Quick hits (part II)

1) Just a nice montage of typical Fox News sexism.

2) I have actually noticed that Kudzu isn’t really quite the invasive species everybody makes it out to be.

3) Our local minor league soccer teams makes the New York Times because it’s ownership is caught up in the FIFA scandal.  Personally, I really hope they can get new owners because it is a great way to see some reasonably high-level soccer in a fun environment at a great price.

4) NC Republicans not such big fans of a clean environment.

5) Sorry, but the too many law students thing never gets old for me.

6) Chait on Bernie Sanders, #blacklivesmatter, and the new PC:

The trouble with p.c. culture is not, as its defenders tend to sneer, that it oppresses white males. Many of its targets are not white males; anyway, oppression isn’t the main issue, per se. Political correctness is an elaborate series of norms and protocols of political discourse that go well beyond the reasonable mandate of treating all people with respect. Its extravagant imagination of mental trauma lurking in every page, its conception of “safety” as the absence of dissent, and its method of associating beliefs with favored or disfavored groups: They all create a political discourse that is fraught at best, and at worst, inimical to reason…

Of course, anti-rape activists are right to change the culture of male sexual entitlement, and anti-racism activists are right to challenge entrenched biases in the criminal-justice system and other structures. Black Lives Matter has had enormous success in driving police reform and raising awareness of racism, and has, on the whole, changed the country for the better. Liberals believe that social justice can be advanced without giving up democratic rights and norms. The ends of social justice do not justify any and all means. When we’re debating which candidates are progressive enough to be allowed to deliver public speeches, something has gone terribly wrong.

7) Apparently there were virtually no real women at all using Ashley Madison.  Thus, if you know someone in the Ashley Madison database, there’s a super small chance they actually used the site for a successful assignation.

8) The telling priorities of NC Republicans in the most recent budget compromise.  Not big fans of public education.

9) Just to be clear, “anchor babies” (like most consequences of immigration) are good for the economy.

10) Not a bad list of suggestions for students to be successful in college.

11) Vox’s German Lopez on the fact that there’s thousands and thousands of needless gun deaths we don’t talk about because there’s no video.

12) And Kristof on the Virginia shooting and how we need to take a public health approach on guns:

Gun proponents often say things to me like: What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them! [emphasis in original]

Cars are actually the best example of the public health approach that we should apply to guns. Over the decades, we have systematically taken steps to make cars safer: We adopted seatbelts and airbags, limited licenses for teenage drivers, cracked down on drunken driving and established roundabouts and better crosswalks, auto safety inspections and rules about texting while driving.

This approach has been stunningly successful. By my calculations, if we had the same auto fatality rate as in 1921, we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually from cars. We have reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent.

Yet in the case of firearms, the gun lobby (enabled by craven politicians) has for years tried to block even research on how to reduce gun deaths. The gun industry made a childproof gun back in the 19th century but today has ferociously resisted “smart guns.” If someone steals an iPhone, it requires a PIN; guns don’t.

We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths in America. But a serious effort might reduce gun deaths by, say, one-third, and that would be 11,000 lives saved a year.

The United States is an outlier, both in our lack of serious policies toward guns and in our mortality rates. Professor Hemenway calculates that the U.S. firearm homicide rate is seven times that of the next country in the rich world on the list, Canada, and 600 times higher than that of South Korea.

13) Home school parents go nuts and have been able to fend off all sorts of common-sense regulations that would help protect kids and their right to a decent education.

14) On the law and meaning of consent in rape cases.

15) Watched War Games with my oldest yesterday (currently streaming on Netflix).  Great for Cold War Nostalgia.  Not so great for plot holes you could drive an ocean liner through.  Didn’t seem to notice those so much when I was 11.

Quick hits

1) I feel like I wrote something on the stupidity of American lawns pretty recently.  But given drought conditions in much of the country, lawns are dumber than ever.  And this is a nice story on it (that also links to a great 99% episode on the matter).

2) Speaking of wasting water.  Stop drinking bottled water.  Seriously.

3) And stop trying to be so original with your baby names.  Today’s uncommon may well be tomorrow’s top 10.

3) Re-thinking addiction not as a disease after all.  Really interesting take.

The title of his manifesto lays out Lewis’s basic argument, which he insists upon throughout the book. “I’m convinced that calling addiction a disease is not only inaccurate, it’s often harmful,” he writes (repeatedly). “Harmful first of all to addicts themselves.” The alternative, he asserts, is to call addiction what it is: a really bad habit caused by a constellation of variables and a brain that is receptive to compulsively reinforcing really bad habits. Most important, that habit is possible to break, not by becoming a “patient” getting medical attention in order to “recover” but by becoming a responsible adult with a solid vision of the future who has at last decided to break a destructive habit.

4) Destroying mountains for coal removal?  All good for this Southwestern, Virginia community.  “Ruining” the view with windmill farms?  Not so much.  Oh, and wasting an absurd amount of money to build a modern “technology park” in basically the middle of nowhere?  Oh, yeah, on that.  Tech workers love locating to extremely rural areas.  Surely a great way to attract business development.

5) Bojack Horseman is my new TV obsession.  Season 1, down.  Starting season 2 tonight.  How can I not love comparing Bojack to Mad Men.

6) Donald Trump as the political equivalent of chaff.  Love it.

Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.

7) Speaking of Trump, nice take from Yglesias comparing him to the far right movements in Europe.

8a) So much wrong about college football (but I just keep watching it)

All of which makes Gilbert M. Gaul’s “Billion-Dollar Ball” a hard and challenging book, but one that I hope college football diehards will join me in reading. Gaul, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post, forces us to confront what major college football has become. When we cheer for our schools and our teams, we’re also supporting a powerful and autonomous entertainment business that monetizes every aspect of the game, an operation that is not only divorced from the mission of higher education but that often undermines it.

8b) Much of which can be seen in Under Armour’s relationship with University of Maryland.

9) You’ve all read me brag about the great diversity in my kids’ schools, but sadly, Wake County is going in the wrong direction on this.

10) I hope some graphic designer was fired over this.

11) Nice essay on how we need to move past the idea that the ideal worker is one who sacrifices family life.

Mr. Groysberg and Ms. Abrahams found that “even the men who pride themselves on having achieved some degree of balance between work and the other realms of their lives measure themselves against a traditional male ideal.” They quoted one interviewee as saying, “The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.” Men who are counting their caregiving in terms of the last 10 minutes of a day are not playing a caregiving role on a day-to-day basis.

12) Time for the media to start treating the names of mass murderers like the names of rape victims?  There’s definitely something to be said for the idea.

13) Irony is when the guy wearing the “less government; more freedom” t-shirt has his butt saved by firefighters.

 

14) Love this metaphor in the case for teaching ignorance.

Michael Smithson, a social scientist at Australian National University who co-taught an online course on ignorance this summer, uses this analogy: The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline — where knowledge meets ignorance — extends. The more we know, the more we can ask. Questions don’t give way to answers so much as the two proliferate together. Answers breed questions. Curiosity isn’t merely a static disposition but rather a passion of the mind that is ceaselessly earned and nurtured.

Mapping the coast of the island of knowledge, to continue the metaphor, requires a grasp of the psychology of ambiguity. The ever-expanding shoreline, where questions are born of answers, is terrain characterized by vague and conflicting information. The resulting state of uncertainty, psychologists have shown, intensifies our emotions: not only exhilaration and surprise, but also confusion and frustration.

15) Not the least bit surprised that a documentary about the evils of sugar is chock full of pseudo-science (not to argue that sugar is all great shakes, but anytime something gets demonized like this, you should probably be skeptical).

16) The Duke freshmen who can’t read handle reading a book with lesbian sex(!!) in it need to get over themselves.  Local columnist Barry Saunders with a nice take.

17) I’ve been meaning to give this Ezra Klein piece on how conservative media helped the far right take over the Republican Party it’s own post for a long time.  I’ve failed long enough.  To quick hits it goes.  Read it.

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.

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