Quick hits (part II)

1) “An ancient lake holds secrets to the Mayan civilization’s mysterious collapse, study finds”

2) Really enjoyed Willaim Langewiesche’s feature on a Stealth bomber mission to bomb 50 terrorist in Libya.  Good God those are expensive aircraft to operate.  And yes, Trump does seem to believe that these planes are literally invisible.

3) Of course the Senate rejected money for election security.

4) Of course Betsy DeVos wants to make it easier for for-profit colleges to grift their students.

5) Reason to think my classroom laptop ban?  Maybe, but I certainly see a difference in levels of distractedness among students.  Some interesting research, though, on Political Science, no less.  (thanks, JPP):

As technologies have become more portable, scholars have turned their attention to whether the use of electronic devices during lecture positively or negatively affects student performance in the class. In this study, I investigate the effects of banning laptops in the classroom through an experiment conducted over two semesters in an introductory American politics course at a large, public four-year university. Overall, I find that banning laptops is more likely to hinder student performance in the class than help. Although students find many elements of the course to be more helpful to their learning in the laptop-free sections, this does not translate to greater student achievement or lead to significantly different evaluations on the official university teaching evaluations. Overall, these findings suggest that although instructors are not penalized for banning laptops from their classrooms, they ought to carefully consider the extent to which such policies are helpful to student progress in large lecture classes.

6) Sticking with Higher Ed– looks like some sanity is finally winning out against insanity and the absolute worst of liberalism at Reed College.

7) John Cassidy on countering Trump’s war on the media:

What can be done about all this? The first thing is to recognize it for what it is: a reckless descent into the demagoguery, misinformation, and incitement that are normally associated with authoritarian regimes. In a statement on Thursday, two United Nations experts on freedom of expression warned, of Trump’s comments about the media, “These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.” They added, “We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”

This warning echoed one that A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the Times, delivered to Trump in a recent meeting at the White House. Trump may think he is playing a political game. But, in a country that is littered with extremist groups, and where there are more than three hundred million guns in private hands, it is an extremely dangerous one. In less dark times, one might have hoped that senior members of Trump’s party would deliver this message to him forcefully. But today, with so much of the G.O.P. prostrating itself before its rogue President, what chance is there of that happening?

8) Colin Woodard makes some good points that it is really region, not urban/rural that mark our key political fault lines.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the most significant and abiding divide in American politics isn’t between city and countryside, but rather among regional cultures. Rural and urban places certainly have distinct interests and priorities, but in our awkward federation their differences have taken a back seat to the broader struggle between our constituent regions.

Sectionalism isn’t, and never has been, as simple as North versus South or an effete and domineering East against a rugged, freedom-minded West. Rather, our true regional fissures can be traced back to the contrasting ideals of the distinct European colonial cultures that first took root on the eastern and southern rims of what is now the United States, and then spread across much of the continent in mutually exclusive settlement bands, laying down the institutions, symbols and cultural norms later arrivals would encounter and, by and large, assimilate into.

Understanding this is essential to comprehending our political reality or developing strategies to change it — especially as we approach a momentously consequential midterm election…

Tracing our history, I’ve identified 11 nations, most corresponding to one of the rival European colonial projects and their respective settlement zones. I call them Yankeedom; New Netherland; the Midlands; Tidewater; Greater Appalachia; Deep South; El Norte; the Left Coast; the Far West; New France; and First Nation. These were the dominant cultures that Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants and other vital actors in our national story confronted; each had its own ideals, assumptions and intents.

Look at county-level maps of almost any closely contested presidential race in our history, and you see much the same fault lines: the swaths of the country first colonized by the early Puritans and their descendants — Yankeedom — tend to vote as one, and against the party in favor in the sections first colonized by the culture laid down by the Barbados slave lords who founded Charleston, S.C., or the Scots-Irish frontiersmen who swept down the Appalachian highlands and on into the Hill Country of Texas, Oklahoma and the southern tiers of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Interesting stuff.  That said, I’m still going with urban/rural.  I think I likely have more in common with an urban resident most anywhere else (okay, except Deep South) than a rural resident in my own region.

9) It’s honestly kind of funny how much this academic research wants to make Republicans look good on climate change, despite their own results (a great example of where NYT commenters are just awesome).

It is widely believed that most Republicans are skeptical about human-caused climate change. But is this belief correct?

In 2014 and 2016, we conducted two national surveys of more than 2,000 respondents on the issue of climate change. We found that most Republicans agreed that climate change is happening, threatens humans and is caused by human activity — and that reducing carbon emissions would mitigate the problem.

To be sure, Democrats agreed more strongly than Republicans did that climate change is a concerning reality. And among climate skeptics there were more Republicans than Democrats. Nevertheless, most Republicans were in basic agreement with most Democrats and independents on this issue…

An interesting suggestion from our research is that Democrats and Republicans are swayed by partisanship because they think their fellow Democrats or fellow Republicans are even more swayed by partisanship — and they don’t want to break ranks.

We discovered this when we asked people to estimate how their fellow citizens would respond to the policies. People overestimated how much Democrats and Republicans opposed policies backed by the other side. Furthermore, these exaggerated estimates turned out to strongly predict their own support for a policy…

In particular, there was very little distance between Republicans and Democrats when evaluating a Republican-proposed carbon tax. [emphasis mine] This suggests that a carbon tax such as the one proposed by prominent Republicans including James Baker III and Mr. Shultz may hold more promise for bipartisan agreement than we have seen with Democratic policies in the past.

Short version: Democrats want a carbon tax because Democrats believe in good policy; Republicans believe what Republican elites tell them when it comes to climate.

10 Loved this from Dr. Sandeep Jauhar on thinking more rationally about how we die:

Like most patients, mine wanted to live as long as possible. So when I brought up the option of a small implantable defibrillator for his failing heart, he immediately said yes. The device would be inserted in his chest to monitor his heartbeat and apply an electrical shock if the rhythm turned into something dangerous. It was like the paddles in the emergency room, I told him, but it would always be inside him.

In truth I wasn’t sure if a defibrillator was really such a good idea. My patient was near the end of his life. He might live longer than a year, but certainly no more than five. Patients with heart failure mostly die in one of two ways: either from a sudden, “lights-out” arrhythmia that stops the heart, or from insidious pump failure, in which the heart increasingly fails to meet the metabolic demands of the body. The former, which the defibrillator would help prevent, is quick and relatively painless. The latter, which the defibrillator would make more likely, is protracted and physically agonizing.

When the time came, wouldn’t it be better for my patient to die suddenly than to struggle for breath as congestive heart failure filled his lungs with fluid?

It was a difficult thing to bring up with my patient — how he wanted to die — in part because his death wasn’t imminent. But with the rise of technologies like implantable defibrillators, this is a subject with which doctors and patients will increasingly have to grapple: not the inevitability of death, but the manner of one’s demise.

11) David Hopkins on what to make of 2016 and what that means for 2018, “Was the Midwestern “Red Shift” More Pro-Trump or Anti-Hillary? The Answer Matters a Lot for 2018″

The rural Midwest has been trending Republican for a long time; Bill Clinton narrowly carried it twice in the 1990s, but Barack Obama lost this vote 53 percent to 47 percent in 2008 and 57 to 43 in 2012. In 2016, Donald Trump routed Hillary Clinton here, attracting 68 percent of the two-party rural Midwestern vote—6 points better than Ronald Reagan in his 49-state landslide 1984 reelection.
If 2016 indeed represents the “new normal,” than it would make sense for analysts to take a bearish view of Democratic chances in white, small-town congressional districts in the Midwest and elsewhere this year. But if 2016 was something of an aberration, and the Trump-Clinton vote does not fully reflect the relative fundamental strength of the two parties, then the map of electoral battlegrounds opens wider, and the fortunes of congressional Democrats improve accordingly.
12) As a former percussionist who owned some Zildjian’s, loved this NYT photo essay on the 400+ year old cymbal maker.
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