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Lichens are weird

July 22, 2016

According to this fun article, they are a three-way symbiosis, not two-way. I haven’t chased down the cites. But wouldn’t be surprised.

Economics or not?

July 21, 2016

David Brooks points out that people naturally are caring, unlike homo economicus. Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer criticize the classical notion of market equilibrium and how that is used in political debate.

Turkey vs. its educated elite

July 20, 2016

It looks like the failed coup signals Erdogan’s victory over Kemalism. Populism and social conservatism prevail. Alas. The purges subsequent are unsurprising. And now, the ban on academics traveling abroad. The ones smart and footloose will take that as their cue to exit.

Crime, police, and trust

July 19, 2016

For a few decades, Americans have enjoyed long-term declines in crime and homicides. Some large cities may see a bump up this year — we won’t know for certain until next year. If there is a “Ferguson effect,” though, it may have more to do with a breakdown in trust between people and police, than with police withdrawing enforcement. One of the things that breaks that trust is when policing is run as a revenue center, in a fashion than indentures the poor. That previous link is from last year, but well worth reading.

Slate discusses the difficulty of sussing out evidence of racial bias in law enforcement. But as that Mother Jones article suggests, those researchers may be looking in the wrong place. It might be the larger problems are systemic, rather than with how police act in the field.

Trump, Hitler, Erdogan, Hitler, Godwin

July 18, 2016

Adam Gopnik fears that Trump is a threat to the constitutional order. I agree Trump sits at the far end of authoritarianism in our political spectrum and would make a terrible president. But he is no Hitler. Hitler had a plan. Hitler wrote a book. Trump couldn’t write a book without a ghost writer. Who now regrets that partnership. As the ghost writer says about Trump, “my 2-year-old grandson has a longer attention span.”

Erdogan wants to be like Hitler. My old college buddy Mike — and now a civil liberties lawyer — was smart enough to figure out that every internet conversation sooner or later references Hitler.

Grackles aren’t that smart

July 15, 2016

The great-tailed grackle isn’t that smart. Just adaptable. (Cite.)

Baby, it’s cold outside

July 14, 2016

One of the well-known issues faced by those who have done any degree of venturing is that it becomes harder to make good decisions when you are some combination of physically tired, hungry, cold or hot, in pain, and have been coping with a series of events that went off-plan. You reach the point where forcing yourself to think through a problem requires as much effort as doing something physically strenuous. That eventuality is a large part of what drives people planning a week in the woods or at sea to think so hard beforehand about every little matter and eventuality — they are trying to minimize what decisions they have to make when doing so is more difficult.

So I find quite plausible the theory that the poor make poor decisions partly from similar struggle.

Kudos to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, for looking at the exigencies of homelessness partly from the perspective of the homeless. I doubt it will — or should! — keep David Magadini out of jail. But the principle decided seems in the right direction.


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