Monday, May 26, 2014

The crushing blunder: the lead/crime-rate connections [feedly]

Steps For Salem:

1. Crash program to identify and replace any remaining lead-painted windows in Salem (where there are still far too many).

2. Ban the sale of leaded gasoline at the McNary Field and assess a stiff penalty to any plane burning it that lands in Salem.

More useful discussion of the (under-discussed) lead-crime-rate connections
// Sentencing Law and Policy


For centuries it has been clear that lead is a potent poison. At extreme concentrations, lead poisoning causes anemia, blindness, renal failure, convulsions, abdominal spasms, insomnia, hallucinations, chronic fatigue and, ultimately, death. But only in the past four decades have researchers learned that lead exposure can severely damage the cognitive development of children, even at modest levels that produce no physical symptoms. And only through modern scanning technology have we learned that the lead molecule is perfectly designed to cripple young minds in ways that not only lower IQ, but also damage the very parts of the brain that oversee aggression, self-regulation, attention and impulse control.

As Kim Cecil, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, recently explained to the Chemical & Engineering News, "These are the parts of the brain that say, 'Ooh, I've learned from before that I shouldn't steal that, or if I do this, then the consequences are that.'" Even moderate levels of lead in the bloodstream of an infant or toddler significantly increase the odds that he will suffer behavioral disorders in childhood, and will engage in delinquency and criminal behavior later on. (Lead seems to affect boys more than girls.) A study published in 2008 tracked 250 children born in low-income Cincinnati neighborhoods between 1979 and 2004. It found that children with elevated levels of lead exposure (either in utero, or in early childhood) were significantly more likely to be arrested for both violent and nonviolent crimes than children with lower lead exposure. Earlier studies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh also found a significant correlation between early childhood lead exposure and later conduct problems....

[T]he strength and consistency of the findings linking lead exposure and crime trends, plus the wealth of corroborating evidence from other disciplines (such as brain imaging studies and longitudinal studies of small population samples in selected cities) creates what Kevin Drum, a widely-cited blogger and journalist who has written extensively on the lead-crime connection, calls "an astonishing body of evidence."...

"We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level," writes Drum. "Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century." . . . 

Great post on the messy reality hidden by smooth statistics (Pacific Standard)

How Well Do Teen Test Scores Predict Adult Income?
// Miller-McCune Online

. . .

If someone told you that the test scores people get in their late teens were highly correlated with their incomes later in life, you probably wouldn't be surprised. If I said the correlation was -.35, on a scale of 0 to 1, that would seem like a strong relationship. And it is. That's what I got using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. I compared the Armed Forces Qualifying Test scores, taken in 1999, when the respondents were aged 15-19 with their household income in 2011, when they were 27-31.

Here is the linear fit between between these two measures, with the 95 percent confidence interval shaded, showing just how confident we can be in this incredibly strong relationship:


That's definitely enough for a screaming headline, "How Your Kids' Test Scores Tell You Whether They Will Be Rich or Poor." And it is a very strong relationship—that correlation of 0.35 means AFQT explains 12 percent of the variation in household income.

But take heart, ye parents in the age of uncertainty: 12 percent of the variation leaves a lot left over. This variable can't account for how creative your children are, how sociable, how attractive, how driven, how entitled, how connected, or how white they may be. To get a sense of all the other things that matter, here is the same data, with the same regression line, but now with all 5,248 individual points plotted as well (which means we have to rescale the y-axis):


Each dot is a person's life—or two aspects of it, anyway—with the virtually infinite sources of variability that make up the wonder of social existence. All of a sudden that strong relationship doesn't feel like something you can bank on with any given individual. Yes, there are very few people from the bottom of the test-score distribution who are now in the richest households (those clipped by the survey's topcode and pegged at three on my scale), and hardly anyone from the top of the test-score distribution who is now completely broke. . . 

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as "How Well Do Teen Test Scores Predict Adult Income?"

How Well Do Teen Test Scores Predict Adult Income? was first posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

The United States Needs a Slavery Museum [feedly]

The United States Needs a Slavery Museum
// Miller-McCune Online


The media frenzy has (mostly) died down and the reporters have left the ranch, but Cliven Bundy's brief time in the spotlight forced many to take a closer look at certain realities of American belief. The rancher, who initially drew attention through his refusal to obey federal grazing laws, used his 15 minutes to air his view that perhaps African Americans were better off when they were enslaved.

Horrifying though Bundy's remarks were (and he did receive a fast rebuke from some of those who had initially sided with him), he's not the only one who has shared this opinion publicly in recent years. In March, Arizona congressional candidate Jim Brown wrote on his Facebook page that "Basically slave owners took pretty good care of their slaves and livestock and this kept business rolling along." Last year, Walter Block, who holds an endowed chair at Loyola University, wrote the following in an article on "Otherwise, slavery wasn't so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory."

What this kind of commentary tells us is deeply disturbing: That we as a nation have failed to educate ourselves about the institution of slavery, and what's more, that there are Americans who refuse to accept it as the United States' original sin. To begin to address this ignorance, we need a national museum dedicated to slavery in America—its reality, its history, and its long-lasting effects. . . . (More at link)

Individuals who visit museums, it has been noted by recent research, develop increased historical empathy and have higher levels of tolerance than those who do not.

Pretty good to-do list for US

James Howard Kunstler has a pretty good to-do list at the end of his Monday rant this week.  Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley would benefit greatly from such a sane approach along these lines, an end to chasing the destructive fantasy of auto sprawl fueled "growth" and sending wealth abroad in an effort to keep building the house of cards on the backs of sweatshop slaves in China and elsewhere.


There's a long and comprehensive To-Do list that has been waiting for us since at least 2008, when the nation received one forceful blow upside its thick head. We refuse to pay attention. First item on the list: restructure the banks. Other items: reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act; disassemble the ridiculous "security" edifice under the NSA; upgrade the US electric grid; close down most of our military bases overseas (and some of our bases in the USA); draw up a constitutional amendment re-defining the alleged "personhood" of corporations; fix the passenger railroad system to prepare for the end of Happy Motoring; rebuild Main Street commerce to prepare for the death of WalMart and things like it; outlaw GMO foods and promote local food production; shut down casino gambling.

Politics Is More Broken Than Ever—Political Scientists Need to Admit It

What we know from our research is that there is no easy way out of the mess we are in.

Change our institutions to fit our new-style parties? Beyond reining in the filibuster, this would entail far-reaching constitutional reform that is likely to remain in the realm of intellectual debate.

Alter the electoral system to produce somewhat less polarized parties? There are lots of ideas worth pursuing in the states, but short of major changes such as compulsory voting or some form of proportional representation, the evidence suggests that they would produce at best modest results.