Category Archives: Weekly Links

Saturday Links 20-Jan-2018: Spotted Toad on Opiods, Amazon HQ2 as tech monopoly marketing, Blue Planet II

1. More people should read and follow Spotted Toad to learn about the Opioid Crisis. Yes it’s true. Someone is writing about the Opioid Crisis under the pseudonymous handle Spotted Toad. As he(?) noted on twitter this week: Lol, US Senators are holding public hearings based on blog posts they read from “Spotted Toad”. AndIf this had happened under my own name it would be the Most Important Thing That Ever Happened To Me but fortunately it’s all under a ridiculous pseudonym.

Mr Toad (if you will) has written extensively about the correlation between the rising intensity of the Opioid crisis and the rollout of expanded Medicaid, part of Obamacare and the ACA. Wait! I know this kind of thing can be easily mishandled, making people angry. That’s not my goal. We all know Obamacare/ACA can be a tribal political indicator. Some on the right believe you can say no good about it. And some on the left believe you can say no bad about it. Lest you help your enemy. Sigh. Which is precisely why I think Spotted Toad should be given his due, especially if you support the ACA. He’s saying supporting the ACA is fine! (Nuance warning). But there can be unintended downsides to even a good thing. Here’s the chart, a version of which Republicans showed in congress:

From Mr Toad’s post:

Senator Ron Johnson held a public hearing  and issued an accompanying report yesterday on unintended consequences of Medicaid expansion on the opioid crisis. You can read discussions of the event ranging from Vox’s condescending dismissal, to ThinkProgress’s righteous indignation, to Newsweek and the LA Times‘s tendentious rebuttals, to a fairly sympathetic writeup from USA Today, and a standard he-said she-said from the Washington Post.

Since I believe, I think without much delusion, that I started this ball rolling last March and have kept it rolling pretty well since then, I obviously don’t have a totally dispassionate view. Even so, I recognize there are multiplefairly  strong lines of argument against Medicaid playing a significant causal role in the divergence between expansion and non-expansion states. However, the basic fact is that there is a very large divergence to explain.


Look, I’m just a pseudonymous coward, and as I’ve said before, I’m not a public health expert or an expert in addiction and recovery or pharmaceuticals. I very well may be wrong in arguing that the Medicaid expansion had a large, causal effect on overdoses. However, the failure of a single academic public health expert to make a good faith effort to grapple with the existence of a very large divergence as a plausible effect of the ACA expansion and recognize it as an important empirical puzzle rather than an easily dismissed partisan claim is deeply disturbing to me. The ability of almost every single high-status news organization similarly to treat this as just “another case of those wacky Republicans grasping at straws” rather than a serious hypothesis with multiple competing explanations is equally depressing. The anti-empirical turn in America is real.

Prince and (revealed this week) Tom Petty both died of opioids. It’s devastating. So anyone who helps shed light on what’s going on is doing good work. And for that, I’d recommend following Spotted Toad on twitter, or reading his blog.

2. Amazon creating a second headquarters sure seems like a very successful ploy to lobby for less tech monopoly regulation. As I mentioned on twitter last year:

Maybe I’m just cynical. But we saw another zillion news stories this week on which cities made the top 20 Amazon HQ2 shortlist. Who’s in. Who’s out. It’s American Idol for pundits, with Amazon as the idol. Betting markets say Boston is the favored choice. So if Amazon picks Washington D.C. instead, giving Amazon more access to lobby against monopoly tech regs, I’ll claim I was right on what’s behind this. And really. You have to hand it to Jeff Bezos regardless of where HQ2 is finally located. It’s been an absolutely brilliant and successful marketing campaign already. Genius.

3. The craft beer revival is the strangest, happiest economic story in America. Really enjoyed this piece by Derek Thompson. He argues the craft beer revival is a showcase for how small companies focused on providing artisanal products make for an excellent economic growth model. Plus craft beer is quite tasty, if I do say so.

4. Reaction to Trump adultery is a sign of the political parties swapping roles on being prudish. Michelle Goldberg’s piece was the most interesting one I read on the Donald Trump/Stormy Daniels 130k payout.  In particular this point:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the right’s tacit embrace of a laissez faire approach to sexuality — at least male, heterosexual sexuality — coincides with attempts on the left to erect new ethical guardrails around sex.

In the 1990s, many feminists defended untrammeled eros because they feared a conservative sexual inquisition. Elements of that inquisition remain; attacks on reproductive rights have grown only more intense. Still, Trump has reconciled reactionary politics with male sexual license. In doing so, he’s made such license easier for feminists to criticize.

5. Moses Farrow on Woody Allen allegations. Previously I’d leaned toward believing Woody Allen had molested Dylan Farrow, based on Dylan’s testimony. But this book excerpt changed my mind. Now I’m unsure, or perhaps lean a bit towards believing Woody Allen may be innocent. Moses Farrow claims Mia Farrow was an extremely manipulative parent, and it’s utterly convincing.

6. 2018 will be a good year for twitter. So argues M.G. Siegler: “I think Twitter is going to have a good year in 2018, while Facebook has a bad one.” FWIW, agree. Also, don’t miss this wonderfully spot on parody (note the March 2018 tweet dates) of The 29 Stages Of A Twitterstorm In 2018.

7. Blue Planet II Is the Greatest Nature Series Of All Time. So claims Ed Yong, who has watched and ranked all 79 episodes of Attenborough’s documentaries. So I’m good. Blue Planet II was released last year in the UK. But starts in the US today (Saturday, Jan 20). I’ve set my DVR. Should be awesome to watch with the family. Looking forward to it.

Saturday Links 13-Jan-2018: CES and Apple, Facebook newsfeed, IQ genomics, Star Wars

1. Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Apple.  Here’s a good piece on the continuing rise of voice interface at CES. My favorite CES read was by Ben Bajarin (link), who begins with the unfortunately necessary caveat “For the record, Apple is not doomed.” Then gets to his primary point:

Gone are the days of Apple’s presence, or observably “winning” of CES, even though they are not present. It was impossible to walk the show floor and not see a vast array of interesting innovations which touched the Apple ecosystem in some way. Now it is almost impossible to walk the floor and see any products that touch the Apple ecosystem in any way except for an app on the iOS App Store. The Apple ecosystem is no longer the star of CES but instead things like Amazon’s Alexa voice platform, and now Google’s assistant voice platform is the clear ecosystem winners of CES.

Continue reading Saturday Links 13-Jan-2018: CES and Apple, Facebook newsfeed, IQ genomics, Star Wars

Saturday Links 06-Jan-2018: Meltdown, Tabby’s dusty star, live tweeting Fox, aDNA from Alaska

links 06-Jan-2018
image source

I plan to write a links-with-commentary blog post every Saturday in 2018. Today being the first one. I’ll keep these newsletter style casual, with minimal edits. Hopefully that will increase the chance I’ll post every Saturday this year. Mostly I’ll pull from what I’ve recently shared on twitter.

Continue reading Saturday Links 06-Jan-2018: Meltdown, Tabby’s dusty star, live tweeting Fox, aDNA from Alaska