Quick hits (part II)

1) Criminal Justice twitter was alight the other day about how it is so wrong for any judge to ever advocate sexual assault against prisoners (as happened in the Nassar case).  Nice post in Deadspin.

2) Taking advantage of the fact that military families move around all the time, researchers have more evidence that your neighbors’ weight impacts your own.

3) Nice article in Wired about all the really cool film-making video essays now available on Youtube.  I’m really going to start digging into these.

4) This joint interview with long-time friends Steven Pinker and Bill Gates was terrific.  Both super-smart, super-thoughtful thinkers.  And I had not realized I should be reading Gates‘ book reviews.

PG The motto of the foundation is: “Every life has equal value.” And in your new book, Steven, there’s the idea that we can’t want something good for ourselves without wanting it for everyone. But in truth, I want better things for my husband and my kids than for you. Is that evil, or human?

BG That’s natural. It’s even predicted by evolutionary logic. What makes Papua New Guinea — where there’s no police and revenge after revenge — different from Western society is that when we give ourselves over to the law, we want it to be executed impartially. We gain stability. But if you could get your son off, of course you’ll try.

SP You left off a crucial piece in framing the proposition, Philip — which comes from Spinoza. He said those under the influence of reason desire nothing for themselves that they do not desire for all humankind. But reason is not a powerful part of human nature. Innately, we favor family over strangers, our tribe over other tribes. It’s only when we’re called upon to justify our beliefs — not consult our gut feelings, but convince others of the right way to act — that we conclude that all lives have equal value.

5) Scientists are starting to get a better idea of what happens in your body when you exercise.  Short version– it’s really complicated.  Additional short version– exercise is really, really good for you.

The study helps to clarify some of the body-wide health effects of working out and also underscores just how physiologically complex exercise is.

For some time, scientists have suspected that the body’s internal organs are as gossipy and socially entangled as any 8th-grade classroom. It is thought that, under the right conditions, fat cells chat with muscle cells, and muscle cells whisper to brain cells and everybody seems to want to be buddies with the liver.

These interactions are especially abundant during exercise, when continued movement demands intricate coordination of many different systems within the body, including those that create cellular energy.

6) This Politico story asks, “By any measure, she was one of the most successful Fed chairs in history. Why didn’t Trump keep her around?”  Ummmm, that’s pretty easy.  Because Obama appointed her and Trump is a moronic sexist pig.

7) Eric Levitz, “Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die.”

8) Love thisAccumulated Winter Season Severity Index” to see how bad your winter is.  Pretty bad in Raleigh.

9) This is pretty infuriating, “How an Arizona couple’s innocent bath-time photos of their kids set off a 10-year legal saga.”  All I can say is– what is wrong with people??!!

10) Ross Douthat and Frum discuss Frum’s Trumpocracy.  

Frum: Instead, they concluded: “What if we shaped the electorate to be a little more friendly to us? Might our formerly unpopular ideas prevail then?” The G.O.P. is complicit with Trump because he delivered a success that finer leaders and better methods could not deliver. Trumpocracy is the fusion of Trump’s authoritarian instincts with the G.O.P.’s plutocratic instincts in the context of a country trending in very different directions.

11) Wonkblog, “Why can’t conservatives just admit they were wrong about inflation?”  Because they cannot seem to admit they’ve been wrong about practically everything on the economy in recent years.  Of course, nobody is good at admitting they are wrong, but conservatives have been wrong about the economy a lot in recent decades.

12) Lee Drutman on how nationalism undermines income redistribution:

The more nationalistic the country, the worse the poor are doing relative to the rich

Shayo’s theory is that if lower-income individuals think of themselves as lower class, they will want more redistribution. If class consciousness prevails, the lower classes will strongly support redistribution and vote accordingly.

But if national identity is more salient than class identity, poorer individuals might instead identify with the nation more broadly, and less with their class.

Basically, humans are not selfish. We are group-ish. We want what’s best for people like us. But “people like us” is a highly subjective category. If “people like us” is “American patriots,” we’ll want what benefits “American patriots.” If we take on a nationalist identity, we can bask in the reflected glow of American greatness, even if our own finances are precarious. Thus, Shayo argues, “a national identity means less weight on class issues and less support for redistribution.”

13) Love this idea from David Plotz and Hanna Rosin— married couples all have one ur-fight that the keep returning to in different guises.  I can’t think of anything like this for my wife and I, but she may well see it differently.

14) In a surprise to no one who cares about good public policy, Trump’s tariffs on solar cells are horrible public policy:

But while the tariffs may help domestic manufacturers, they are expected to ripple throughout the industry in ways that may ultimately hurt American companies and their workers. Energy experts say it is unlikely that the tariffs will create more than a small number of American solar manufacturing jobs, since low-wage countries will continue to have a competitive edge.

Solar manufacturing now represents just a fraction of the overall jobs that have developed around the solar industry. More than 260,000 Americans are employed in the sector, but fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are manufacturing solar cells and modules, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Far more workers are employed in areas that underpin the use of solar technology, such as making steel racks that angle the panels toward the sun. And the bulk of workers in the solar industry install and maintain the projects, a process that is labor-intensive and hard to automate…

But by raising the cost of one all-important ingredient, the tariffs could make solar power less competitive with other sources of energy, like gas and wind, resulting in the construction of fewer solar projects. On Tuesday, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that the president’s action would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments.

At the Wakefield solar farm, the five-megawatt project on the Vinson family’s land, the cells that collect solar energy are imported — they were manufactured by JA Solar, a Chinese company, which makes cells and panels in China and Malaysia.

But the steel frames that the panels rest on are American made, manufactured by RBI Solar, which is based in Cincinnati. The steel that RBI Solar used to make these racks is also American, bought from Worthington Industries in Ohio and Attala Steel in Mississippi.

15) Just came across this essay from November, it’s really good: “Racism May Have Gotten Us Into This Mess, But Identity Politics Can’t Get Us Out.”

One particularly revealing study, by the political scientists Edward Carmines and Geoffrey Layman, suggests that, regardless of their racial attitudes, Republican voters are unlikely to support government programs. But while Democrats in general view such programs more favorably, those who express antagonistic attitudes toward blacks are much less likely to support government programs if they are framed in racial terms.

In other words, racial signaling isn’t likely to have much of an effect on the Republican base — they are already ideologically predisposed to reject government help for the problems of minorities. But it doeshave an effect on those voters who would support progressive policies if not for their racial animus. It’s the “progressive deplorables” in our midst who are the real problem — at least from an electoral perspective…

And yet the tacit prescription offered by some Democrats to remedy the ills of white identity politics is, inexplicably, to double down on identity-based messaging. Some Democrats even take this so far as to argue that the party should not reach out to Trump voters at all because they are racist —- advocating by implication that we cede those voters completely to the right. This is where identity politics, despite its benefits, has the potential to be most dangerous…

And as depressed voter turnout among African-Americans and Latinx voting trends suggest, all Americans, regardless of color, need a principle to vote for, not just an enemy to resist. For those living on the margins, incremental change is a life sentence to inhumane conditions, and Democratic candidates whose biggest selling point is being not as-racist-as-the-next-guy are unlikely to secure the voter investment Democrats need in 2018 and 2020. Simply put, relying on identity alone is a bad bet.

16) Really, really good piece from David Roberts about what it means to be an environmentalist versus a climate hawk.  Not sure I consider myself a climate hawk, more so a pragmatic environmentalist.  Regardless, good stuff:

First, it’s fine if an individual or group chooses to prioritize rivers in Quebec or the safety risks of existing nuclear power plants over the threat of climate change. Sincerely: it’s fine. I don’t personally agree with that ranking, but people are entitled to their own values and priorities.

But an individual or group should not do so while also proclaiming climate change an existential threat. By doing so they are deceiving themselves, their members, or both. There are tradeoffs among priorities, and eschewing 9.45 TWh of carbon-free energy is a big-ass tradeoff. To make that tradeoff is to prioritize being an environmentalist over being a climate hawk. It should be done with open eyes…

One example: environmentalists often cite studies showing that high penetrations of renewables are possible in the US. But those studies all show that achieving high penetrations requires a country-spanning network of new transmission lines. If there’s a study showing how to fully decarbonize without tons of new transmission, I haven’t seen it. So yes, transmission lines connecting zero-carbon power sources and loads might disrupt some people and ecosystems, but systematically opposing them simply isn’t commensurate with being a climate hawk.

Another example: full decarbonization would require, among other things, an enormousindustrial shift. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs in polluting industries would be wiped out and workers displaced. There would be new jobs in clean energy, but the US has not typically handled such workforce transitions well. Being a climate hawk means accepting serious social and economic disruption.

Decarbonization will also involve a mind-boggling amount of manufacturing, building, and retrofitting. Multiple solar and wind gigafactories would be built every year. Renewables would cover every open surface. Every city would be as dense and transit-served as possible. Being a climate hawk means accepting that some natural areas will be turned over to energy production and that “the character of the neighborhood” is going to be disrupted by infill and multi-modal transportation systems.

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

2 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Jeremy Tarone says:

    4) This joint interview with long-time friends Steven Pinker and Bill Gates was terrific.

    15) Just came across this essay from November, it’s really good: “Racism May Have Gotten Us Into This Mess, But Identity Politics Can’t Get Us Out.”

    Haven’t you heard? Steven Pinker is a racist. At least according to some on the left.
    Numerous people on the left have accused Pinker of being racist. That they had to quote mine him out of context and completely mischaracterize his positions seems to not matter one whit to them. It seems to be a growing problem, as are those who blindly pass on such misinformation.

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