Not Normal (vol. XXII)

Worth pointing out how abnormally unpopular Trump is early in his presidency.

Of course, the large majority of Republicans still supports him.  As long as that’s the case, he can wreak plenty of havoc.  Once that drops below 50% among Republicans (probably unlikely, but if anybody can do it, it’s Trump), Republicans in Congress starts abandoning ship and things get really interesting.

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Quick hits (part II)

I’ve been spending too much time reading about refugee stuff to pick out good quotes, so a largely quote-free version of quick hits:

1) Benjamin Wittes on the Trump and the completely inappropriate approach to the CIA.

2) And this is insane.  Bannon on National Security Council.  Chairman of Joint Chiefs off?!  WTF?!!

3) Duke fan or not, this essay from current interim coach Jeff Capel on his father (also a long-time coach) and ALS is terrific.

4) Older siblings typically out-perform the younger on average.  Interesting mix of theories as to why.  (And if you are reading this David Greene, let it incentive you to keep up with other older siblings).

5) When I first saw Trump had declared a “Day of Patriotic Devotion” I thought it was the Onion or something.  WTF??  It’s like North Korea.

6) Bill McKibben on the many, many more bad days to come for the environment.  In fairness to Trump, most Republicans seem to hate the environment.

7) Thought this was a really interesting finding that the ACT Science Reading  sections literally make the ACT a worse predictor of college grades than just relying upon math and English.  Sorry, David Greene, you still have to take the whole thing.  (In case you were wondering, my firstborn does regularly read my blog now– I’m going to have to be more careful with some things).

8) Smart guy, good guy, and friend from grad school, David Kimball, with a nice piece on actually effective and meaningful voter reforms instead of Voter ID.

9) Love this Political Science Call to Action from Jennifer Victor.  So going to live by this:

So how do we maintain our credibility as a scientific discipline while engaging in the public sphere in a way that shows normative judgment? I have some advice:

A political scientist’s guide to responsible public action:

  • When you observe or learn about proposals or actions that represent threats to democratic institutions or that violate the Constitution, point it out in public.
  • Write, speak, and post in a variety of venues in a way that uses the research and literature in our field to demonstrate the consequences of proposals that threaten basic institutions.
  • Be specific and matter-of-fact about how actions or proposals may weaken or violate basic American values and democratic norms.
  • Focus on the agreed upon values of American democracy (e.g., civil liberties, civil rights, due process, respect for the rule of law) rather than on partisan or ideological components of actions and proposals.
  • Engage with the media, public, and one another, on these matters; seek venues that provide broad exposure rather than speaking to a disciplinary audience, as is typical.
  • Focus on evidence-based and theoretically rigorous findings that shed light on, or provide appropriate context to, current events.

By being objective and scientific, we remain neutral, while showing how actions and proposals violate or threaten basic democratic institutions. Articulating and elucidating the public on these points is not only consistent with our academic mission; it is our responsibility.

10) Larry Summers says it’s time for business leaders to wake up about Trump.  Hell, yeah!  That said, we know that partisanship is stronger than religion.  It’s probably also stronger than the profit motive.

11) Jamelle Bouie, “OK, Now Can We Start Taking Donald Trump Literally?”

12) Here’s why you should call, not email your legislators.  For real.

13) Of course Trump’s tough-guy talk on torture risks lives.  I cannot believe we have to go through this again!  Ugh, the combined stupid and evil!!

14) John Cassidy on Republican politicians sticking with Trump (tax cuts for rich people!!)

15) Wilbur Ross and government by the ultra-wealthy.

16) Speed reading is great— so long as you are not interested in understanding what you read.  Interesting discussion of the cognitive science behind why it doesn’t really work.  And how to read faster (read more).

17) David Brooks on the politics of cowardice.

18) These nice little HuffPo graphic seems well-sourced, so I’m going with it.  I’m really waiting for the armed toddler crackdown.

19) Emma Green asks, “Will the Pro-Life Movement Split With Trump on Issues Other Than Abortion?”  Ummmm, no.  The Pro-Life movement is largely conservative Christians, and we’ve seen they put the Republican party ahead of the actual teachings of Jesus most anytime.

20) Must read from a Reagan speechwriter on Trump and Holocaust remembrance day.

21) Benjamin Wittes on the refugee executive order, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.”

 

Evil and stupid

I haven’t had to use the “evil or stupid” formulation in a while, since it has been a long time since Republicans were driving policy in this regard.  But, I can unequivocally claim that Trump’s Muslim refugee order is very evil and very stupid.  Obviously, this is horribly inhumane.  And it is just stupid is that completely feeds right into the hands of ISIS, etc., who try and convince other Muslims that the US is anti-Muslim (surely, it helps them when we actually are).  Some of my favorite tweets on the matter:

The Republican cowards just kill me.

And, literally damn the Christians who think this comports with their Christianity.

 

You know, I have no idea whether Trump’s personal conflict of interests drove this.  But neither does anybody so long as he won’t release his tax returns or properly extricate from his businesses.

Context:

“Foreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and the end of 2015,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote on the group’s website.

Phew.  That’s enough for now.

Photo of the day

From a recent Atlantic photos of the week gallery:

A stag eats corn on a snow-covered field in the village of Dumnice near the town of Vushtrri on January 16, 2017, as subzero temperatures gripping Kosovo were predicted to fall even further later in the week.

Armend Nimani / AFP / Getty

Christian wrong

So, originally, I was just going to include this Bill Ayers excerpt in quick hits, but then I realized I came across two other good posts on the topic this week.  Anyway, Ayers has a really really good take on Trumps profoundly mis-guided and profoundly immoral zero-sum universe.  But he concludes, by bringing it around to the failure of American conservative Christianity, in this regard:

The direction of the Christian gospel is pretty clear on this point. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they will have mercy.” “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other also.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The list goes on and on, of course. Even “us first” nationalism is difficult to sustain in the face of Scripture. At the beginnings of the Abrahamic story God promises that “in you all nations of the earth will be blessed”, and Peter understood that “God shows no partiality”.

I keep being confronted with the same question: for those of us who claim to be Christians, do we take this stuff seriously or don’t we? Forget the Supreme Court, or LGBT rights, or abortion, or any of the other issues that Christians sometimes hold up as being “the” issue that justifies their choices. All of this is under Screwtape’s “Christianity and…” – things we attach to God that become God. They are idols.

To view the world as Us vs. Them, to reduce every human interaction and every issue to a struggle to produce winners and losers, is an utter and complete repudiation of the Gospel of Christ. To follow a man who walks that path is to reject the injunction of Jesus’ own prayer to God: Thy will be done. God’s will is not for a world of conflict and strife. Why would we follow someone who wants to make it more so?

Amen!

Meanwhile, I also enjoyed the take from avowed atheist, Kevin Drum:

But it actually goes further than this. One of the things Donald Trump taught us last year is the ultimate hollowness of the Christian right. Trump is the most obviously unreligious person to run for president in—well, probably forever. He doesn’t go to church. He hasn’t read the Bible. His lifestyle would make Hugh Hefner blush. He doesn’t pray. He doesn’t ask forgiveness from God for his sins. He’s not born again. There is literally nothing in his 70 years on this earth that suggests he’s anything but a stone atheist…

The Christian right has never been about actual faith. Like any other interest group, they just want what they want: abortion restrictions, money for private schools, opposition to gays, and so forth. As long as you’re on board, they don’t care what’s in your heart. They never have, and that’s why the suggestion that Democrats need to be more publicly devout has always been so misguided. Faith doesn’t matter. Empathy for people of faith doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is supporting the Christian right’s retrograde social views, and Democrats were never going to do that.

And, finally, a Divinity graduate friend, shared this progressive Christian take:

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.

This represents a predominant theme of Westernized Christendom: proclaiming Christian rhetoric while actively — or passively — practicing the opposite in reality.

Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.

If Christians refuse to help and actually use their political advocacy and opinions to further hurt refugees, immigrants, women, foreigners, minorities, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the LGBTQ community — and aren’t abiding by the golden rule of loving their neighbors as themselves, then who exactly are Christians supposedly loving?

What benefit are Christians providing their communities, and what good are they contributing to the world around them? Because in America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others.

The election of President Donald Trump has proven that numerous Christians are more worried about power, influence, and control than the gospel messages of humility, generosity, ministering to others, and love.

Of course there are exceptions, but it should be sobering for Christians to realize that that many who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, the Healer, the Light of the World, supported policies that are bringing darkness and pain to so many people.

Amen, again.  And, just so I don’t have to do a separate post, here’s today’s NYT story about the refugees (who put their lives at dramatic risk for the American military) who are currently being detained and denied entry to the U.S.  I’m sure that’s just what Jesus would have wanted.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This is disturbing:

Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are “really, really smart.” These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests.

2) What to do about it?

What is to be done? Research provides some clues. The psychologist Carol Dweck has written that emphasizing the importance of learning and effort — rather than just innate ability — for success in any career might buffer girls against these stereotypes. The relevant stereotypes, already in place at the age of 6, seem to fixate on who is supposed to have innate ability. If innate ability is seen as secondary, then the power of these stereotypes is diminished. Other research indicates that providing girls with successful role models might similarly “inoculate” them, boosting their motivation and protecting them from the idea that they are not intellectually competitive. One study even suggested that witnessing a more equal distribution of household chores could help balance the career aspirations of boys and girls.

Early and consistent exposure to such protective factors – and to the countless contributions made by women – may have the best chance of convincing little girls that they are, in fact, smart enough.

4) This is fascinating!  Breast milk has a gender bias.

In 1973, the biologist Robert Trivers and the computer scientist Dan Willard made a striking prediction about parents and their offspring. According to the principles of evolutionary theory, they argued, the male-to-female ratio of offspring should not be 50-50 (as chance would dictate), but rather should vary as a function of how good (or bad) the conditions are in which the parents find themselves.

Are the parents’ resources plentiful — or scarce? The Trivers-Willard hypothesis holds that when their conditions are good, parents will have more male offspring: Males with more resources are likely to gain access to more females, thereby increasing the frequency with which their genes (and thus their parents’ genes) are preserved in future generations. Conversely, male offspring that lack resources are likely to lose out to males that have more resources, so in bad conditions it pays for parents to “invest” more in daughters, which will have more opportunities to mate.

It follows, as a kind of corollary, that when parents have plentiful resources they will devote those resources more to their sons, whereas when resources are scarce, parents will devote them more to their daughters.

In short: If things are good, you have more boys, and give them more stuff. If things are bad, you have more girls, and give more of your stuff to them.

In recent years, evidence has emerged suggesting that in various mammalian species, breast milk — which is, of course, a resource that can be given to children — is tailored for the sex of each offspring. For example, macaque monkey mothers produce richer milk (with higher gross energy and fat content) for sons than for daughters, but also provide greater quantities of milk and higher concentrations of calcium for daughters than for sons.

5) Ryan Lizza on Trump, Mexico, and foreign policy:

The incident also made it clear that congressional Republican leaders, who, during the Obama years, were vocal about the President’s relationships with other countries, have no interest in policing Trump’s foreign policy. At a press briefing in Philadelphia yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who casually announced that Congress would find some fifteen billion dollars to pay for the border wall, had nothing to add about Trump’s detonation of the U.S.-Mexico alliance. “The President can deal with his relationships with other countries,” McConnell said.

Finally, and perhaps most important, Trump’s treatment of Mexico reinforces an emerging world view that casts aside the values at the center of American foreign policy since the Second World War. As with his degrading comments about nato, his view that Taiwanese democracy and independence is a negotiating chip with China, his cavalier attitude toward Russia’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine, his abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without even a cursory consultation with allies in the region who fear Chinese hegemony, his obsessions with the use of torture and the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields, Trump’s views on U.S.-Mexico relations are devoid of the liberal values that have kept Western democracies together for decades. During the Cold War, Reagan pushed Mexico to liberalize its economic and political system and tried to bring the country closer to America and away from any Communist-inspired Latin American movements. Both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama made economic integration with Mexico a priority, and they all worked toward humane immigration solutions. Trump, meanwhile, is treating Mexico like a nineteenth-century colony. Other countries are watching, and the long-term effect could be to gradually isolate us from the rest of the world.

6) The abortion “gag rule” is a political football that changes every time the president’s party changes.  But this time is different.  And bad for, you know, actually helping people.

7) Rapidly-improving artificial intelligence may largely replace much of the diagnostic work of radiologists, pathologists, and dermatologists.

8) Do not miss the “bad lip reading” version of the inauguration.

9) Brian Schaffner actually did a survey experiment on the inauguration crowd size.  Results.

10) PPP with a North Carolina poll.  Not suprisingly, my fellow NC denizens love Krispy Kreme donuts and UNC sports.

11) Jason Kander on Trump’s ongoing voter fraud lies.  The real problem is that Trump differs only in degree from his fellow Republicans:

By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.

12) Why are journalists more liberal than the public?  Journalists want to live in cities and therefore have metropolitan values.  And they tend to be relatively smart people who are in a career pursuing facts and the public good of an educated public, not money.

13) It really is banana republic stuff that we let members of Congress, e.g., Tom Price, trade stocks in the sectors they regulate.  And, even if what people like Price are doing is legal, it sure as hell is unethical.

14) Andrew Reynolds shares a summary of his responses to his famous NC is no longer a democracy Op-Ed.

15) Apparently, being an airline pilot is a depressing job.

16) The headline pretty well gets it: “A Wall Alone Can’t Secure the Border, No Matter Who Pays for It.”

17) Another good reason not to make it easier to get a gun silencer— the loud noise of a gun is an important safety feature.

18) You know the biggest reason I would never want to run for office (at least in our public-financing-free world)?  It really is hellish.

19) I didn’t re-read 1984 last year in anticipation of Trump; I just wanted to.  (And I loved it as an adult, as opposed to finding it a slog as a teenager).  But, damn, no am I sure glad I did.  Adam Gopnik on Trump and 1984.

 

Trump’s “mandate”: not so popular

Nice piece from Will Saletan looking at public opinion on key elements of Trump’s agenda.

Trump thinks the country stands behind him on these issues. “Under the Constitution, the American people get the final say [on] who can and cannot enter our nation,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared Wednesday. “And they’ve spoken loud and clearly through our laws.”

But when Americans are asked directly, they don’t support Trump on these issues. Whites, whatever their feelings about Trump’s economic message, don’t support his policies against Muslims or undocumented immigrants. Men, whatever their feelings about abortion, don’t condone Trump’s treatment of women. The more Trump hammered these issues in his campaign, the more the public turned against his ideas. If he thinks the election was a mandate for what he’s done this week, he’s in for a surprise.

A few key charts:

170126_POL_undocumentedChart

170126_POL_muslimChart

170126_POL_immigrationChart

And Saletan’s conclusion:

There’s no guarantee that polls will continue to move against Trump or that the public will stop his agenda. That’s up to us. And his election, even with 46 percent of the vote, shows that many Americans still don’t see sexism and bigotry as disqualifying. They don’t yet understand, or perhaps care, that toleration of discrimination is how discrimination persists. That should trouble all of us.

But the election wasn’t a mandate for chauvinism. It doesn’t show that whites liked Trump’s attacks on immigrants or Muslims. It doesn’t show that men liked his attacks on women. They didn’t, and they like it less every day. The people are on our side, and they get the last word. Let’s make sure they deliver it.

That said, at this point Trump doesn’t need the support of the American people.  He needs support of Republicans.  And, here, I would have loved to see Saletan break out the results by party.  Something tells me if you look at these polling questions from Republicans only, the results would be very different and far more supportive of Trump.

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