Map of the day

Via Nate Cohn.  Draw your own conclusions.  Actually, lots of great stuff from Cohn you should read, but the maps are a good start.

trump1 Trump2

 

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox’s Amanda Taub has come to the same conclusion as me… Trump is using “political correctness” as an excuse for just being a jerk.

2) When you consider how common wisdom teeth extraction is, it almost has to be an overused medical procedure (I had mine out when I was 23 and it took me out of commission for the better part of a week).  What I really want to know is what are the outcomes in poor countries where people are not routinely having these teeth removed (though, surely there’s a lot of confounds with that).  Still, I cannot believe this many Americans have been this poorly served by evolution.

3) Loved this column on how the lead in Flint problem is a direct result of “small government” ideology.

4) Really interesting summary of a new book that focuses on American slavery as a slave breeding industry.

5) Michael Tesler on what a new poll shows about the populist appeal of Trump.

6) NPR story on the new research finding systematic bias against women in teaching evaluations.  I don’t doubt this is a genuine problem we should think about, but I’m still waiting for professors who get good evaluations to say they are worthless and professors with poor evaluations to admit maybe there is some value to them:

“That the situation is Really Complicated,” Philip Stark writes in an email to NPR Ed, and, he adds, it won’t be easy to correct for it. In fact, the authors titled their paper “Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness.”

These results seem pretty damning, but not everyone is convinced.

Michael Grant is the vice provost and associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He says there’s a lot of research supporting the effectiveness and usefulness of student evaluations.

“There are multiple, well-designed, thoughtfully conducted studies that clearly contradict this very weakly designed study,” he says, citing this study from 2000 andthis study conducted at his own university. His personal review of student ratings from one department at CU Boulder over nine years did find a bias in favor of men, he says, but it was very small — averaging 0.13 on a 6-point scale.

7) Teller of Penn & Teller was a high school Latin teacher before becoming a famous magician.  His take on how teaching is like performing magic.

8) Some common-sense recommendations for being more humane with how we wean cows.  Good for the cows; good for the farmers; good for the conscience of conflicted meat-eaters.  We really should do far more to ensure that our meat food supply is generated in a humane manner.

9) Really interesting piece on the evolution of single-sex bathrooms:

Today’s most-prominent arguments against inclusive restrooms are remarkably consistent with the Victorian notions that led to sex-segregated bathrooms in the first place. When the ideology of separate spheres for male and female, public and private, the market and the home reigned, the growth of women’s presence in public life led to the desire to protect women from the crude dangers of the male world. Among the legal effects was the 1873 Supreme Court holding in Bradwell v. Illinois that it was not unconstitutional for a state to deny women admission to the bar on the basis of their sex, with a famous concurring opinion that stated, “Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.” The same separate-spheres paternalism led to the designation of certain physical spaces for women apart from those for men, including bathrooms in public venues. These were safe spaces, if you will, tucked in a world in which women were vulnerable. As our society is currently experiencing a resurgence of paternalist concern about women’s sexual vulnerability—especially in the context of that great equalizer, education—it is no surprise that there would also be a new emphasis on the Victorian phenomenon of separate restrooms.

10) Great story on the Virginia Tech professor who was crucial to uncovering the Flint water problems.

11) I’m planning on reading Neurotribes and I expect to learn a lot from it.  That said, based on articles about the book and interviews with the author, the book seems to very much elide how substantially and severely very many people and families are affected by autism.

12) Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on foreign policy of Republican presidential aspirants:

Robert Gates , a Republican stalwart and former US defence secretary who served under eight presidents, has derided the party’s election candidates for a grasp of national security issues that “would embarrass a middle schooler”.

An ex-CIA director who first joined the White House under Richard Nixon, Gates joked that if frontrunner Donald Trump wins the presidency, he would emigrate to Canada. He condemned the media for failing to challenge candidates from both parties on promises he believes are unaffordable, illegal or unconstitutional.

“The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler,” Gates said of the Republican contenders at a Politico Playbook event in Washington on Monday . “People are out there making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable. Either they really believe what they’re saying or they’re cynical and opportunistic and, in a way, you hope it’s the latter because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying.” [emphasis mine]

13) Can’t say I’m all that surprised to learn that exercise far surpasses all other treatments in effectively reducing back pain.

14) Loved this John McWhorter piece on how it is not at all simple to separate a language from a dialect.  I had no idea.  It’s been sitting in an open tab deserving it’s own post for too long:

I have a Swedish pal I see at conferences in Denmark. When we’re out and about there, he is at no linguistic disadvantage. He casually orders food and asks directions in Swedish despite the fact that we are in a different country from his own, where supposedly a different “language”—Danish—is spoken. In fact, I’ve watched speakers of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian conversing with each other, each in their own native tongues, as a cozy little trio over drinks. A Dane who moves to Sweden does not take Swedish lessons; she adjusts to a variation upon, and not an alternate to, her native speech. The speakers of these varieties of Scandinavian consider them distinct languages because they are spoken in distinct nations, and so be it. However, there is nothing about Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian in themselves that classifies them as “languages;” especially on the page, they resemble each other closely enough to look more like dialects of one “language.”

15) Nice Pew summary with cool charts of demographic trends affecting politics.

16) Good piece on how Trump represents a disappearing America from Heather Digby Parton.

17) I want my genetically-modified mosquitoes!  A great way to fight mosquito-borne disease, but facing great resistance from un-trusting populations.  Yes, there’s uncertainties and things could go wrong.  If I lived in an area where people were regularly facing death and debilitation from tropical disease, I’d take the chance.

18) Just finished re-reading Animal Farm for the first time in about 30 years.  What an absolutely delightful and brilliant book.  My only complaint is that it was too short– I didn’t want it to end.

19) Nice Wonkblog summary on what scientific research can tell us about marijuana.  Short version: not a lot to worry about.  There is a reasonable debate to be had about legalizing drugs such as heroin and cocaine (and I’m increasingly of the legalize everything perspective), but with marijuana, it’s hardly even a reasonable debate anymore.  In a country where alcohol is legal, it is preposterous that marijuana is not. Also, the Wonkblog post on the research suggesting that marijuana does not, after all, affect IQ from teenage use (not that I’ll be giving it to my own teenagers any time soon).

20)And your Sunday long-read– terrific piece from John Judis on Trump, Sanders, and the meaning of populism in America.

We’ve got addiction all wrong

So, as mentioned, I’m reading a terrific book on the War on Drugs called Chasing the Scream by Johan Hari.  As evil and stupid as I already thought the war on drugs to be, I know realize it is even far more evil and stupid than I had already realized.  I truly think 100 years from now, society will look back on this with a “what the hell where people thinking?!”  Among the most compelling sections of the book is on the science of addiction and how our basic models of addiction seem to be largely wrong.  It’s not that drugs ruin lives (they do), but that people with ruined lives turn to drugs.  The vast majority of people who use most drugs– including opiates– never become addicted.  That should tell us something, but we cling to this model of purely physical addiction.  (Now, go and read that Rat Park comic I linked in quick hits).  Hari has a nice piece at HuffPo summarizing all the evidence on addiction.  Well worth your time to read:

If you still believe — as I used to — that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander’s theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.

This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection…

But the Office of the Surgeon General has found that just 17.7 percent of cigarette smokers are able to stop using nicotine patches. That’s not nothing. If the chemicals drive 17.7 percent of addiction, as this shows, that’s still millions of lives ruined globally. But what it reveals again is that the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.

This has huge implications for the one-hundred-year-old war on drugs. This massive war — which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool — is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction — if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction — then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction. For example, I went to a prison in Arizona — ‘Tent City’ — where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (‘The Hole’) for weeks and weeks on end to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record — guaranteeing they with be cut off even more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

Great stuff.  And huge implications for how we think about what we do with drugs.  Also, a nice TED talk on the matter if you are so inclined.

Quick hits (part I)

Lots of good stuff.  Let’s go!

1) A friend with a nice piece on the true story behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

2) Bill Ayers on America’s fear problem:

I make this point because the gap between the macro-level facts and our fears is enormous and seems to be growing larger. Contrast this to past periods in history when people were legitimately frightened of important things. In the early 1800s, for example, there was a worldwide epidemic of crop failures and famines (caused, as it turns out, by amassive volcanic eruption in the South Pacific that was barely noticed at the time). Thousands died of starvation, millions became refugees, and the political and cultural landscape of much of the world was rewritten. In Europe, authoritarianism made a comeback against the early revolutionary gains of the Enlightenment as people decided that freedom could be sacrificed for food and safety.

Compare that world to our time – and then to the rhetoric we hear every day. Donald Trump and Daesh do share something in common – they have found ways to elevate people’s fears, to paint a picture of a world gone not just wrong but horribly wrong, so wrong that radical and formerly unthinkable action must be taken. These dystopian views are so far removed from reality that those of us who don’t share them are left shaking our heads at the insanity of it all.

3) Vox on how America’s lead problem is far more than Flint.

4) Why are humans the only animals with chins?  (Who knew?!)  Good question.

5) On Rubio’s blinders when it comes to Cuba policy.

6) Texas 8th grader suspended for helping classmate during a serious asthma attack.  The people who did the suspending and the teacher who wanted to wait for the school nurse to answer an email should be out of jobs.

7) I’ve probably linked this before, but I was reminded of it in a conversation with a student the other day.  I first came across it in an article proclaiming it the best TV ad ever.  It sure is damn good.

8) Nice Molly Ball piece on why so many in the Republican Party loathe Ted Cruz:

But a Republican policy expert close to a number of top GOP operatives and donors insisted it’s not about Cruz’s style or his positions. It’s his disingenuousness—and inability to produce results. “He knows his tactics are bound to fail, but pursues them to debase his Republican colleagues under false pretenses and endear himself to the base as the only authentic conservative,” said the expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he runs an organization that does not endorse candidates. But the effort doesn’t result in smaller government or the end of Obamacare—all it achieves is drawing attention to Cruz. “He is incapable of delivering anything but theater,” the expert added.

9) A Pennsylvania judge was sentencing teenagers to jail in a money-making scheme.  Seriously.  Now that he’s been caught, that judge should never leave prison again.  I’d let out several drug dealers to make room for him.

10) How Jimmy Carter made the Iowa Caucuses what they are today.

11) If only we could regulate guns for safety like we regulate cars for safety.  The absolute worst part is that when people try to make safe guns, they are little ostracized by the gun nuts.

 

Sixteen years ago, after Bill Clinton’s administration announced a partnershipwith gunmaker Smith & Wesson to improve firearm safety, the National Rifle Association led a boycott of the company. Smith & Wesson had agreed to a number of safety requirements, including making trigger-locks standard and adding a hidden set of serial numbers to new handguns to make it harder for anyone to scratch off identifying marks. Other gun manufacturers blasted the company as a sellout. (Part of why Smith & Wesson agreed to the deal in the first place was because the federal government agreed to drop a number of lawsuits against the company in exchange for its cooperation. This was, of course, before Congress agreed to give all gunmakers protection from various litigation.)

The backlash nearly ruined Smith & Wesson, the nation’s oldest manufacturer of handguns. And before long, it had retreated from key parts of the deal. One aspect of the agreement that never came to pass: a requirement that gunmakers move forward with developing authorized-user technology—the same kind of technology that President Barack Obama pushed for earlier this month, and that McNamara and others are trying to build.

12) Love this project that is provides data on how common particular books are across millions of college syllabi.

13) How the Koch brothers are using their money to try and influence students.

14) Loved this piece on the evolution of movie special effects in movies and how “practical” effects are all now the rage:

The rebooters would tell you those old feelings can’t be summoned with new tools. Trevorrow explained to Wired UK that his animatronic dinosaur “drew a beautiful performance out of the actors—we couldn’t have done it with a computer.” (The apatosaurus had been mortally wounded by a rampaging C.G.I. dino—a perfect metaphor for the state of the movies.) As the producer Patrick Crowley put it, “Colin said we needed to have a working animatronic in this movie because that’s how this series of movies was built.”

That’s the rub. We’ve reached a point where directors and audiences no longer derive authenticity from what looks “real” but from what looked real in seventies, eighties, and nineties blockbusters. And real is an awfully flexible word. George Miller, the director of “Fury Road,” was hailed for sending a hundred and fifty vehicles clattering through the Namibian desert—just like the old days! But as Andrew Jackson, the movie’s visual-effects supervisor, toldfxguide, “I’ve been joking recently about how the film has been promoted as being a live action stunt-driven film.… The reality is that there’s 2,000 VFX shots in the film”—out of about twenty-four hundred shots total.

15) So, this is a few years old, but new to me.  Jesse Eisenberg and Marv Albert performing “Marv Albert is my therapist.”  A slam dunk.

 

16) The FEC does not properly regulate campaign finance because Republicans don’t want it to.

17) Yes, the system is set up to make it too easy for college students to go way too far into debt, but it still doesn’t seem right to blame the system to think it is a remotely reasonable idea to go $240,000 in debt for degrees in music performance and bioethics.

18) Young people are getting drivers licenses at much lower rates these days.  My 16 year old doesn’t even want to get one.  I made him go get a Learner’s Permit yesterday, in fact.

19) I actually totally agree with Radley Balko that we should not have mandatory seat belt laws as a primary offense (I still think it is a fine idea as a secondary offense):

But there’s another argument against seat-belt laws that’s much more pertinent to the policing issues now in the news: Seat-belt laws create an entirely new class of police-citizen interactions. They’re another excuse for pretext stops. Moreover, unless there’s clear dash-camera footage, whether you were wearing a seat belt at the time the police officer spotted you is basically your word against the officer’s. It’s another opportunity for police to look for probable cause for a search, or for behavior that could justify a forfeiture of your cash, your car or anything inside of it. And as we’ve seen inSouth Carolina, Indiana, California and elsewhere, they create more interactions that could potentially lead to escalation, violence and even death. (Note that the article in the last link is from Florida.) The U.S. Supreme Court has even ruled that police can arrest you, handcuff you and jail you even if your only crime was to fail to buckle your seat belt. In 2012, the court ruled that you can be strip-searched, too

Our highways have gotten remarkably safer over the past 30 or so years. Fatalities have dropped dramatically. Even the most ardent libertarian can’t help but admit that federal efforts had something to do with it, though I tend to think public education and PR safety campaigns have been more effective than more punitive policies. But we should also be cognizant of unintended consequences, especially with laws that are more about protecting people from themselves than from other people. If a seat-belt violation causes a low-income man to be pulled over, searched, fined and fined again for nonpayment, then results in a suspended license, and then arrest and incarceration for driving on a suspended license, the state is no longer protecting him — it’s ruining him.

20) Important read from Nate Silver arguing that the Republican Party is failing.

21) I’m reading a fabulous book about the war on drugs.  More on that later.  For now, familiarize yourself with Rat Park, if you have not before.  And even if you know Rat Park, this comic version is pretty awesome.  Seriously.

The GOP as failed state

Love this Will Saletan piece.  Nice metaphor:

The disaster, the blame game, and the establishment’s surprise at what’s happening are related. Since President Obama’s election, the GOP has abandoned its role as a national governing party. It has seized Congress not by pursuing an alternative agenda but by campaigning and staging votes against anything Obama says or does. The party’s so-called leaders have become followers, chasing the pet issues of right-wing radio audiences. Now the mob to whom these elders have surrendered—angry white voters who are determined to “take back their country” from immigrants and liberals—is ready to install its own presidential nominee. The Trump-Cruz takeover is the culmination of the Grand Old Party’s moral collapse.  [emphasis mine]

In foreign policy, there’s a term for governments that don’t govern. We call themfailed states. A state can fail for many reasons, but weak or clueless leadership is usually a factor. In a failed state, insurgencies grow, warlords arise, and chaos reigns. That’s what the GOP has become…

Republicans no longer have a policy agenda. They have a scapegoating, base-stoking agenda. Their economic plan is to blame legal immigrants for the demise of upward mobility. Their social policy is to defund the nation’s leading birth-control providerand promote disobedience of court orders. Their foreign policy is to carpet-bombSyria, insult the faith of our anti-ISIS partners, and void Iran’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons production…

In the race to the right, yesterday’s conservatives can’t keep up. John Boehner, a right-wing rebel in the House 20 years ago, has been purged as speaker by the GOP’s new hardliners. Kasich, another House rebel from the Boehner era, is now ridiculed in the presidential primaries as a liberal…

When you run a party this way, chasing after your most radical constituents—in Republican parlance, leading from behind—you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the audience you’ve cultivated doesn’t match your original principles…

Good stuff, but one I think should really scare establishment Republicans is this:

Trump is leading almost every national and statewide Republican poll. Together, he and Cruz are drawing the support of 60 percent of Republicans in the latestCNN/ORC poll, 58 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 54 percent in theFox News poll, and 53 percent in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In Iowa, Trump and Cruz are splitting 60 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers. In New Hampshire, they control 47 percent of the vote. In South Carolina, they’re drawing 61 percent.

Even if all the establishment candidates pooled their support, they wouldn’t win. Together, Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich are attracting only 18 percent of the Republican vote in the CNN/ORC poll, 22 percent in the ABC/Post poll, and 22 percent in the Fox News poll. The NBC/Journal poll found that even if the Republican field narrowed to Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, Rubio would still finish last by 5 percentage points. With Cruz removed, Trump would still beat Rubio, 52 percent to 45 percent.

Now that’s a huge problem for Republicans.  Sure, polling in primaries can change fast, but presumably within certain logical paramaters, e.g., we shouldn’t expect to see Cruz support ever go to Jeb.

Lastly, given that I was talking about the affective polarization of partisanship in class yesterday (i.e., the hatred between Democrats and Republicans) I actually feel a little funny writing so much negative stuff about Republicans.  But, I don’t actually have a problem with Republicans.  There’s many that I personally know and respect and there’s plenty that I think hold truly reasonable, just different, political views in my own (e.g., Frum, Douthat, Gerson).  What’s so frustrating to me (and many Republicans) is that the party has largely been taken over by a fact-free, insurgent outlier force with virtually no interest in capable governing or smart policy.   And right now that faction is looking quite ascendant in the primaries.

Help me Marco Rubio, you’re my only hope

At 538, Dave Wasserman argues that Republicans are doomed unless they are smart enough to suddenly get their act together and unite behind Rubio:

There are a lot of complex analyses of the 2016 election floating around. My own theory is quite straightforward: If Hillary Clinton is the nominee — and she remains a heavy favorite over Bernie Sanders — her fate largely rests with Republican voters’ decisions over the next few months.

If Republicans nominate Rubio, they would have an excellent chance to beat Clinton by broadening their party’s appeal with moderates, millennials and Latinos. [emphases mine] The GOP would also have an excellent chance to keep the Senate, hold onto a wide margin in the House and enjoy more control of federal government than they have in over a decade.

If they nominate Ted Cruz, Clinton would probably win, the GOP Senate majority would also be in peril and GOP House losses could climb well into the double digits. A Donald Trump nomination would not only make Clinton’s election very likely and raise the odds of a Democratic Senate; it could force down-ballot Republicans to repudiate Trump to survive, increase pressure on a center-right candidate to mount an independent bid and split the GOP asunder.

In other words, if you’re a member of the Republican Party who wants to win in November, it’s basically Rubio or bust. The “Rubio or bust” theory relies on a process of elimination rather than an assessment of his biography, skills or ground game.

There are seven Republican candidates polling above 5 percent in Iowa, New Hampshire or nationally. Three of them — John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush — are competing for moderate GOP voters in New Hampshire, but their appeal remains so tepid with conservative Republicans who dominate most other primaries that they lack a plausible path to the nomination.

On the other hand, Trump and Cruz are more popular with conservative Republicans. But either could turn into the most disastrous GOP presidential nominee since 1964.

Yep.  I think Wasserman may oversell Rubio’s general election strength a little bit– he’s the Republicans’ best bet alright, and a skilled politician– but economic and party fundamentals still matter a lot.  Honestly, I think so many people are convinced Rubio will still pull this out because it seems so obvious to those of the non-insane portion of the Republican party (e.g., Democrats, plus sadly, a minority of Republican voters these days), that Rubio is such an obvious choice.  Now, of course he may still pull this out, but just because he seems the most obvious and logical choice is far from a guarantee that this will persuade the majority of Republican primary voters.  And right now, a clear majority of Republican primary voters support Trump or Cruz.

Now, if I had real skills, I’d create the Marco Rubio version of this.  But, I don’t.

Photo of the day

I’ve seen lots of great snow photos from the recent blizzard in the Eastern US, but wow do I feel for this poor snow shoveller.  Via a nice snowy gallery from In Focus:

A resident shovels snow from the entrance to his home in Union City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan, after the second-biggest winter storm in New York history, on January 24, 2016.

Rickey Rogers / Reuters

 

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