Quick hits (part II)

1) Even though I hardly follow baseball at all anymore, I found this interactive WP article about how hitters are now trying to hit balls with a greater upward angle to be really fascinating.

2) I’ll say that “cultural appropriation” is about the worst of what the left has to offer and rightly lampooned by conservatives.  The case of the Portland burrito cart run by white women (!!) demonstrates the level of absurdity.

3) William Ayers is still not afraid of President Trump because he thinks we over-emphasize the powers of the presidency:

I am, however, sticking to my pre-election conclusion: one man, no matter how ill-informed, arrogant, or unqualified, cannot destroy the United States or the world. The United States Presidency is far more limited in its scope and influence than we tend to give it credit for in our public discussions. Moreover, everything that Trump has done so far has had the effect of weakening the office still further, whether by appointing ill-prepared department heads who will spend their time fighting their own bureaucracies, taking extreme positions that mobilize resistance, or making policy proposals so absurd that he gets excluded from the important conversations. That’s not the world I would like to see, but it’s one I can live with.

I think Ayers is largely right.  Yet, if Trump were simply a more competent demagogue I think there’s enough evidence that he could do very serious damage to our democracy.

4) Speaking of democracy, Bartels and Achen have a helluva a critique.  Nice interview in Vox.

“Election outcomes,” Achen and Bartels conclude, “turn out to be largely random events from the viewpoint of democratic theory.”

If Achen and Bartels are right, democracy is a faulty form of politics, and direct democracy is far worse than that. It virtually guarantees that at some point, you’ll end up with a grossly unfit leader.

And that, of course, is what we now have.

5) Due to very low birth rates, Japan’s population is predicted to fall by 1/3 by 2060.  Sounds like a recipe for political turbulence.

6) New season of Invisibilia is out and the first two episodes about Emotion are fascinating.  Loved listening to and discussing these with David.  Here’s an interview with Lisa Barrett, one of the key subjects:

On the “classical” theory of emotions

The classical view of emotion is the idea that somewhere lurking deep inside you are the animalistic engine parts of your brain. There are circuits — one each for anger, sadness, fear, disgust and so on. And that when something happens in the world to trigger one of those circuits — say, for fear — you will have a very specific facial expression, a very specific bodily response, and that these expressions and responses have universal meaning. Everyone in the world makes them and recognizes them without learning or any experience at all.

On the wide variety of human emotions

There’s tremendous variability when it comes to emotion. Variety is the norm. It’s not the case that there are there’s one set of facial movements that you make when you’re sad, or when you’re angry, or when you’re afraid. For example, people don’t just scowl when they’re angry or smile when they’re happy. People smile when they’re sad, they cry when they’re angry, they scream when they’re happy. A person can tremble in fear, jump in fear, freeze in fear, scream in fear, hide in fear, attack in fear, even laugh in the face of fear.

So, I think that’s one important observation that’s really meaningful for understanding how emotions work in everyday life. That it may feel to you as if you look at someone’s face and you just know how they feel. But in fact your brain is guessing, [and] it’s using your own experiences from the past to make those guesses.

7) Ezra Klein on whether Elizabeth Warren’s more confrontational or Cory Booker’s conciliatory approach is the antidote to Trumpism.  I think I like Booker more, in general, but I’m with Warren here.

8) You know I love my social science, but I actually find it disheartening to think that preschools should be focusing more on academics.

9) Love this from my friend, Matt Shipman– you may be a scientist and not know it.  It’s all about the scientific method.


10) Jamelle Bouie makes the case that the rise of racist hate crimes is definitely related to the rise of Trump:

Throughout American history, the ascendance of political racism—the use of explicit prejudice to energize voters and win elections, often as a backlash to the social and economic advancement of black Americans and other nonwhite groups—has brought corresponding waves of racial violence. The “white supremacy” campaign that struck North Carolina in the state’s 1898 elections combined heated, racist rhetoric with a campaign of terror against black Republican voters and their white allies. Likewise, during the heyday of the civil rights movement, the heated demagoguery of segregationists was fuel for the violent responses that marked the crusade for black rights.

11) Nice to see Political Science professor Larry Sabato take CNN to task for absurd levels of false equivalency.

12) Long-time Republican big-whig (and NeverTrumper) Pete Wehner tells Republicans to stop being complicit in the firing of Comey.

13) Okay, I disagree with this.  A University of Florida Dean lost her job for giving a strong reference to a former employee.  The problem? Said employee lost his job for ordering “adult” DVD’s with his university email address.  I don’t think either of these should be firable offenses.  As for the Dean, if somebody is an entirely excellent employee under your supervision, what’s wrong with reporting that reality.  I don’t think it’s the Dean’s responsibility to review the email receipts of all her employees.  Personally, I use my ncsu account to buy stuff all the time.  Though, it is more likely to be fidget spinners.  I get that it’s a public account, but what I buy with it on my own time should not necessarily be.

14) The case for going all-in on the placebo effect, even when patients know that’s what it is.

15) This Nautilus piece on evolution and survival of the friendliest was really, really interesting.

16) This is a really good CNN piece on the affront to justice and human decency of mandatory minimum sentences.  Mentioned, but under-played that this is, at heart, a problem of over-zealous prosecutors.  Presumably, to convince themselves that they are good people who are making the world a better place, they actually come to believe that it somehow benefits society to put a 50-year old housewife with no criminal history and no history of violence into jail for a minimum of 5 years for 5 grams of meth.

17) OMG, I think I would take Ted Cruz over these “liberal” fascists at Evergreen State.  Unreal.

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