Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the lateness.  Busy, busy day yesterday.  Here goes…

1) Erica Goode on how school shooting can be viral.  As horrible as it is, we need to learn from suicide and give these mass shootings way less attention.

Finally, there is nascent, but increasing, evidence that violence begets violence, with one school shooting — especially if it receives a lot of publicity — leading to others, a phenomenon that researchers refer to as “contagion.” And some psychologists believe that news media reports of mass killings may propel people who are already at risk of violence into committing copycat crimes.

2) Damn did David Brooks come in for it among political scientists with his naive article about a multi-party future in the U.S.  This Monkey Cage post sums up the problems:

The problem for Brooks’s vision of a popular overthrow of the two-party system, however, is not just the formidable structural barriers — it’s also that the very people most disaffected with the two parties are the least likely to be politically active. As a result, dissatisfaction with the Republicans and Democrats may not be enough to spur a fundamental change to the party system…

In a sense, Brooks is ahead of a lot of pundits in observing that the “us versus them” politics of the Democratic and Republican parties has led people to desire something new. To be sure, the parties are not hemorrhaging voters, though there has been a small decline in partisan identification over the last decade. In the 2016 ANES, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted a third party.

The problem, however, is that a new party would have to mobilize these Americans. And what defines these citizens — the ones who express the most disenchantment with the two-party system — is that they’re not politically engaged. As we saw, many don’t even want to talk about politics even when they agree with the other person.

3) Republican legislators in NC have basically been taking hostages with elementary education after delivering a dramatic unfunded mandate.  Damn I hate them.  Susan Ladd with the details.

4) Enjoyed coming late to the party to this New Yorker profile of U.S. skiier, Mikaela Shiffrin.   It’s clear that her parents are insanely dedicated and that she works hard as hell, but still incredibly naive to think that she doesn’t have natural genetic advantages, as any champion in any sport does.

5) Enjoyed David Graham’s take on the warning signs in mass shootings:

First, it depends heavily on retrospect. But things that seem like obvious warning signs after the fact may have just seemed weird beforehand. (People rarely really expect anyone to become a mass shooter, since statistically such attacks are vanishingly rare.) Conversely, there are thousands of people, and especially young men, who might set off warning bells—they act strangely, they’re obsessed with weapons, they engage in various anti-social behaviors—but who will never take a gun to school and open fire.

Second, even if one could more effectively sort the people who are just kind of weird from the people who might be more likely to perpetrate a shooting, what would the government do about it? Put differently, even if people “report such instances to authorities, again and again,” the authorities cannot arrest someone who has not committed a crime, simply because he makes people uncomfortable. Pre-crime is not prosecutable.

6) I really like how this “bad faith” critique of Congressional Republicans seems to be catching on.  Here’s Krugman on the matter.  The key will be to see if it works its way into ordinary reporter’s stories when Republicans are demonstrating bad faith.

7) This McSweeney’s take, “Please don’t get murdered at school today,” on school shootings is about my favorite I’ve come across:

I know that may sound scary, but what you need to remember is that this country was founded on freedom. And that includes the freedom of all people (sane, crazy, whatever) to have unchallenged access to guns that are capable of executing at least 20 first graders or 12 moviegoers or 9 of the faithful at a church service or even a baby asleep in her car seat. This is very, very important in terms of staying true to the principles and spirit upon which this country was founded. Just ask the Internet…

I’m sorry, I wish I had better news. But let’s keep our sympathies where they belong — with the powerful and the armed. With those who feel threatened in the face of the most toothless efforts to hold back the bloodshed and those who believe scary monster stories about their guns being taken away. Let’s face it, it would be easier to take away the ocean or the stars. Did you know that there are more guns than people in this country? That means everyone in your class already has a gun with their name on it, so to speak. Maybe mention that at share time.

8) Chait really does make a pretty compelling case that Trump is being blackmailed by the Russians.  It honestly explains his behavior and this set of facts better than about anything else.

9) While we’re at it, former NYT national security reporter James Risen asks, “Is Donald Trump a traitor?”

10) This Post story on “Divided Congress” unable to act on guns is just a case study it the pathetic “both sides” pathology of so much political journalism.  It’s not “Congress” it’s Republicans.

11) I’m totally shocked that the latest research continues to debunk the “good guy with a gun” theory as the solution to America’s absurd gun homicide problem:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models—including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime—and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

12) Of course Trump and Jeff Sessions are basically doing everything 180 opposite of what you would want for better criminal justice.

13) Interesting take on gender bias in academia and in reporting.

Other biases are even more glaring. A 2013 study found that political science papers by women are systematically cited less than those by men. Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, a University of Iowa political scientist, found that women in academia are more likely to get stuck in less prestigious jobs or leave their fields entirely because of structural gender issues like citation biases, straightforward sexism and pressure on women to do committee work while men get to devote time to their research.

The result is that the highest echelons of academia, think tanks and research institutions are dominated by men. So if we go by seemingly objective criteria like seniority or citation counts, the “best” experts will overwhelmingly be men. We can’t fix those imbalances on our own, but we can try to correct for them in our own writing by ignoring seniority and deciding for ourselves whose work is worth quoting. We start by looking offline to find equally qualified — or, often, better qualified — women, by scanning academic journals and asking around for names.

That, unsurprisingly, can rankle people. It can rankle the men who believe we skipped over them unfairly and the institutions that wish to promote their most senior figures. Tellingly, some think tanks that publicize all-female panels also bar junior fellows from speaking to the news media, silencing the women in that role. And it can rankle readers, some of whom inevitably ask a variation of, “Isn’t that just more discrimination?”

This is the challenge of systemic gender bias. No one person can fix it, even with the benefit of a platform as powerful as The New York Times. But conscious efforts to correct for its effects can, at a glance, look unfair because the biases that privilege men, while far more systemic, are often less visible.

Though, I do have to add, non-conscious or not, there’s just no way that I am systematically under-citing women’s research.  Heck, I don’t even know the first names (and thus gender) of a fair amount of stuff I cite.

14) Steven Pinker on the intellectual war on science.

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