Linky Friday #98: The E-Dition

Progress:

E-Man[P1] 5,200 Days in Space.

[P2] In case you missed it, our place on the map of the universe actually has a map has a name!

[P3] From Mad Rocket Scientist: Quantum entanglement in action. With cats.

[P4] A new smartphone has arrived, high-quality and cheaper than its rivals. Farhad Manjoo wonders how they’re going to make a profit. I actually think that getting the carriers to sign off may be the bigger problem. (Also, not only is “One” already taken, namewise, but it’s not a good name to begin with. What’s up with that?)

Healthcare:

[H1] Many argue that the consolidation of health care services may lead to better care. Aaron Carroll points to a study suggesting this isn’t true.

[H2] The latest research is coming down against bilateral mastectomies. Aaron Carroll doesn’t expect that to change our approach much.

[H3] Mara Gordon has an account of her decision to go into primary care medicine. Our lives have improved immensely since Clancy left clinic work behind.

[H4] From Mad Rocket Scientist: Don’t we have consumer protection laws for crap like this? Perhaps if we spent less attention on kids injured by toy magnets meant for older kids & adults, and more on quacks hawking toxic remedies…

Education:

[Ed1] Jeannie Suk is concerned that future lawyers are not being trained to understand rape law because of student sensitivity. Corey Yung isn’t seeing it, though. Non-lawyer Conor Friedersdorf also comments on the issue.

[Ed2] Over at Hit Coffee, I ask if law degrees might be saved by the Bar? While law schools struggle, though, MBA values are expected to rise.

[Ed3] Universities were using the holidays for fundraising. My alma mater has never once called or contacted me requesting money. Which on the one hand, is convenient for me. On the other hand, it’s typical of their administrative incompetencies and I want to smack them over the head for it.

[Ed4] MOOCs may be a disappointment by the standards of what their boosters have said, but there still may be gold in them there hills.

[Ed5] We talk about how college pays, but does it?

Energy:

You're welcome. Best, Coal.

You’re welcome.
Signed, Coal.

[En1] Oil prices may be falling, but US oil production remains on the upswing… for now.

[En2] Midland (TX) schools are developing a Petroleum Academy.

[En3] What will falling oil prices mean for the Great State of Texas? According to Erica Grieder, less than one might think.

[En4] The gift of coal: Matt Frost has an interesting proposal to reconcile our love for coal with our need to do something about global warming. Sort of.

[En5] Remember, if you oppose fracking, you ride with Putin.

[En6] Rather than taking potshots of the North Dakota oil boom from DC or NY, Maya Rao actually went to western Dakota and wrote her account. (The article itself is more mixed than the headline.)

Economics:

[Ec1] Falling oil prices are leading to a plunge in consumer prices.

[Ec2] Anyone over a certain age probably wishes they could go back in time and invest in Apple in 1976. Turns out, you would have done better with gold.

[Ec3] Last summer, Scott Alexander reviewed Elizabeth Warren’s Two-Income Trap.

[Ec4] It takes a village to self-publish.

[Ec5] Sometimes seat-pants wisdom beats out fancy Big Data algorithms.

Ideology:

[I1] As Gabriel Rossman says, “Grant us this day our daily pageviews and forgive us our outrages as we forgive those who outrage against us.”

[I2] Freddie deBoer argues that “pedantic ridicule never convinced anybody of anything.” Ethan Gach made a good counterpoint that the “tactic is actually extremely effective against those who do share cultural affinities and social ambitions.” I’d bridge this gap by saying that the latter group will, at least, pretend to be convinced and argue it going forward. Which may amount to the same thing.

[I3] Politics is and ever was the mind-killer.

[I4] If being wrong feels so good, you don’t wanna be right.

America:

Kansas: The Best State

Kansas: The Best State

[A1] How a police cruiser dashboard camera saved a man from prison and put some cops in hot water.

[A2] One police union willing to break the law to protect the people who allegedly defend it.

[A3] What happens when you’re an Airbnb guest and your host dies?

[A4] Kansas is the best state.

[A5] Listen to the brave story of a cow being prepared for slaughter that had other ideas.

[A6] The southern California coast may be expensive, but the weather really is better there.

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77 thoughts on “Linky Friday #98: The E-Dition

  1. H1: While the study may address this, what about quality of life? From what I hear, radiation therapy is a miserable experience. Is bilateral mastectomy more like a one and done treatment, so is there a benefit to peace of mind, quality of life and reduced trips to a hospital associated with bilateral mastectomies that isn’t covered solely by looking at mortality rates?

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  2. [Ed1] While I thing Yung overstates the matter, he is on the right side of it. Lawyers get to deal with some tough stuff and the profession isn’t for those who wilt at the mention of unpleasant things. I’m not sure law school particularly needs to prepare students for it beyond honestly teaching how the law handles those things — the human side of it is up to the individual lawyer.

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    • I certainly agree with Suk (and Conersdorf, and Yung) that law schools should teach rape law in 1L Crim Law classes and so forth, but I’m very skeptical of Suk’s empirical claims. Maybe there are big variations between schools, maybe these complaints and requests are all being made quietly, or perhaps it is a very recent phenomenon. But when I was taking 1L Crim Law in 2012, I wasn’t aware of any student complaints about the subject at all.

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      • Nor when I took 1L Crim back in the Neolithic Age (that is to say, the early 1990’s, when “the Bush Administration” referred to Ronald Reagan’s former vice-president and liberals were still afraid that David Souter would turn out to be a great enemy to women’s rights on the Supreme Court. Believe it or not, we had to Shephardize cases using actual books — and we liked it) (oh wait no we didn’t like it) (but I digress).

        I’m not super-surprised, I guess, that a certain breed of law student would demonstrate so much sensitivity to the news from Ferguson that they’d request time to “adjust” before taking exams. Most of my classmates and I, on the other hand, would have been perfectly willing to drive through the 1992 riots in Los Angeles to take our first year exams, and it was only the rather more rational heads in the school’s administration that actually did delay them because of rather powerful safety concerns.

        But there’s some people who get tied up into such amazing knots of anxiety about their exams that they’ll latch on to any excuse imaginable to request more time to stew in their own worry. While I saw more of that in law school than in undergraduate, I’m pretty confident that it’s endemic to all levels and flavors of education.

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  3. [p4] nexus 6 on verizon dammit c’mon already. my phone is 3+ years old and getting cranky.

    [h4] that is utterly frickin’ horrifying. desperation helps good people make very bad choices sometimes.

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  4. We watched some Polish and, if I remember correctly, Russian or Ukrainian One Plus One reviews last year when we were looking at a new phone. Apparently it’s been very popular in Europe for a while.

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  5. P1: Wasn’t this the problem the Apollo boys had as well? Once it was done, no1curr’d – until things went haywire with number 13. The most I’ve heard about the space station in the past few months was the 2010 LARPing this past week (except that Canadian guitar astronaut)

    I3: When the politics has gone there will be nothing – only I will remain

    Sounds either radically individualistic or a path to totalitarianism akin to the butcher’s famous peritacide dictum.

    A3: Get Andrew McCarthy and/or John Silverman on the phone, they’re the experts at this sort of thing.

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    • Re: Space Station

      there was a possible ammonia leak that had everyone evacuate to the Russian module. Everyone was pretty sure, even as the alarm was still going off, that it was a false alarm (no signs of leaking ammonia in the ammonia pressure loops, for instance — but the sensor for the air was going off, so no taking chances).

      Pretty sure that they’re all back to normal business now, as it was a false alarm.

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      • I know…

        Absent significant public action against PDs & Police unions (what would basically amount to communities actively resisting or disbanding their police), I’m not sure how to undo this. Police have managed to, despite all the statistics showing the drop in crime all over, convince the public that they are in danger from criminals.

        Of course, it might help if the media was not so inclined to be licking the boots of the police.

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      • MRS,

        Seems to me on the front end, things like body cams and accountability (both of which occur in the NM case you referenced) are a start. THe big thing is changing cop/criminal justice culture, which leads to your comment about busting up the unions.

        On the back end, tho, seems to me that insofar as people continue to believe that they’re lives are in danger of an existential threat (both in terms of physical injury and way-of-life) then they’ll embrace a correlated need for the existence of cops. So getting people to look narrowly at crime statistics won’t in and of itself incline lots of people to agree with you (and me!) that we actually need fewer cops. They’ll continue to look at the breakdown of civil society in apocalyptic terms, and things like Bundy-gate, or the Ferguson riots, the Hebdo massacre, etc etc etc, up to and including the increase of open carry policies and stand your ground legislation will carry the weight of the psychological burden inclining folks to think more cops are necessary. Stability, you know?

        Seems to me anyway.

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      • Agree with you, hence my comment about the media. The police alone can’t honestly make us feel afraid, because they don’t have the means. A media that parrots every little thing they say without any kind of fact checking, or follow-up, or something more than vanilla criticism, is one that is complicit in the problem.

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  6. I2 — I wonder this: in the history of LGBT activism, if the gay liberationists had consistently taken the high road at every juncture, and if the remainder of the world continued as per normal, with their normal causal reactions to events, would LGBT rights be where they are now? Ahead or behind?

    One aspect of disdain is this: it lowers the status of your opponents. Done well, this makes your opponents look uncool. For example, who here would want to be an ignorant shit like Fred Phelps? Any of you? That man was a godsend to gay rights, as is any loudmouth homophobic right winger willing publicly to say horrible things about me.

    There is a place for convincing your opponents. I see obviously the value of thoughtful debate. It’s a tool. Being good at it helps. But in the big game? — a shallow Daily Show style smear can be priceless.

    This is probably bad.

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    • This relates to something I kind of wanted to say in the “mockery” debates as well. Mockery is intended to elicit shame; fear of shame is not always a good (mostly, it’s terrible), but…sometimes, it is.

      An example from my personal life: As full-time working parents of three small children, there are times when me or my wife get to the end of our ropes and want to chuck it all, go to the bar and start drinking, and never come up again. We each have examples in our families of people who did just that.

      Sure, we don’t, because we love each other and our children (you know, all that crap that all humans tell themselves ;-) as our mental “carrot”.

      We keep going for love, and to fulfill our responsibilities.

      But the “stick” of shame is never far away either.

      On my most exhausted days when I am having a hard time feeling the love; well, the fear of being mocked and shamed as “that dad who failed, who gave up, who took the easy way out and abandoned the people who needed him most” is a not-insignificant one; one that may help keep me cautious and in-line, when the temptation to do the wrong thing and take the “easy” way out grows great.

      I don’t want to be “that guy”.

      And fear of being mocked as “that guy”, helps keep me from being “that guy”.

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    • You and Freddie are talking about slightly different things, by my reckoning. Mocking Phelps is easy in part because he has few defenders. He pisses off homophobes, too, because of his stance on the military. Mocking Generic Righty Pastor can help consolidate support, but also drives opposition. In either case, though, even if you convince bystanders, you’re not going to convince Phelps himself, or GRP himself. Which is what Freddie is driving at… trying to mock the person you are debating with into submission. That is only effective, I think, under the circumstances Gach outlines.

      I do think that convincing bystanders through mockery of the opposition is effective at least in some circumstances. It depends on the matter of social leverage involved. In the “uphill climb” portion of the struggle, I tend to think it’s counterproductive. During the “mop up” stages, when you have won the struggle for the most part, I think it can be really effective in muting casual opposition, which leaves only the loudest (and often most annoying) of the opposition, which creates something of a virtuous cycle.

      Where LGBT is now, I’m not actually positive. For gay marriage, it’s definitely beyond the “uphill climb” phase. I think in a lot of the country, it is indeed “mop up” phase though in other parts of the country less so. Things are further behind on the transsexual movement, though that too is going to depend on geography.

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      • I think of it sort of like Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. At the Pre-Conventional and Conventional levels, you can get people to do what you want for a time, as long as it makes them feel superior (or at least not inferior), or as long as the social winds are blowing in your direction, but if you want steady, predictable, and lasting support, you’re going to need to entrain people with your principles.

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      • I should add that I agree with you about the targets:

        The sorts of shame and mockery Veronica is talking about works quite well, but only when you shame or mock someone from whom your target audience can distance themselves, so that they feel superior.

        This is why, even if someone feels like the targets of their satirical representations of Muhammad are aimed only at extremists, many non-extremist Muslims will be alienated as well: when you target the extremists through their religion, rather than through their extremism, you’ve made them folks who share an identity with non-extremists, not people from whom non-extremists can distance themselves, because you’ve made it about Islam, whether you wanted to or not.

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      • Ii I understand you two correctly, I think you and Chris are wrong, here: I don’t think the mockery of Fred Phelps *is* any different from what Freddie is arguing; in fact, I think it underscores his point. No one that I a aware of changes their mind when Phelps and his followers are mocked. The fact that we all mock them is because we were all already on the same page.

        I also think Veronica Dire’s point swings both ways.

        If GLBTs had been quiet and acquiescing, change would never have occurred. But if they had been uniformly uncivil as the mainstream finally started looking around and seeing that they were already all around, I doubt we’d be as far along as we are.

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      • What Todd said, the gay rights movement needed all of her children; the radicals to rock the comfortable on their foundations and awake the passive to the issues but also the moderates so that once the masses actually sat up and looked at us they didn’t find us so alien as to be beyond empathy or sympathy.

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      • Well right, but I look at this in the context of the Brenden Eich kerfuffle. The way I see it, the world where LGBT right flourish is same the world when men like Eich lose their jobs, which is to say we cannot thread the needle more fine. The world where men like him are entirely safe is one where our rights move too slowly.

        I’m not saying we achieve anything like optimal social justice, cuz we’re adaption executors not fitness maximizers, and this goes for pretty much all we do. I am saying human society is not perfectible and “always take the high road” ain’t gonna happen. It probably wouldn’t work that well anyhow.

        We of course does not mean that we shouldn’t take the high road. Be the change you wanna see and all of that.

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      • This is why, even if someone feels like the targets of their satirical representations of Muhammad are aimed only at extremists, many non-extremist Muslims will be alienated as well: when you target the extremists through their religion, rather than through their extremism, you’ve made them folks who share an identity with non-extremists, not people from whom non-extremists can distance themselves, because you’ve made it about Islam, whether you wanted to or not.

        I just want to say that that’s an excellent comment.

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    • I think the tactic of ridicule isn’t useful to change a person’s opinions. Science shows that it is exceedingly difficult to get people to receive snider their opinions.

      What the tactic of ridicule is good for is getting the undecided, whom you need for numbers, to default to your side by making the other side look ridiculous.

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  7. Ec5 — This can be summarized as “simple but robust heuristic outperforms complex parametric model.”

    Which, news at 11!

    I dislike how the article casts this as a “rule of thumb” versus “sophisticated predictive techniques”, since something can easily be billed as “sophisticated” while in fact being bad data science, particularly when they are (as it appears in this case) analytical products. In either case, I think the journalist is dumbing down this story using a shallow narrative.

    I wonder what the textbook ML classification algorithms would do on this problem? I would be surprised if a decent data scientist could not beat their heuristic with a few months of effort. (And tons of CPU.)

    (BTW, their paper can be accessed here: http://www.mediastylelabs.com/members/markus/Home/Publications_files/wuebben%20wangenheim%20JM%202008%20instant%20customer%20base%20analysis.pdf)

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  8. I1: I don’t buy for a second that Sam Biddle’s Tweets were anywhere near as ironic or contrary as he claims. Seems pretty obvious that he saw himself on the right side of an issue and did just what he accuses others of doing. He swung at the pinata, mostly for the joy of swinging.

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      • “Biddle has a pretty classic bully personality.”

        I think you just described the in-house gawker style guide. They often seem to take a stance of “If you disagree with us, you are an asshole.”

        Hamilton Nolan also seems like an asshole bully.

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  9. P4 – I’ve had the OPO for over 4 months now. Phones with similar specs were almost twice as much. I haven’t had any problems, but my coworker (from whom I received an invite) might have been bitten by some of the early QC problems. Quite a significant upgrade from my old Galaxy Nexus, which was feeling long in the tooth.

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  10. A video from the article linked in [I3]:

    One thing that the video does not get into is the question of training, of use. If I flex my biceps a lot (say, by working out or routinely lifting heavy things as a part of my job) then not only do my biceps get bigger, but the blood vessels feeding those muscles get bigger too, enabling greater blood flow to them. This is, to my understanding, what engineers describe as a “positive feedback loop,” a cycle that builds upon itself as it progresses until it reaches some other sort of limit bringing an end to the effect of the positive feedback.

    The video describes greater blood flow going to either the amgydala or the anterior cingulate cortex in conservatives and liberals respectively during decision-making processes. I wonder if this doesn’t create something of a similar physiological positive feedback loop: past use of the anterior cingulate cortex builds up expansion in the blood vessels feeding that structure within the brain, enabling easier use of it in the future, which in turn encourages use of that structure as opposed to the amgydala (or perhaps some other structure) when confronted with decisions, until some other factor in brain physiology imposes an upper limit to that feedback loop.

    (I’m kind of hoping to hear from you here, .)

    It certainly dovetails with the notion that opinions are self-reinforcing and serve as filters and lenses of information to affirm rather than refute what was believed before the information was learned, a tendency that my own (admittedly anecdotal and probably lensed) observations are congruent with.

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    • I’m a bit outside of my area of expertise, when talking about brain physiology, so it’s entirely possible that repeated use of one area to the exclusion of another results in a larger baseline blood flow to that area (that seems reasonable), but brain blood flow is not something that varies a whole lot, and the main way in which the brain changes as a result of use is in the creation, maintenance, and strengthening of neural connections (connections between different nerve cells within a brain area or between different areas).

      The way you might observe this sort of strengthening of connections is that issues that you encounter in an in-group vs. out-group context, say in politics, and which then become associated with that in-group vs out-group dynamic, will be more likely to trigger in-group vs. out-group reactions when encountered elsewhere as well.

      A good example of this is a former blogger and frequent commenter here for whom certain things that are not necessarily political, like social science generally and universities, were so deeply connected in his mind to us vs. them thinking that he automatically approached them through a partisan lens. It was exceptionally annoying, but he likely couldn’t help it.

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    • My understanding of brain development boils down to “Stuff what I heard my wife, the teacher, talk about” (it’s apparently a big thing to them).

      And from what I understand, what you’re talking about is really only done during development. (it’s why it’s good to learn a second language while you’re growing up, because it lays down the neural foundations why the brain is developing — which means it’s easier to learn a third or fourth, even if it’s later in life).

      I think that what’s more likely is how we prune and remember things — that is, we have feedback loops on what we remember and how we place them in context with other things, and how we weight experiences — which isn’t hardware but more software. It’s basically the same sort of closure argument — you tend to believe things that affirm what you already believe, which gives more weight to your current belief (more data points supporting it) which means you’re more likely to discount what strikes against your beliefs.

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  11. Ed2: A quick and pedantic note first. You can study at any law school and take any bar. Most people who go to law school in California will probably take the California bar but I had classmates who went straight home after graduation and took their home state bar and passed. A reasonably bright student should be able to pick up on all the local stuff that they missed in law school. I certainly did when I did the New York bar and New York likes to test on New York law.

    On to the substance, fewer people passed the Bar (at least the California bar) this year than in many previous years. I think the overall pass rate was 48 percent. This is a sign of lowering standards in admission so you are probably right that the Bar can save law school. Then again, pre-crash Golden Gate almost lost their accredidation because not enough people were passing the bar. Golden Gate solved this problem by instituting mandatory Saturday classes and basically turning everything into a cram school for the Bar exam.

    Ed5: This could be true but it is largely meaningless unless you can come up with a good metric of who should and should not go to college and what the people who don’t go to college should do instead. It also ignores the fact that has been pointed out by countless others that there might be fields which require university educations but are low-paying but have other intangible benefits. These can be careers in social work, art, the clergy, teaching/academics, other non-profit stuff, etc. To college or not to college is too complex a question to be solved by being based on wages alone. I also thought that one of the big things about being a college graduate is that it lowers you chance of being part of the long-term unemployment. De Boer said something on Sullivan recently against the idea of trade school as an alternative or cure-all because skilled trades are usually careers that are most likely to be part of boom and bust cycles.

    A3: Freaky! I suppose this is one of the things that can happen though but you are not likely to think about.

    A6: I do miss New York a lot but it is kind of fun to talk about being able to eat lunch outside when all my friends on the East Coast are complaining about the Polar Vortex ;)

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  12. [i1] Am I a bad person for not feeling a whole lot of sympathy for Sam Biddle?

    All the way through that, each time he was saying some version of “But now I know…,” it was hard not to think, “Dude, you always totally knew. You just didn’t give a s**t.”

    I really am a bad person.

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  13. [Ec2] – I’m pretty sure the summary here is the exact opposite of the conclusion of the article: $800 of 1976 Apple stock held until present would be worth billions; $800 of 1976 gold held until present would have done slightly better than inflation.

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  14. A4 and En3: Good thing they’ve got all those volunteers. Yesterday Kansas’s budget staff announced another $50M hit to state revenues for the current fiscal year due to oil severance taxes coming in that much below previous forecasts because of low wellhead prices. A friend of mine who has been looking at public-sector jobs recently says you have to be crazy to go to work for the state government there.

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      • The really big unknown is what happens to the state’s K-12 spending obligation, and when. The state supreme court ruled that current funding is inadequate and remanded the case to the lower court to determine the necessary increase. The number that came out of that process is on the order of $500M annually. As I understand things, the budget that Brownback introduced today assumes that the statutory basis for state K-12 funding can be changed such that the court order(s) are bypassed completely.

        As I say regularly, when state budgets have big holes, higher ed takes it on the chin. The Jindal administration in Louisiana is talking about $300M cuts to higher ed (with higher ed officials suggesting the response will be campus closings). Arizona is in a similar hole to Kansas; the Governor proposed a 10% cut in higher ed funding for the current fiscal year; if their supreme court ruling requiring an additional $350M per year in K-12 spending holds up, the higher ed cuts will be much deeper for the next FY.

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      • I was gonna mention that, . So we have the courts saying we have to raise education spending by $500M on top of a predicted budget shortfall north of $600M already. That’s over a billion dollars and Kansas isn’t a huge state. It’s so bad that other Republican governors are looking at Brownback as how NOT to do the whole conservative paradise thingy.

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  15. H4: IIRC, you can pretty much lay this at the feet of former House speaker Tom Delay. Back in the nineties he championed legislation, probably attached to some must-pass bill, that stripped the FDA of authority to regulate vitamins and other nutritional supplements. So no, there really isn’t much in the way of consumer protection against this sort of thing. But Freedom!(TM) so it’s all good you know.

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  16. En4 (and less directly, some of the other En’s): This is not, at heart, a complex question. The US knows full well how to reduce its carbon emissions to the levels of 50 years ago, but it will cost some trillions of dollars, where “some” falls between several and many. There’s little question about what the end state has will be like. There are a bunch of snake-oil salesmen out there trying to convince everyone that those trillions don’t have to be spent, because some number of the following are true: there is no warming problem, the warming isn’t due to released carbon, the reserves of fossil fuels are infinite (or sufficiently close that it’s our g’g’g’great grandchildren’s problem), there are technology miracles waiting to happen (if only the government would get out of the way, or if only the government would pick up the tab on the R&D in some preferred field, take your pick),…

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