And, no, you can’t just exercise all that candy away

Also, really enjoyed this Vox feature on the limits of exercise in losing weight.  Exercise is awesome and definitely helps keep you healthy, but although calories in/calories out really does matter, the calories in is ultimately the far more important (and controllable) portion of the equation.  Here’s the infographic summary:

Well worth reading the whole thing.  Among the most interesting parts is the research on the “calories out:

Based on the research, Pontzer has proposed a new model that upends the the old “calories in, calories out” approach to exercise, where the body burns more calories with more physical activity in a linear relationship (also known as the “additive” model of energy expenditure).

He calls this the “constrained model” of energy expenditure, which shows that the effect of more physical activity on the human body is not linear. In light of our evolutionary history — when food sources were less reliable — he argues that the body sets a limit on how much energy it is willing to expend, regardless of how active we are.

“The overarching idea,” Pontzer explained, “is that the body is trying to defend a particular energy expenditure level no matter how active you get.”

Meanwhile, since this is Vox, the policy angle:

9) The government and the food industry are doling out unscientific advice

Since 1980, the obesity prevalence has doubled worldwide with about 13 percent of the global population now registering as obese, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, nearly 70 percent of the population is either overweight or obese.

A lack of exercise and too many calories have been depicted as equal causes of the crisis. But as researchers put it in an article in BMJ, “You cannot outrun a bad diet.”

Since at least the 1950s, Americans have been told that we can. This Public Health Reports paper outlines the dozens of government departments and organizations — from the American Heart Association to the US Department of Agriculture — whose campaigns suggested more physical activity (alone or in addition to diet) to reverse weight gain.

Unfortunately, we are losing the obesity battle because we are eating more than ever. But the exercise myth is still regularly deployed by the food and beverage industry — which are increasingly under fire for selling us too many unhealthy products.

And here’s the final weight loss advice:

If you embark on a weight-loss journey that involves both adding exercise and cutting calories, Montclair’s Diana Thomas warned not to count those calories burned in physical activity toward extra eating.

“Pretend you didn’t exercise at all,” she said. “You will most likely compensate anyway so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss.”

For the record, in my N of 1, I totally count the exercise (though not calorie counting today with all those mini Twix to come) and I have consistently lost weight whenever I have calorie counted.  I’ve even been known to go for a run for the explicit purpose of enjoying dessert later.  Anyway, the overall point still holds.  Be sensible and focus on calories in.  And exercise, because being healthy is good.

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The best use of statistics ever?

I love candy.  And I love this 538 feature using head-to-head comparisons and statistics to figure out what makes various candy appealing.  For myself, I’m all about chewy.  Love laffy taffy, gummies, twizzlers.  And, of course, chocolate.  What kind of failed human doesn’t love chocolate.  Anyway, here’s the top of the ranking (whole thing at the link):

I do love both twix and kit kat, which are near the top.  I enjoy Reese’s, but did not realize the combination of chocolate and peanut butter was so beloved.  What makes this extra cool, though, is the OLS regression model to determine which features make candy most appealing.

So, there you go, not just chocolate and peanut butter, but fruit flavors.  Now, what the statistician in me really wants to see is an interaction term for chocolate and peanut butter together.  I strongly suspect that would be statistically significant.

Anyway, happy Halloween!  Rest assured, I will be plucking twix, kit kat, and twizzlers right out of my kids’ Halloween pumpkins tonight as candy tax.

The urban vacuum

Terrific Ron Brownstein piece last week (I love him, but hate that he’s at CNN now.  Though, good for CNN, I guess) on the hugely important, under-appreciated demographic shift taking place.  America’s major urban areas are basically sucking up all the educated people and all the economic productivity in ever greater numbers:

In metro areas from Seattle to Chicago to Washington, DC, new data show that per capita incomes, education levels and the young adult share of the population are rising rapidly in downtown urban centers that were left for dead 30 and 40 years ago. Simultaneously, in many of the same places, incomes, education levels and the age structure is failing to keep pace, or even deteriorating, in the small town and exurban communities at the metropolitan area’s periphery.

This widening geographic separation between town and country — reinforced by a strong urban tilt in such key measures as venture capital investment and new business formation — helps explain President Donald Trump’s overwhelming support in the smaller, mostly white communities that largely feel excluded from the economic recovery since 2009…

Using data from the 1990 Census, and the five-year 2011-2015 average from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the analysis shows that many cities have been revived by an influx of well-educated, affluent, young people, even as communities further from the urban core have struggled to retain those same prized residents. In some places, the inner suburbs in between have also gained; in others they have lost ground. But the tilt in opportunity away from communities on the urban periphery to those at the city core is consistent through all regions. [emphases mine]

The UVA data documents this shift by measuring the demographic and economic characteristics of people who live in the urban centers of 50 large metropolitan areas and up to 30 miles from them. In a series of interactive charts, it compares those profiles in both 1990 and today. That comparison produces a pattern reminiscent of what Ross Perot, the independent presidential candidate in 1992, once called “a giant sucking sound” — in this case center cities pulling away the most upwardly mobile people from smaller places.

Since 1990, the overall number of college graduates in the nation has grown, but the gap between the share of them living in central cities and smaller places is widening.

In Chicago, the share of college graduates in the central city has increased since 1990 by 25 percentage points. That’s almost exactly double the increase (13 points) in communities at 30 miles. In Seattle, over the same period, the share of college graduates at center city has exploded by 26 percentage points (from 35% to 61%) while growing just six points (from 17% to 23%) 30 miles out. In Charlotte, the share of residents with a college degree in 1990 was 11 percentage points greater at the city center than at the 30-mile marker; now the difference is 41 points. In 1990, about 1 in 5 people at the city center in Phoenix held a college degree, roughly double the level in communities 30 miles away. Now nearly 3 in 5 center residents in Phoenix have a degree, well over triple the level at 30 miles…

The frustrations of younger mostly minority communities inside growing cities, and the older, predominantly white communities at their periphery, are really two reflections of the same challenge: finding ways to more widely disperse opportunity beyond well-educated workers in a few highly networked urban centers of clustered talent. Trump has responded mostly by pointing blame at foreign trading competitors, immigrants and the political “elite,” while Democrats typically shake their fist at the rich and Wall Street. But both parties are still largely at square one of formulating an agenda that can plausibly channel more of the growth coursing through the biggest cities into the places it has bypassed — both nearby and far away.

This is a big, important change that will definitely shape politics in major ways.  Rob Christensen does not reference Brownstein, but his piece on the struggling smaller cities in NC fits exactly into this pattern.

What is your political type?

Pew released their 2017 political typology last week.  Pretty cool stuff.  Here’s a chart with the basic breakdown of political types:

I love how this chart shows the types among the public, voters, and the most politically engaged.  It’s a clear demonstration why both parties are pulled toward the extreme– that’s where the most active partisans are.  It’s also interesting to see the new groups compared to the 2014 version.  For example, there’s no sign of the “country first conservatives” who are now clearly punching above their weight:

The 2014 Political Typology:  Polarized Wings, a Diverse Middle

And, back to 2017, these are a nice couple of charts for showing where the intra-party divides are:

First time I did the typology, I actually came out an “opportunity Democrat” rather than a “solid liberal.”  As much as I think society way under-appreciates the impact of external forces on one’s life outcomes, I still believe that (properly regulated) markets are a good thing and that hard work does have a way of paying off.  But, it was a really tough call with some binary choices and I took it again, changing just two questions, and came out a “solid liberal.”  I’m probably a solid liberal with more faith in markets and hard-work than most or an opportunity Dem with less faith in markets and hard work than most.

Take it yourself and let me know where you come out!

 

Are you secretly racist?

Maybe.  But don’t come to any conclusions based on the super-popular Implicit Association Test.  The IAT is super-cool.  I’ve done a bunch of these myself (try it here) and I really like how my friend, Alex Theodoridis applied it to partisanship, but Jesse Singal’s terrific article makes clear that its utility for understanding racism has been waaaaaay over-sold.  This is a long piece, but if you are interested in social science (or, specifically, the idea of implicit racism), it’s really a pretty fascinating case on how an idea really took over the field, gained huge real-word practical relevance, and only recently has been shown to be deeply suspect.

I was intrigued by reading about all the people that were traumatized in learning they were implicitly racist.  I don’t remember my exact results, but I know what I consciously think, I know my political views, and I know how I treat people, so I was never bothered by the fat that my brain might more rapidly respond to Black people connected to negative words than white people connected to negative words.

And, good news, I figured since this is from back in January, somebody must have done a pretty decent short version.  German Lopez at Vox!  And I missed it.  Anyway, definitely check out the Vox version.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Using algorithms to help with sentencing decisions seems like a good way to minimize the impact of human bias.  Alas, it actually exacerbates racial bias.

2) Paul Waldman and Jon Chait both with the exact same (and completely apt) take on Trump, Republican, and Russia.  “No puppet.  No puppet.  You’re the puppet!”

3) My friend/colleague who studies China made a compelling case to me at lunch the other day that goings-on in China of late are really important.  Here’s the NYT story.

4) Yglesias makes the case that Corker and Flake need to actually use their leverage as Senators:

I don’t live inside the minds of Flake, Corker, and McCain, so I can’t know exactly how much of a high point of ideological principle they view this bank regulation thing to be. But in general, to take action against Trump, they need to do four things:

  1. Identify something they want to force Trump to do.
  2. Identify something Republicans want to pass that they think is less important than No. 1.
  3. Say that unless No. 1 happens, they will scuttle No. 2.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

Part of the genius of the American system of government is that issues don’t need to be closely related for senators to make them be closely related. Flake, Corker, and McCain all care a lot about foreign policy, for example. So one thing they might be concerned about is the extent to which the State Department’s senior leadership ranks are riddled with vacancies. They could have stood up and said they would scuttle the bill on bank lawsuits unless Trump submitted a full slate of well-qualified nominees for these positions.

Or since all three men have spoken out about the Trump administration’s troubling dishonesty, perhaps the thing they want is for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson for lying about her in the White House briefing room…

The point isn’t that anti-Trump Republicans should adopt all of my policy views. It’s that they need to engage in some self-reflection about their own policy views. Pick some things that seem important to them but unlikely to happen, pick some things that seem likely to happen but less important, and threaten to scuttle the likely things unless they get their way on the important things. That’s what legislators do — they legislate.

5) Honestly, the workaday NYT headline says it all, “Tax Cuts Are the Glue Holding a Fractured Republican Party Together.”

6) An experiment that made participants feel less susceptible to fear made them temporarily more liberal.

7) I have to say, this Burger King anti-bullying ad really is very good.  For my part, I ran with Evan in his middle school’s “anti-bullying 5K” today.

8) Seth Masket, “Meet Fox News, Our Director of National Policy.”

I strongly recommend reading through Matthew Gertz’s Twitter thread in which he watched Fox & Friends while following Trump’s Twitter feed. Basically, approximately 30 minutes after a Fox story, Trump would tweet something related to it. Fox called congressional Democrats obstructionists at 6:08 a.m. on October 18th, and Trump tweeted that Democrats are opposed to his tax reductions 30 minutes later. Fox ran a story about James Comey at 6:29 a.m., and Trump tweeted a criticism of Comey 27 minutes later. This pattern continues. (The president TiVo-ing Fox & Friends helps account for the time lag.)…

Presidential scholars will tell you that the presidency is a constitutionally weak position, but that one of the major strengths it has is setting the agenda for the federal government. No one can compete with the media attention the president will receive, and what he decides will be an important issue often ends up becoming so; whoever sets the president’s agenda possesses a great deal of power. Often, that role has fallen to the major political parties, but Trump’s relationship with his party is a tenuous one. Sometimes it falls to the president’s most immediate set of advisers.

In Trump’s case, it appears to be Fox News. The news network devoted to covering the federal government is, in fact, setting that government’s agenda. Reporters and news outlets have occasional had some sway with the president, but it’s hard to think of a parallel to this relationship. Indeed, this helps to explain why the Republican agenda has been so fraught and disorganized.

9) Enjoyed Popular Science’s round-up of the 12 most important health innovations of the year.

10) Andrew Sullivan lets loose on the “Trump abyss.”  Wow.

Yes, the forms of the Constitution remain largely intact after nine months. But the norms that make the Constitution work are crumbling. The structure looks the same, but Trump has relentlessly attacked their foundations. Do not therefore keep your eyes on the surface. Put your ear to the ground.

And we know something after a year of this. It will go on. This is not a function of strategy or what we might ordinarily describe as will. It is because this president is so psychologically disordered he cannot behave in any other way. His emotions control his mind; his narcissism overwhelms even basic self-interest, let alone the interest of the country as a whole. He cannot unite the country, even if, somewhere in his fathomless vanity, he wants to. And he cannot stop this manic defense of ego because if he did, his very self would collapse. This is why he lies and why he cannot admit a single one of them. He is psychologically incapable of accepting that he could be wrong and someone else could be right. His impulse – which he cannot control – is simply to assault the person who points out the error, or blame someone else for it…

If I were asked which were the problems that are most overlooked right now, I’d say record levels of social and economic inequality, declining social mobility and a dangerous, unsustainable level of debt. Acquiescence to all three poses a threat to the legitimacy of democratic capitalism. My own understanding of conservatism would be particularly concerned about all three, because conservatives should want to conserve our system of government and support for free market economics.

So what does the ostensibly conservative party in America – the Republicans – propose we do? They propose that we make all of this de-legitimization of democratic capitalism much, much worse. I’m referring primarily to their proposed massive tax cut to the super-wealthy, the abolition of the estate tax, and their bid to add over a trillion dollars to the debt.

11) Damn.  I will take a libertarian anyday, or heck, a Mitt Romney Republican, over these damn totalitarians in liberal guise on college campuses.  I don’t know anything about the University of Oregon president.  I do know that nothing justifies students preventing him from giving his “state of the university” speech.

12) Is there something about the state of Oregon.  Reed College, which, like Oberlin, pretty much represents extreme liberalism amok on campus, apparently has pretty much lost its mind.  This essay from a Reed professor was just sad.  Worst part is that the college administration allowed this.  On the bright side, as much as everybody likes to say “kids today” Reed and Oregon are still outliers.  That said, actual liberals need to vociferously speak up against this authoritarian crap.

At Reed College in Oregon, where I work, a group of students began protestingthe required first-year humanities course a year ago. Three times a week, students sat in the lecture space holding signs — many too obscene to be printed here — condemning the course and its faculty as white supremacists, as anti-black, as not open to dialogue and criticism, on the grounds that we continue to teach, among many other things, Aristotle and Plato.

In the interest of supporting dissent and the free exchange of ideas, the faculty and administration allowed this. Those who felt able to do so lectured surrounded by those signs for the better part of a year.

13) Apparently stealing marathon bib numbers and designs prior to the race by social media and then using them to make counterfeits and run the race is a big thing.

14) The shameless disrespect for the judicial branch in NC is certainly one of the most frustrating– and woefully under-covered– aspects of the clowns currently running our state legislature.

15) The Supreme Court is not above playing fast and loose with facts.

Death penalty? Not so much

Among some pretty dramatic trendlines in American politics, the drop in support for the death penalty is really something to behold, too.  The latest from Gallup:

1

Now, that’s still a clear majority, but dropping from 80% to 55% support in just over two decades really is something.  Presumably, we can thank 1) the declining crime rate, and 2) the attention to all the innocent people released from death row thanks to DNA testing.

What’s most notable about the recent decline is that it is not all led by Democrats, but increasing numbers of Republicans appear to be questioning the death penalty as well:

2

Will definitely be interesting to see how this trend develops in the next few years with Mr. “American carnage” in the White House and driving the Republican electorate.

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