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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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

11 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Jon K says:

    9) I read all three of Grossman’s Magicians books back to back in the spring. I have to say that I found them very entertaining. I grew up reading the Narnia books, and I thought he did a pretty good job of recreating that world minus the thinly veiled Christian messaging. I will agree that they weren’t literary masterpieces, but I was entertained nonetheless.

    Can’t a story just be entertaining without having any great commentary or deeper profound message it’s trying to impart?

    • Steve Greene says:

      Yes! It just can’t be boring. The Magicians really dragged in places. And whole sections seemed pointless, e.g., Welters. And the pacing was really a bit off. I’m reading Carl Hiassen with David now. Just for pure fun.

      • Jon K says:

        I’ll give you that, but it seems the thing to do in fantasy books these days to include some type of magical sporting event. Harry Potter did it, The Magicians did it, and the otherwise excellent Darker Shade of Magic series devotes a large segment of the second book to a magic Olympics. I think it gives the authors easy filler without advancing the plot at all.

        I think fantasy writers feel an expectation to deliver at least three books in a given series they created. I think that expectation leads to that kind of fluff.

      • Steve Greene says:

        Agreed. And as much as I love HP (just started reading HP1 to Evan this week– so good, yet again), quidditch is absolutely ludicrous as a sport.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    Michael Eric Dyson has given our American community a great gift – an insight into his soul and the depths of pain felt by an individual Afro-American man in our community. Does one expect a rational discussion in such a statement?
    One who has an anger response might look inward to ask what was the moment in reading this that one felt anger. Was it anger because he seemed to paint all white Americans as tarred by one brush? Does it feel unfair?
    He may feel (not think) that many Americans feel that way in viewing all Afro-Americans as one.
    The only solution in this cultural crisis is action; action first to correct the most egregious violations of equal treatment under the law. Every human being wants and deserves to be treated as an individual. Our Constitution demands it.
    The repeal of laws fining the poor (all poor, not just black) for transgressions which amounts to a hidden tax on the poor would be a positive first step. Too long have many of our local governments financed themselves with these unjust taxes. There seems to be a lot of agreement on this relatively small step.
    So – act!

    • Steve Greene says:

      The problem is that Dyson’s rhetoric alienates someone like me who probably agrees with him on 80%+ of policy issues with regards to race. Painting too broadly is never right and being unfair is never right.

      • R. Jenrette says:

        If the people who agree with 80% of what he said all acted, maybe he and others who feel as he does would think that finally a concrete move is being is being made to start solving the problem. He gave us a searing look into his heart and soul. His feelings can’t be changed by rational analysis.
        Why not start with an act of good will (and grace) that takes a first step toward the solution?
        The way was shown by the grace demonstrated in Charleston a year ago.

  3. Jon K says:

    People who paint with too broad a brush and fan flames that lead to violent outcomes are just as dangerous and evil as the evil they are trying to protest. You don’t defeat hate and ignorance with extreme hate and ignorance from the opposite perspective. They don’t cancel each other out. They just make the situation worse.

  4. R. Jenrette says:

    The logical conclusion to this line of reasoning is for the dominant culture to say that if the complainers think the dominants are all alike, the dominants can do nothing and feel justified.

  5. itchy says:

    1. I like a lot of these. I already use the I Cut, You Pick. (Learned from my aunt when I was younger.) Auction is interesting.

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