Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sunday Funday: War on Christmas – Racism Edition

Sunday Funday could be exclusively devoted clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Ordinarily, I would be hesitant to post Daily Show clips on back to back weeks.  However, this weeks clip is too good to miss. Fox New’s Megyn Kelly give “white Chrismas” a strange new meaning, claiming both Jesus and Santa Clause are clearly both white.  

Here this how The Daily Show video is described on the Comedy Central website:

Gretchen Carlson issues a manger danger warning, and Megyn Kelly defends Santa Claus’s historically-based Caucasian bona fides. 

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December 15, 2013 · 11:46 pm

“Understanding The Volcker Rule”

This week regulators voted to institute “Volcker Rule” as part of Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The Volcker Rule is aimed at preventing banks from making speculative investments that may jeopardize their customers.  A recent episode of The Diane Remh Show discussed the Volcker Rule, its impact and its limitations.

Here is a description of the program:

The so-called “Volcker Rule” is aimed at reining in risky trading by banks. Details on the new rule and whether it’s tough enough to prevent another financial crisis.


Michael Greenberger –  founder and director, University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security

Tim PawlentyCEO, Financial Services Roundtable. He was governor of Minnesota from 2003 to 2011.

Jim Zarrolibusiness reporter, NPR.

Janet Hook – congressional correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.


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December 14, 2013 · 11:01 am

Is Football Destroying America?

Okay, that is not quite a fair title.  However, a recent episode of The Diane Rehm Show really hammers football.  A lot has been written recently about the concussion crisis in football. This episode of The Diane Rehm Show not only discusses concussions but also how tax payers subsidize the NFL, since it is currently operated as a nonprofit (i.e. no taxes).  I must admit as a football fan there were aspects of the interview (of Gregg Easterbrook, author of “The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America“) that made me think, “What did you expect an NPR show would think of football?” However, on the whole, it is worth a listen. For anyone interest in the intersection between sports and public policy, this show discusses all of the major policy issues surrounding football on all levels. 

Here is a description of the interview: 

Monday Night Football. Super Bowl Sunday. The big homecoming day game. New Year’s college bowls. It’s hard to imagine a sport more American than football. The game hasn’t been embraced anywhere in the world quite like it has in the United States. Gregg Easterbrook, author of the new book, “King of Sports,” says without football “there would still be 50 stars on the flag … but America wouldn’t be quite the same.” But Easterbrook argues the game is in serious need of reform at all levels. Diane discusses football’s impact on America and what it will take to clean up the sport.


Gregg Easterbrook 

author, “The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America”. He is a contributing editor of “The Atlantic Monthly” and “The Washington Monthly”, and a columnist for

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December 13, 2013 · 12:28 am

Give Directly: Evidence and Poverty Alleviation

I first heard about GiveDirectly, a charity that simply gives money to people in extremely poor villages in Africa, on an episode of This American Life several months back. GiveDirectly has challenged other charities to show that their donors that are getting their bang for their buck. 

Here is a description of that story, cleverly titled “Money for Nothing and Your Cows for Free”:

Planet Money reporters David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein went to Kenya to see the work of a charity called GiveDirectly in action. Instead of funding schools or wells or livestock, GiveDirectly has decided to just give money directly to the poor people who need it, and let them decide how to spend it. David and Jacob explain whether this method of charity works, and why some people think it’s a terrible idea. (28 minutes)  


More recently, the Freakonomics Radio Podcast discussed some of the data coming in on GiveDirectly as well as poverty alleviation more broadly.  

Here is a description of the Freakonomics show, entitled “Fighting Poverty With Actual Evidence”:

But one case study can’t definitively answer the larger question: what’s the best way to help poor people stop being poor? That’s the question we address in this new podcast. If features a discussion that Stephen Dubner recently moderated in New York City with Richard Thalerand Dean Karlan. Thaler is an economist at the University of Chicago, and a co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. (Both the British and U.S. governments now have “nudge” units, focused on using behavioral economics for policy improvements.) Karlan is a professor of economics at Yale and founder of the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), which hosted the New York event. IPA, which Karlan founded, is trying to figure out how to best alleviate poverty. The answer, as you might expect, isn’t so simple. 


In some situations, giving money directly to poor people works well; in others, less so. IPA studied the efficacy of a cash-transfer experiment in Kenya run by the nonprofit GiveDirectly. For background, you might want to see how The Economist described the experiment, and also what NPR’s Planet Money had to say.

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December 12, 2013 · 1:36 am

Reflections on Nelson Mandela and New York’s Core Curriculum

On the most recent episode of WCNY’s The Ivory Tower, CNY’s finest academics discussed the death of Nelson Mandela as well as New York State’s Core Curriculum public education standards. 

Hosted by David Rubin (Dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, this edition of The Ivory Tower featured a powerhouse panel including: Lisa Dolak (Syracuse University College of Law), Bob Greene (Cazenovia College), Tara Ross (Onondaga County Community College), and Kristi Andersen (Maxwell School of Syracuse University).

Here is a description of the program:

The panelists first offer some reflections on the passing of Nelson Mandela. Then they examine the controversial Core Curriculum in New York State that is meant to improve the quality of K-12 education. It has roiled parents and teachers considerably and forced the State Education Commissioner to defend it in public forums around the state.

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December 11, 2013 · 9:56 am

What Is The Role of the Police?

This was question being explored on the most recent episode of the BBC’s Moral Maze podcast.  Given that I have been studying criminal procedure this past semester, this has been a particular relevant question.

Here is a description of the podcast:

“Plebgate”, the Hillsborough disaster, evidence of blatant fixing of crime statistics – by any standards our police have come under searching scrutiny lately and haven’t exactly come out with flying colours. So this week’s report by a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, John – now Lord Stevens – on the future of policing is certainly timely. But this is more than just a debate about numbers, structures and complaints procedures, this is a fundamental question about what our police should be for. Lord Stevens says it’s time to accept that police “are not simply crime fighters”, but they should also have a “social mission” that should be enshrined in law which would incorporate improving safety and well-being within communities. We’ve come a long way since the days of the Sweeney catchphrase “get your trousers on – you’re nicked”, but do we want our police to take on the mantle of social workers as well as crime fighters? Is this mission creep by the police, or an abdication of our own responsibility? By widening the scope of what we expect our police to police are we in danger of turning them from law enforcers, in to enforcers of social norms? And that this will lead to a subjective understanding of what society regards as right and wrong and blur the moral line between what is and isn’t a crime?

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December 10, 2013 · 11:05 am

Is The Second Amendment Antiquated?

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and University of Texas Law and Governmet Professor Sanford Levinson, who argued for the motion; and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh and David Kopel– Research Director, Independence Institute & Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

“A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” –2nd Amendment

Recent mass shooting tragedies have renewed the national debate over the 2nd Amendment. Gun ownership and homicide rates are higher in the U.S. than in any other developed nation, but gun violence has decreased over the last two decades even as gun ownership may be increasing. Over 200 years have passed since James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights, the country has changed, and so have its guns. Is the right to bear arms now at odds with the common good, or is it as necessary today as it was in 1789?

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December 9, 2013 · 10:57 pm