Quick hits (part II)

Busy weekend of soccer coaching plus feeling like crap from a nasty cold equals really late quick hits.  On the bright side, I’ve got quotes for pretty much all of them.  Enjoy.

1a) South Carolina has under-funded and brutal prisons.  Yeah, they committed crimes, but they are still humans.  Many died needlessly in a recent riot.  John Pfaff:

Although the state is often held up as a criminal justice success story after a 2010 sentencing law reversed decades of rising incarceration rates, its system has faced legal challenges for years over how it is run. Only a few states spend less per prisoner than South Carolina, and while the national inmates-per-officer ratio is on the order of five to one (at least according to data from 2005, the most recent data we have), at Lee on the night of the violence the ratio was much, much higher. Initial reports said there two guards per housing block, with 250 men in each block. Later reports suggested that there may have been four guards per block, not two, but that wouldn’t really paint a better picture either: 63 to one is still an unacceptable ratio.What is clear is that South Carolina’s prisons are underfunded and understaffed — about 30 percent of all positions are vacant, and low pay and low morale have made it hard to retain corrections officers. The facilities are poorly maintained, and programming is inadequate for the size of the prison population. All these factors are policy choices driven by budgeting, and all of them contribute to prison violence.

 Prisons need not be like this. Facilities in countries like Germanylook almost nothing like prisons in the U.S., even though they often detain people convicted of serious violent crimes. The institutions are well-maintained, and correctional officials — who view their jobs more as social work than law enforcement — are well-paid and well-trained. While most correctional officers in the U.S. receive, at most, three months of training before being sent into a prison, in Germany the minimum is two years. Treated in a less adversarial manner in more humane settings, those held in European prisons tend to respond accordingly.

1b) And Historian Heather Ann Thompson:

Today, seven young men — men who were someone’s child, father, sibling or partner — are dead because we allow our nation’s correctional facilities to be run brutally. But, thanks to their cellphone keyboards and cameras, those who live in this terrible place can tell us what really goes on, and how we might change it.

They are desperate for state senators to pass new laws so that South Carolina prisoners have “an incentive to get out in society and live life again.” They argue that officials could eliminate the contraband problem simply by allowing cigarettes and cellphones to be sold in the canteen (instead of sold to them by guards, who can get upward of $1,700 for a phone). They would be less hungry if state officials would simply allow their families “to send inmates packages of food” and they’d be more productive and better able to re-enter society, they tell us, if prisons simply reinstated classes in “life skills and trades.”

2) Nice article about Pope Francis.  The key paragraph as far as I’m concerned:

But it is Francis’ prioritizing of social justice over culture-war issues [emphasis mine] such as abortion that has caused the sharpest internal divisions, with a small but committed group of conservative cardinals publicly suggesting that he is a heretical autocrat leading the faithful toward confusion and schism.

You know what Jesus talked about pretty much all the time?  What we now call “social justice issues.”  Culture war issues, not so much.

3) On how Charleston, WV is giving up its needle-exchange program despite all the evidence that these programs work:

The research is unambiguous: Needle exchanges reduce the spread of bloodborne diseases like hepatitis C and H.I.V. and do not increase drug use. They’ve been shown to reduce overdose deaths, decrease the number of needles discarded in public places and make it more likely that drug users enter treatment. They also save money: One recent study estimated that $10 million spent on needle exchanges might save more than $70 million in averted H.I.V. treatment costs alone.

Health experts say the programs create relationships between deeply addicted people and the health care system, an essential step if they are to be reintegrated into society. “It’s the most low-threshold way for people who use drugs to have contact with any kind of public health professional,” said Alex H. Kral, an epidemiologist with RTI International, a nonprofit research organization. “And that’s a powerful intervention.”

4) I am emphatically in favor of joint bank accounts and not separate accounts for married couples.  Kim and I do not to even the tiniest degree have my money and her money.  It’s all “our money” damnit.  The sub-head–“It doesn’t signal a lack of trust—to some, it’s a way for spouses to show they trust each other more”  of this Atlantic article strikes me as far as rationalization far more than reality.

A joint bank account has, traditionally, been a sign of commitment. As newlyweds start their lives together, it is perhaps the clearest way for them to say, to each other and to the world, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”

But these days, some young couples are skeptical. “There has been a generational change,” said Joanna Pepin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland who studies the organization of money in romantic relationships. “The research we have shows that, cross-culturally, more people are keeping money separate.” Indeed, a Bank of America study published earlier this year seemed to suggest that Millennial married and cohabitating couples were more likely to hold separate accounts than previous generations were.

Pepin says this trend is particularly pronounced among low-income couples, who are likelier to value access to their own earnings over the show of commitment and loyalty that comes with the decision to merge finances, a quality often prioritized by higher-earners.

Some of this has to do with Millennial marriage trends more generally. Compared to previous generations, Millennials get married later in life, and thus significantly more of them live together before marriage. Because cohabiting couples are far more likely than married couples to keep finances separate, a certain inertia develops. “Once you’ve established your relationship norms,” Pepin asked, “why would you change them?”

When today’s young adults do decide to get married, many of them are further along in their careers, with a better sense of who they are and what they contribute to their workplace. One 29-year-old I talked to, a medical resident in San Francisco, told me that for those who believe one’s bank account offers a clear reflection of a person’s work ethic or success, it can be hard to cede control. “It’s about wanting to maintain one’s sense of identity, individuality, and autonomy,” said Fenaba Addo, an assistant professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

When I asked several married Millennial couples why they decided to keep their finances fully or partially separate, one reason came up more than any other: A joint bank account seemed to blur each individual’s financial contributions at a time when women are earning more than they used to. “If we just had a joint account, it would bring an uneasy feeling—a sense of inequality,” said Zack Pasillas, a 26-year-old office worker from Orange County, California. Zack’s wife, Karina, works in customer service at the local water company. She knows that, in the future, she’ll likely make less money than Zack, but that makes her even more eager to keep their finances separate. “When buying him gifts, when picking up the tab at dinner, I like knowing that I am also contributing to this relationship,” she said. “It’s my work—it’s my money.” Another Millennial I talked to worried that, if he and his wife merged bank accounts, their relationship might begin to conform to antiquated gender roles, with the man in charge of all the finances. The concept of a joint account, to him, felt dated…

Indeed, the 20- and 30-somethings I spoke with all felt strongly that separate bank accounts don’t signal a lack of trust—if anything, they said, it’s a sign that partners trust each other more. Zack and Karina Pasillas have a clear understanding that, if either of them needs money, they’ll help each other out. Their debts are due, and their salaries come in, at different times of the month, so sometimes one will cover the other. “It’s about having trust that, if needed, I can cover her end, and she can cover my end, too,” Zack Pasillas said.

No, no, no!  It’s a marriage, it’s not about “her end” or “my end” it all “our end”!  Of course, I expect my Millennial readers to disagree ;-).

5) Good stuff on why Trump supporters don’t mind his lies.  Like most everything else in politics, it comes down to motivated reasoning:

The results of the experiments, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, show that reflecting on how a falsehood could have been true did cause people to rate it as less unethical to tell — but only when the falsehoods seemed to confirm their political views. Trump supporters and opponents both showed this effect.

Again, the problem wasn’t that people confused fact and fiction; virtually everyone recognized the claims as false. But when a falsehood resonated with people’s politics, asking them to imagine counterfactual situations in which it could have been true softened their moral judgments. A little imagination can apparently make a lie feel “truthy” enough to give the liar a bit of a pass.

These results reveal a subtle hypocrisy in how we maintain our political views. We use different standards of honesty to judge falsehoods we find politically appealing versus unappealing. When judging a falsehood that maligns a favored politician, we ask, “Was it true?” and then condemn it if the answer is no.

In contrast, when judging a falsehood that makes a favored politician look good, we are willing to ask, “Could it have been true?” and then weaken our condemnation if we can imagine the answer is yes. By using a lower ethical standard for lies we like, we leave ourselves vulnerable to influence by pundits and spin doctors.

6) This amazing, prize-winning photo was disqualified for using a taxidermied anteater.

Marcio Cabral had faked The Night Raider with a taxidermy anteater — a charge he denies.

Marcio Cabral/Natural History Museum

7) Really interesting interview with Helen Fisher on sex and love.  Ends with her formula for a happy marriage:

You talk to a psychologist, and they’ll probably give you a different answer, but I can tell you what the brain says about happiness in a longterm partnership. There are three brain regions that become active when you are in a longterm, loving relationship.

A brain region linked with empathy, a brain region linked with controlling your own stress and your own emotions, and a brain region linked with what I call “positive illusion,” the ability to overlook what you don’t like about somebody and focus on what you do.

You want a happy marriage? Do all those things that psychologists and others might suggest, but this is what the brain says: Express empathy, control your own emotions, and overlook the negatives in your partner and focus on the positives.

8) As great as a college education is, it’s definitely not for everyone.  We need to do a better job teaching trades and getting the right people into them.  NPR:

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.

“Parents want success for their kids,” said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. “They get stuck on [four-year bachelor’s degrees], and they’re not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check.”

In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor’s degrees.

Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require less than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.

“There is an emphasis on the four-year university track” in high schools, said Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report. Yet, nationwide, three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven’t earned degrees within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At four-year private colleges, that number is more than 1 in 5.

“Being more aware of other types of options may be exactly what they need,” Cortines said. In spite of a perception “that college is the sole path for everybody,” he said, “when you look at the types of wages that apprenticeships and other career areas pay and the fact that you do not pay four years of tuition and you’re paid while you learn, these other paths really need some additional consideration.”

9) Liked Brian Beutler on how journalists should deal with stolen/hacked information:

In the brave new world of mass hacking—and particularly of the kind of hack-and-dump tactics deployed against Clinton—the tradeoff is different, and in some ways should be less severe. Whatever we gleaned from the contents of Podesta’s emails or the DNC emails, reporters were aware of, and should have been able to incorporate, one cardinal fact: the source materials were the the spoils of an extremely serious crime.

That shouldn’t make stolen information off limits—a lot of great journalism is the fruit of crime—but it does make the information part of a larger story. In Clinton’s case, the larger story was that some entity (likely Russian intelligence, though the Trump campaign did its level best to muddy those waters) was trying to sabotage the campaign of one of America’s two major party presidential candidates, to tip the election to her opponent. That’s a huge deal, even if the “entity” is Trump’s fabled 400 pound man in New Jersey. Don’t believe me? Publish all of your emails online and see how it alters your horizons. Or tell Bob Woodward he should’ve been more interested in what the Watergate burglars stole than in why they stole it. The crime isn’t always as important as the loot, but it often is, and major media outlets have clearly struggled devising new editorial standards to account for that.

The main impediments to implementing such standards aren’t technical or even that subjective. They are hardwired professional incentives that reward reporting the latest news as quickly as possible in a competitive environment. Reporters and editors and anchors and producers make judgment calls about what’s important and what’s not all the time. They know how to use their platforms to emphasize some pieces of information over others, and present stories in ways that are proportionate to their news value. The problem is the economic pressures of journalism often force journalists to ask not “what will give consumers the clearest sense of what’s happening in the world?” but “what is the most recent thing I’ve learned?”—and then to report whatever the answer is.

That’s too bad, because a more considered approach to information dumps like the Podesta emails would address many of the concerns raised by critics of 2016 campaign coverage—or at least concerns about the stolen-email half of the media’s email fixation—and leave the public better informed than it is under the current paradigm. It would help protect American democracy against a repeat of the subversion we witnessed in 2016. And it would still leave plenty of room for people to argue on Twitter about Clinton’s private email server—the greatest political crime in the history of the world.

10) Bonus.  Finally got a somewhat decent video of one of my U18 players doing his awesome flip-throw throw-in.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fshgreene%2Fvideos%2F10105334870663339%2F&show_text=0&width=267

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Pretty intrigued by how amazingly gigantic windmills are manufactured and used to generate power.

2) Helaine Olen on how Ronny Jackson sums up the Trump presidency:

Actually, the Ronny Jackson mess is entirely Trump’s fault. And it’s basic to his way of doing business. In fact, it represents a great deal of what we’ve come to expect from this presidency.

If it turns out the Trump administration did conduct due diligence on the appointment, it won’t matter. Because Jackson should never have been nominated for this position in the first place — which highlights how often Trump attempts to appoint people to positions they have no business being in.

Remember Andy Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants, the would-be secretary of labor whose fast food outlets were a mess of labor-law violations but who was undone by allegations he abused his first wife? Or Betsy DeVos, who couldn’t answer basic questions about education policy at either her confirmation hearing or on “60 Minutes“?

Jackson, who is Trump’s personal physician, almost certainly received the nod only because he gave Trump what he wanted — obeisance…

That brings us to another less than savory part of Trump’s presidency: He presides over Cabinet and staff meetings where courtiers — oops, I mean Cabinet secretaries and other appointees — regularly describe serving him in cloyingly obsequious terms (a “blessing”) and ooze praise for the successes of his presidency.

So Trump picked Jackson despite his lack of significant administrative experience, something one might think necessary to successfully run an agency such as the VA, which has more than 375,000 employees. It appears no one bothered to run anything more than a cursory background check, so they missed the allegations that started surfacing over the past couple of days, such as creating a hostile work environment, overprescribing of medication and on-the-job boozing…

Complaining, as some pundits are doing, that the White House didn’t conduct proper vetting is to miss the point. The real problem is that his requirements for service are the opposite of good governance. We don’t know who Trump will nominate to replace Jackson if and when he drops out. But here’s one thing I can promise. Competence won’t even be on the list of requirements for getting the job.

3) I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m really not much of a drinker.  And I’ve been perfectly willing to forego whatever health benefits moderate alcohol consumption may bring.  It now looks, though, that whatever those health benefits are, they have probably been overstated.

4) In a more normal political world, Mick Mulvaney’s shocking/not-shocking confession would be getting a lot more play:

THE BIG IDEA: Mick Mulvaney said the quiet part out loud.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” [emphases in original]

Mulvaney, who represented South Carolina in the House from 2011 until President Trump appointed him as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017, told the 1,300 industry executives and lobbyists that they should push lawmakers hard to pursue their shared agenda.

5) So, I don’t think the Fresno State professor who had the extremely nasty and disrespectful comments about Barbara Bush should have any official punishment from her university, but certainly seems like her opprobrium is deserved.  We may take our “don’t speak ill of the dead” taboo too far sometimes, but this is just so uncivil and mean-spirited.

6) Maybe these Republican teachers in Arizona who want to raise taxes to fund teacher salaries need to re-think their partisanship given that the sine qua non of the Republican Party is tax cuts.

7) Speaking of which, David Roberts lays out the case for why Republican never-Trumpers need to vote Democratic:

All the momentum on the right is in the same direction, toward white grievance and lawlessness — in other words, in precisely the direction Taylor identifies as an existential threat to American democracy. The party has been beaten along the way (2006, 2008, 2012), but it has not flinched. Conservative elites wrote a whole elaborate plan for reformafter the 2012 election, counseling a softening on immigration (ha ha). The party utterly ignored and repudiated it.

I know it is difficult for principled conservatives to see it like this, but the GOP’s devolution toward ethnonationalist populism can be traced all the way back to President Ronald Reagan, or earlier. And though it has zigged and zagged, occasionally paused, it has generally accelerated in the direction of radicalism…

Like it or not, there are only two parties that matter in the US. For a Trumpist GOP to lose, the Democratic Party must win. ‘Tis math.

So Taylor should suck it up and vote for Democrats — not because he likes their policies, but because the alternative is an existential threat.

8) The Greene family loves BattleBots.  So excited for a new season in a couple weeks.  And love this Wired article on the physics of different types of battlebots.

9) Really, really liked Saletan speaking from experience on the race and IQ debate:

I’ve watched this debate for more than a decade. It’s the same wreck, over and over. A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic. He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness.

I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person. I saw a comment from Nobel laureate James Watson about the black-white IQ gap, read some journal articles about it, and bought in. That was a mistake. Having made that mistake, I’m in no position to throw stones at Sullivan, Harris, or anyone else. But I am in a position to speak to these people as someone who understands where they’re coming from. I believe I can change their thinking, because I’ve changed mine, and I’m here to make that case to them. And I hope those of you who find this whole subject vile will bear with me as I do.

Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames.

I’m not asking anyone to deny science. What I’m asking for is clarity. The genetics of race and the genetics of intelligence are two different fields of research…

It’s one thing to theorize about race and genes to assist in disease prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, as Reich has done. But before you seize on his essay to explain racial gaps in employment, ask yourself: Given the dubiousness of linking racial genetics to IQ, what would my words accomplish? Would they contribute to prejudice? Would they be used to blame communities for their own poverty? Would I be provoking thought, or would I be offering whites an excuse not to think about the social and economic causes of inequality?…

No, data aren’t racist. But using racial data to make genetic arguments isn’t scientific. The world isn’t better off if you run ahead of science, waving the flag of innate group differences. And if everyone is misunderstanding your attempts to simultaneously link and distinguish race and IQ, perhaps you should take the hint. The problem isn’t that people are too dumb to understand you. It’s that you’re not understanding the social consequences of your words. When you drag race into the IQ conversation, you bring heat, not light. Your arguments for scientific candor will be more sound and more persuasive in a race-neutral discussion.

10) Pretty fascinating how a genealogy DNA database led to catching the Golden State Killer.

11) I enjoyed Julia Azari’s 538 piece on how Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are more alike then people give them credit for.  I also really liked this Sides, Tesler, Vacreck piece I had somehow not seen before:

Ingroup identification is generally less prevalent and politically potent for white Americans than it is for other racial groups. We argue, however, that presidential candidates who appeal to racial threats posed to whites from non-whites, such as Donald Trump in 2016, Pat Buchanan in 1996, and George Wallace in 1968, should activate the dormant political power of white consciousness. We show that white consciousness had a significantly stronger impact on evaluations of Trump than on evaluations of eighteen other political figures in two different 2016 surveys. Furthermore, white consciousness was powerfully associated with support for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries—much more so than it was for Mitt Romney in 2012. We also show that white consciousness was more strongly associated with vote choice in the 2016 general election than in prior elections and more strongly associated with support for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton than it was when other Republican candidates were pitted against Clinton in trial heats. Finally, we show that George Wallace’s and Pat
Buchanan’s prior presidential campaigns also activated white identity. These results suggest that white consciousness can be a potent force in mass political behavior, and could foreshadow a rising white identity politics in the Age of Trump.

12) I’m sticking with Westworld for season 2, but I really wish the writers were as interested in character and story as they were in puzzles.

13) Loved this about what the Terminator gets right and Back to the Future gets wrong about time travel.  Love both movies.

14) I love reading aloud to my kids (really enjoying reading the Hobbit aloud once again, currently).  Plus, science says it’s good:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

15) Like this from Chait about how Democratic female politicians should avoid the “victim trap”

Last June, Senator Kamala Harris used a televised hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee to mercilessly dismantle Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Sessions told the committee he could not answer any questions about President Trump, citing a vague “policy.” Using the rapid-fire questioning method she had honed as a prosecutor, Harris forced Sessions to admit he could not describe the policy in any specificity and didn’t even know if it was written down. At several points, Harris so flustered her prey that his former Republican Senate colleagues came to his defense, asking that he be given more time to answer her chain of queries.

I found Harris’s performance highly compelling, not only as a demonstration of effective legislative oversight, but also as a set piece of political theater for a potential presidential candidate in 2020 or beyond. Many liberals took away from the episode something different. The dominant focus of their commentary was the fact that Republican senators interrupted her in order to give Sessions more time to answer her questions. The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage. And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed. News reports of the hearing produced headlines like “Once Again, Kamala Harris Is Interrupted at a Senate Hearing” (Huffington Post) and “Kamala Harris Is (Again) Interrupted While Pressing a Senate Witness” (New York Times.)

These headlines are not descriptions of Harris’s commanding testimony, or anything she did. They are descriptions of things that were done to her. And while the intent of the people expressing outrage at the interruptions was sympathetic, it probably was not helpful to Harris, or to her political goals. It removed Harris of her agency, and reduced her to the status of victim. This illustrates the degree to which left-wing political discourse can paradoxically have a harmful effect on women who are trying to break political barriers.

16) Wisconsin’s welfare “reform” is just mean.  And not good policy.

What is political conservativism anyway?

In large part, it means you embrace the term “conservative” for symbolic value far more than a desire to cut government spending and regulation.  The latest Tom Edsall piece bringing in great political science is wide-ranging and ostensensibly about the “Republican Establishment” , but this is my favorite part:

The right-wing media was purposefully created by the conservative wing of the Republican Party, in part to help resolve a basic contradiction in the movement, according to Grossmann and Hopkins:

Conservative candidates have also long grappled with the challenge of attracting electoral support for an ideological movement primarily dedicated to the perennially unpopular objective of limiting or rolling back major government programs and social benefits. [emphases mine]

Grossmann and Hopkins point out that a majority of American voters, when asked about specific policies, support federal spending. An April 2017 Pew Research Center survey, for example, found “that 61 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats would maintain or increase funding for health care” and that 61 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats “would maintain or increase spending for ‘economic assistance to needy people in the U.S.’ ”

Crucial to the continued survival of the Republican Party, however, is the fact that when questions about taxes, spending and the role of government are put in generic, symbolic, abstract terms, without reference to specific policies, the majority of Americans take a conservative stance.

How does this work? Substantially more voters identify themselves as conservative than as liberal, according to GallupGallup also found that the public believes that the government wastes 51 cents of every dollar. In August 2017, Gallup reported that 52 percent of the public had an unfavorable view of the federal government and 29 percent had a favorable view.

To counter potential defections to the Democratic Party, according to Grossmann and Hopkins, the right must focus on “conservatism as a brand name, or as a collection of general principles and values,” which is far more popular “than conservatism as a package of detailed policy positions.”

And this very much reminded me of some great recent research by Lilliana Mason that I had meant to blog about and his very much on-point:

The distinction between a person’s ideological identity and their issue positions has come more clearly into focus in recent research. Scholars have pointed out a significant difference between identity-based and issue-based ideology in the American electorate. However, the affective and social effects of these separate elements of ideology have not been sufficiently explored. Drawing on a national sample collected by SSI and data from the 2016 ANES, this article finds that the identity-based elements of ideology are capable of driving heightened levels of affective polarization against outgroup ideologues, even at low levels of policy attitude extremity or constraint. These findings demonstrate how Americans can use ideological terms to disparage political opponents without necessarily holding constrained sets of policy attitudes.

I love this so much that I actually did a conference paper on it 10 years ago.  Alas, not enough to actually have good follow-through, because that was the last of it.

So, yes, of course, there is some value and policy content to being “conservative” but as much as anything it means you like being “conservative” and hate liberals.

The Jar Jar principle

Listened to the Fresh Air interview with Jake Tapper this morning and so loved this part:

Too often in this world, people rise to the level that they remove from their orbit anybody that would tell them Jar Jar Binks [from Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace] is a horrible character. [Star Wars director] George Lucas would be an example of that. I think he’s one of the most brilliant people on this planet, but I don’t know what happened with those [Star Wars] prequels, but they are not good. The prequels are not good and they made a billion dollars and they’re successful and all that, but they’re not good.

So I see the Jar Jar Binks principle everywhere, and I think it’s important to keep people around you who will tell you when you’re being a jerk. And I have lots of people like that in my life — many, many people. Some of them are even in my house. I think it’s very important, and I think that President Trump is a victim of the Jar Jar Binks principle. I think he removes people from his life that tell him negative things and sometimes for survival they stop criticizing the president, sometimes for survival they leave, sometimes they get pushed out the door. But I think that’s a problem with him and I think it’s one for successful people to keep in mind. [emphasis mine]

Fortunately, my wife definitely lets me know if I’m about to write any Jar Jar characters.  I think I’ve got some friends who will also tell me if I’m wrong.  Of course, I’m not exactly president or a famous movie-maker.  But, all of us need this in our lives.  I honestly think I notice this a lot in books.  For example, you know I love Harry Potter and think JK Rowling is brilliant, but I think people were afraid to tell her about her later books “you know, this is great, but would be even better about 100 pages shorter.”  Or, one of my favorite Science Fiction series, The Hyperion Cantos, in which the initial volume as popular and award winning and the subsequent books were also excellent, but, to my reading, bloated as nobody wanted to tell Dan Simmons they needed to be edited.  Anyway, just make sure you have people in your life who call you out on Jar Jar Binks.

I don’t know the name of the Toronto killer; and neither should you

For a while, I’ve been writing on the need to not reveal the names of mass killers and not obsess on their possible “motives” (they are all totally crazy in the colloquial sense– there is no truly understanding why a human being kills a bunch of innocent strangers).  But my blog and complaints to my students do not actually change common journalistic practices.  These concerns expressed by an esteemed Washington Post journalist, however, might actually help get the ball rolling in the direction it so needs to go.  Thus, I love this column from David von Drehle:

His motives are unknown. So we must hear the killer’s name over and over again. We must view the same mug shot or driver’s license photo with every update of the day’s headlines. (Maybe someone will find the motives in those blank, dull eyes.) The mass murderer’s unknown motives compel us to document his last weeks, last days, last hours, as if following his footsteps might lead us, like pirates with a treasure map, to a buried trunk full of why.

I suppose there is nothing new in this pursuit. The murderer’s mind is magnetic; drawing in Dostoevsky and Dreiser, captivating Capote, mesmerizing Mailer. Last week, the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing was awarded to Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for her powerful magazine essay in search of the motives behind the Charleston, S.C., church massacre…

But it’s such an unsatisfying concoction. Our hunger for reason isn’t satisfied by a stew of irrational and non-rational factors. Mental distress is a what, not a why — or so it seems in the onward pursuit of the elusive motives…

Yet it’s never quite explanation enough, because no motive ever matches the awful weight and finality of the crime. [emphases mine] We want something commensurate, something symmetrical, an injury or crusade equal to all the blood shed by innocent strangers. Instead we have only these small men with their lethal inadequacies.

And so it continues, new sickos stimulated by the images of the ones before, staking their own claims to a news cycle or two, their own faces flashed repeatedly on the screen, and their motives pronounced unknown. On the car radio this morning, there it was again: The reporter said the man in Toronto was a fan of the mass killer in Santa Barbara, Calif., who summed it up this way: “Infamy is better than total obscurity.”

So I ask my fellow journalists: When the killers themselves are telling us they draw inspiration from the prospect of our coverage, why do we continue to say their names and show their pictures? Nothing is ever learned by doing this. No explanation requites the deadly facts. If nothing’s gained, what could be our motive — especially knowing that we might be supplying theirs?

I really, really hope this is the beginning of something.  If even just one spree killing doesn’t happen (though I strongly suspect it would be more) because journalists acted more responsibly in this regard that would be a huge gain at only the cost of not having our salacious curiosity satisfied.

Identity politics and the politics of resentment

Political Scientist Eric Shickler has a nice piece in Vox arguing, “Debunking the myth that “identity politics” is bad for the Democratic Party: Racial justice energized the party in the past. It can today too.”

He makes a lot of good points about how a commitment to racial justice is plenty compatible with broad, multi-racial electoral coalition:

Traub makes the case that the Democrats’ decline can be traced all the way back to 1948, when Hubert Humphrey persuaded the Democratic National Convention to endorse a platform in favor of civil rights, over the objection of Southern conservatives and risk-averse Northerners.

By morally committing the Democrats to racial equality, Humphrey set the party and the country on the path that led to desegregation, LBJ, the Great Society, mandatory busing — and, finally, white “backlash.”

“Did the commitment of 1948 lead inevitably to the electoral calamity of 1968 and beyond?” Traub asks. “That is, did the Democrats doom themselves to lose much of the white middle class simply by demanding equal rights for black people?”

The defection of white Southerners, the loss of support among white working- and middle-class voters in the North, the rise of George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, and now Donald Trump — each might have been avoided but for this commitment to racial equality. In Traub’s words: “Thanks to Humphrey and the ADA [Americans for Democratic Action], the Democrats had done something even more dangerous than they understood: They had exchanged a politics of self-interest for a politics of moral commitment.”

It has now become common to argue that the downfall of the New Deal can be attributed to the belated addition of “identity-based” claims — namely, claims to racial equality — to what had been a broad-based coalition rooted in the economic interests of workers, albeit one focused at first mainly on whites. The universal — or at least, seemingly universal — appeal of the New Deal was lost as the particular interests of African Americans and other minorities came to the fore…

But this argument misses something New Deal liberals recognized early on: By the late 1930s, without racial justice, there would be no program of economic equality. It is New Deal liberalism itself that upended the supposed distinction between identity politics and class politics.

Rejecting the choice between “self-interest” and “moral commitment,” liberal New Dealers drew on a moral vision that linked fighting the gross injustices facing African Americans and other minorities to the shared interest of all workers. By the late 1930s and early 1940s, the core constituencies backing the New Deal were groups that supported civil rights: industrial labor unions, African Americans, and urban liberals.

Conversely, it was Southern white Democrats who not only opposed civil rights but also adopted a virulently anti-union stance…

But Traub misses the extent to which, from an early moment, the New Deal set in motion changes on the ground that linked racial and economic concerns. The Democrats’ ultimate, if incomplete, embrace of racial liberalism was not the top-down creation of Humphrey in 1948 or Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Instead, the core groups behind the New Deal — industrial unions, African Americans, and urban liberals — transformed the party from below. Claims for racial justice were a key part of the liberal program, as understood by New Dealers themselves in the late 1930s and early 1940s…

The “identity politics” argument assumes that racial justice ultimately brought down the liberal project. But this gets the history almost backward. Indeed, much of the moral fervor that fed the liberal project in the 1940s came precisely from its linkage to the cause of racial justice.

The bitter response to this program forged a clear division in which Southern conservatives were identified on one side and African Americans, unions, Jews, and other urban liberals on the other. Where Traub and others think this division was the product of liberals’ shift in focus from white workers to African Americans, racial backlash was sown into the attack on the New Deal almost from the beginning (just as cross-racial solidary was assumed by many of its supporters). [emphasis mine]

Lots of good stuff in there (and he goes a lot more into history and the role of unions in the parts I didn’t excerpt).  But, I just don’t think this is quite as true as I wish it were.  I absolutely think that there can be a successful Democratic party that embraces racial justice and economic justice (among other things, they are more than just a little related in this country).  I think there are many, many white Americans who truly believe in this.  We call them “liberals.”  And they are more likely to be well-educated and more urban.  Alas, I do think that a big problem is that for many white Americans, especially the less well-educated and less well-off, they inherently see politics as zero-sum group conflict.  I.e., what are you doing worrying about how policing affects Black people, or how “papers, please” policies discriminate against Hispanics when you should be worrying about me having better job opportunities.

In short, they are resentful of political attention explicitly focused on the basis of race, ethnic, and gender concerns.  Now, I would argue that this resentment is extremely mis-placed.  Especially because policies that see to it that everybody is treated better and more fairly in society and the workplace  ultimately benefit, you know, everybody.  But then again, the reality is that you’ve got a political party and it’s media partners selling a narrative that “the Democrats want to help others, not you.”  And that clearly works.  And, among non-college whites, it clearly works a lot better than “Democrats want to help all of us.”  Somehow, Democrats need to convince more non-college whites of this latter story without reducing commitment to racial, gender equality, etc.  Of course, if I knew what that “somehow” was, I suppose I’d be a rich political consultant, or at least have Op-Eds in the NYT, rather than this humble blog.

 

How worried should you be about November

That is, presuming you believe in accountability and democracy and therefore understand just how important it is for Democrats to take back a majority in the House.  Donald Trump’s approval is still extremely low for a president with low unemployment and decent economic growth, but it’s come back up a bit to average around 40%.  And the Democrats’ lead on the generic ballot has been shrinking.  Harry Enten analyzed all this last week:

Everything seems to be going the Democrats’ way on their march for House control in November. Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, are retiring left and right. Democrats continue to overperform in special elections. Nonpartisan handicappers, including CNN, continue to move more races in the Democrats’ direction.

And yet, the Democrats’ position on the generic congressional ballot seems to have worsened since the beginning of the year. Just this month, four “gold standard” pollsters (i.e., live interview surveys that call cell-phones and are transparent about their data) show an average lead for the Democrats of just five percentage points on the generic congressional ballot. That’s down considerably from 14 points in December among gold standard polls.

So what is going on, and should Democrats be worried?…

Perhaps an even bigger reason not to make too much of a change on the generic ballot is history tells us that sizable shifts at this point may not mean that much come November. I collected generic ballot data from the last 20 midterms (since 1938) at this point in the cycle. Polling at this time in the campaign is telling of the November result, but only to a point.

We expect two trends to occur in voter behavior between now and November based upon previous campaigns. The first is that there is a reversion towards a tied result. That is, big leads tend to become smaller. The second is that the president’s party tends to do worse in the actual result than the generic ballot suggests at this point. These two forces sometimes compete against each other, such as this year, given Democrats held a big lead but are also the opposition party.

Past campaigns suggest that a 14 point lead on the generic ballot at this point for the opposition party like the Democrats held in December forecasts about a 9.8 point win in November. A five point lead, however, translates to a 6.4 win for the opposition in November. That’s a difference of just a little over 3.4 points in the forecast final result, even though the polls differed by nine points.

Forecasting the Democrats to win by 6.4 points versus 9.8 points is an important difference if those were the final results. Projecting a November result from polling at this point, however, has a wide margin of error associated with it. A 6.4 point margin forecast versus a 9.8 point margin forecast based off the generic ballot are not significantly different projections statistically at this time.

The generic ballot still points to a national environment that is going to be strongly Democratic in November. That’s in line with the special elections and individual House race ratings. Whether that translates into Democrats falling just short or exceeding the bar necessary to gain control of the House is simply unknowable at this time.

So, don’t be worried.  No worry.  This election is too important not to worry.  Just don’t be disheartened.  And, also, I would suggest that there are far greater known unknowns about this midterm election than most.  We know that Trump will say/do more stupid things before November– just now what and what their impact will be.  And, we have a pretty good idea some substantially negative news– whether from Mueller or the Southern District of NY– are going to come out about Trump and his key associates.  That’s going to hurt Republicans.  But, maybe a little and maybe a lot and that is the all-important difference between Democrats taking back the House or not.

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