Quick hits (part I)

1) Not going to read the memoir of Steve Jobs’ daughter, but found the NYT book review really fascinating.

2) Ezra Klein on Republicans blaming Obama for the rise of Trump:

There are reams of evidence supporting this explanation, and I run through much of it in my piece “White Threat in a Browning America.” Obama’s presidency was inextricable from the massive demographic change that made it possible, and that continues to reshape American life and politics. But it wasn’t just demographic change that Obama represented. Obama, though a Christian himself, led an increasingly secular coalition, and was othered as a secret Muslim in the minds of many conservatives. Similarly, perceptions of economic change were filtered through broader views about Obama and the country: the political scientist Michael Tesler found that the most racially resentful Americans were the most economically pessimistic before the 2016 election and the most economically optimistic after it…

Trump, for all his flaws, ran a campaign based on clear positions and aspirations. He promised to build a wall; he said that our country was being weakened by louche, violent, parasitic immigrants; he said Obama was an illegitimate president with a forged birth certificate; he vowed to stop Muslims from traveling to the country; and in every speech, at every turn, he promised to turn back the clock, to make America great again.

That a crucial portion of the Republican electorate agreed with him in all of this is undeniable. What it says about them is often treated as if it is unspeakable — either because to state their beliefs clearly is insulting or because it just makes a bad political situation worse.

Trump did not create these voters. They long predated him — they were present in both Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s candidacies — but they were homeless in American politics, suppressed by the two parties for reasons of both principle and political expediency.

Trump, with his money, celebrity, and media-savvy, taking advantage of new communication technologies, a weakened Republican Party, and the rage that grew on the right amid the daily affront of Obama’s presidency, was able to break through the cartel and offer those voters the choice they actually wanted, and in the Republican primary, enough of them took it to make him the nominee.

3) My wife and I keep arguing about the utility of the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I’m definitely in the they are fun, but not really science, camp.

4) Evidence that ancient Siberians ritually (and selectively) sacrificed dogs:

Choosing which animals would live, work, and reproduce is a form of selective breeding and an important feature of domestication, the study authors argue. As such, these human actions shaped the physical characteristics and personality traits of the animals that lived at Ust’-Polui.

The fact that some dogs were ritually buried while others were butchered suggests a complex set of beliefs regarding the place of dogs in society. Canines were not seen as a homogeneous group. Researchers don’t know why they received different treatment, but these new findings suggest that humans only built an enduring relationship with the dogs they deemed valuable to the community, molding them to their needs and cultural specificities. “These diverse practices—whether intentional or not—drove the evolution and domestication of dogs in this region,” says Angela Perri, an archaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved with the study.

5) I’m honestly pretty curious for Nicole’s take on how much of the rise in transgender is social construction.  I don’t don’t the reality of any individual’s transgender experience, but it does strike me that there may be a strong social element in some cases.  The Economist:

Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of behavioural and social sciences at Brown University, was curious about what was causing these changes. She had come across reports from parents on online forums describing a new pattern of behaviour: adolescents without a history of childhood gender dysphoria were announcing they were transgender after a period of immersing themselves in niche websites or after similar announcements from friends. Her study suggests that these children may be grappling with what she calls “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”.

For the study, Dr Littman recruited 256 parents of children whose symptoms of gender dysphoria suddenly appeared for the first time in adolescence. These parents—Ms Miller among them—took part anonymously in an online, 90-question survey. Dr Littman’s findings suggest that a process of “social and peer contagion” may play a role. According to the parents surveyed, 87% of children came out as transgender after spending more time online, after “cluster outbreaks” of gender dysphoria in friend groups, or both. (In a third of the friendship groups, half or more of the individuals came out as transgender; by contrast, just 0.7% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 are transgender.) Most children who came out became more popular as a result. Rachel, Ms Miller’s daughter, says that when she told her friends, all of whom she had met online, they congratulated her: “It was, like, welcome home.”

Dr Littman thinks that some adolescents may embrace the idea that they are transgender as a way of coping with symptoms of a different, underlying issue. Almost two-thirds of the children had one or more diagnoses of a psychiatric or developmental disorder preceding the onset of gender dysphoria; nearly half had self-harmed or experienced some trauma. This is consistent with other studies of gender dysphoria when it sets in during puberty. Some people distract themselves from emotional pain by drinking, taking drugs, cutting or starving themselves. Dr Littman suggests that, for some, gender dysphoria may also be in this category.

6) I really don’t care who wrote the anonymous Op-‘ed, but William Saletan makes a good case for Jon Huntsman.

7) Given that Title IX reforms are coming from Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration, it is understandable that liberals would be hugely skeptical.  And, I suspect some of the reforms will be not good.  But Emily Yoffe is right that reforms move things in the right direction:

What happens when a morally reprehensible administration puts forth morally just reforms? We are about to find out. A New York Times report on Wednesday outlined the Trump administration’s proposed revisions of rules governing how campuses deal with sexual misconduct allegations (the official release is expected by October)…

On campuses, this type of discussion—or indeed any introspection about the excesses of Title IX, the unfairness of the procedures, and the damage done to both young men and women on campus—has been strenuously avoided. But institutions of higher education are exactly the place where such examination should take place. I understand the unease in embracing policies promulgated by a reprehensible administration. But reprehensible things have been happening on campus for too long now. The Trump administration is proposing needed reform that will go through the safeguards of public notice and comment. Those who seek to resist and discredit due process and fairness are only hurting their own cause.

8) This Slate article makes a pretty strong case that Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate in earlier hearings.  All else aside, I really don’t think we should have Supreme Court justices who have done that.

9) Damn do I love this Alexis Madrigal history of modern capitalism through the perspective of the straw.  And a great 99PI on it.

10) Society generally thinks morning birds are awesome and night owls are lazy slackers, but this is actually largely genetically set.  Most people are somewhere in the middle, but I’m definitely towards the night owl side.

11) Given that I had three boys followed by a girl, my wife runs an on-line children’s clothing store,  and that I teach a class on Gender, I’m definitely interested in what gendered clothing has to say about our society. Really enjoyed this essay:

I eventually realized that, even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty. Now when I shop for Lia, I hit the boys’ section first. It’s not just about avoiding skinned knees, but also the subtle and discouraging message that’s woven right into girls’ garments: you are dressed to decorate, not to do.

Sarah has always loved girlie clothes (though, now it is shorts and t-shirts instead of dresses) and she has definitely noticed the lack of practicality when it comes to pockets, etc.

12) Love this Op-Ed, “The False Comfort of Securing Schools: The instinct to use law enforcement tactics to make parents feel less anxious about mass shootings is misguided.”

The instinct to offer parents immediate relief from their anxieties risks making schools into fortresses. For example, in Texas, the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security used a recent hearing to focus on discussing “various proposals to harden school facilities, including limiting access points, improving screening and detecting of weapons, retrofitting school facilities with improved locks, emergency alarm systems, and monitoring cameras.”

What does transforming schools into “harder targets” really achieve? If anything, it tends to make students feel less safe. For example, in the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, students had an intense and negative reaction to being required to use clear backpacks, expressing concern that these measures were creating a climate of mutual suspicion — “like jail,” as one student put it.

13) We’ve got a bunch of Constitutional Amendments on our November ballot here in NC.  Rather than needed Constitutional change, it’s just pure GOP politics.  This N&O op-Ed captures it:

For Republican leaders, this lack of awareness and general confusion about the impact of the amendments isn’t a problem. It’s their intention. Their strategy for gaining voter approval of amendments that range from needless to dangerous relies on voters being kept in the dark.

That’s why the most consequential amendments were written with vague and misleading language. And that’s why the legislature came back into special session to block a commission from adding clarifying captions about the amendments to the ballot. And that’s why a three-judge panel found the language of two amendment ballot questions so inaccurate that it ordered the legislature to rewrite them.

Informing voters exposes this partisan abuse of the amendment process. When the Elon pollsters read the commission’s official explanations of the amendments that will be distributed to local election boards, support for the photo ID and tax cap amendments dropped. But voters will have to seek out those explanations. They won’t be on the ballot.

14) This 12-year old girl is obviously a truly amazing soccer player. And her parents are obviously everything that’s wrong with over-involved sports parents.

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