Let's Get the Ben Carson Story Right

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 5:07 PM EST

I just finished a Twitter conversation about Ben Carson's Yale psychology test story, and I want to pass along a point that I think too many people don't get. The core of Carson's story isn't really about how he endured the hoax test longer than anyone else. It's about how he was more honest than the others. Here's the relevant section of Gifted Hands:

As I stared at the questions, I couldn't believe them either. They were incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

...."Forget it," I heard one girl say to another. "Let's go back and study this. We can say we didn't read the notice.".... Immediately three others packed away their papers....Soon half the class was gone, and the exodus continued.

....Within half an hour from the time the examination began, I was the only student left in the room. Like the others, I was tempted to walk out, but I had read the notice, and I couldn't lie and say I hadn't. All the time I wrote my answers, I prayed for God to help me figure what to put down. I paid no more attention to departing footsteps.

Suddenly the door of the classroom opened noisily...."What's going on?" I asked. "A hoax," the teacher said. "We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class." She smiled again. "And that's you."

But why would the hoaxsters tell him he was the most honest person in the class? To them, it was just a prank. The bit about honesty derives solely from Carson hearing the conversation behind him. This is, however, the core of his story—and no matter what else we find out, it's almost certainly been invented out of whole cloth.

Which is, of course, pretty ironic.

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Chart of the Day: Civil Asset Forfeiture Is a Moral Abomination

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 3:37 PM EST

I have never understood why civil asset forfeiture doesn't inspire more outrage. For liberals it's a plain-and-simple civil liberties issue. For conservatives, it's an out-of-control big government issue. There should be almost unanimous agreement that it's a horrific, unconstitutional practice that should be halted immediately. If police suspect that money or property has been used in the commission of a crime, they should be the ones that have to go to court to prove it. They should not be allowed to simply seize the assets and then force the victim into a Byzantine and expensive maze to get them back.

This seems self-evident. And yet, nothing other than small tweaks to the system ever get done. It's considered tough on crime, I guess, and that makes conservatives love it and liberals afraid of it. Or something.

But guess what? A few years ago the practice started getting more publicity—books, videos, training sessions, etc.—and it took off. And why not? Budgets were tight, and police departments are allowed to keep a portion of all the money they seize. How fast did it grow? A rough guide to the value of civil asset forfeitures is the net assets in the Assets Forfeiture Fund maintained by the Department of Justice. After 20 years of relatively slow growth, it suddenly exploded, going from under $1 billion in 2006 to $4.5 billion in 2014. This chart comes from "Policing for Profit," recently released by the Institute of Justice:

This is by no means a total measure of civil asset forfeitures. As the report notes, "deriving similar totals at the state level is impossible because most states require little to no public reporting of forfeiture activity." But a pretty good guess is that it amounts to $300-400 million every year.

It's a disgrace. At the very least, victims should have the right to a quick, cheap adjudication in which the police would have to present compelling evidence in order to keep the assets they've seized. But really, there's no reform that can possibly make it right. I've heard all the defenses of the practice, and they don't change the picture by much more than a hair. This is something that should be stopped, period.

This Is How Much Sugar You Should Eat, According to the FDA's New Guidelines

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 3:36 PM EST
Sugar is the devil.

The Food and Drug Administration is releasing new guidelines regarding how much sugar Americans should consume, reports NYT:

The goal is for Americans to limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, according to the proposed guidelines. For someone older than 3, that means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of it a day.

Big Sugar and a bunch of food-makers are going to freak out about this, but the truth is the new FDA recommendation is actually only half as severe as the World Health Organization's guideline, which calls for people to limit themselves to 25 grams—or six teaspoons—of sugar a day. 

By some estimates, Americans right now eat as much as 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. That is bonkers. Sugar is bad. Big Sugar spent decades—and millions of dollars—trying to conceal that fact. Added sugar has been linked to a whole slew of health issues from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. Sugar consumption is a health crisis in America and while today's move is the most severe step the FDA has taken to curtail it, it is not the first. Earlier this year the agency moved to require manufacturers to require betters sugar information on food labels

These charts show what 25 grams of sugar—which, again, is the WHO suggested maximum daily dose—really looks like:

Maybe We Should Dial Down the Cheering For Missouri's Football Players

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 1:47 PM EST

Here is Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post today:

Too often college athletes wind up in the news for reasons other than how they played—and not in a good way. But we can thank black players on the University of Missouri football team for giving us some off-field action to cheer about.

I've read at least a dozen versions of this sentiment, and I'd like to suggest that everyone reflect on this a bit before buying into it. A bunch of football players announced they'd no longer play until the university president resigned. After two months of inaction over accusations of racism on campus, he resigned almost immediately.

So, sure, good for them. But are we really happy that college football players apparently have this much power? Do we want to encourage it? We might all want to give this a bit of thought before we start cheering too hard.

Soviet-Themed Anti-Elizabeth Warren Ad Will Air During Republican Debate

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 1:16 PM EST

Liberal fans haven't been able to persuade Sen. Elizabeth Warren to make a run for president, but she'll appear at Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate on Fox Business Network—during a commercial break. As Politico's Burgess Everett reports, the conservative American Action Network will run an ad opposing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog agency that Warren created following the financial crash. Per Everett, the group is spending half a million dollars to run the ad during the debate and later this week.

The commercial paints the CFPB as a Kremlin-like bureaucratic nightmare, with Warren as the Stalinesque figure barring regular Americans from collecting loans. Warren's face is plastered on a giant red banner in the background, alongside that of CFPB director Richard Cordray. The Soviet imagery is not subtle.

"They call it CFPB," the ad's narrator ominously intones. "Washington’s latest regulatory agency, designed to interfere with your personal financial decisions: that car loan you needed, your mortgage, that personal loan. With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, those who need help the most are denied."

The CFPB has been a frequent target of attacks from conservative organizations. But while those groups like to paint Warren's brainchild as a scourge of consumers, the CFPB has fined banks for deceiving customers, fought predatory for-profit colleges, and simplified the mortgage application process.

Watch the ad:

Ted Cruz Explains Which Religions Are OK for American Presidents

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 1:12 PM EST

From Ted Cruz, explaining his own personal religious test for political candidates:

Any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander in chief of this nation.

Atheists are taking offense at this, but as I understand it, Jews don't kneel when they pray. So....I guess Cruz doesn't think Jews are fit to be president either.

That's ridiculous, of course. Cruz was just using a metaphor for praying, so Jews are OK as long as they pray every day. It's only nonbelievers who are unfit for public office.

And that's no metaphor at all. So here's my question: the press threw a fit when Ben Carson suggested that Muslims weren't fit to be president. Will they throw a similar fit now that Cruz has suggested atheists are unfit to be president? This is, of course, a rhetorical question, so there's no need to answer. I think we all know this will be treated as a meaningless pander because, you know, atheists. Who cares about them?

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2 GOP Candidates Have Reasonable Positions on Climate Change. They Won’t Be in Tonight’s Debate.

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 12:54 PM EST
Workers stand in at the candidates' podiums in preparation for Tuesday's Republican debate in Milwaukee.

If you were hoping for a reasonable discussion about science during Tuesday night's Republican presidential debates, you're probably going to be sorely disappointed. That's because the only two candidates with serious positions climate change have been excluded from the event.

Last month, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki made news when they called out their own party for rejecting the science behind climate change. "I've talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me the greenhouse gas effect is real, that we're heating up the planet," said Graham during CNBC's Republican "undercard" debate—the early-evening consolation prize for candidates who aren't polling high enough to land a spot in prime time. "It's…not appropriate to think that human activity, putting CO2 into the atmosphere, doesn't make the Earth warmer," added Pataki. "It does. It's uncontroverted."

Out of all the candidates in the crowded GOP field, Graham and Pataki also have the strongest track records when it comes to actually fighting climate change. In the Senate, Graham once sponsored a cap-and-trade bill intended to reign-in greenhouse gas emissions. As governor, Pataki helped create a regional cap-and-trade program in the Northeast. So I was excited to hear what they would have say on the issue during the debates that will air Tuesday on the Fox Business Network. Like its sister network Fox News, Fox Business is a major epicenter of climate science denial.

Unfortunately for science, Graham and Pataki won't be on stage Tuesday. Neither of them are averaging anywhere close to 2.5 percent in the polls—the threshold Fox established for the main debate. They aren't even managing the 1 percent required to participate in the undercard debate.

Instead, viewers will hear from an array of global warming deniers. Ted Cruz believes that climate change is a "pseudoscientific theory"; Donald Trump calls it a "hoax"; and Ben Carson insists there's "no overwhelming science" that it's caused by humans. Viewers will also hear from candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who was recently demoted to the undercard stage). Christie acknowledges that climate change is real but seems to oppose any realistic plan to deal with it.

Then there are the folks who will be asking the questions. Last year, Fox Business managing editor Neil Cavuto—one of the moderators for Tuesday's main debate—explained how he first became a climate change "doubter":

Here's what Trish Regan, one of the moderators for Tuesday's undercard matchup, had to say when Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) called climate change the country's top national security threat during a Democratic debate earlier this year:

So since you're not likely to hear this tonight, here's Pataki explaining why you really should believe what climate scientists are saying—and why you should vaccinate your kids, too:

PPP Uses the Power of Pyramids to Figure Out Which Republican Candidate Has the Weirdest Supporters

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 12:17 PM EST

One of the charming things about Public Policy Polling is that they have a habit of asking weird questions that no one else will. Today's example: What do you think the pyramids were built for? This is for South Carolina only, and sadly, they only asked Republicans. Still, the breakdown by candidate gives us a peek at which of them has the weirdest supporters. Results are on the right.

It's a close call, but Donald Trump's supporters seem to have the best handle on reality. Marco Rubio (!) runs away with the grain crowd, beating out even heavy favorite Ben Carson. And Jeb Bush ekes out a win from the aliens crowd. This is not, perhaps, what you would expect. I wonder why Rubio has so many supporters who believe the grain theory but none who believe the aliens theory? It is a mystery.

Tonight's GOP Debate Will Be All About Pressing Hard on Tax and Budget Proposals

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 11:46 AM EST

Tonight's Republican debate starts up at 9 pm Eastern.1 One of the moderators has some advice for the candidates:

Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo believes the Republicans are not helping themselves by whining about the moderators at the primary debates. “President Obama said it, and it was true,” she said during a conversation at the FBN offices in midtown Manhattan a few days before she takes the stage for the channel’s Nov. 10 primary debate in Milwaukee. “If these guys can’t deal with the moderators, how are you going to be able to deal with Russia and China?”

“I guess it’s become cool to slap around the moderator. That’s OK,” said Bartiromo....Her approach will include pressing the candidates for details on their tax and budget proposals. “I’m clear on where the holes may be in their plans so I can try to solicit information and help the viewer,” she said. “As far as worrying ‘what if he says this to me, what if he does that to me’ — I don’t have time for that.”

Amusingly, both of the moderators of tonight's debate used to work for CNBC, which got trashed by Republicans for its performance a couple of weeks ago. So they have an extra special incentive to show that they can do better.

Anyway, I'm eager to hear Bartiromo press the candidates on their phantasmic tax and budget proposals, and I'm especially eager to hear her ferociously attack the holes in their plans. I wonder how that's going to go?

1Of course I'll be liveblogging it. What else would I be doing with my evening? First, though, I need to figure out what channel my cable provider has consigned the Fox Business Network to. For those of you who don't get FBN, they will be livestreaming the debate on No cable subscription required.

I Can’t Stop Smiling Because of This Adorable Baby Goat Video

| Tue Nov. 10, 2015 11:31 AM EST

So your morning train was packed with halitosis-breathing psychos. You stepped over (human?) poo on the way to work. The weather is bad: Winter Is Coming. Your boss—a prick at the best of times—is breathing down your neck about this or that and just won't shut up, even though you've already done the task and it's been sitting in his inbox for a week. That Tinder date you worked yourself up about last weekend won't text back. (He said he got a new phone? But it's been days!) And now you're refusing to "take a hint." But what if you run into him at that gig next week? Listen to me. Whatever's going on right now, screw it, because the video that just came up in my Facebook feed will make you laugh and forget all the jerks:

Can't stop watching this video looool

Posted by Jeremy de Koste on Wednesday, January 21, 2015

h/t "Little Things"/Huffington Post