Quick hits (part I)

1) Ross Douthat’s lacerating take on Hugh Hefner.

2) Love Megan McArdle’s take on universities using graduate schools as a cash cow:

We should, however, be concerned because the cost is spreading. Having finally reached the limits of American parents to bear ever-increasing bills for undergraduate tuition, struggling colleges are now turning to graduate programs to fund their operations. Indeed, schools often encourage graduate students’ naïve faith, painting a rosy picture of future employment prospects that is, to say the very least, highly selective. 3

It’s bad enough that schools do this; it’s worse still that the American taxpayer is helping them. For it is hard not to suspect that the proliferation of master’s degrees programs has less to do with exploding employer demand for advanced degrees in Jewish studies or public history, and more to do with the availability of student loans to fund those degrees. The government caps the amount that undergraduates can borrow, but offers graduate students considerably more rope with which to hang themselves.

3) Of course Republicans don’t want you to see a report with inconvenient findings on corporate taxation.

4) Why the recent Supreme Court case is the perfect one for overturning the scourge that is gerrymandering.

5) Joe Nocera on the FBI and NCAA College basketball, “The FBI Is Doing the NCAA’s Dirty Work: Charges of corruption and bribery in college basketball are about amateurism rules, not laws.”

6) Brian Resnick on fake news and the illusory truth effect:

But each time a reader encounters one of these stories on Facebook, Google, or really anywhere, it makes a subtle impression. Each time, the story grows more familiar. And that familiarity casts the illusion of truth.

Recent and historical work in psychology shows mere exposure to fake news makes it spread. To understand why — and the extent to which false stories seep into our brains — we need to understand the psychology of the illusory truth effect…

The illusory truth effect has been studied for decades — the first citations date back to the 1970s. Typically, experimenters in these studies ask participants to rate a series of trivia statements as true or false. Hours, weeks, or even months later, the experimenters bring the participants back again for a quiz.

On that second visit, some of the statements are new and some are repeats. And it’s here that the effect shows itself: Participants are reliably more likely to rate statements they’ve seen before as being true — regardless of whether they are.

When you’re hearing something for the second or third time, your brain becomes faster to respond to it. “And your brain misattributes that fluency as a signal for it being true,” says Lisa Fazio, a psychologist who studies learning and memory at Vanderbilt University. The more you hear something, the more “you’ll have this gut-level feeling that maybe it’s true.”

Most of the time, this mental heuristic — a thinking shortcut — helps us. We don’t need to rack our brains every time we hear “the Earth is round” to decide if it’s true or not. Most of the things we hear repeated over and over again are, indeed, true. But falsehoods can hijack this mental tic as well.

7) That whole IRS Tea Party scandal, we now know (and had clues back then), was not actually a scandal.  The reporters and editors involved should be embarrassed:

The issue might have become part of what Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan has called the “scandal attention cycle” — the rapid surge of attention as reporters race to cover an issue followed by a similar decline as the news media loses interest. “The problem is that it often takes time for the full set of facts to come out,” Nyhan has written. “By that time, the story is old news and the more complex or ambiguous details that often emerge are buried or ignored.”

Indeed, the original claims by Republicans were widely reported “without much investigation,” said DeWayne Wickham, dean of the journalism school at Morgan State University and a former columnist for USA Today.

News organizations, Wickham said, “do too much repeating and not enough reporting. As a result, journalists often use the work of other journalists as the primary source of the news they report. In the case of the IRS story, this problem was compounded by an obsession that a lot news organizations have with proving they are balanced in their coverage of the warring between the political right and left.”

8) And Paul Waldman on what this tells us about Republican corruption.

9) Really nice Dahlia Lithwick piece on Supreme Court jurisprudence on gun control and the current ambiguity.

10) Michael Shermer, “Guns Aren’t a Bulwark Against Tyranny. The Rule of Law Is.”

Gun-rights advocates also make the grandiose claim that gun ownership is a deterrent against tyrannical governments. Indeed, the wording of the Second Amendment makes this point explicitly: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That may have made sense in the 1770s, when breech-loading flintlock muskets were the primary weapons tyrants used to conquer other peoples and subdue their own citizens who could, in turn, equalize the power equation by arming themselves with equivalent firepower. But that is no longer true…

If you think stock piling firearms from the local Guns and Guitars store, where the Las Vegas shooter purchased some of his many weapons, and dressing up in camouflage and body armor is going to protect you from an American military capable of delivering tanks and armored vehicles full Navy SEALs to your door, you’re delusional…

A civil society based on the rule of law with a professional military to protect its citizens from external threats; a police force to protect civilians from internal dangers; a criminal justice system to peacefully settle disputes between the state and its citizenry; and a civil court system to enable individuals to resolve conflicts nonviolently — these institutions have been the primary drivers in the dramatic decline of violence over the past several centuries, not an increasingly well-armed public. [emphasis mine]

11) Thomas Edsall with a deep dive on how changing attitudes towards immigration in the Midwest did in Hillary.

12) Nice Upshot graphic (and article) on what gun control policies experts think are effective and have public support.

13) This “why we never talk about ‘Black on Black crime'” essay is terrific.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: