Quick hits (part II)

1) Using game theory to improve your parenting.

2) A Black former police officer on systemic racism in police departments.  A few bad apples really do spoil the barrel.

2) The bad officers corrupt the departments they work for

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: a major problem is they exert an outsize influence on department culture and find support for their actions from ranking officers and police unions.

That is huge and that is something that really, really needs to change.

3) Thomas Edsall on economic envy and the rise of Trump.

4) In reality, a giant— big and friendly, or otherwise– would need to have much thicker legs than the BFG.

5) Go ahead, eat your pasta.  In moderation.

6) What the Nordic countries get right:

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?

“What Finland and its neighbors do is actually walk the walk of opportunity that America now only talks,” Partanen writes. “It’s a fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than is a citizen of the United States.” The United States is not Finland. And, in one sense, that’s bad news for America. Numerous studies have shown that there is far greater upward social mobility in Nordic countries than in the United States, partly because of the high level of income inequality in the U.S.
In another sense, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be Finland. As Nathan Heller observed in The New Yorker, the modern Nordic welfare state is meant to “minimize the causes of inequality” and be “more climbing web than safety net.” Yet the system, especially in Sweden, is currently being tested by increased immigration and rising income inequality. And it’s ultimately predicated on a different—and not necessarily superior—definition of freedom than that which prevails in America. “In Sweden,” Heller argued, “control comes through protection against risk. Americans think the opposite: control means taking personal responsibility for risk and, in some cases, social status.”

7) Traffic tickets for those who drive too slowly in the left lane?  Yes, please!

8) Great analysis on just how incredibly narrow and wrong Trump’s world-view is, based on his 12 books.  Here’s the key:

For Donald Trump, calling someone a loser is not merely an insult, and calling someone a winner is not merely a compliment. The division of the world into those who win and those who lose is of paramount philosophical importance to him, the clearest reflection of his deep, abiding faith that the world is a zero-sum game and you can only gain if someone else is failing.

This is evident after reading all 12 of Trump’s books on politics and business (leaving out Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, alas), as Vox staffers did over the course of the previous two months…

More generally, he’s always believed in the fundamental zero-sum nature of the world. Whether he’s discussing real estate in New York, or his ’00s reality TV career, or his views on immigration and trade, he consistently views life as a succession of deals. Those deals are best thought of as fights over who gets what share of a fixed pot of resources. The idea of collaborating for mutual benefit rarely arises. Life is dealmaking, and dealmaking is about crushing your enemies.

“You hear lots of people say that a great deal is when both sides win,” he writes inThink Big and Kick Ass, co-authored with Bill Zanker of the Learning Annex. “That is a bunch of crap. In a great deal you win — not the other side. You crush the opponent and come away with something better for yourself.” To “crush the other side and take the benefits,” he declares, is “better than sex — and I love sex.”

Of course, those of us who understand how the world actually works realize that there’s all sorts of win-win situations.  Poor Donald Trump lives an incredibly constrained little world.  Sad.

9) Going back to literary fiction… I think Arthur Kyrstal is way too hung up on the quality and manner of the prose style.  I think Lev Grossman sets the bar too low, however (and despite it’s great reviews I found his Magicians decidedly ordinary).

10) This lawyer who specializes in security clearances says Hillary got off easy.

11) Okay, so maybe carbs aren’t that bad.

12) Fascinating post from an Indian on her struggles adapting to American small talk.

13) So, maybe people really do become more prejudiced as they age (not me when I’m an old man, damnit!).   So, had a class from this Von Hippel fellow in grad school.  He was awesome:

Bill von Hippel, a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, has found an interesting pattern in his experiments and studies on age and prejudicial opinions.

Von Hippel finds that older adults generally want to be fair and restrain prejudicial thoughts. But they literally just can’t control themselves, which Von Hippel suspects is the result of the deterioration of the brain that comes with aging.

“A lot of research shows that older adults suffer losses in their ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts,” Von Hippel writes me in an email. “We have found that older adults who try to prevent stereotypes from influencing their judgment typically find that they rely on them more and more as they age. … Aging will tend to make many people more negatively disposed toward immigration.”

Here’s his idea. As we grow up, we’re constantly exposed to stereotypes. We can recognize them implicitly, even though we may not believe or act on them. Stereotypes “get activated automatically whether we want them to or not,” he says.

It takes mental effort — the executive control of the frontal lobes — to silence those stereotypes and think of people in a more well-rounded way. As we age, and as our frontal lobes lose their sharpness, we may lose that ability to inhibit stereotypical thoughts, despite our stated intentions.

14) The NRA, Philando Castile, and race.

15) Donald and Hobbes (instead of Calvin).  So good.

16) Michael Eric Dyson is just so wrong in this Op-Ed.  When you are pissing off white people like me with your rhetoric, you are really not helping.

16) Given that people keep getting shot at low-level traffic stops, maybe we should end low-level traffic stops.

17) Killer police robots.

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