholics Anonymous despite the fact that it is not based on medical science whatsoever and has incredibly little evidence to support its efficacy.  There’s way better approaches that are, you know… evidence-based, that they are smart enough to use in other countries.  Heck, I’d never even bothered to read the 12 steps before reading this article.  I’m sure it really does help some people, but just reading these steps, you’d have to think there’s surely many a better approach out there.  And there is.

Mega quick hits (part I)

Your long overdue quick hits.  My apologies.

1) Given the role of wealthy donors in politics, it should be no surprise that across the political spectrum, all politicians are largely in step with the desires of the wealthy.

2) An 1000 year old Anglo-Saxon recipe for eye infection treatment actually works.

3) If you want to learn what you take notes on, do it by hand, not a laptop.

4) Among the many subtle ways we abuse our prisoners, is gouging them and their families for the costs of keeping in touch via phone call.  It’s just wrong.  Maybe there’s change afoot.

5) Interesting Wired piece on the war over the health risks of vaping.  It’s clearly better to vape than to smoke and clearly better to do neither.  Can’t we leave it at that?

6) It’s died down for the moment, but Chris Kromm on why North Carolina’s proposed RFRA is even worse than Indiana’s.  Will be interesting to see if this comes back here.

7) The simple rule to prevent the next Gerrmanwings disaster– two personnel in the cockpit at all  times.  Period.

8) Men in Quebec who took advantage of a “daddy only” quota for parental leave were doing 23% more housework and child care years after actually taking the leave.  Clearly, we need more of these policies.

9) Multiple servings of red meat per day seems to be not good for you.  But if it’s less than that, it’s probably not harming you at all, so don’t sweat it.

10) Ian Millhiser argues that the Supreme Court is (and continues to be) a “malign force in American history.”

11) Adam Davidson sums up the economic evidence on “job-stealing immigrants.”  Short version: there’s a near-consensus among economists that immigrants are not taking jobs Americans would otherwise be doing.

12) I enjoyed this “personality habit” quiz at the NYT.  Apparently I’m a “questioner.”

Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect, they meet only inner expectations. Once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it—but only if they’re satisfied about the habit’s soundness and usefulness. They resist anything arbitrary or ineffective; they accept direction only from people they respect. Questioners may exhaust themselves (and other people) with their relentless questioning, and they sometimes find it hard to act without perfect information. If you’re thinking, “Well, right now I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework,” yep, you’re probably a Questioner!

13) Is there anything that’s fair to poor parents and families?  Not truancy laws, writes Dana Goldstein.

14) Jon Cohn makes not a bad case that Rand Paul’s medical specialty helps to explain his politics:

The split [specialists as Republicans; generalists as Democrats] makes sense if you understand the very different work these doctors perform — and the money they get paid for it. Specialists’ clinical interactions tend to be episodic: A surgeon called in to remove a gall bladder, repair a ligament or install a stent is probably meeting his or her patient for the first time — and may have little contact, or even none at all, with that patient once the procedure and rehabilitation are over. Such encounters may reinforce a

14) What not to worry about in teaching pre-school children how to read?  You mean other than the fact that you are an obsessive parent if you are worried about this?  Just read to your kids.

15) I first learned about Pantones in a Duke magazine article about “Duke blue” years ago and found the concept fascinating.  Loved this NYT story on the subtle difference in pantone between Duke blue and Kentucky blue.

16) The victim of a false rape accusation at UVA tells his story.  Yes, of course the vast majority of rape accusations are truthful; but that doesn’t mean we universities should be denying due process to the accused.

17) Chait on why conservatives hate the Iran deal.  Because they hate all deals.

18) No, tax cuts still don’t pay for themselves.  And, yes, laughably, Arthur Laffer is still an economic guru in the Republican party despite his ideas being completely discredited among serious economists.

19) If you consider our micribiome, you can forget about humans and chimps being 98% similar.

20) Enjoyed this Marketplace story on how German universities control costs.  (No climbing walls, among other things; and no beloved sports teams).

Flu vs. Blogger

You can guess who wins that one. It is amazing to me that I can be so tired I don’t even want to use the laptop. That’s how bad it was this weekend. On the bright side, I’m almost all better now. That said, oh man, am I behind on stuff that is, yes, even more important than blogging. Hope to get some new posts going soon, but I figured it was about time I at least have an explanation for the long hiatus. Thanks for your patience.

Oh, and other bright side… Duke won the National Championship on Monday. That helped me feel better. And I was well enough to head over to Durham with the whole family to welcome the team back.

A photo posted by Steve Greene (@hankgreene) on

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the lateness on part II– busy weekend.

1) Really enjoyed this Rob Christensen column on how we need to consider historical political figures in their context.  Former NC Governor Charles Aycock is getting thrown under the bus for basically the same racial positions as Abraham Lincoln.

2) Connor Friedersdorf’s take on Ferguson is terrific.  He points out that, truly, the racist emails really were the least of it:

Establishing these glaring perverse incentives—effectively compromising the city’s criminal-justice system to increase revenue—is enough to disgrace Ferguson’s leaders all on its own, whether one regards them as civic imbeciles or moral cretins…

Little wonder that black people in Ferguson took to the streets after the killing of Michael Brown. Sooner or later, some event was bound to push them over the edge into protest, and even if Officer Wilson acted totally unobjectionably in that encounter, it wouldn’t change the fact that the general lack of confidence expressed in municipal and police leadership was well-founded. A DOJ investigation was long overdue, and so are major reforms. The full DOJ report can be found here.

3) Free Range parents responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that means) in Maryland.  There’s so many unfortunate, dysfunctional families out there.  Wouldn’t it be great if CPS focused there resources on them that happy families who are not paralyzed by irrational fear of their kids being kidnapped?

4) Sad, compelling story of a former UNC football player who is now homeless and sure seems to be suffering from CTE.

5) I actually don’t understand why we can’t do a lot more along the lines of this awesome Australian project that generates electricity from the tides.

6) I love the circus because of all the awesomeness from the humans, but hate that elephants have to suffer at the same time.  So pleased that Ringling is dropping the elephants from the circus.

7) Enjoyed this story on the fastest American female teenager ever and on what it takes to succeed long term as a competitive runner.

8) A Republican congressman thinks illegal immigrants are committing a murder a day.  Shockingly, he’s wrong.

9) I could totally go for Daylight Savings time year round.  Mornings I’m always hanging out inside anyway.  Give me more light in the evening.

10) John Cassidy on why the Federal Reserve needs defending.

11) A debate on Colorado on whether IUD’s are contraception or abortion.  Seriously?!  Good to know Republicans are against a method of birth control that dramatically cuts teen pregnancies and actual abortions.

12) It pains me to learn (from Krugman, no less) that my favorite food is apparently, quite Republican.  That won’t stop me!

13) An Economist friend of mine wrote this interesting Op-Ed about replacing a gas tax with a vehicle miles tax.  It will never happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

14) With the political debate about net neutrality, it’s worth being reminded that the government invented the internet.

15) Charter schools may have their place, but they are certainly no panacea for our education problems.  And their lesser accountability (by design) is clearly bringing with it a host of problems.

16) Last word– Ta-Nehisi Coates is, of course, terrific in writing about the Ferguson report.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Of course the NRA is utterly lacking in decency.  And not surprisingly, they are not so good at logic (or empathy) either.

2) Oh, this Radley Balko column made me so, so mad.  A cop beats somebody up and the rest of them lie about it under oath.  Fortunately for the victim, it was caught on video.  At last check, no punishment for any of the malefactors in uniform.

3) It appears that in North Carolina, it is now legal for a lobbyist to provide a politician with a prostitute.  Seriously.

4) Oklahoma’s new AP courses (the satire version).

5) I had no idea the Mona Lisa had once been stolen (I learned this from a wrong answer on Trivia Crack).  Led me to this fascinating story of how that theft is what led the Mona Lisa to be so famous.

6) A former federal prosecutor on just how easy it is for prosecutors to abuse their power.

7) Vox on what firefighters are up to now that there are so many fewer fires.

8) I loved the SNL sketch on ISIS.  Those people so offended need to get over it.

9) How Kareem Abdul Jabbar re-invented himself as a really tall public intellectual.

10) So, maybe presidential democracy doesn’t doom America.  Maybe.

11) Given my picky eating, I only first tried Indian food a few years ago.  Love it!  The science behind what makes it so good.

12) Enjoyed this take down of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech.

13) Nine rules for all interactions between Coyote and Road Runner.

14) Tiny and remote Sweet Briar College is shutting down.  I certainly feel bad for the faculty and students, but how in the world is a college with just 500 students in the middle-of-nowhere supposed to survive?  Also, what’s the opposite of an economy of scale, because universities that small have always struck me as monstrously inefficient.

15) Got a good laugh out of this creative (and effective) attempt to distract free throw shooters.

16) I so want this new camera!  (And for that matter,  my Canon S100 has been missing for about a month).

17) Damn, the culture regarding women in general and rape in particular is just do damn deplorable in India.

18) So, you want to cut the prison population in half?  Have at it with this cool interactive feature.

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