Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | March 7, 2014

Miscellaneous Links for Friday

MtHood Sunrise

Some non-Ukraine links:

1. This seems insane: the New York Times reports that some teenage athletes are committing to colleges as early as eighth or ninth grade:

In today’s sports world, students are offered full scholarships before they have taken their first College Boards, or even the Preliminary SAT exams. Coaches at colleges large and small flock to watch 13- and 14-year-old girls who they hope will fill out their future rosters. This is happening despite N.C.A.A. rules that appear to explicitly prohibit it.

The heated race to recruit ever younger players has drastically accelerated over the last five years, according to the coaches involved. It is generally traced back to the professionalization of college and youth sports, a shift that has transformed soccer and other recreational sports from after-school activities into regimens requiring strength coaches and managers.

The practice has attracted little public notice, except when it has occasionally happened in football and in basketball. But a review of recruiting data and interviews with coaches indicate that it is actually occurring much more frequently in sports that never make a dime for their colleges.

Early scouting has also become more prevalent in women’s sports than men’s, in part because girls mature sooner than boys. But coaches say it is also an unintended consequence of Title IX, the federal law that requires equal spending on men’s and women’s sports. Colleges have sharply increased the number of women’s sports scholarships they offer, leading to a growing number of coaches chasing talent pools that have not expanded as quickly. In soccer, for instance, there are 322 women’s soccer teams in the highest division, up from 82 in 1990. There are now 204 men’s soccer teams.

It seems that the NCAA’s official rules have loopholes around which coaches, colleges, and sports clubs have built fine-tuned procedures. College coaches are prohibited from contacting the students themselves, but they can connect through club coaches and parents:

Once the colleges manage to connect with a player, they have to deal with the prohibition on making a formal scholarship offer before a player’s final year of high school. But there is now a well-evolved process that is informal but considered essentially binding by all sides. Most sports have popular websites where commitments are tallied, and coaches can keep up with who is on and off the market.

Either side can make a different decision after an informal commitment, but this happens infrequently because players are expected to stop talking with coaches from other programs and can lose offers if they are spotted shopping around. For their part, coaches usually stop recruiting other players.

As the parents and coaches in the article describe it, this seems like a textbook case of a race to the bottom and a collective action problem: the students would probably be better off if they didn’t have to make such monumental choices and commitments at age 14 or 15, and coaches say that they would prefer to wait, but no college athletic department can afford unilaterally to renounce such early recruiting.

2. When Judge Thapar sentenced the three Oak Ridge break-in anti-nuclear protesters on Feb. 18, he gave a short speech from the bench, urging the defendants and their like-minded allies to channel their hunger and thirst for righteousness into other activities that do not involve breaking the law — like organizing peace marches and writing to members of Congress. (Such locutions by the judge are fairly routine at sentencings.) Ralph Hutchison was not impressed by Judge Thapar’s speech.

3. What does it take to get a trial judge kicked off the bench? Anderson points to an instance in Indiana.

4. A little while ago, we noted a Swiss popular initiative placing restrictions on immigrants living and working in that country. Slate observes that the fallout from this initiative could include Switzerland’s exclusion from the Schengen Agreement — the treaty that allows travel without passports across the common borders of 26 European countries, from Portugal to Finland.

5. Meanwhile, Jason Brennan at Bleeding Heart Libertarians looks at the distinctions between practical objections to open borders and moral objections to open borders. Says Brennen: “Justice might require some policy, but people might be too ignorant, irrational, xenophobic, mean-spirited, nasty, rotten, misguided, silly, or whatnot, to go along with it. … When choosing among institutions or policies in the real world, we of course have to take into account compliance issues. Will people go along with the rules? Will they try to take advantage of them, or use the institutions to harm others, or rebel against the rules?”

6. Michael O’Hare, “Authorship and authenticity”: “Western critical tradition is much concerned to link works of art with the identity of the artist, so a largish industry exists to find and authenticate the authorship of paintings, music and other work. If we find out that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays we ascribe to Shakespeare, the plays won’t be any different, but people (not just English profs) really want to know the truth. This is a little odd, because we know so little about the historical Shakespeare that his biography can’t really affect our experience of the work much, but there are real insights to be gained about lots of art by knowing more about the artist and his milieu.”

7. So, 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, but Gravity won more Oscars overall.

Russell Saunders has some thoughts on the Oscars. And Jay Ulfelder says that the prediction markets did an “excellent job” of predicting Oscar winners, thereby demonstrating the wisdom of crowds.

8. Speaking of 12 Years a Slave, Erik Loomis points us to this New York Times review (pdf) of Solomon Northup’s narrative (the basis for the movie), from January 20, 1853.

9. On Gravity and the International Space Station: “after being prominently featured in the film, more than a few will be surprised to learn that ISS really exists. At the same time, they may be even more upset to learn that the Shuttle is retired. But what about the perception of those who know perfectly well that the ISS is up there somewhere, but are not really that clear on why, or what function it serves?”

10. My thoughts on some television in the new year, briefly: Season 4 of Downton Abbey was good but not great. The Walking Dead has been OK — I’ve liked a number of the new episodes, but they feel more like snacks than full meals. Season 5 of Archer has been seriously underwhelming — I worry that the show may have jumped the shark, as many shows do after the four-season mark, it seems. Justified has been decent. The new season of The Americans has been excellent — highly recommended.

11. Steve Saideman is not happy with How I Met Your Mother. (Spoilers at the link.)

12. “Appalachia: The big white ghetto”: “a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky, the last redoubt of the Scots-Irish working class that picked up where African slave labor left off, mining and cropping and sawing the raw materials for a modern American economy that would soon run out of profitable uses for the class of people who 500 years ago would have been known, without any derogation, as peasants.” (H/T: Will Truman.)

13. Blogging Hutterites: “The Hutterites are an Anabaptist group that live communally, generally avoid personal adornment (like the Amish), but that embrace technology when applied to work. Evergreen Colony, half a mile south of my parents’ farm, owned large tracts of land and farmed them with the latest equipment. But the folks living there weren’t allowed radios (though we’d hear stories of ones hidden in the equipment) and needed the Boss’s permission to make a phone call (while some of the men would sneak over to our farm to use ours). The Manitoba colonies have diversified a fair bit, with many having now moved into light manufacturing. I was rather surprised when Dad pointed me at the Hutterite blog. It’s not updated all that frequently, but I was surprised it existed at all.” (footnote omitted) (H/T: Tyler Cowen.)

14. Tod Kelly looks at a recent vote in Portland, OR, and uses that vote as a springboard to speculate about the future of the Tea Party:

Last May Portlanders voted to reject fluoridated water for reasons similar to the erroneous ones proffered by [Mark] Gietzen [a conservative activist pushing related anti-fluoridation legislation in Kansas]. In Portland’s case, though, it was the far-left liberals who led the oppositional charge. But it bears noting that the segment of Portland’s left that thought fluoride an evil conspiracy by Big Pharma didn’t have the numbers to ruin local kids’ dental health on their own. They had to reach across the aisle, and team up with far-right conservative and libertarian groups who were amenable to the suggestion that fluoridated water was an evil Big Gov conspiracy. That coalition didn’t just win, it crushed: fluoride went down at a 60-40 clip, as the emotional and passionate call to arms from the anti-science crowd resonated with the Rose City’s majority.

And so, the speculation (emphasis added): “As Tea Party members become more and more disenchanted with their GOP masters (and the GOP’s leaders distance themselves more and more from the tiger they’ve chosen to ride), something has to give. There are only two opinions I ever see the left consider on the topic of what, exactly, it is that will give. The first is the idea that a third party is somehow inevitable; the second is the notion that the GOP will stay a whites-only club and liberals will reign supreme for generations. I never see anyone consider what history says will most likely happen, which is this: the Democrats will find an excuse to absorb big chunks of the Tea Party, and liberals will go through mental gymnastics convince themselves to support tomorrow the people they now mock and despise today.”

15. Emily Bazelon thinks that liberals should stop urging Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire: she thinks that it is counterproductive and, moreover, “starts to seem a wee sexist.” Seth Masket is not impressed or convinced.

16. Ross Doubthat wrote a column (“The Terms of Our Surrender”), which prompted this Slate article by Mark Joseph Stern, which elicited this response by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, which in its turn inspired this reply by Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber (“Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry”).

All of that is preface allowing me to introduce this post by Jacob Bacharach:

This is the crux of Douthat’s complaint, not that the popular, cultural advancement of tolerance, acceptance, and understanding has eroded what he and others like to call “traditional” marriage and sexual morality, but that, having at last moved into the winners’ column after a few decades of pitched legal competition, the gay victors will now avail themselves of the coercive power of the state to mandate compliance—that adoption agencies will be forced to accept gay parents or close; that religious schools will find it that much harder to teach that it is wrong for two men to have sex with each other, two women to marry.

I’m not unsympathetic. The coercive power of any government is an extraordinary thing, and the American government is the richest and most powerfully coercive in the world. It compels us all to behaviors we find morally dubious. We are all dragooned into paying for wars and assassinations, for a vast archipelago of incarceration, for corporate welfare and bank bailouts, for dubious public works, for the excesses of legislators, ad inf. There are tens of thousands of laws on the books, and there is a fair case to be made that each of us is, in the strictest terms, a daily felon because of them. It’s bad enough when the municipal government keeps giving you extortionate tickets for alternate-side on-street parking when they don’t even bother to actually sweep the streets in the ostensible fulfilment of the rationale for the regulation; how then must it feel to have the full force and majesty of the state and Federal governments to attack the core moral tenets of your faith? However incorrect or retrograde they may appear to outsiders, you still believe.

Yes, but it would all be that much more convincing were it not for all the decades in which precisely that power was used to prop up those tenets, often cruelly, often arbitrarily, and often brutally.

As always with Mr. Bacharach, please do read in full.

17. Ann Althouse: “The left is too silent on the clunking fist of state power.”

18. If you could scrap the entire current slate of columnists for the New York Times and rebuild the columnist page from the ground up, whom would you pick as columnists?

19. Jon Western at Duck of Minerva, “Why the US Spies on Its Allies” (emphasis added):

My experience as an intelligence analyst as well as reading the extensive literature on intelligence over the years leads me to this simple conclusion: too many senior officials are seduced by the salacious details and the power trip that comes from this type of surveillance. In addition, too many senior policymakers think the higher the classification of the document and the more sophisticated the technology behind its collection, the better it is. The reality, however, is that most top secret intelligence of this type is helpful only on the margins. In fact, much of it is just plain garbage. Yet, senior policy makers routinely ask for raw signal intelligence reports even when the analytical community deems open source or general diplomatic communications to be more informative and reliable. There’s almost a voyeuristic element to it all — intelligence meets reality TV.

20. Maria Farrell has some advice on how to design a pdf version of your paper or report so that it doesn’t look like garbage when printed. Some of her points:

Don’t for the love of God include pages of solid colour, e.g. the back cover or internal dividing pages to mark the end of the section. My colour toner is EXPENSIVE and has run out twice in the past 2 weeks printing out a couple of dozen ‘design features’ such as a page of blue or a page of orange. They add NOTHING to the prettiness of your report and just make me angry as I scroll through the print preview and think ‘there goes another twenty quid to Kodak / HP / etc.’

Do not use yellow for type face. Seriously! I can’t believe an amateur like me is begging document designer people to Not Use Yellow Writing, something every eight-year old knows. It is unreadable when printed out. Frankly, it’s not that great on a screen, either. I’ve just gone through a 100 page document where every heading, table title and even the page numbers were in yellow. I have now gone officially blind and it didn’t happen in the fun way.

Put the page numbers all back on the right hand side. Sad but true, most of us cannot indeed print double-sided. Or just stick them in the middle why don’t you. Fine. But alternating left to right left to right as I re-assemble documents that the printer has sprayed on the floor is not fun. Especially when they are yellow.

Yellow type. Seriously, who does that? And as noted in the first comments, pale grey isn’t much better.

21. OK, I lied: here are some Ukraine links:

Image Credit: (1) Mount Hood at sunrise. Photo courtesy the U.S. Forest Service. Source: Wikimedia Commons. (2) Mountains cliffs near Alushta, Crimea. Photo by “Kurgus,” 2005. Source: Wikimedia Commons. (3) Cannon County Courthouse, Woodbury, Tennessee. Photo by J. Stephen Conn, November 2010. Used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.



  1. I don’t always comment on the round-up posts, but I’m grateful for them – and this was quite a herd. Thanks! (Glad you’re watching The Americans – I’m really curious to see how the leads react to Gorbachev, and since we’re only at January 1982 right now, we need enough viewers to keep the show alive a couple more seasons!)

    • The Americans is really good, and I hope that we get a few more seasons of it and that the showrunners don’t let it go off the rails like LOST. In the first episode of this season, I especially liked a scene when one of the leads was talking to a couple of Afghan mujahideen, and one of the Afghans says, “We will kill all the infidels who come to our country,” or words to that effect. I’m not sure that I physically shuddered, but mentally I did.

      The show is good enough that I can generally look past the ridiculous wigs.

      The odd thing is, one of my New Years plans was to do fewer round-up posts, but they have become a habit…

    • Someone had an article on how the wigs are the stars of the show. I don’t see how Martha’s vigorous lovemaking hasn’t dislodged Philip’s mat. Not that I expect her to survive this season anyway …

    • Of all the storylines on the show, Martha’s is the one I like the least. Can’t say I’ll be sad to see her go if this is her last season.

    • Awesome source, incredibly high-maintenance (even apart from the sex). Her character *could* use a bit more depth, as they’ve done with the Russian triple-agent.

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