Quick hits (part II)

1) I wasn’t sure what I would make of “The Evangelical Roots of Our Post-Truth Society,” but there’s definitely some important points here:

THE arrival of the “post-truth” political climate came as a shock to many Americans. But to the Christian writer Rachel Held Evans, charges of “fake news” are nothing new. “The deep distrust of the media, of scientific consensus — those were prevalent narratives growing up,” she told me.

Although Ms. Evans, 35, no longer calls herself an evangelical, she attended Bryan College, an evangelical school in Dayton, Tenn. She was taught to distrust information coming from the scientific or media elite because these sources did not hold a “biblical worldview.”

“It was presented as a cohesive worldview that you could maintain if you studied the Bible,” she told me. “Part of that was that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.”

Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right.

2) I’ve heard a couple good interviews with Chris Hayes on his new criminal justice book.  Definitely sounds like good stuff (and the other book reviewed here looks good as well).

3) Enjoyed this NYT feature on how retail is changing.

4) You know what really need to change about policing?  The culture.  It’s enough that there’s too many bad cops out there.  Worse, is that otherwise good cops protect the bad ones.  Also, how many, many incidents of police brutality are lied about and gotten away with without any video to prove otherwise.  Truly, the numbers must be staggering.

5) Personally, I think life is too short and there’s too many books I’ll never get to spend time “hate reading,” but the author of this essay has a point.

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

Right now I’m reading Deception Point by Dan Brown with David.  I don’t hate it.  But it does remind me that while I do enjoy a relentless plot, I really don’t like unrealistic political fiction that thinks it’s realistic (here’s looking at you House of Cards).

6) Yes, Americans vote their partisanship on a pretty much tribal basis.  But I reject the argument that wealthier Democrats are necessarily voting against their own economic interests.  There’s far more to one’s economic interests (like living in vibrant, healthy communities with a growing economy and a healthy middle class) than top marginal tax rates.

7) We can learn a lot about the natural history of penguins through penguin guano deposits.

8) Interesting take on Mitch McConnell’s most consequential decision:

We learned last night from the New York Times that by the time of McConnell’s intervention, the CIA in particular was sounding its loudest alarms, and not just about nebulous “meddling.”

In an Aug. 25 briefing for Harry Reid, then the top Democrat in the Senate, [CIA Director John] Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, according to two former officials with knowledge of the briefing. The officials said Mr. Brennan also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.

We can’t be certain that Brennan shared the same concerns with McConnell, but it is hard to imagine why he wouldn’t. McConnell, like Reid, was among the handful of members of Congress receive regular briefings on highly classified intelligence. In either case, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community sought a united front ahead of the fall against Russian election interference—whatever its nature—and McConnell shot it down.

You can fault the Obama White House, to some degree, for acquiescing to McConnell, but it’s worth noting that McConnell clearly understood his threat to be more ominous than simply a promise to call Obama mean names. The claim of partisanship would have implied that Obama was using contested intelligence to meddle in the election on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. This would have invited the press to summon yet-more dark clouds over both of them, and lead, most likely, to a new, urgent congressional investigation. Consider the media and GOP congressional response to the unfounded allegation that Susan Rice spied on Donald Trump, and you can see the Obama White House had good reason to take McConnell’s threat seriously.

The upshot is that McConnell drew a protective fence around Russian efforts to sabotage Clinton’s candidacy, by characterizing any effort to stop it as partisan politicization of intelligence at Trump’s expense.

Given the outcome of the election, I’d say this move was not only far more consequential than stealing a Supreme Court seat from Democrats, it was the key to the theft itself.

9) Diane Ravitch argues the public should pay for public schools, not religious schools.  I agree.

10) Sorry, calling out conservative (or Southern ones, in this case) Christians for their hypocrisy does not get old for me:

Tribal bonds have always been a challenge for our species. What’s new is how baldly the 2016 election exposed the collision between basic Christian values and Republican Party loyalty. By any conceivable definition, the sitting president of the United States is the utter antithesis of Christian values — a misogynist who disdains refugees, persecutes immigrants, condones torture and is energetically working to dismantle the safety net that protects our most vulnerable neighbors. Watching Christians put him in the White House has completely broken my heart…

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” All the rest is window dressing.

But this is the part of Christ’s message that most conservative Christians ignore when they step into the voting booth. In part that’s because abortion has become the ultimate border wall for Southern believers. I can’t count the number of Christians I know who are one-plank voters: They’d put Vladimir Putin in the White House if he promised to overturn Roe v. Wade. To someone who ardently believes abortion is murder, that idea is not as crazy as it seems. But reasonable people can disagree on the moment when human life begins, and I don’t see my own commitment to protecting a woman’s legal right to choose as a contradiction of my religious practice. No matter how you define it, protecting human life should never stop at the zygote.

Republicans now have what they’ve long wanted: the chance to turn this into a Christian nation. But what’s being planned in Washington will hit my fellow Southerners harder than almost anyone else. Where are the immigrants? Mostly in the South. Which states execute more prisoners? The Southern states. Which region has the highest poverty rates? The South. Where are you most likely to drink poisoned water? Right here in the South. Where is affordable health care hardest to find? You guessed it. My people are among the least prepared to survive a Trump presidency, but the “Christian” president they elected is about to demonstrate exactly what betrayal really looks like — and for a lot more than 30 pieces of silver.

11) Really good New Yorker article reviewing several books that help explain why humans are so bad at reasoning and responding to facts.  Short version: tribal needs– sociability trumps needs to actually understand things.

12) And, with that, Happy Easter!

 

 

 

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

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