New Year’s Eve quick hits

1) Eric Schlosser (who wrote a terrific book about the history of our nuclear arsenal) on the risks of global catastrophe by mistake.

2) Life remains tough for an Oklahoma newspaper that had the temerity to endorse Hillary Clinton.

3) All earth’s species mapped into a single circle of life.  So cool.

4) Really interesting piece on how Rogue One brought back deceased actors to reprise their roles (no, not Weekend at Bernie’s style).

5) In this post-fact world, snopes.com has become more important than ever.  Apparently, now it is the target of those who would prefer we do not traffic in facts.

6) Time to admit email will never be 100% secure:

Dear reader: It’s time to admit it. We’ve lost this battle. We should accept that data breaches aren’t shocking aberrations anymore—they’re the new normal. The age of reliable security is gone. We need to adjust our thinking. E-mail will never be completely secure for everybody. Go ahead, get started on the stages of grasping this new reality: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Actually e-mail was never intended to be secure. Most messages are sent as plain, easily readable, unencrypted text from your sending device to your e-mail service (Gmail or whatever), to your recipients’ e-mail services, and from there to their devices. Encryption is a rare, partial and inconvenient solution.

7) Pretty cool set of maps of where tv shows are most and least popular.

8) Things are looking up financially for the Washington Post.  That’s great news.  Of course, plenty of local papers are still hemorrhaging money.

9) Bob Hall with an Op-Ed about a point I must have made in at least a half-dozen HB2 interviews– this really does have it’s roots in gerrymandering:

The inability to repeal HB2 is a symptom of what is a grave threat to our democracy: partisan gerrymandering.

When the majority party, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, gets to draw its own districts for its own advantage, our whole elective system becomes unfair. The proof is in the legislative maps – illogically shaped districts creating a jigsaw puzzle covering our state, making lawmakers virtually unaccountable to voters.

Consider our incoming legislature that will be sworn in this January. More than 90 percent of them ran uncontested in November or won their election by a comfortable double-digit margin. Largely because of gerrymandering, citizens have no choice and no voice in our elections.

Lawmakers from these heavily gerrymandered districts are far more concerned with fending off potential primary opponents than facing a substantial general election challenge. As such, they arrive in Raleigh with no incentive to ever reach across the aisle and compromise.

That inability to conduct a civil discussion and reach an overall agreement was on full display in the special session called to repeal HB2, but failed to do just that.

10) The biggest reason I tell my students not to watch Fox News is not the ideology, but the lies and the stupidity.  Kevin Drum with a great case-in-point on how they get it totally wrong on Food Stamp fraud.

11) Using IBM’s Watson not just to win Jeopardy, but to fight cybercrime.

12) Personally, I don’t think Steve Martin’s Carrie Fisher tweet was sexist.  Is it sexist to admit you were first attracted to them for physical appearance, but then realized they were so much more?  Enough with the social justice warriors.

13) Can’t say I find it surprising, but it is oh so depressing to read of the racist, rogue, police in Louisiana.  This was stopped by Obama’s DOJ.  Any confidence that would happen under Trump.  Racist local cops must be ecstatic.

For a shocking glimpse of what’s been happening in the name of criminal justice in America, look no further than a Justice Department report last week on police behavior in Louisiana. Officers there have routinely arrested hundreds of citizens annually without probable cause, strip-searching them and denying them contact with their family and lawyers for days — all in an unconstitutional attempt to force cooperation with detectives who finally admitted they were operating on a mere “hunch” or “feeling.”

This wholesale violation of the Constitution’s protection against unlawful search and seizure by the police in Evangeline Parish, including in its largest city, Ville Platte, was standard procedure for putting pressure on citizens who the police thought might have information about crimes, according to the findings of a 20-month federal investigation. The report described as “staggering” the number of people who were “commonly detained for 72 hours or more” with no opportunity to contest their arrest, in what the police euphemistically termed “investigative holds.” …

Reforms have since begun, a tribute to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, which carried out the investigation and demanded wholesale changes. This bureau has done notable work during the Obama administration, investigating 25 law enforcement agencies and requiring and overseeing major reforms. To fully secure national justice, its work must continue. One big question in Washington now is whether President-elect Donald Trump and his choice for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, might ever commit themselves to this cause.

14) More TV shows should just say no to season 2.

15) I never did a post on the latest important work on inequality.  I really should have.  But, it’s the end of the year and time to clear out tabs.  Yglesias with a really good summary of the work:

A child born in 1940 had an extremely good chance of growing up to earn more money than his parents did. Due to regression to the mean, children of the very, very wealthy were somewhat less likely to out-earn their parents (if your dad is Jeff Bezos, it’s hard to beat that no matter how many advantages you have in life). But from the bottom of the income distribution all the way up to the 95th percentile or so, families were extremely likely to experience upward mobility.

For kids born in 1980, that’s much less true. The very most disadvantaged kids are, fortunately, pretty likely to grow up to be somewhat less disadvantaged than their parents. But for people born into the broad middle 60 percent or so of the income distribution, experiencing upward mobility relative to your parents has become a crapshoot.

Raj Chetty et. al.

16) Speaking of clearing out tabs, I still haven’t read this NYT Magazine piece on “The Great AI Awakening.”  It looks good, but, I just haven’t.  Please tell me if I need to.

16) Frum on how Trump made Russia’s hacking more effective:

The content of the Russian-hacked emails was actually remarkably unexplosive. Probably the biggest news was that Hillary Clinton had expressed herself in favor of a hemispheric common market in speeches to Wall Street executives. Otherwise, we learned from them that some people at the Democratic National Committee favored a lifelong Democrat for their party’s nomination over a socialist interloper who had joined the party for his own convenience. We learned that many Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton, disapproved of the ethical shortcomings of some of the people in Bill Clinton’s inner circle. We learned that Hillary Clinton acknowledged differences between her “public and private” positions on some issues. None of this even remotely corroborated Donald Trump’s wild characterizations of the Russian-hacked, Wikileaks-published material.

These Wikileaks emails confirm what those of us here today have known all along: Hillary Clinton is the vessel for a corrupt global establishment that is raiding our country and surrendering our sovereignty. This criminal government cartel doesn’t recognize borders, but believes in global governance, unlimited immigration, and rule by corporations.

Or:

The more emails WikiLeaks releases, the more lines between the Clinton Foundation, the secretary of state’s office and the Clintons’ personal finances—they all get blurred … I mean, at what point—at what point do we say it? Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency.

Without Trump’s own willingness to make false claims and misuse Russian-provided information, the Wikileaks material would have deflated of its own boringness. The Russian-hacked material did damage because, and only because, Russia found a willing accomplice in the person of Donald J. Trump.

17) Time for my annual last-day-of-the-year large-scale charitable giving.  I’ll be using Givewell.org as my guide.

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

One Response to New Year’s Eve quick hits

  1. Mika says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Steve Martin! (although I won’t comment that twitternonsense but it gives me an excuse to introduce my latest musical crush to the world) Yesterday our TV was on and I heard this familiar voice that I had long ago forgotten. I went to see who it was and the face I saw was familiar too but I didn’t know who she was. So I found it out and checked some information from google and found out for example that she is the 2016 recipient of the (tadaa!) Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass – North Carolina’s own Rhiannon Giddens. She’s divine:

    That’s how it’s done!

    Those tv show maps are indeed pretty cool.

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