Friday links! Batting average of empathy edition

Nolan Ryan punches Robin Ventura in the head during a 1993 baseball game.

Nolan Ryan punches Robin Ventura in the head during a 1993 baseball game.

What is the failure rate of empathy? Surely it is among the most powerful forces in human motivation, but no one would say that it works every time. So what is empathy’s average? .750? .250? Ted Williams batted .344, and he’s in the hall of fame. It would not be ridiculous to suggest that even a top-shelf impulse like compassion wins fewer than half the days. Are we prepared to accept that for every anonymous kidney donor, two people crowd the gate before their boarding group is called? Today is Friday, and that which makes us human only works some of the time. Won’t you grudgingly share resources with me?

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Want to cut welfare? Get serious about enforcing child support

Montana Rep. Art Wittich (R-Belgrade) declines to sponsor your fun run.

Montana Rep. Art Wittich (R-Belgrade) declines to participate in your knock-knock joke.

I will never get tired of this picture of Art Wittich. The 2015 session of the Montana legislature is his time: very conservative Republicans control the House, and they are putting forward all manner of thrilling ideas. Wittich is head of the House Human Services Committee, which last month subpoenaed state aid workers to share anecdotes about fraud and abuse, so you know he’s looking for ways to cut welfare costs. He can have this idea for free: if you want to spend less on welfare, make people pay child support. The majority of TANF recipients are single mothers, and 40% of food stamp beneficiaries in Montana are children of single mothers. Only 41% of single parents receive their legally mandated child support payments each month. That amounts to a massive shift in financial responsibility from parents to the state—not by welfare moms, but by deadbeat dads. Stronger child support enforcement should appeal to both parties: if more single moms actually got their child support, fewer would need welfare to get by. And if there were no financial advantage to abandoning their children, fathers might do it less. What we have here is a moral solution to a budget problem. It supports traditional family structures and saves the state money. Republicans in the Montana legislature should jump on this idea with both feet. You can read about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links. In the meantime, consider who is a bigger drain on society: welfare moms or the dudes who left them?

Tester’s correction on timber litigation also turns out to be wrong

Sen. John Tester stands before one of three backdrops available to Montana politicians (flag, snowmobile)

Sen. Jon Tester stands before one of three backdrops available to politicians in Montana (flag, snowmobile.)

Last week, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) told Montana Public Radio that “every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation—every one of them.” He was speaking in support of Secure Rural Schools funding, which provides payments in lieu of taxes to counties that contain large tracts of federal land and depend heavily on logging. Fortunately, Tester was wrong. Only 14 of 97 timber sales in Montana are currently under litigation, and only four of those have stopped logging. Tester’s office issued a correction the next day, saying that “nearly half of awarded timber volume in fiscal year 2014 is currently under litigation.” That also turned out not to be true.

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Judge strikes down mayor’s ban on “reason station” in city hall

Warren, MI mayor Jim Fouts swallows a crab that was holding a Vicodin

This is seriously the best available picture of Warren, MI mayor Jim Fouts.

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Jim Fouts, the mayor of Warren, Michigan, was wrong to deny resident Douglas Marshall’s request to set up a “reason station” in the atrium of City Hall. Marshall submitted his application in response to a prayer station that Fouts authorized for the same atrium, presumably so that people could file property tax assessments without missing their hourly prayers of intercession. You know—basic city services. I mention this story partly because it’s fun to watch municipal governments fail to close the separation between church and state, but mostly because Fouts’s original letter denying Marshall’s application is a masterpiece of bad reasoning. Excerpt after the jump.

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New York Times, not Buzzfeed, on what you learn in your 40s

The Fed announced continued quantitative easing for the third quarter. You won't believe what happened next.

This Fed chair announced quantitative easing. You won’t believe what happened next.

Last year around this time, the internet briefly worried/hoped that the New York Times innovation report would lead the paper to become more like Buzzfeed. That didn’t happen—or did it? The Gray Lady has not become obsessed with viral stories or replaced page A1 with its Twitter feed, but it did run a Sunday op-ed titled What You Learn in Your 40s. It’s nice. Its premise is also remarkably similar to this Buzzfeed listicle, or this one, as well as this one and these. The difference is that the Times essay is built around a tone of humorous reflection rather than GIFs from Friends, and it’s about being 40 instead of 20.

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