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).

Quick hits (part II)

1) Dana Milbank on just how radical Republicans have gotten and how quickly it’s been happening.

2) One way I end up with quick hits is by often having 20+ browser tabs open Chrome.  Sometimes when the wrong tabs are open, the whole computer slows to a crawl.  Now I understand why, and even better, Google is fixing the problem.  Also no more ads just randomly playing when the tab has been sitting open for hours.  Already installed the Beta..

3) Yes, Ted Cruz is an idiot, but unfortunately, politicians all too rarely make the straightforward and sincere apology when they screw up, as Cruz has done in the case of Joe Biden.

4) Some great satire from the New Yorker on (fictitious) Republican attempts to use a toddler’s temper tantrum in the Oval Office for political gain.

5) Steve Benen on a Congressional hearing this week and the phony Republican arguments on King v. Burwell.

Just once, I want to hear an ACA critic admit what is plainly true: King v. Burwell is a brazenly stupid con, but they’re playing along with the charade because they really hate the president and his signature domestic policy initiative.
Pretending the case is anything but a laughingstock is, at this point, simply impossible.

6) Best way for doctors to be sued less for malpractice?  Be more open with and talk to their patients more.  Of course, I’ve known this for years ever since reading The Medical Malpractice Myth upon Kevin Drum’s recommendation of it.

7) Yet more on the state of Kansas reaping the fruits of its tax cuts.  Of course, now they are looking to raise taxes in the most regressive manner possible via increased sales tax.  That’s some redistribution for you.

8) Really enjoyed this Monkey Cage piece on political fact-checking and when it works and when it doesn’t:

What fact-checking does best is reduce or prevent inaccurate political rhetoric and may be most effective during primary races. The growing effort is helping to shape what politicians say and whether their partisans take those statements on faith or with facts.

Political fact-checking can’t do everything. The old line “I know what I believe, don’t confuse me with the facts” accurately sums up how stubbornly people can hold onto their most cherished convictions.

9) Given the choice, chimpanzees prefer cooked food.  And on a tenuously related note, I really enjoyed finally seeing “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” yesterday.  Andy Serkis is awesome.

10) Do feminists need to take women’s sports more seriously?  Maybe.  Though, I’m not sure I buy the premise that America’s sports fans would love women’s sports more if they just got more media coverage.

11) Fascinated by this story of the first ever skull and scalp transplant.

12) So, the main point of this essay was about teaching your kids to support causes even if you don’t believe in the cause.  But I was floored to learn that many people oppose Autism Speaks because they are trying to end autism.  That’s nuts!

13) Why America never adopted the metric system (or at least why not when everybody else first did it).  And I’d never heard this part before.

14) Interesting piece on why Obama should offer Snowden a deal:

Did he expose violations of law? Check. Last month, a federal appeals court held that the phone records collection program was illegal. Did he reveal abuses of authority? Check. The NSA’s inspector general has acknowledged dozens of incidents in which employees tracked phone calls and emails of former girlfriends, objects of romantic interest, or in one case an “unfaithful husband.” Did he point out gross mismanagement? Check. The mere fact that Snowden was able to walk out with a treasure trove of top-secret information more or less proves the point. Did Snowden bring to light the waste of public funds? Quite possibly, check again. The government has provided no evidence that the costly program has prevented a single terrorist attack.

Unfortunately for Snowden, the Whistleblower Protection Act contains a major exception: It does not apply to people who work for intelligence agencies, including the NSA. The Justice Department maintains that Snowden’s actions fall under a very different kind of law, the draconian and anachronistic Espionage Act of 1917. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects you as long as you believe you are doing right in leaking information about government wrongdoing to the press—even if you are wrong. The Espionage Act treats you as a traitor even if you acted with patriotic intent, as Snowden convincingly claims to have done—and even if you are right.

The chasm between the government’s encouragement of some whistleblowing and its severe punishment of other whistleblowing constitutes the limbo in which Snowden finds himself.

15) Scientists can calculate your risk of dying in the next five years based on 13 questions.  I’m as likely to die in the next five years as a British (that’s the population studied) 16-year old.

16) Woman almost dies from a broken bat.  I don’t go to baseball games much anymore, but when I do, you better believe I sit behind the net or well clear of the area quick-flying foul balls and broken bats go.

(Belated) Quick hits (part II)

1) Bill Moyers on the challenge of journalism in our plutocracy.

2) I’m with Drum.  Man do I hate it when politicians decide some particular disease needs funding because it happens to affect somebody in their own family.  The failure of empathy and vision on such matters is just breathtaking.

3) The politics of facial hair.

4) Can family friendly policies be too generous?  Maybe.

5) Americans (and me) love their circumcision.  (And there’s a pretty fascinating case in here involving child custody, too).

6) Cool interactive feature on how family income affects a child’s chances of going to college.

7) I hate the tone of this piece, but it’s nice to see some conservatives admitting our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.

8) Something tells me, though, the author of the above would not admit to the pervasive racism throughout our criminal justice system.  Vox nicely summarizes it, though.

9) Pretty amazing story about the chocolate diet hoax.  You really should read this to be an informed consumer of health journalism.  Personally, I vaguely recall seeing some links about this and concluding based on the headlines that it was probably junk science with nothing there.

10) I was actually watching this Messi goal when it happened.  One of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

11) Former GW Bush administration flunkie took to the NYT in a data-free column to argue that the Democratic party has shifted even further left than the Republicans have moved to the right.  Seth Masket corrects this with a little thing called data.

12) The NC legislature passed a horrible law to prevent employees from reporting malfeasance by their employers (yes, seriously).  To his credit, our governor vetoed it.  Alas, it appears the legislature has the votes to override.

13) I’m frequently amazed at who has a “black belt” in martial arts.  Suffice it to say, earning a black belt is not what it used to be.

14) As for this academic career advice from an almost geezer?  Already on top of almost all of it.  Apparently I figured out early in my career what took him decades.  Good advice for a lot of careers actually.

15) How America became a global power in a series of maps (via Vox).

16) I love apples and I love Planet Money, so this story was just catnip for me.  That said, I do think Honeycrisp apples are good, but way overrated (and over-priced)..

Quick hits (part I)

1) More on how Kansas is sticking it to poor people.  Surely this is what Jesus would have wanted.

2) The best way to end the gender pay gap in salary negotiations?  Ban salary negotiations.

3) A really, really cool way to address iron deficiency in developing countries.

4) Is too much math ruining economics?

5) Doesn’t quite cover all the grey areas, but this is a great little video on sexual consent using tea as a metaphor.

6) Great long read on how an intrepid graduate student uncovered the fraudulent nature of the gay marriage study.  And a nice take on the matter from Dan Drezner.

7) Robert Draper says the Democratic party is in big trouble.  He’s got some good points, but I will say that whenever the Democratic party is compared to semi-recent history, we’ve got to remember that the Southern Democratic party was always a conservative party.

8) You always here about the incredible bonding that takes place between men during war.  It’s a lot harder for that bonding to take place when you are a woman.

9) Nice piece in the Atlantic on Nebraska’s repeal of the death penalty:

“At the end of the day, this is just another big government program that’s really dangerous and expensive but doesn’t achieve any of its goals,” Hyden told me, summarizing his pitch to Republicans. “They don’t need to ask themselves, ‘Do some people deserve to die?’ The question they need to ask themselves is, do they trust an error-prone government to fairly, efficiently and properly administer a program that metes out death to its citizens? I think the answer to that is a resounding no.”

10) Alabama’s turn to find out what happens when you cut government revenues to the bone.

11) Vox on how just how horrible some animals can be (I did know about dolphins and sea otters).

12) A friend was recently in town to officiate at a wedding.  I got curious and did a little googling.  Turns out that when you get married by a friend with on-line certification, this can lead to big trouble in certain states with more restrictive laws on the matter.

13) I’ve been teaching Evan how to ride a bike.  It’s slow going because he’s full of anxiety and has temporarily given up since it doesn’t come easy.  Could be worse– could be teaching him how to ride this bike.

14) So glad somebody, i.e., the US Department of Justice, is finally standing up to FIFA.   How democracy is at the root of Fifa’s problems (seriously, the smallest countries in the world have equal influence to soccer powers such as Brazil and Germany– and those small countries are easily bought off).  Mark Joseph Stern on the legal strategy behind the bust.

Chart of the day

Looks like I’ve done pretty well for just playing a fair amount of pick-up basketball back in high school.  Via the Atlantic:

Are high-school sports conferring leadership skills and self-confidence onto a bunch of otherwise unambitious kids? Or are they simply signals, activities that professionally gifted youth gravitate toward? It’s not exactly clear. On one hand, team sports, with their constant passing of balls, pucks, and batons, might teach children and teens cooperation. And young people might learn something just from being in situations when they’re subordinates. But on the other hand, the likelihood that someone plays a sport could have to do with several variables not recorded in the data: coming from a family that can afford the proper equipment, that has the time to shuttle kids to practice, or that puts a premium on physical activity. Also, “popular” kids might be more likely to play sports, and popularity is really just a proxy for networking prowess—something that the business world prizes.

We don’t have an answer on this yet, but my supposition is that far more than anything else we are looking at selection bias.  I suspect the self-discipline and related non-cognitive skills that it takes to balance official high school athletics with academics, as well as the drive and ambition, reflect individuals who are going to succeed more in life, regardless of whatever teamwork and coaching may teach you.  Regardless, interesting.

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.



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