Quick hits

Pretty busy trying to finish stuff up before a PS conference and then attending a PS conference, so pretty late on this.  But, hey how better to spend your Labor Day than reading quick hits.

1) Julia Azari takes a look at the Democratic Party’s rules changes on Superdelegates

2) Yasha Mounk with a good take on McCain:

Some people hope that Americans might one day be able to cast aside our differences and recognize that, far from being either enemies or adversaries, we are actually friends. That hope is naïve: Complex societies like ours will always have deep political fault lines. The spirit of democracy is not to hide or overcome those disagreements, but rather to channel them into productive political competition.

That is why McCain was not a bi- or even non-partisan patriot, as some misremember him. Rather, he represented something we need much more urgently: a decent partisan, who was animated by his conviction about how to change the country, and yet deeply respectful of the people with whom he disagreed.

And this, of course, also helps us to understand the true nature of the man whom McCain so obviously disdained: The deepest problem with Donald Trump is not that he has political views with which many Americans viscerally disagree, or even that he desperately wants his own side to win. It is that he casts anybody who does disagree with him as an enemy, not only of himself, but of the country as a whole. And in that sense, the most ignoble thing Trump ever said about McCain—his suggestion that McCain wasn’t a war hero because he had been captured (and badly tortured) by the Vietcong—was a logical outflow of his core convictions: Trump’s world view does not brook the possibility that a man who disagreed with him as deeply as McCain always did might nevertheless have had universally admired accomplishments to his name.

3) Mark Joseph Stern on the NC gerrymandering decision:

Typically, at this point, North Carolina Republicans would file an emergency motion with the U.S. Supreme Court, which would place the district court’s ruling on hold by a 5–4 vote. But right now the court has only eight members, and it’s evenly split between liberals and conservatives. As election law expert and Slate contributor Rick Hasen has pointed out, if the court deadlocks 4–4, the district court order will stand. So long as no liberal justices defect—and there’s a possibility one might, though not a strong one—North Carolina may have fair districts in the 2018 election. (Because ballots must be printed in September, Republicans cannot simply wait until October to appeal.)

But that may prove to be the last gasp of robust, competitive elections in the state. In 2019, SCOTUS will probably hear a proper appeal of the district court’s decision. At that point, if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will almost certainly join the conservatives to rule that federal courts may not invalidate partisan gerrymanders. Republicans are poised to retain control of the state legislature in 2018 due to a different gerrymander that is only partially fixed. If they do, they may seek to re-implement the old heavily biased congressional maps as quickly as possible, perhaps even in advance of the 2020 election. Put simply, if voters don’t break Republicans’ grasp on their state Legislature, the GOP may wind up regaining its stranglehold on congressional districts.

So, in November, voters will have a chance to oust the Republican legislators who illegally entrenched their own power. They may not get another shot.

4) The microwave attack on diplomats in Cuba is spy thriller movie stuff.  And apparently real.

5) I think Paul Krugman is a little pessimistic in this column (I think we’re a lot further from Poland or Hungary than he suggests), but the case he makes is nonetheless disturbing as hell:

Many Trump critics celebrated last week’s legal developments, taking the Manafort conviction and the Cohen guilty plea as signs that the walls may finally be closing in on the lawbreaker in chief. But I felt a sense of deepened dread as I watched the Republican reaction: Faced with undeniable evidence of Trump’s thuggishness, his party closed ranks around him more tightly than ever.

A year ago it seemed possible that there might be limits to the party’s complicity, that there would come a point where at least a few representatives or senators would say, no more. Now it’s clear that there are no limits: They’ll do whatever it takes to defend Trump and consolidate power. [emphasis mine]

This goes even for politicians who once seemed to have some principles. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was a voice of independence in the health care debate; now she sees no problem with having a president who’s an unindicted co-conspirator appoint a Supreme Court justice who believes that presidents are immune from prosecution. Senator Lindsey Graham denounced Trump in 2016, and until recently seemed to be standing up against the idea of firing the attorney general to kill the Mueller investigation; now he’s signaled that he’s O.K. with such a firing.

But why is America, the birthplace of democracy, so close to following the lead of other countries that have recently destroyed it?

Don’t tell me about “economic anxiety.” That’s not what happened in Poland, which grew steadily through the financial crisis and its aftermath. And it’s not what happened here in 2016: Study after study has found that racial resentment, not economic distress, drove Trump voters.

The point is that we’re suffering from the same disease — white nationalism run wild — that has already effectively killed democracy in some other Western nations. And we’re very, very close to the point of no return.

6) I’ve never really had a strong position on Amy Klobuchar one way or the other, but based on this, I am not impressed.  How hopelessly naive to think that of Democrats had not ended the filibuster for federal court nominations that McConnell would not himself have done so under Trump.

7) Cool NYT feature on how much hotter (number of 90+ degree days) your hometown has become and how much hotter it likely will be in the future.  Ugh.

8) The Vox politics folks take a look at which Democratic 2020 candidates are over-rated and under-rated on betting prediction markets.  Sell Biden and buy Bernie?

9) Love David Graham on why Trump can’t even fathom Manafort and Cohen’s convictions.  We have such a white-collar crime problem in this country:

In other words, the behavior for which Manafort and Cohen are now likely to go to prison long predates the Trump presidency. These were not one-time acts, but chronic patterns of behavior. And just like every vanquished Scooby-Doo villain, they probably would have gotten away with it if not for that meddling president.

The dirty secret about many types of white-collar crime is that they’re never prosecuted. In the top income brackets, it’s relatively easy to cheat on your taxes and, if you get caught, simply shrug, apologize, and write the IRS a check. The same is true of laws such as the Foreign Agents Registration Act. When Mueller indicted Manafort for violating the seldom-enforced statute, it triggered a panicked wave of new registrations, as people who’d been skirting the law rushed to avoid legal exposure…

Trump’s comments are indicative of his own m.o. before becoming president. As a businessman, he frequently bent or broke the rules and the law, confident—correctly—that he would be able to pay a fine, settle, and do whatever else it took to make something go away without ever having to go to trial or face criminal charges…

For Trump, crime simply isn’t something that well-to-do men like himself, or Cohen, or Manafort do. It’s something that young men of color do. Businessmen can always find the right price to make trouble go away. [emphasis mine]

10) How much of a man’s man is Jordan Peterson?  Meat-only diet!

11) Damn, Baylor University is evil, “Report: Baylor Secretly Infiltrated Sexual Assault Survivor Groups.”

12) From the Nature is a Maaaad Scientist files, “Naked-Mole-Rat Queens Control Their Subjects by Having Them Eat Poop

And according to a new study from Japan, naked-mole-rat queens use their hormone-rich poop to govern their subordinates. When the subordinates eat the hormone, it turns them into attentive caretakers of the queen’s own pups. It’s mind control, via poop.

Naked mole rats had interested Kazutaka Mogi, a biologist at Azabu University, because of their unusual social structure. Like ants and bees, but unlike almost all other mammals, naked mole rats live in large colonies where the queen is the only female that reproduces. Her subordinates take care of the pups, and they never make sex hormones of their own or become sexually mature. Mogi and his team had investigated parenting in mice, and they knew that hormones play a key role in triggering parental behaviors in mammals. If the bodies of the subordinate naked mole rats aren’t making any hormones, how do they become such attentive caretakers—to pups that aren’t even their own?

The team collected fecal pellets from pregnant queens and gave them to a handful of subordinate females, which soon became much more responsive to the cries of pups. Then they repeated the experiment to make sure the hormones were really the key component of the poop. This time, they took fecal pellets from nonpregnant queens and added estradiol—a type of estrogen—to only half of the pellets. Only the naked mole rats that ate the estradiol-supplement poop became more responsive to pup cries.

Mogi was excited. He had never seen hormones work like this before. Hormones are powerful mediators of behavior, but their effects are normally limited to the body of the animal making them. Here the queen seems to be making hormones to alter the bodies of totally separate animals. Insect colonies have sometimes been called superorganisms for the way thousands of individuals behave as one unit; in this case, hormones seem to be acting on naked-mole-rat colonies as a single superorganism.

13) Helping less economically-advantaged students take the SAT and ACT more than once, can make a dent in the racial gap in college admissions.

14) Political scientists make the Onion, “Political Scientists Reassure Americans That Stripping Minorities Of Citizenship Usually Where Descent Into Fascism Peters Out.”

15) Vox’s on the latest in the social science replication crisis, “More social science studies just failed to replicate. Here’s why this is good.  hat scientists learn from failed replications: how to do better science.”

16) And Ed Yong focuses on what the on-line betting market on this recent replication test can tell us:

At the start of the market, shares for every study cost $0.50 each. As trading continued, those prices soared and dipped depending on the traders’ activities. And after two weeks, the final price reflected the traders’ collective view on the odds that each study would successfully replicate. So, for example, a stock price of $0.87 would mean a study had an 87 percent chance of replicating. Overall, the traders thought that studies in the market would replicate 63 percent of the time—a figure that was uncannily close to the actual 62-percent success rate.

The traders’ instincts were also unfailingly sound when it came to individual studies. Look at the graph below. The market assigned higher odds of success for the 13 studies that were successfully replicated than the eight that weren’t…

“It is great news,” says Anna Dreber from the Stockholm School of Economics, who came up with the idea of using prediction markets to study reproducibilityin 2015. “It suggests that people more or less already know which results will replicate.”

“If researchers can anticipate which findings will replicate, or fail to, it makes it harder to sustain dismissive claims about the replications or the replicators,” adds Brian Nosek from the Center of Open Science, who was part of the SSRP…

Beyond statistical issues, it strikes me that several of the studies that didn’t replicate have another quality in common: newsworthiness. They reported cute, attention-grabbing, whoa-if-true results that conform to the biases of at least some parts of society. One purportedly showed that reading literary fiction improves our ability to understand other people’s beliefs and desires. Another said that thinking analytically weakens belief in religion. Yet another said that people who think about computers are worse at recalling old information—a phenomenon that the authors billed as “the Google effect.” All of these were widely covered in the media.

When Nosek reads studies like these, he asks himself whether he would care at all if the results were negative. In many cases, the answer would be no. Some of the traders relied on similar judgments. “I did a sniff test of whether the results actually make sense,” says Paul Smeets from Maastricht University. “Some results look quite spectacular but also seem a bit too good to be true, which usually that means they are.”

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