It’s hard out here for a white dude

Or so think many white dudes who look to blame whatever problems they face on other people.  Interesting new NPR poll:

A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it,” said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, “and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you’re white, you don’t get it. If you’re black, you get it.”

More than half of whites — 55 percent — surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Hershman’s view is similar to what was heard on the campaign trail at Trump rally after Trump rally. Donald Trump catered to white grievance during the 2016 presidential campaign and has done so as president as well.

Notable, however, is that while a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say that they have actually experienced it. Also important to note is that 84 percent of whites believe discrimination exists against racial and ethnic minorities in America today.

How they decided to present this without breaking it out by partisanship is utterly mystifying.  But, I think we all have a pretty good idea how that would make the numbers look.

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Trump vs. the Media

So, I’m super-excited to have my favorite media analyst as our NCSU guest speaker tomorrow (Wednesday) night.  I’ve been reading Jay Rosen for years, and his views have shaped how I understand the media as much as anybody’s.  His occasional blog is terrific and his frequent tweets are among my favorites.

Here’s the official description.  If you are local, try and make it!  I’m going to try and record it for viewing on-line, but I’ve got to figure out some stuff about that.  I’ll let you know.

Trump’s Campaign to Discredit the Media and its Threat to American Ideals

Wednesday, October 25th 2017, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Dabney 124

Jay Rosen, NYU Professor and media critic will argue that President Trump’s campaign to discredit the media presents a threat to key principles of a healthy American democracy.

Free and open to the public.

Jay Rosen has been teaching journalism at New York University since 1986. From 1999 to 2005 he served as chair of the program. Rosen is the author of PressThink, a blog about journalism and its ordeals (www.pressthink.org), which he introduced in September 2003. In 1999, Yale University Press published his book, What Are Journalists For?, which is about the rise of the civic journalism movement. In 2008 he was the co-publisher, with Arianna Huffington, of OffTheBus.net, which allowed anyone who was interested to sign up and contribute to campaign coverage for the Huffington Post. He is also a press critic with a focus on the coverage of politics, and an adviser to media companies. On Twitter he is @jayrosen_nyu.

Quick hits (part II)

1) As German Lopez points out, we already know what to do about opioid addiction– medication-assisted therapy.  The problem is, our backwards, anti-scientific views of the matter prevent the best practices from being widely used.

2) Or as this Scientific American piece puts it, “People Are Dying Because of Ignorance, not Because of Opioids.”

For about 20 years, the number of Americans who have tried heroin for the first time has been relatively stable. Heroin use specifically and opioid use in general are not going anywhere, whether we like it or not. This is not an endorsement of drug use but rather a realistic appraisal of the empirical evidence. Addressing the opioid crisis with ignorant comments from political figures and the inappropriate use of public funds do little to ensure users’ safety. Perhaps, for once, we should try interventions that are informed by science and proven to work.

3) Dan Drezner on the need for Rex Tillerson to resign ASAP.

4) Jennifer Rubin on the  “dunces” ruining (really, running) the GOP’s economic agenda.

5) Best thing I’ve read on Russian misinformation and the role of Facebook in 2016.

6) Nobody except Netflix knows how many people watch Netflix shows.  Nielsen has found a way to change that.

7) Personally, I think it is pretty cool that Google Maps added a feature letting you know how many calories you would burn by walking (rather than driving) a given route.  Alas, this is why we cannot have nice things:

“We’ve gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it’s really not,” she said. “The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway.”

On Monday night, Google pulled the feature, which it said was an experiment on its iOS app. The decision followed a wave of attention on social media; while some of the responsessaw Google’s feature as promoting exercise, there were several complaints that it was dangerous or insulting.

Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food. (One mini cupcake, it said, was worth a little less than 125 calories, but no information was provided about how that calculation was made.)

At least have it as an option that can be turned off.  But, really, we have to worry about people being “triggered” by the number of calories involved in walking a few blocks?

8) Sarah Kliff on why American health care is so expensive.  The prices.  We pay more for literally everything.  Want to really understand it?

9) Kevin Drum on how Wisconsin is absurdly effective at voter suppression.  The fact that courts let Wisconsin get away with this is almost as damning as what Wisconsin Republicans have done.

10) Barbara Radnofsky argues that impeachment was designed for a president like Trump:

The very embodiment of what the Founding Fathers feared is now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Again and again, they anticipated attributes and behaviors that President Trump exhibits on an all-too-regular basis. By describing “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the grounds for impeachment, as any act that poses a significant threat to society — either through incompetence or other misdeeds — the framers made it clear that an official does not have to commit a crime to be subject to impeachment. Instead, they made impeachment a political process, understanding that the true threat to the republic was not criminality but unfitness, that a president who violated the country’s norms and values was as much a threat as one who broke its laws.

Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the Constitution’s preamble, and future president James Madison were worried about a leader who would “pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation” — theft of public funds — “or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” as Madison put it. Morris, who like many in the colonies believed King Charles had taken bribes from Louis XIV to support France’s war against the Dutch, declared that without impeachment we “expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate [the President] in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him.”

11) Man bused for Meth that was actually Krispy Kreme donut glaze.  Thank you War on Drugs!

12) Those who care the most about the issue of GM foods are, of course, most likely to have the false belief that GM foods are worse for human health:

 

13) Saletan on the atrociously-misnamed “values voters” who support Trump.

14) Sure, GW Bush said some important things about the direction of the Republican Party.  But, he’s supporting Ed Gillespie’s racist, Trumpist campaign for Virginia governor that Bush was supposedly speaking against.  Actions.  Words.

15) Ryan Lizza on John Kelly this week:

Sanders shot back with the kind of statement that would be normal in an authoritarian country, suggesting that Kelly’s previous military service placed him beyond criticism. “If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that that—if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

No, it is not. Kelly is the chief of staff and a political operative. He held a press conference and told a lie that smeared one of Trump’s political opponents. No government official’s military background, no matter how honorable, makes him immune to criticism, especially given the subject at hand. Sanders’s response was unnerving. But the bigger lesson of the episode is that no matter how good one’s intentions are, when you go to work for Trump, you will end up paying for it with your reputation. For Kelly, not even his four stars prevented that. [emphasis mine]

16) OMG this essay from Kevin Williamson in National Review on the “white minstrel show” of politics is amazing.  I surely don’t agree with everything, but so much good, thought-provoking stuff in here.  A must-read.  Here’s a good snippet:

White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect.

Its opposite is the sneering, leveling, drag-’em-all-down-into-the-mud anti-“elitism” of contemporary right-wing populism. Self-respect says: “I’m an American citizen, and I can walk into any room, talk to any president, prince, or potentate, because I can rise to any occasion.” Populist anti-elitism says the opposite: “I can be rude enough and denigrating enough to drag anybody down to my level.” Trump’s rhetoric — ridiculous and demeaning schoolyard nicknames, boasting about money, etc. — has always been about reducing. Trump doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to duke it out with even the modest wits at the New York Times, hence it’s “the failing New York Times.” Never mind that the New York Times isn’t actually failing and that any number of Trump-related businesses have failed so thoroughly that they’ve gone into bankruptcy; the truth doesn’t matter to the argument any more than it matters whether the fifth-grade bully actually has an actionable claim on some poor kid’s lunch money. It would never even occur to the low-minded to identify with anybody other than the bully. That’s what all that ridiculous stuff about “winning” was all about in the campaign. It is might-makes-right, i.e., the politics of chimpanzee troupes, prison yards, kindergartens, and other primitive environments. That is where the underclass ethic thrives — and how “smart people” came to be a term of abuse.

Photo of the day

Had a great time at the NC State Fair yesterday.  Loved the colors in this shot (my Canon G7X in HDR mode).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Of course researchers should house monkeys in shared cages.  To do otherwise with any social animal is just cruel.  I wish there weren’t primates in research at all, but since there are, it is nice to see it moving in this direction.

2) Let’s stick with the animal theme here.  Ed Yong on how domestication ruined dogs‘ pack instincts.

“The idea is that we’ve changed their psychology to make them into super-cooperative beings,” says Marshall-Pescini. But that’s only true for their relationships with us. By domesticating dogs (or rather, providing the conditions for them to domesticate themselves), humans ruined the pack instinct that makes wolves some of the most gregarious and cooperative hunters on four legs. “They adapted to the niche we provided for them and it changed their sociality,” Marshall-Pescini says…

Around 80 percent of dogs, in fact, are free-ranging, and their behavior shows just how different they are to wolves. They’re mostly solitary, scavenging alone on human garbage. When they do form packs, these groups are usually small and loose-knit. They might hunt together, but they mostly congregate to defend their territory. By contrast, wolves live in extremely tight-knit family groups. They rely on their pack-mates to bring down large prey, and they work together to rear each other’s pups. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack, as Rudyard Kipling’s poem goes.  [And a slogan frequently seen on NC State t-shirts]

3) It was not that hard for the Vikings to deforest Iceland a thousand years ago.  It’s damn hard for modern day Icelanders do grow trees.  Leaving the country a wet desert.

4) Some researchers got the gender coding exactly backwards in their study meaning their interesting and unusual finding was flat-out wrong and exactly the opposite.

5) Damn, what is it with on-line social justice warriors and YA fiction?!  Ugh.  And, shame, shame, shame on Kirkus for giving in.

6a) A damn fine response to John Roberts “Sociological gobbledegook” pronouncement.  Honestly, Roberts is an intellectual embarrassment with statements like that.

“I don’t put much stock in the claim that the Supreme Court is afraid of adjudicating partisan gerrymanders because it’s afraid of math,” Daniel Hemel, who teaches law at the University of Chicago, told me. “[Roberts] is very smart and so are the judges who would be adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims — I’m sure he and they could wrap their minds around the math. The ‘gobbledygook’ argument seems to be masking whatever his real objection might be.”

But if the chief justice hides his true objections behind a feigned inability to grok the math, well, that’s a problem math can’t solve.

6b) And an Election Law Blog post on the same matter.

7) And John Pfaff makes a solid argument that the Court could really benefit from official fact-checkers.

8) Conor Friedersdorf raises some really good points about universities and micro-aggressions.

9) Chait on the pending Republican tax cuts:

The last time Republicans had control of government, they explained that cutting taxes would not get in the way of fiscal responsibility. Not only would tax cuts produce faster growth, they argued, they would also force Congress to restrain spending. Their strategy utterly failed. Not only did the tax cuts fail to produce higher growth, they also failed to encourage spending restraint….

And so there they are, back to the exact same policy they tried in 2001: Pass a huge tax cut and hope somehow it leads to cutting spending. That this policy is now being carried out by the same people who rose to power by denouncing the failure of the exact same policy last time tells you everything you need to know about the state of economic policy thought in the Republican Party now.

10) I love this, “Want to raise an empowered girl? Then let her be funny.”  I do.  Also, my wife is really, really funny, but you have to know her pretty well first before you learn that.

Today we encourage our daughters to be ambitious and athletic, opinionated and outspoken. We want them focused on STEM and outfitted in T-shirts that read, “Who runs the world? Girls.”

But what if raising truly empowered girls also means raising funny ones? What if we teach our daughters that humor is their turf — just as much as any boy’s?

“One of the things that happens to girls is that they are encroached upon by the world,” says Lisa Damour, a psychologist and author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood.” “And one of the things that humor can do is . . . help girls stand up for themselves in ways that people don’t retaliate for.”

11) Speaking of my funny wife, I was telling her about the ACES scale earlier this week.  Came home and opened up the NYT, and first thing I saw was this story about childhood trauma impacting an troubled man’s adult life.

12) How prosecutors are banding together to hinder criminal justice reform.  All the more reason we need to reform prosecutors offices.

13) You really should read the Washington Post story on how opiate distributors worked to undermine DEA enforcement.

14) The (college) kids are alright.  Or, at least they are slightly more accepting of free speech of young adults not in college:

15) Sometimes I just have to call out George Will for being so pathetic.  Seriously, the man sure as hell does not deserve column inches anymore.  Here he is on abortion:

Pro-abortion absolutists — meaning those completely content with the post-1973 regime of essentially unrestricted abortion-on-demand at any point in pregnancy — are disproportionately Democrats who, they say, constitute the Party of Science. They are aghast that the Department of Health and Human Services now refers to protecting people at “every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This, however, is elementary biology, not abstruse theology: Something living begins then — this is why it is called conception. And absent a natural malfunction or intentional intervention (abortion), conception results in a human birth…

The court decided that the right to abortion becomes a trifle less than absolute — in practice, not discernibly less — when the fetus reaches viability, meaning the ability to survive outside the womb. The court stipulated that viability arrived at 24 to 28 weeks.

For the record, that’s a blatantly dishonest reading of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the matter (especially post-Casey) and a blatantly dishonest reading of liberal public opinion on the matter.

16) Yes, the White House seriously did release a graphic that says free trade causes wife-beating, among other social ills.  Dana Milbank:

On a page titled “socioeconomic costs of a weakened manufacturing base,” Navarro’s document lists, among other things: “higher abortion rate,” “lower fertility rate,” “increased spousal abuse,” “lower marriage rate,” “higher divorce rate,” “higher crime,” “rising mortality rate” and “increased drug/opioid use.”

Now, it’s true that job loss can lead to social ills, but the Trump White House officials involved in such social-science “research” made some enormous leaps of logic — that the social ills are caused specifically by the loss of manufacturing jobs and by nothing else, and that the job losses are caused by free trade rather than, say, productivity, technology or the failure of government policies. To use the technical, social-scientific lingo, Navarro “pulled this one out of his butt.”…

There is something charming and elegant about the White House’s sophistry, both in Sessions’s backlog calculation and in the free-trade=spousal-abuse logic. Essentially, Navarro identified two occurrences that may or may not be related and, without furnishing any evidence, proclaimed a correlation.

By that same logic, it would be fair to argue that the growth of free trade is also responsible for Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women, the rise of fidget spinners and the noxious habit of dabbing.

But why stop at free trade? Let’s apply the White House’s logic — identifying two things that correlate and capriciously declaring causation — to President Trump and his actions.

Using the White House method, we can conclude that Trump’s election has caused: a surge in inflammatory bowel disease and erectile dysfunction and, at the same time, record-high levels of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

17) Loved  this New Yorker article arguing that Civilization actually pre-dated agriculture.  And for the importance of fire in the matter.  My favorite part?  My 11-year old son read his first New Yorker article.

18) This NYT magazine feature on the replication crisis in Psychology and how the “revolution” came for Amy “power pose” Cuddy was great reading.  Had a great discussion about this with my colleagues.

Shakespeare is stupid!

Okay, not really, but I couldn’t resist the clickbait link title.  That said, I really don’t care for Shakespeare much at all.  Why?  Because it is written in a similar, but distinct, language, Early Modern English, from my own.  The idea that we have to preserve the original words is as absurd as not translating Tolstoy from Russian into English.  Do you lose something from the original Russian?  I’m sure you do (though Pevear and Volokhonsky do a hell of a job), but what you gain is the ability to fully understand the amazing characters and insight into the human condition that Tolstoy provides.  Whatever insight is to be gained from Shakespeare is far too easily lost because he was writing in literally a different language.  If you really want to understand Shakespeare in all his nuance, you need to be a native speaker of 16th century English.

So, I bring this up because my son is currently reading Hamlet in high school (and I promised him I would write this blog post– here you go, David, at least give me a comment).  I have not much to offer him but sympathy and frustration.  I’m sure you lose some of Shakespeare’s wonderful prose, rhythm, turns-of-phrase, etc., when you translate to modern English, but what you gain is actually the ability to understand what he is saying!  That needs to be worth more.  I was recently talking to a Russian friend who told me he is quite a fan of Shakespeare.  And I realized that he surely read translations into 20th century, rather than 16th century, Russian.  I imagine that helps immensely.    My favorite linguist, John McWhorter, has been writing about this for years.  Here’s a nice TNR piece from a while back.

“Iconoclastic” as I am thought to be on race, I have been struck by how equally unexpected one view of mine has been considered: that much of Shakespeare’s language is impossible to comprehend meaningfully in real time, so much so that most first-time viewers of a Shakespeare play are understanding grievously less of the meaning than they are aware…

First, however, I should dispel two possible misimpressions. I am not arguing that Shakespeare’s language can be too “dense” or “poetic,” but that it can be simply incomprehensible because of the passage of time…

The problem is words’ changing meanings. This was especially problematic with Touchstone’s lines. Here he is in his scene with Audrey the goatherd (Act III, Scene III). After some cynical whimsy about the nature of honesty, beauty, “sluttishness,” and the best synergy between them, I fell off a cliff when Touchstone launched into this passage about entering into marriage with Audrey:

A man may, if he were of a fearful heart,
stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple
but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what
though? Courage! As horns are odious, they are
necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and
knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of
his wife; ‘tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so. Poor men alone? No, no; the noblest deer
hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man
therefore blessed? No: as a walled town is more
worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a
married man more honourable than the bare brow of a
bachelor; and by how much defence is better than no
skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want.

One may know that horns refer to cuckoldry, and even that Elizabethans found cuckoldry especially hilarious. Yet I could glean no real meaning from this passage, heard for the first time through the ear. I had to simply enjoy the visual and aural pleasure the actors lent. “Many a man knows no end of his goods?” This is not said in my era, and I could not grasp what it meant in real time—which meant losing the meaning of the rest of that sentence about men who have “good horns.”

McWhorter has a great podcast, Lexicon Valley, and one of his key ongoing themes is simple– words change.  And many of them change a lot in the 500+ years since Shakespeare wrote his plays.  It is absolutely absurd to expect a 21st century audience to fully appreciate any literary work written in 16th century English.  Far too many words now mean entirely different things.  David, was gobsmacked when I informed him that Shakespeare was perfectly well understood by the commoners of the time who enjoyed his plays.  We have this crazy idea now that Shakespeare is elitist and should be work to understand.  Enough people love Shakespeare that I’ll take their words for it that he really does have a universal and insightful understanding of human nature (a key to most all great literary works of art, in my book), but I was never able to glean that at all because there are simply far too many words I don’ t know.  And that’s a shame.  Long past time for a change.

America is special

Don’t know why the author chose Scandinavian nations to compare us to (presumably, to make us look especially bad) as we’d look bad compared to anybody.  But damn, does this animated gif bring our insanity on criminal justice home.

 

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