Encouraging chart of the day

Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger.  Probably next week, too, but then I’ll be better.  Anyway, here’s a chart I meant to post a whole week ago via Nate Silver.  Yes, Trump’s overall approval has been holding pretty steady, but his strong approval definitely seems on the decline:

The share of Americans who somewhat approve of Trump’s performance has actually increased slightly, however, from about 16 percent in early February to 17.9 percent as of Tuesday. In part, this probably reflects voters who once strongly approved of Trump and who have now downgraded him to the somewhat approve category. (Trump’s strongly approve and somewhat approve numbers have been inversely correlated so far, meaning that as one has risen, the other has tended to fall.) A potential problem for Trump is that in the event of continued White House turmoil, the next step for these somewhat approve voters would be to move toward disapproval of the president.

And strong disapproval is way up:

The number of Americans who strongly disapprove of Trump has sharply risen since early in his term, meanwhile, from the mid-30s in early February to 44.1 percent as of Tuesday. In most surveys, Trump’s strongly disapprove rating exceeds his overall approval rating, in fact.

And, the case to be encouraged:

But 20 to 25 percent isn’t all that large a base — obviously not enough to win general elections on its own. Instead, Trump won the White House because most Republicans who initially supported another GOP candidate in the primary wound up backing him in the November election. Trump has always had his share of reluctant supporters, and their ranks have been growing as the number of strong supporters has decreased. If those reluctant Trump supporters shift to being reluctant opponents instead, he’ll be in a lot of trouble,3 with consequences ranging from a midterm waveagainst Republicans to an increased likelihood of impeachment.

So while there’s risk to Democrats in underestimating Trump’s resiliency, there’s an equal or perhaps greater risk to Republicans in thinking Trump’s immune from political gravity.

If you look beneath the surface of Trump’s approval ratings, you find not hidden strength but greater weakness than the topline numbers imply.

As strong as I know partisanship is, I still find it pretty depressing that the vast majority of Republicans still at least somewhat approve of such a transparently incompetent and unfit president.  But, hey, I will take solace in the evidence for some political gravity here.

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Photo of the day

Jupiter like you’ve never seen it before.  More at Vox.

This image shows Jupiter's south pole, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones.

This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection.

JunoCam’s raw images are available at www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam for the public to peruse and process into image products.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

Did Hillary lose the 2016 election due to sexism?

I don’t know and we never will.  Also, Comey!  Emails!  What I do want to say, though, is that this Rebecca Traister article purportedly about Clinton’s post-election life, is the best examination of the role of gender in her campaign that I have seen.  Straight onto the Gender & Politics syllabus.  My favorite quote:

The anger at Clinton from some quarters — in tandem with the beatification of her from others — reminds us just how much this election tapped into unresolved and still largely unexplored issues around women and power. In the aftermath, the media has performed endless autopsies. We have talked about Wisconsin, about Comey, about Russia, about faulty messaging and her campaign’s internal conflicts. We have fought over unanswerable questions, like whether Sanders would have won and whether Clinton was particularly mismatched to this political moment, and about badly framed conflicts between identity politics and economic issues. But postmortems offering rational explanations for how a pussy-grabbing goblin managed to gain the White House over an experienced woman have mostly glossed over one of the well-worn dynamics in play: A competent woman losing a job to an incompetent man is not an anomalous Election Day surprise; it is Tuesday in America. [emphasis mine]

It’s long, but there’s a decent chance you have the day off, so give it a read.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Love this feature on the technology beyond self-driving cars.  Especially Lidar, since it also finds lost cities in the jungle.

2) The physics of the fidget spinner.  My 17-year old soccer players think it’s hilarious that there coach has one, but ph0ysics is cool!

3) Jon Cohn on Republicans and the new AHCA CBO score:

Wednesday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office ought to erase any lingering doubt about how Republicans are trying to change American health care.

If they get their way, they will protect the strong at the expense of the weak ― rewarding the rich and the healthy in ways that punish the poor and the sick.

Republicans have tried mightily to deny this, and accused their critics of dishonesty. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ― they and their allies have insisted over and over again that their proposals would improve access to health care and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.

But it’s the Republicans who are lying about what their plan to repeal Obamacare would do.

They were lying back in March, when they introduced the initial version of the legislation ― a bill GOP leaders had to pull at the last minute because it didn’t have enough votes to pass. And they have been lying since early May, after they revised that proposal and rushed to vote on it before the CBO, Washington’s official scorekeeper, had time to evaluate it formally.

4) Kindergartens literally in the forest are all the rage in Germany.  Does sound pretty cool.

5) Great Paul Waldman column on the Trump budget and the simple-minded fallacy of deserving and undeserving recipients of government benefits.

6) Adam Davidson on pricing theory (I wish I knew more about this, I find the the idea of trying to find the right price to maximize profit an inherently fascinating problem), capitation fees, and how we pay too much for health care.

7) “How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe.”

8) Democratic norms are under attack, not just by Trump, but in many states as well.  Of course, those of us living in North Carolina are well aware.

9) Child development expert, Allison Gopnik, on how calling Trump a 4-year-old is unfair to 4-year-olds:

But the analogy is profoundly wrong, and it’s unfair to children. The scientific developmental research of the past 30 years shows that Mr. Trump is utterly unlike a 4-year-old.

Four-year-olds care deeply about the truth. They constantly try to seek out information and to figure out how the world works. Of course, 4-year-olds, as well as adults, occasionally lie. But Mr. Trump doesn’t just lie; he seems not even to care whether his statements are true.

Four-year-olds are insatiably curious. One study found that the average preschooler asks hundreds of questions per day. Just watch a toddler “getting into everything” — endangering his own safety to investigate interesting new objects like knives and toasters. Mr. Trump refuses to read and is bored by anything that doesn’t involve him personally.

Four-year-olds can pay attention. They do have difficulty changing the focus of their attention in response to arbitrary commands. But recent studies show that even babies systematically direct their focus to the events and objects that will teach them the most. They pay special attention to events that contradict what they already believe. Mr. Trump refuses to pay attention to anything that clashes with his preconceptions…

Four-year-olds have a “theory of mind,” an understanding of their own minds and those of others. In my lab we have found that 4-year-olds recognize that their own past beliefs might have been wrong. Mr. Trump contradicts himself without hesitation and doesn’t seem to recognize any conflict between his past and present beliefs.

Four-year-olds, contrary to popular belief, are not egocentric or self-centered. They understand and care about how other people feel and think, and recognize that other people can feel and think differently from them.

10) Enjoyed this piece on the now-forgotten “Handmaid’s Tale” movie filmed in Durham in 1989.  It was stilll the talk of campus when I came to Duke the next year.

11) Trump’s ongoing obsession with the (discredited with practically everybody but him and Jeff Sessions) War on Drugs, does not explain all his presidency, but it explains a lot.

12) Loved this piece on the role of Southern pastors in turning the South Republican:

Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program. Southern religious institutions would lead a wave of political activism that helped keep white nationalism alive inside an increasingly unfriendly national climate. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.

13) Happy 23 years of marriage to Kim and me.

 

 

 

Cowardice, American style

Oh man did I love this Adam Serwer piece comparing Greg Gianforte’s cowardice to that of Preston Brooks (the infamous 1856 Senate caner) and of slavery-supporting Southerners:

The impetus for Brooks’s attack on Sumner was that Sumner had mocked Brooks’s second cousin, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, for his support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The law put the question of slavery in the territories to a popular vote, exacerbating the tensions between North and South that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Sumner gave a speech accusing Butler of having chosen “the harlot, slavery,” as his “mistress.” Brooks’s defense of Southern honor was to ambush an unarmed man reaching under his desk. As Sinha writes, Brooks later said that attacking Sumner with a cane, rather than challenging him to a duel, was an attempt to humiliate Sumner for his abolitionism by treating him like a slave. Brooks was re-elected after resigning in protest of being fined for the incident

The antebellum South was a society built on the violent exploitation of defenseless people; it is in no sense strange or odd that slaveholders would see no incompatibility between their concept of freedom and valor and ambushing and caning a man who said something that hurt their feelings. Brooks was a hopelessly craven bully who bludgeoned a man in ambush and then shrank from a fair duel with an equal once he realized he would lose.

I don’t mean to fetishize courage, which can be possessed by good and evil alike. I tell this story to show that in politics, one defends cruelty or cowardice by cloaking it in a delusion of valor…

While the reactions of Gianforte’s Republican colleagues in Congress ranged from condemnation to justification and even humor, many voices in the conservative media eagerly defended the assault (though there were notable exceptions). Pundits on Fox News explained that the California-born, Pennsylvania-raised Gianforte had merely given Jacobs a taste of “Montana justice.” Geraldo Rivera, of Brooklyn, New York, explained that Montanans “are no strangers to the more robust way of living.” The conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, who hails from the mean streets of Glastonbury, Connecticut, asked, “What would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?” …

Physically attacking journalists for asking questions is cowardly. Every single person who defends it is engaging in an act of cowardice. The notion that Gianforte was merely channeling the rugged frontier culture of Western mountain men when he attacked someone who asked him a question is laughable and patronizing.

It is not 1856, but these are the politics of a false valor forged by fear. It is the undercurrent of a politics that defends grown men who stalk black teenagers in the night and then gun them down when they raise their hands in their own defense; it is the politics that rationalizes Ohio police shooting a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun without so much as a chance to surrender; it is the politics of mass deportation and Muslim bans and Blue Lives Matter bills. It is the political logic of frightened people who need to tell themselves they are brave. This is not valor, it is the celebration of violence against those who cannot respond in kind. [emphasis mine]

Damn.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I actually think I’m pretty good at admitting I’m wrong.  It helps, of course, that it’s such a rare phenomenon ;-).  In all seriousness, my high self confidence does make it pretty easy.

 Traits like honesty and humility make you more human and therefore more relatable. On the flip side, if it is undeniably clear that you are in the wrong, refusing to apologize reveals low self-confidence.

“If it is clear to everybody that you made a mistake,” Mr. Okimoto said, “digging your heels in actually shows people your weakness of character rather than strength.”

2)  Political polarization is changing how we shop.

3) I’ve probably written about my oral allergy syndrome before.  Very cool to see a NPR story about it.  Thank God for Zyrtec because I sure love my apples.

4) Love this article about a Texas high school student who did not initially get into UT-Austin despite being first in her class because she was not in the top 7%.  You can’t be in the top 7% if your class is only 10.

5) Are women’s credentials more likely to be ignored than men’s.  I’d be really surprised if this wasn’t true.

6) This article is insane for the seeming hundreds of fruit recipes in the middle, but some very good science-based advice on happiness around all the fruit.

7) Diane Ravitch says blame Democrats for Betsy DeVos.

8) This speech by Mitch Landrieu!

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history; well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame—all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

9) Re-thinking how to best protect biodiversity:

Biodiversity is usually understood in simple numerical terms: more species means more biodiversity. In the United States and abroad, most conservation laws are designed to protect as many species as funding and politics allow. But just as diversity within a human population can be measured by more than skin color, diversity within animal and plant communities can be measured in a number of ways. Some species have a unique evolutionary lineage; others perform unusual or even irreplaceable functions in their ecosystems; and still others, such as the solenodons, are sui generis by almost any metric. Until recently, reconstructing a lineage required painstaking guesswork based on tiny variations in anatomy and appearance. The advent of cheap genetic sequencing, however, changed that. At the same time, the increasing prevalence of digital photography and remote-sensing technologies such as drones, along with the growing enthusiasm for citizen science, means that more humans are watching more species more closely than ever before. “We have this massive decline in biodiversity, but, at the same time, over the past decade, there’s been this explosion of all types of data—so now is really the time to use them,” Laura Pollock, a postdoctoral researcher at Grenoble Alpes University, in France, and the lead author of the Nature paper, told me.

10) We don’t need feminism anymore.  There’s clearly no more sex discrimination.

11) I love that they measure urine in swimming pools (really not so bad) by unmetabolized artificial sweeteners.

12) I love the circus.  This makes me so sad.

13) When pollen counts rise, test scores fall.

14) This is insane.  In NC, once you give consent to sex, you cannot revoke it.  Period.  Oh, and the effort to change this absurd and archaic law?  Going nowhere thanks to the Republicans in charge of the legislature.

15) Did being a woman mean HRC couldn’t run an angry campaign?

16) It’s long been thought marriage makes people healthier.  Maybe not.  Because divorce sucks.

The participants in the Swiss study reported their life satisfaction every year, and Professor Kalmijn found that people who married did become a little more satisfied. Over time, their satisfaction eroded, though much more slowly than in most previous studies of marriage. Dr. Kalmijn also examined the implications of divorce and found that people who divorced became significantly less satisfied with their lives. In fact, the negative implications of divorce for life satisfaction were more than three times greater than the positive implications of marrying.

That’s important. It helps explain why so many of us have been so sure for so long that marriage makes people happier and healthier. In the typical study, only people who are currently married are included in the married group. Then, if the currently married people do better than people who are not married, single people are told that if they get married, they will do better, too. But many people who marry — probably more than 40 percent — divorce and end up less happy than when they were single. A better way to assess the likely implications of marriage is to compare everyone who ever married to people who never married. Very few studies ever do that.

17) Covered the gender pay gap in class yesterday.  Timely piece from Claire Cain Miller.  It’s (almost) all about motherhood.

18) Yglesias makes the case that Montana’s result is further evidence Republicans are in trouble in 2018.  I think they probably are, but I’m still not sure how much any single special election tells us.

Our movie villain president

I love all the headlines along the lines of “Trump appears to push aside the Leader of Montenegro.”  No “appears” about it.  At least, not to those of us with, you know, vision.  Anyway, I was trying to think if I had ever seen anything quite like this before–especially Trump’s hilarious preening as he takes his place at the front.

In case you haven’t seen it, my favorite take is JK Rowling’s:

Anyway, I realized I’ve never actually seen anything quite like this in real life.  Seriously.  I have seen it portrayed, though– in movies where they have cartoonishly evil villains act like this.  This is seriously far more Dr. Evil than something you would expect from a world leader.

Image result

 

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