Map/Infographic of the day

My son Evan was asking about this last night and found this webpage.  This is pretty cool.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting take on whether Trump is a weak or strong leader.

2) Incredibly, preposterously, prosecutors are still defending the anti-science of bite mark evidence.  If it were up to me, that would be automatic grounds for disbarment.

Consiglio’s two main arguments are the same arguments Mourges used and that the state deploys in nearly every bite mark case. The first is pretty straightforward, and noted above. To date, no court in the country has ruled bite mark evidence inadmissible. That this is such a strong argument in the courts demonstrates about as emphatically as anything just how ill-equipped the courts are when it comes to assessing science. The fact that no court has yet to rule against “scientific evidence” that nearly every scientist in the country agrees isn’t scientific at all is a damning indictment of the courts and their inability to self-correct. Instead, it’s used as an argument to let yet more unscientific evidence into more cases — and it’s an argument that has yet to be defeated.

Under Frye, for expert testimony to be admissible, it must be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. Here’s the question at issue: When it comes to bite mark evidence, what is the relevant scientific community? For prosecutors such as Mourges and Consiglio, it is other bite mark analysts. That is, the relevant community of “scientists” whose opinion judges should consider when evaluating the scientific validity of bite mark analysis should be people who already believe that bite mark analysis is scientific. You almost have to admire the brazenness of this argument. It’s like saying that if a judge is evaluating the scientific merit of palm readers, he should only consider the opinions of other palm readers. And yet so far, the argument has worked every time it has been tried.

Ross’s attorneys argue that the “relevant scientific community” should include actual scientists — that is, people who actually abide by the principles of scientific inquiry. Most bite mark analysts don’t operate under double blind conditions. There’s very little peer review. (Indeed, when analysts review one another’s work, there is often disagreement. This is why bite mark cases often feature two or more analysts giving the jury opinions that are diametrically opposed.)

Understandably, Consiglio doesn’t want the judge to consider the opinions of real scientists. So in his brief defending the scientific validity of bite mark analysis, he attacks science itself.

3) Actually, totally makes sense that Putin would be funding the anti-fracking campaign in the U.S.

4) Car dealers don’t actually know anything about the advanced safety features in modern cars.

5) In Trumpworld, 5-year olds can be dangerous terrorists.

6) A study shows that father-child reading leads to improvements in learning and behavior.  Well, damn, in that case, my kids should behave a helluva lot better than they do.

7) More states figuring out that it’s stupid to deny a drivers license for a totally unrelated drug conviction.

8) The right way to say “I’m sorry.”  I’ll save you the time as I’m pretty sure I’ve got this figured out: actually mean it.

9) There’s lots of examples of the amazing inhumanity of the travel ban (allow me to again call out the “Christians” who love Trump), but this one is particularly poignant.

10) Forget safety (okay, don’t really forget safety), but it’s surprising to me that youth football is just now figuring out to use smaller teams.  Today’s youth soccer is so much better than my day due to smaller-sided games for younger players.

11) The logistics and technology behind all those phone calls to members of Congress (if only they’d listen on DeVos!).

12) I have at least one thing in common with Trump— we both use propecia.  This headline at HuffPo is a nice reminder of why I’m not a fan of HuffPo (though, they do have some good writers, e.g., Cohn), “Trump Takes Propecia, A Hair-Loss Drug Associated With Mental Confusion, Impotence.”  (For the record, side effects are incredibly minimal).

13) A profile of the White House’s other Steven, the equally disturbing (and Duke grad!) Stephen Miller.

14) Yes, the Berkeley students who protested professional asshole, Milo Yiannopoulos, with violence were stupid, stupid, stupid.  Yes, Yiannopoulos is abominable, but violence?!  Also, this:

That strikes me as a strong argument. Universities should establish rules for how they treat speakers that student organizations invite. And they should not alter those rules depending on the ideas those speakers espouse, even if their ideas are hateful.  (And yes, I’d apply that not merely to Milo but to a neo-Nazi like Richard Spencer). At Berkeley, the rules say that student organizations get to host their speakers at the Student Union for free. If Berkeley changes that because Yiannopoulos is a misogynist, what happens if a Palestinian group invites a speaker that conservatives call anti-Semitic? …

Of course, Berkeley students also have the right to protest Yiannopoulos. But the university has an obligation to ensure that their right to protest does not prevent the College Republicans from hearing their invited guest. Is the university obligated to spend extra money, which it would not expend for a normal speaker, because Yiannopoulos’s speech requires extra security? I’m not sure. But in any case, Berkeley did not spend extra money. It required the College Republicans to come up with funds for additional security themselves; an anonymous patron contributed $6,000 to help them…

But the argument for letting Yiannopoulos speak is more than tactical. It’s a matter of principle. Conservative students have the right to bring obnoxious bigots to speak on campus and other students have a right to protest. But universities should not let the protesters shut them down. That was hard for many leftists to accept even before Trump’s election. Now that an obnoxious bigot occupies the White House, it’s even harder. But Trump’s presidency is, in part, a test of whether ordinary Americans can avoid sinking to his level, whether a citizenry can respect the principles that its leaders do not. What happened to Milo Yiannopoulos this week is part of that test. It’s important that progressives at Berkeley, and around the country, do not fail.

15) Not in the video clip, but pleased to see my “alternative facts” quote made the write-up of this story.

16) Trump has a grand strategy— it’s just a horrible one.

17) Stephen Walt on Trump’s foreign policy:

you’re a Trump supporter, you might be feeling pretty good about the new administration’s first steps. You may have hailed the Muslim ban (and let’s be honest, that’s what it is) as a long-overdue step to protect Americans from dangerous foreigners. (It’s not, of course, but never mind.) Perhaps you also think the chorus of criticism from lawyers, the media, academics, corporate leaders, foreign governments, and former government officials — including many prominent Republicans — is just welcome evidence that Trump is on the right track. You might well view his first two weeks as clear signs a new sheriff is in town and putting the whole world on notice. You may even see his end-runs around the interagency process, his decision to replace top defense and intelligence officials on the National Security Council with alt-right advisor Stephen Bannon as steps designed to protect the “America First” policies that you voted for in November and that he reaffirmed on Inauguration Day.

With all due respect, you would be wrong.

In fact, if you are a loyal Trump supporter, and especially someone who embraced him because you thought he would deliver a smarter, more self-interested, more restrained, and above all more successful foreign policy than his predecessors, you should be disappointed and deeply worried. Why? Because in just two weeks he has squandered a genuine opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad in ways that would have been hard to imagine a few months ago.

18) Apparently this ad from 2010 was banned.  Regardless, I’d never seen it before and it is pretty damn hilarious.

19) Ransomware is going big and that’s not good for anybody.

20) Good take from David Roberts, “Trump isn’t an evil genius.  And that’s not what matters anyway.”

Most Kremlinology isn’t very useful. My theory is that authoritarian demagogues are more alike than they are different. Most of them are narcissists. They are, at root, fearful, paranoid, and tribal, which drives the macho posturing and obsession with loyalty. They have a kind of animal cunning for how to manipulate people, dominate, and accrue power.

But for the most part they aren’t evil geniuses. (One of Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s recurring themes about Putin is what a “grey, ordinary man” he is.) Indeed, evil geniuses are pretty rare — or, to put it more precisely, narcissistic, paranoid tribalists are rarely geniuses, because genius requires a certain detached perspective, an ability to step outside oneself, which is precisely what narcissists lack.

What authoritarian regimes do is blunder forward, grasping and grabbing power whenever and wherever they can, building secretive inner circles, surrounding themselves with supplicant state media, demonizing dissenting voices, and punishing enemies. They do this not because of some 12-dimensional chess analysis of the political landscape, but because that’s what narcissism and zero-sum thinking does. They are more like animals driven by instinct than chess masters driven by strategy, though of course there’s a range (with Trump being on the far blinded-by-narcissism end).

21) Former Bush appointee, Elliot Cohen:

Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations…

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse ,[emphasis mine] as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

22) David Brooks lets loose on the cowardly Republicans enabling Trump:

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done.

But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

Yep.  That said, I think Brooks, an economic conservative and moderate social traditionalist, is in great denial about how much the rank-and-file GOP is an ethnic nationalist party.

23) Chait with the case for optimism.

24) It actually is quite possible that in addition to clearly suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Trump could be a genuine psychopath (most are not serial killers).  As Yglesias points out, he is profoundly lacking in empathy.

25) John Cassidy also with a positive take on the growing Trump resistance.

26) It’s not perfect, but I love that Ken Pomeroy has come up with a metric for assessing college basketball referee quality.

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