Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice Pew report on gun ownership and attitudes.  A large majority of gun owners believe owning a gun is “essential to their freedom.”  Newsflash: it’s not.

2) Heaven forbid people in North Carolina drink alcohol before noon on a Sunday.  The pathetic, backward, explicitly right-wing Christian justification for this law is just embarrassing.

3) Oh my is this one hell of a summer reading list from an Alabama social studies teacher.

4) As if our criminal justice system wasn’t already shameful enough, it’s really unconscionable how the system tries to extract exorbitant profits from criminals and their families.

5) I like Josh Barro’s column on how the Democratic party needs to follow Elizabeth Warren’s approach– unrig the system.  It came to me via a critical posting from a middle-aged white male political science professor who questioned how we could ever expect a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white person to lead the current Democratic party.

6) Pretty amazing what British campaigners did with Tinder to get more Corbyn voters.

7) I liked this “5 reasons it’s hard so to think like a scientist.”  I don’t actually find it hard, but that’s because of years of excellent training.  I especially liked this conclusion as my mom was really, really smart, but the fact that she had never had any science or social science training was clear:

Being smart isn’t enough
Even expert researchers suffer from the human foibles that undermine scientific thinking. Their critical faculties are contaminated by their agenda, by their ultimate motives for doing their experiments. This is why the open science revolution occurring in psychology is so important: when researchers make their methods and hypotheses transparent, and they pre-register their studies, it makes it less likely that they will be diverted, even corrupted by, confirmation bias (seeking out evidence to support their existing beliefs).

Take the example of systematic views in psychotherapy research: a recent analysis found that the conclusions of many are spun in a way that supports the researchers’ own biases. Other times, the whole scientific publishing community, from journals editors down to science journalists, seem to switch off their critical faculties because they happen to agree with the message to emerge from a piece of research.

In their chapter, Shah and her colleagues point out that raw cognitive ability (IQ) is not a good predictor of a person’s ability to think like a scientist. More relevant is mental attitude, such as a person’s “need for cognition” and their ability or motivation to override gut instinct and reflect deeply. On a positive note, these mental dispositions may be more malleable, that is more trainable, than basic intelligence. But we’ll need plenty of solid evidence to test that.

8) Naomi Klein makes the case for identity politics as preeminent for the left.  Interesting interview, but I remain unpersuaded.  And I think her critique of the center-left on climate change is a massive and willful mis-representation.

9) There is no #9 :-).

10) Yglesias on Trump’s America and passing the Senate health care bill:

The watchwords of Trump-era politics are “LOL nothing matters.” If you’re in a jam, you just lie about it. If you’re caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.

11) This tweetstorm on Philandro Castille and what we expect out of police versus ordinary citizens is so good; please read it.

12) This NPR story on the “driving life and death of Philandro Casttille” is very good.  If you think a similar white man would get pulled over half this much, you are part of the problem.

13) Okay, a little too liberal preachy, but I really did enjoy this, “Christian: you are upset about the wrong things”

If you become upset when people use the greeting “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” but you are less upset at the wasteful use of resources during this season and the rampant shallow consumerism while many live in poverty: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset when the government uses its power to make corporations protect their workers and protect the environment, but you are less upset when those workers are exploited, injured, or the environment is critically harmed: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset at the grocery store when you see someone pay for their food with vouchers or food stamps, but you are less upset with the institutional and cultural structures that often create the very need for such help: You are upset about the wrong things.

14) This is important— how the Senate bill creates a sneaky, but effective, backdoor for essentially removing protection for those with pre-existing conditions.  Read this, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

15) NC State senator refers to “jihad media.” NC State PS professor actually says what he really thinks:

“It is exactly the type of loaded, symbolic term one might use preaching to the choir of the Republican base, which is presumably very much Bishop’s audience on Twitter,” Greene said in an email. “This seems of a similar intellectual vein of President Trump referring to the media as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Complaining about the ‘bias’ of very middle-of-the-road mainstream media has been a trope of the Republican right wing for years; this is just taking it to a new level. That said, when one considers the absolutely fundamental role of free media in a properly functioning democracy, this is not the type of rhetoric which should be a part of reasoned political debate.”

16) Excellent NYT Editorial on the psychologist/torturers.

17) Jordan Weissman on the media’s short attention span and McConnell’s evil brilliance:

But whether or not the GOP’s bill ultimately passes, McConnell has already pulled off a frightening coup by showing how easily you can get away with legislating by dark. Even worse, you might be rewarded for it by a media that doesn’t like to harp on the same old story about congressional minutiae day after day when it could be focusing on something with intrigue and a dramatic narrative arc, like James Comey and Trump’s Russia scandal.

U.S. democracy functions thanks to dull rules created by dull men in dull institutions. McConnell has shown that nobody bothers to tune in when a dull man smashes them.

18) Former Reagan administration official, Bruce Bartlett rips Trump and today’s GOP like nobody’s business.  Read it.

And if those policies weren’t enough, conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.


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

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