Quick hits (part I)

1) Don’t know how I missed this before, but “why conservatives are more susceptible to believing lies” is really good:

The answer, I think, lies in the interaction between reasoning processes and personality. It’s each person’s particular motivations and particular psychological makeup that affects how they search for information, what information they pay attention to, how they assess the accuracy and meaning of the information, what information they retain, and what conclusions they draw. But conservatives and liberals typically differ in their particular psychological makeups. And if you add up all of these particular differences, you get two groups that are systematically motivated to believe different things.

Psychologists have repeatedly reported that self-described conservatives tend to place a higher value than those to their left on deference to tradition and authority. They are more likely to value stability, conformity, and order, and have more difficulty tolerating novelty and ambiguity and uncertainty. They are more sensitive than liberals to information suggesting the possibility of danger than to information suggesting benefits. And they are more moralistic and more likely to repress unconscious drives towards unconventional sexuality.

Fairness and kindness place lower on the list of moral priorities for conservatives than for liberals. Conservatives show a stronger preference for higher status groups, are more accepting of inequality and injustice, and are less empathic (at least towards those outside their immediate family). As one Tea Party member told University of California sociologist Arlie Hochschild, “People think we are not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees. But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.”…

These conservative traits lead directly to conservative views on many issues, just as liberal traits tend to lead to liberal views on many issues. But when you consider how these conservative traits and these conservative views interact with commonly shared patterns of motivated reasoning, it becomes clearer why conservatives may be more likely to run into errors in reasoning and into difficulty judging accurately what is true and what is false.

It’s not just that Trump is “their” president, so they want to defend him. Conservatives’ greater acceptance of hierarchy and trust in authority may lead to greater faith that what the president says must be true, even when the “facts” would seem to indicate otherwise…

Similarly, greater valuation of stability, greater sensitivity to the possibility of danger, and greater difficulty tolerating difference and change lead to greater anxiety about social change and so support greater credulity with respect to lurid tales of the dangers posed by immigrants. And higher levels of repression and greater adherence to tradition and traditional sources of moral judgment increase the credibility of claims that gay marriage is a threat to the “traditional” family.

2) I didn’t think this was actually a new finding, but college professors sacrifice pay– as compared to comparable professionals– for greater flexibility in how they use their time.  A trade I’m grateful for every day.

3) The current flu vaccine market is broken and we need to fix it.  Or more flu.

4) NYT Op-ed on our hackable political future:

Imagine it is the spring of 2019. A bottom-feeding website, perhaps tied to Russia, “surfaces” video of a sex scene starring an 18-year-old Kirsten Gillibrand. It is soon debunked as a fake, the product of a user-friendly video application that employs generative adversarial network technology to convincingly swap out one face for another.

It is the summer of 2019, and the story, predictably, has stuck around — part talk-show joke, part right-wing talking point. “It’s news,” political journalists say in their own defense. “People are talking about it. How can we not?”

Then it is fall. The junior senator from New York State announces her campaign for the presidency. At a diner in New Hampshire, one “low information” voter asks another: “Kirsten What’s-her-name? She’s running for president? Didn’t she have something to do with pornography?”

Welcome to the shape of things to come.

5) I’m so going to start noticing now that cartoon villains often speak with foreign accents.  And, yes, of course that has implications for what our kids learn.

6) Great upshot piece on the “able-bodied” poor in American society:

The “able-bodied” are now everywhere among government programs for the poor, Republican officials point out. They’re on food stamps. They’re collecting welfare. They’re living in subsidized housing. And their numbers have swelled on Medicaid, a program that critics say was never designed to serve them.

These so-called able-bodied are defined in many ways by what they are not: not disabled, not elderly, not children, not pregnant, not blind. They are effectively everyone left, and they have become the focus of resurgent conservative proposals to overhaul government aid, such as one announced last month by the Trump administration that would allow states to test work requirements for Medicaid.

Able-bodied is not truly a demographic label, though: There is no standard for physical or mental ability that makes a person able. Rather, the term has long been a political one. Across centuries of use, it has consistently implied another negative: The able-bodied could work, but are not working (or working hard enough). And, as such, they don’t deserve our aid.

“Within that term is this entire history of debates about the poor who can work but refuse to, because they’re lazy,” said Susannah Ottaway, a historian of social welfare at Carleton College in Minnesota. “To a historian, to see this term is to understand its very close association with debates that center around the need to morally reform the poor.” [emphasis mine]

7) This NYT look at how the two Koreas have diverged since the last Korean Olympics (1988) is truly fascinating.  Here’s one of the amazing charts.

8) Of course rural North Carolinians think that a sexual education curriculum that teaches that everyone is not straight and birth control is a thing is the work of the devil.  Of course, the county gave in and pulled the curriculum.

9) Really interesting piece from science journalist Ed Yong from how he worked assiduously to reduce gender bias in his stories.

10) Academia-twitter lit up this week in response to a tweet suggesting that graduate students should plan on working at least 60 hours a week, since that’s what professors are working.  Ummm, no.  Turns out that the 60 hours upon which the tweeter based this comes from a single study of 30(!!) non-random professors at Boise State.  Please!

11) Love this from John McWhorter on Trump’s linguistic style and his mental fitness:

Two and three decades ago, Mr. Trump spoke to David Letterman and Rona Barrett in the quietly composed phrasing we expect of public figures expressing serious thoughts. So why does the same man now toss off word salad?

Because he can.

The younger Mr. Trump, albeit as self-obsessed as now, was not yet a rock star, and he had a businessman’s normal inclination to present himself in as polished a manner as possible in public settings. Especially as someone who grew up in the 1950s, when old-school standards of oratory were still part of the warp and woof of American linguistic culture, Mr. Trump instinctually talked “up” when the cameras were rolling. To him, cloaking his speech in its Sunday best would have been part of, as it were, being a gentleman.

However, for him this would always have been more stunt than essence. Since he is someone who neither reads nor reflects, his linguistic comfort zone has always been the unadorned.

At a certain point, Mr. Trump became the man who felt – and was comfortable saying publicly – that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and retain his supporters’ allegiance. Someone with that mind-set, especially a sybaritic person unaccustomed to sustained effort, has no impetus to speak in a way unnatural to him in public.

Mr. Trump is equally unmoved by any sense that to speak as a president is a kind of kabuki or performance art, in which one doesn’t so much talk as signal. He has learned that he can just show up and run his mouth, and he’ll be adored regardless.

Some suppose Mr. Trump started talking down deliberately in order to portray folksiness. But this imputes to him a sociological sensitivity, a reflective, outwardly focused theory of mind, that he shows no evidence of otherwise. More likely, Mr. Trump has simply taken the path of least resistance.

12) Trump’s solution for the opioid crisis?  Be really mean to drug dealers.  Jeff Sessions?  Blame marijuana (which evidence indicates, might actually mitigate it).

13) New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino asks, “Is there a smarter way to think about sexual assault on campus.”  You don’t need to read the article to know the answer is, “hell, yes!”  That said, it is worth reading as a thoughtful discussion of the issue.

14) Good Lord, Chuck Todd is an idiot, as Erik Wemple nicely points out.

15) This new mutant crayfish species that reproduces asexually and has taken over Europe in just 25 years is a hell of a story:

Over the past five years, Dr. Lyko and his colleagues have sequenced the genomes of marbled crayfish. In a study published on Monday, the researchers demonstrate that the marble crayfish, while common, is one of the most remarkable species known to science.

Before about 25 years ago, the species simply did not exist. A single drastic mutation in a single crayfish produced the marbled crayfish in an instant.

The mutation made it possible for the creature to clone itself, and now it has spread across much of Europe and gained a toehold on other continents. In Madagascar, where it arrived about 2007, it now numbers in the millions and threatens native crayfish.

“We may never have caught the genome of a species so soon after it became a species,” said Zen Faulkes, a biologist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who was not involved in the new study…

Only about 1 in 10,000 species comprise cloning females. Many studies suggest that sex-free species are rare because they don’t last long.

In one such study, Abraham E. Tucker of Southern Arkansas University and his colleagues studied 11 asexual species of water fleas, a tiny kind of invertebrate. Their DNA indicates that the species only evolved about 1,250 years ago.

There are a lot of clear advantages to being a clone. Marbled crayfish produce nothing but fertile offspring, allowing their populations to explode. “Asexuality is a fantastic short-term strategy,” said Dr. Tucker.

In the long term, however, there are benefits to sex. Sexually reproducing animals may be better at fighting off diseases, for example.

If a pathogen evolves a way to attack one clone, its strategy will succeed on every clone. Sexually reproducing species mix their genes together into new combinations, increasing their odds of developing a defense.

The marbled crayfish offers scientists a chance to watch this drama play out practically from the beginning. In its first couple decades, it’s doing extremely well. But sooner or later, the marbled crayfish’s fortunes may well turn.

16) Really liked this Op-Ed about saying no.  One key is to say, “I don’t” rather than “I can’t.”   I use this on telephone solicitations all the time.

Second, it’s easier to say no when you know exactly how to say it, so come up with a few anchor phrases for different situations. “No, I don’t buy from solicitors” for door-to-door salespeople, for example. “No, I don’t go out during the week” for co-workers who want to go on a drinking binge on a Monday night.

When you have these phrases ready, you don’t have to waste time wavering over an excuse. And you start to develop a reflexive behavior of saying no.

17) So, I thought this InsiderHigherEd piece on making academic conferences more family-friendly to benefit women scholars had some good points, but I feel like it was really remiss to not even discuss the dynamics that make things hard for women scholars with young children, but presumably not male scholars.  Seems we could be expecting more of these female professor’s husband’s/partners to be able to step up for a few days.

18) I really enjoyed this article on one of the very few conservative Democrats remaining in the House, Dan Lipinski, because I knew Lipinski back when he was a political science graduate student at Duke (he was briefly a PS professor before taking over his dad’s Congressional seat).  He is an example of how the time has come to challenge certain Democratic legislators from the left.

Of the 34 Democrats who broke with the party on that most consequential vote eight years ago, just three remain in office. And none have had it quite so easy as Lipinski, a low-key former college professor who in 2005 inherited a Chicago-area House seat that his father held for two decades.

He’s escaped any real threat from Republicans; they defeated most of the other anti-Obamacare Democrats but couldn’t compete in his solidly blue district. And the left has been too busy defending the law and fighting other battles in the years since.

But Lipinski, 51, is now facing a serious primary challenge for the first time in a decade, in what progressives say is a long-overdue political reckoning for a congressman whose voting record has gotten too far to the right of his constituents. Illinois’s third congressional district, which includes a portion of Chicago and suburbs to the south and west, went for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary and backed Hillary Clinton by 15 points in the general election.

19) Rob Schofield on how North Carolina’s legislative politics is increasingly conducted in the dark.

In some ways, of course, this is not a new story. Ever since Republicans seized control of the General Assembly in 2011, there has been a broad and steady decline in open debate and fair process.

Whether it’s cutting off debate on legislation, holding surprise, late night sessions, regularly ignoring the committee process, burying new and controversial laws that were never previously discussed in omnibus budget bills that cannot be amended, holding an endless series of “special” legislative sessions, refusing to record and archive all sorts of important proceedings, or even directly and blatantly punishing lawmakers who dare to speak up during debate, Republicans have evidenced little shame. Much as has been the case with gerrymandering, legislative leaders have not so much invented new tactics and tricks as they have cynically perfected and expanded the use of old ones.

20) Kurt Andersen with an excellent piece on how the conspiracy theory wing of the Republican party took over.

This is not just symbolic wankery. Take Agenda 21, for instance. In 1992, the U.N. held an Earth Summit to start getting everyone on the same page concerning the environment, especially on CO2 emissions. It adopted a voluntary blueprint called Agenda 21, which nobody outside the environmental do-good sector paid any attention to for many, many years. From 1994 to 2006, there was exactly one reference to Agenda 21 in the New York Times.

But then the right discovered it—exposed it!—and refashioned Agenda 21 as a secret key to the globalist conspiracy. By 2012, Americans on the right knew to be scared, very scared, of this vague, 20-year-old international environmental plan. When the Obama administration created the White House Rural Council to promote economic development in places like Appalachia, a Fox News anchor warned that it was “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one-world order.” When Newt Gingrich was briefly the front-runner for the 2012 presidential nomination and mentioned it during a debate, applause prevented him from finishing the thought. At that moment, Glenn Beck had just published his dystopian novel, Agenda 21, and provided a perfect glimpse into the conspiracist mind on his TV show, where one of his Agenda 21 experts said, “You’re not going to find anything that isn’t Agenda 21 these days. … People recognize many, many things that are wrong but they don’t realize that they’re all connected.”

21) As Yglesias put it, “another crippling blow to MS 13.”  The CNN story, “‘Pillar of the community’ deported from US after 39 years to a land he barely knows.”

22) Man, I used to love to read newsmagazines, and subscribed to Time for years and years.  On the demise of Newsweek.

23) Among the many, many stupid and counter-productive prison policies, many prisons now make it absurdly difficult for prisoners to get decent books.  Can’t we even let prisoners have good stuff to read?!

24) The headline says it all, “Military parades are about ego and power. Of course Trump wants one.”

25) So much for my compact disc collection.  Best Buy won’t even be selling them anymore.  Of course, it’s been a long time since I actually listened to a CD, much less purchased one.

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