Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week:

A group of Indian Runner ducks march past farm buildings at the Vergenoegd wine estate near Cape Town, South Africa, on May 11, 2016. Each day, a quack squad of killer ducks are released for the first of two sorties at South Africa’s Vergenoegd wine farm in Stellenbosch. Their mission – seek and destroy thousands of pests out to ruin the season’s harvest. Fanning out across the vineyards, some 1,000 Indian Runner ducks hone in on their hidden targets with uncanny precision, locating the tiny white dune snails feasting on budding vines.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

All political conservatives are racist (if you are a Sociologist)

So, I recently came across this piece in the Christian Science Monitor with the title, “The surprising relationship between intelligence and racism.”  Of course, I was intrigued.  So, it’s actually a fairly simple analysis of General Social Survey data by some Sociologists.  Here’s the deal:

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they’re no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs…

Overall, those who scored better on the test had more favorable opinions of blacks and were less likely to blame them for their disadvantages than did their lower-performing respondents. 

But when it came to government policy – affirmative action, or busing, for example – smarter respondents were no different than their less-intelligent peers…

And while the overwhelming majority of the smarter group supported integrated schools (95 percent), only a fraction supported school-busing programs (22 percent).

The conclusion that Wodtke draws is that both the high and low scorers on the tests may have racist attitudes, but the high scorers “are simply more sophisticated racists.”[emphases mine]

Got that?  If you don’t support school busing or affirmative action that means you are simply a “more sophisticated racist.”  You want to know why Sociologists have a reputation for being hopelessly, ideologically, liberal?  This.  Now, are these policy attitudes masking actual racism in some intelligent whites?  I have no doubt that’s the case.  But to entirely ignore political context and simply claim that not supporting affirmative action or busing is inherently a “racist” attitude?!  I guess that’s what comes from spending all your time in an ideological bubble as potent as getting all your information from Fox News and Rush.  Ugh.  I think Sociology is inherently a fascinating discipline that we can learn a lot from, but I also think pervasive far-left liberalism significantly diminishes it’s intellectual rigor.

Photo of the day

Loved this article about what it takes to be a great sports photographer (lots and lots of hard work) and really loved this image:

ELMONT, NY – JUNE 02: (EDITORS NOTE: An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider train at sunrise on the main track at Belmont Park on June2, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Just Mercy and Mass incarceration

Just did “book club” with my class yesterday using Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.  It went great.  You should strongly consider reading it.  Not only is Stevenson an indefatigable advocate for justice, he is a great writer and compelling storyteller.  At least read this great take on his work in the NY Review of Books.  Or watch his excellent TED talk and be inspired.  I love this conclusion from David Cole’s review of the book (as well as another on Mass Incarceration):

If mass incarceration is to end, it won’t be because courts declare it unconstitutional. It will instead require the public to come to understand, as the National Academies report found, that our policies are inefficient, wasteful, and counterproductive. And it will require us to admit, as Bryan Stevenson’s stories eloquently attest, that our approach to criminal law is cruel and inhumane. Mass incarceration is one of the most harmful practices we as a society have ever adopted, but as Stevenson would say, we are all better than the worst thing we have ever done.

Absolutely.  Let’s make it happen, America.

Trump vs. Clinton or R vs. D

Benjamin Wallace-Wells on the (crazy) fact that Trump and Clinton, two decidedly non-generic candidates may not even matter.  At least if the latest polls are accurate.  We seem to have reached the age of partisanship über alles:

In a way, this election can be seen as an ultimate test of how powerful political polarization is. If Trump can receive the same support as Mitt Romney, and if Clinton—who eight years ago ran to the right of Barack Obama, in a Party that since has moved substantially to the left—can receive the same baseline support as the President, then the populist anger that has moved through both primaries this year may matter less than we thought it would. For all the bold talk about how Donald Trump could pick up Bernie Sanders’s voters, or how Hillary Clinton would inherit Jeb Bush’s, that does not appear to be happening. Populism has been an earthquake, but its tremors have not altered the map of electoral politics. There is not much more than an echo of the culture wars of the early aughts in the contest between the casino mogul and the former Secretary of State who attended his wedding, both of them of New York. And yet the basic tribal division of that era persists, red states versus blue states, strong as ever.

It really is amazing, if not actually surprising, the degree to which Republicans are willing to overlook what a fantastically dangerous and inappropriate presidential candidate Donald Trump is.  And I’ll not pretend Hillary Clinton is perfect, but her flaws are A or AA compared to Trump’s major league.

The stable social issue

Gallup is out with it’s latest polling on abortion and the interesting thing to me is just how stable this has been when you consider how much American society has changed on other social issues (e.g., gay rights, marijuana).  Here’s the key chart:

Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?

And the Gallup summary:

In contrast with public support for gay rights — more specifically, same-sex marriage — which has grown in recent years, Americans’ views on abortion have been remarkably steady. Not only have attitudes changed little in the past year, but they also have been broadly steady over the past decade, spanning three presidential elections. While Americans are a bit more likely to call abortion morally acceptable today than they were in 2004, 2008 and 2012, the percentage calling themselves “pro-choice” is similar to what Gallup found in those years. The overall stability provides a predictable political environment for candidates. Additionally, as Gallup reported previously, the 20% of Americans saying they will vote only for a candidate who agrees with them on abortion has also remained steady, with pro-life voters slightly more likely than pro-choice voters to say the issue is critical to their vote.

Yep.  There’s a really good political science paper needing to be done on the stability of abortion in contrast to the dynamism of other social issues.  Somebody should work on that.

Are criminal risk assessments racist?

Good idea– using data and well-validated models to predict potential for future criminal behavior and responding accordingly with criminal justice procedures.  Bad idea– using data and poorly-validated, racially-biased models to do the same.  I bet which one of these we’ve been using.

Amazingly, those who looked at these models found that the error rates were pretty similar for Black and white defendants.  Alas, they did not look at the direction of the error.  This chart pretty much says it all:

Prediction Fails Differently for Black Defendants

Labeled Higher Risk, But Didn’t Re-Offend 23.5% 44.9%
Labeled Lower Risk, Yet Did Re-Offend 47.7% 28.0%

Overall, Northpointe’s assessment tool correctly predicts recidivism 61 percent of the time. But blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be labeled a higher risk but not actually re-offend. It makes the opposite mistake among whites: They are much more likely than blacks to be labeled lower risk but go on to commit other crimes. (Source: ProPublica analysis of data from Broward County, Fla.)

So, yeah, roughly equivalent number of mistakes, but the mistakes systematically benefit whites and harm Blacks.  Lovely.  So, now that we know there’s a problem, let’s see what we manage to do about it.

Great article from Pro Publica.  Short version via NPR.

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