Shared posts

16 Aug 15:28

McDonald's proves it's impossible to live on minimum wage

by Sarah Pavis

McDonalds's partnered with Visa to make a budgeting website for their employees. On it, they included a suggested monthly budget. That seems helpful. But what's wrong with this picture?


The most egregious thing is that McDonald's admits the fact that you need a second job--on top of working full time for them--to earn enough money to hope to survive. But it's even worse than that. Robyn Pennacchia at Death and Taxes breaks it down further:

Also noticeably absent in this budget? Food. And gas. There's a line for a car payment, but not for gas. Which is suspect, because if you're working two jobs it's possible you will pay more for your gas than you'd be paying for your car.

Also... health insurance for $20 a month? There is really no such thing as health insurance for $20 a month if you're buying your health insurance on your own. I think the least amount is going to be about $215 a month- and that only covers hospital emergencies.

(via @bifurcations)

19 Jul 01:31

Questlove: Trayvon Martin and I Ain't Shit

by Jason Kottke

The Roots' Questlove has some powerful thoughts on the Trayvon Martin verdict:

I'm in scenarios all the time in which primitive, exotic-looking me -- six-foot-two, 300 pounds, uncivilized Afro, for starters -- finds himself in places where people who look like me aren't normally found. I mean, what can I do? I have to be somewhere on Earth, correct? In the beginning -- let's say 2002, when the gates of "Hey, Ahmir, would you like to come to [swanky elitist place]?" opened -- I'd say "no," mostly because it's been hammered in my DNA to not "rock the boat," which means not making "certain people" feel uncomfortable.

I mean, that is a crazy way to live. Seriously, imagine a life in which you think of other people's safety and comfort first, before your own. You're programmed and taught that from the gate. It's like the opposite of entitlement.

Reading about this case and the reaction to it has been a series of gut punches this week.

Tags: legal   Questlove   racism   Trayvon Martin
28 Jun 14:41

When my buzz starts to kick in


27 Jun 17:55

Texas Abortion Bill Is Dead. This Calls for a Celebratory Gif Party.

by Laura Beck

Texas Abortion Bill Is Dead. This Calls for a Celebratory Gif Party.

According to Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the bill is dead. That means many things, but most (least?) importantly: GIF PARTY.



25 Jun 14:36

When businesses give judges money, they usually get the rulings they want

by Dylan Matthews

You're probably pretty familiar with the way the federal government picks its judges. The president selects a nominee, the Senate confirms or rejects the nominee (or else declines to bring them up for a vote), and if the Senate confirms, then the pick gets to serve as long as he or she likes. If they serve for 15 years and make it to age 65, and aren't on the Supreme Court, they can even enjoy a genteel form of semi-retirement known as "senior status," where they get to oversee cases but don't have to work full-time.

State judicial systems don't work like that. In fact, according to a new report by Emory law professor and economist Joanna Shepherd, released by the left-leaning American Constitution Society, only three states grant lifetime tenure to judges on their highest court. Indeed, barely over half -- 28 -- rely on gubernatorial or legislative appointments for the initial selection of the highest court's judges at all; they're the states in shades of red below.

The ones in light red use "merit selection," or a system where a bipartisan commission selects a shortlist of candidates for appointment, who then sends the list to the governor, who then must pick one of the candidates from the list. Missouri's version of that system is perhaps the best known.

In the states that don't have lifetime tenure, appointed judges either have to be reappointed after a given period by the governor, legislature, or a judicial nominating committee, or they have to be retained by the people in what's called a "retention election." And in the 22 states where judges aren't initially appointed, it's elections all the way down. In fact, nine states (the ones in dark blue on the map) use partisan elections to decide the membership of their highest court.

When judges are elected, that means they have to raise campaign money — a lot of money, in fact. And the amounts in question have risen considerably in recent decades:

Shepherd explains this coincided with battles around tort reform heating up. "Elections completely changed in personality after the tort reform movement," she said in an interview. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, business interests and lawyers/lobbyists groups (for example, the plaintiffs' bar, or trial attorneys) contribute the most:

But, Shepherd notes, that only looks at direct expenditures. When you consider third-party groups that spend during campaigns, business donates much more. "The plaintiffs' bar and businesses give the same to candidates, but on independent spending, businesses dwarf plaintiffs' bar and unions and insurance companies," she says.

That means there's a chance all that business money could influence judicial outcomes. Shepherd tried to figure out whether that, in fact, happens in states with judicial elections. She and her research team compiled a dataset of every business-related state supreme court case (2,345 in total, by 439 justices), in all 50 states, decided between 2010 and 2012. She matched that up with data on the states' selection processes, the justices' political party affiliations, and the elected justices' campaign contributors.

They tallied up donations from all business groups, as well as the share of all contributions coming from business. Interestingly, partisan elections both involve bigger sums in general, and a bigger share of business contributions, than either nonpartisan or retention elections:

And Republicans get more business contributions, regardless of what election system is used:

They then culled all cases with one business litigant and one non-business litigant, and coded each judge's vote according to whether or not it would have made the business litigant better or worse off. They also controlled for a variety of factors besides business donations, such as the judge's party affiliation, the state's political leanings, and the strength of the underlying case, that might influence judges' decisions.

Shepherd finds that the percentage of donations received from business is highly correlated with a judge's rate of voting for business. Her model predicts that a justice getting 1 percent of his contributions from business would vote for business 46.5 percent of the time. But a justice getting 25 percent of contributions from business would vote in its favor 62.1 percent of the time. The effect isn't linear; after a certain point, a greater share of donations from business doesn't translate into more favorable rulings. For example, a justice with 100 percent business donations would be expected to vote for business 68.5 percent of the time -- not all that much more often than someone getting only a quarter of her contributions from business:

Shepherd also finds that this result depends a lot on both the type of election system used and the party of the judicial candidate in question. The decisions of judges facing retention elections don't seem to be influenced by the share of contributions coming from business. That makes sense, given that the rate of reelection in retention races is absurdly high. Larry Aspen, a political scientist at Bradley University, has found that of the 7,689 retention elections between 1964 and 2010, only 65 resulted in a judge not being retained; the retention rate, in other words, was 99.2 percent. By contrast, the relationship between contributions and votes is real for both partisan and nonpartisan elections, but stronger for partisan elections.

Additionally, the results are much stronger for Democrats than Republicans, for whom the relationship between decisions and contributions is statistically insignificant. This, Shepherd says, is probably because Republicans are already likelier to vote in favor of business, so Democrats are more capable of being swayed by donations.

The coefficients on both the total dollar amount of business donations and the share of donations coming from business — that is, the degree to which those affect judges' votes — grew between 1995-1998 and 2010-2012, Shepherd found.

It's easy to interpret this as a simple case of quid pro quo, where business interests are buying the outcomes they want. But it's not that simple. Perhaps businesses are just giving to candidates who already are likelier to support pro-business outcomes. Shepherd concedes that both of these factors are likely operating in this case, but argues that they're both insidious. "If you're asking, 'is interest group money affecting case outcomes?' it doesn't matter what causal pathway is doing it," she notes.

And it's worth noting that there's evidence for the first pathway. Shepherd points to other research she's done comparing the votes of judges who can't run again and face mandatory retirement to those same judges' votes when reelection was still a prospect. She and her coauthor, Michael Kang, found that retiring judges were significantly less likely to vote in favor of business. "In the last term before mandatory retirement, the favoritism toward business litigants by judges facing partisan and non-partisan elections essentially disappears," Shepherd and Kang write.

In other words judges, when they no longer need to raise money, are less likely to vote for business. That suggests that what's happening is not merely than the campaign system is selected for candidates who happen to be pro-business. At least some of what's going on is that judges, consciously or unconsciously, know they need to raise money, and help out business litigants toward that end.

The prospect of money influencing legislative outcomes is troubling enough, but the judicial system is intended to be impervious to this kind of thing. Shepherd's results suggest that, where judges are elected, that's hardly the case.

Update: This article originally said Shepherd compiled a dataset of "every state supreme court case" between 2010-2012; she actually compiled one of "every business-related state supreme court case." We regret the error.


18 Jun 21:20

Creative High Schooler Sneaks Biggie Quote Into Yearbook via Nerd Code

by Meher Ahmad

Creative High Schooler Sneaks Biggie Quote Into Yearbook via Nerd Code

Yearbook quotes are always the perfect way to catch a glimpse into the psyche of your 18-year-old self. Oh, you thought "The Boy with the Arab Strap" was the height of poetry? Did that Mahatma Gandhi quote you read in your world history book move you to the point that you always want to be remembered by it? Or were you more into a classic Walt Whitman line?



12 Jun 15:01

When people tell me that exercising helps fight fatigue





11 Jun 21:25

Arrestee DNA collection ruled constitutional: What does it mean?

by Nicole Levins




Last Monday, the Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) upheld a Maryland law that allows the collection of DNA from individuals arrested for serious crimes.

On the same day, the Urban Institute released its own research on the policies, practices, and implications of collecting DNA at arrest. Two of the studies’ authors, Justice Policy Center Senior Fellow Julie Samuels and Research Associate Dwight Pope, discussed their research and some of the implications of the Court’s decision.

What’s the status of arrestee DNA collection in the United States?

Over the past decade, there’s been a large increase in DNA profiles in the National DNA Index System (NDIS). Many are associated with individuals whose DNA was collected at arrest or charging, which is authorized through legislation passed by Congress and more than half the states throughout the country.

Though it’s been argued that the practice is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional for those arrested for serious crimes. Some states may have been waiting to see how the case was decided, so it’s possible that more will adopt arrestee DNA legislation.

In theory, collecting DNA from arrestees effectively expands DNA databases because you’re drawing from a larger population. An underlying assumption is that more DNA profiles in databases will lead to more opportunities for profiles to be linked to evidence from unsolved crimes.

Another assumption is that by collecting DNA sooner in a case—for example, at arrest—crimes may be solved faster.

Who can be subjected to DNA collection?

It depends on the state. Thirteen collect from all felonies, while fourteen limit collection to a subset of felonies, typically involving violence, sexual assault, and property crimes. Seven also collect from individuals arrested or charged with select misdemeanors. One state, Oklahoma, authorizes DNA collection at arrest from “any alien unlawfully present under federal immigration law.”

Federal law authorizes collection from all arrestees and non-US citizens detained by the US government.

What about those who are arrested, but ultimately not charged with, or convicted of, a crime?

In most states that authorize DNA collection from arrestees, individuals who are not charged or convicted may request that their DNA profile be removed from the database. It’s up to them to initiate the process, which usually requires obtaining a court order that is then sent to the laboratory.

Labs in these states have indicated that few removals (or expungements, as they’re officially called) actually occur, effectively resulting in profiles that are stored in the database for an indeterminate amount of time. 

A few laws (like Maryland’s) require the state to automatically remove an arrestee DNA profile from the database if the individual isn’t charged or convicted. Automatic expungement can be resource-intensive for laboratories, as they are generally responsible for tracking case outcomes in these states.

What are some of the challenges to implementation?

The two biggest challenges are costs and time, with most of the burden falling on the state labs, which will need to hire and train new staff, change existing processes, and train collection agencies. Implementation will likely also result in more administrative work, such as verifying sample eligibility, identifying duplicate submissions, and monitoring compliance.

Is arrestee DNA collection actually worth it? Does it result in more convictions?

It’s hard to say. Most states do not reclassify arrestee profiles as convicted offender profiles upon conviction. A match—or hit—linking an arrestee profile to crime scene evidence may occur after the individual has been convicted and would have submitted a sample anyway. At the NDIS level, the FBI does not yet report data on hits associated with arrestee profiles.

Most states that provided data for this study indicated the number of hits associated with arrestee profiles, but they didn’t break down the data further to identify how many were associated with profiles from arrestees who were not subsequently convicted, or how many occurred between arrest and conviction.

Two states were able to determine the number of hits attributed to arrestee profiles that would not have occurred—or would have occurred later—if DNA was only collected upon conviction. In these states, arrestee profiles did increase the number of resulting hits, investigations aided, and successful prosecutions.

DNA image from Shutterstock.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
11 Jun 19:02

When my mom asks me why I'm still single


Why does this gif exist?!?! Did AC really do that? I'm entranced.

10 Jun 21:38

Hillary Clinton basically just announced her candidacy on Twitter

by Alexandra

Kind of.

Clinton joined Twitter today, amassing over 70,000 followers in an hour. Her first and thus far only tweet ended “#tweetsfromhillary,” a clever nod to her own meme, but it’s her bio that caught our attention.

"Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD..."

If you have the chance to be the first female president but actually plan to spend the rest of your life watching “Love It or List It,” “glass ceiling cracker, TBD…” is not how you present yourself to the world.

10 Jun 21:07

Helpful Timeline

by Josh Marshall

I don't agree with some of what's implicit in it. But this timeline of expanding government surveillance law going back almost 40 years is very helpful. Prepared by Propublica.


10 Jun 20:19

Stop Smiling At Work ASAP: Cheerful Women Are Considered Less 'Professional'

by Anna Breslaw

I'll get on this right now.

Stop Smiling At Work ASAP: Cheerful Women Are Considered Less 'Professional'

[x] Let the river run.