Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so tired after a long day at the NC State Fair.  But I know how much DJC enjoys his bright-and-early quick hits part I on Saturday’s, so here’s a start.  And a Ferris Wheel, because I love them.

1) Really enjoyed this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on the “Interdisciplinary Delusion.”

One direction our thought might take us is to the nature of disciplines themselves. A discipline is an academic unit. It is neither a naturally occurring category nor an arbitrary relic of the history of higher learning. Rather, a discipline is an evolving body of skills, methods, and norms designed to explain parts of the world worth knowing something about. To recognize the importance of disciplines — to fight for their survival — is therefore to advocate for a picture of the world, an ontology. It is to insist that the world does not have a single order that is adequately captured by, for example, biology or physics or computation.

2) David Brooks makes the case for multi-member districts and ranked choice voting.  I’m on board with that.

The way to do that is through multimember districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.\

This system makes it much easier for third and fourth parties to form, because voting for a third party no longer means voting for one with no chance of winning. You get a much more supple representation of the different political tendencies that actually exist in the country.

The process also means that people with minority views in their region have a greater chance to be represented in Congress. A district in Southern California, for example, might elect a Bernie Sanders-type progressive, a centrist business Democrat and a conservative.

The current system — wherein a vast majority of seats are safely red or blue and noncompetitive, with only a handful of fiercely contested districts — disappears. Every district becomes a swing district, each vote much more important. Congress begins to work differently because with multiple parties you no longer have stagnant trench warfare — you have shifting coalition-building.

There’s a reason voters in proportional representation countries are less disenchanted with politics than we are. Their systems work better.

3) And Lee Drutman with the really thorough and compelling case for proportional representation.

4) Was Gary Hart, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business all a set-up by Lee Atwater?!  Just maybe.

5) I’m enjoying read The Power.  Interesting speculative fiction has to how the world might change if women were physically dominant (in this case because of a gender specific ability to generate electricity that emerges).  Really interesting ideas.  Though, lately I’m frustrated by the intellectual laziness of the suggestion that most all sexual dynamics (e.g., now women are the pursuers and the objectifiers) would just do a 180 switch.

6) The Senate doesn’t look all that much better for Democrats in 2020 either.  And, its pretty simple.  The Senate dramatically over-represents rural voters and rural voters have become ever more Republican:

Some Democrats are hopeful that the sharp red shift in predominantly smaller, whiter, more rural states will be counterbalanced as diversifying states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas turn blue. But those smaller, whiter, more rural states have already completed their shift to the right; the others have a long—in some cases, really long—way to go before they can be considered “blue” in the way that we consider, say, Arkansas “red.” The Democratic frustration of living under minority rule isn’t exactly subdued right now. But it’s about to become one of the biggest political stories of the next decade

7) And love this from David Leonhardt: “The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People.”

The biggest racial preferences in this country have nothing to do with college admissions or job offers. They have to do with political power. And they benefit white Americans, at the expense of black, Asian and Hispanic Americans.

These racial preferences are the ones that dictate the makeup of the United States Senate. Thanks to a combination of historical accident and racism, the Senate gives considerably more representation to white citizens than to dark-skinned ones. It allows a minority of Americans — white Americans — to wield the power of a majority.

The anti-democratic tendencies of the Senate are well known: Each citizen of a small state is considered more important than each citizen of a large state. It’s a deliberate feature of the Constitution, created to persuade smaller states to join the union. Over time, though, the racial edge to the Senate’s structure has become much sharper — for two big reasons.

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

They are, of course, the residents of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Almost half of Washington’s residents are black, and nearly all of Puerto Rico’s are Hispanic.

8) Ross Douthat argues that Elizabeth Warren played Trump’s game and lost with her DNA results release.  Given that most elite media seems to agree with him, that kind of makes him right.  Presidential politics is 90% media perception.

9) The Post, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.”  Here’s a crazy idea– let’s make these (truly) low cost reinforcements the building code.

10) I have noticed that “birthday cake flavor” is everywhere now.  And I love it!  Who needs pumpkin spice (though, I like that a lot, too).

11) This from a conservative PS professor is true, “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.”

Today, many colleges and universities have moved to a model in which teaching and learning is seen as a 24/7 endeavor. Engagement with students is occurring as much — if not more — in residence halls and student centers as it is in classrooms. Schools have increased their hiring in areas such as residential life and student centers, offices of student life and success, and offices of inclusion and engagement. It’s not surprising that many of the free-speech controversies in the past few years at places like Yale, Stanford and the University of Delaware have concerned events that occurred not in classrooms but in student communal spaces and residence halls.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incrediblyliberal group of administrators.

12) I had no idea I was being tracked as to whether I open my emails or not.  I am and so are you.

13) Via Drum, this was really interesting.  Women and men are more divergent in wealthier countries:

In every case, people who live in richer countries have stronger gender preferences. Looking at the top row, women have greater altruism, more trust, and higher levels of positive reciprocity (i.e., returning a favor with another favor). Looking at the bottom row, men have greater levels of negative reciprocity (i.e., returning an eye for an eye), more tolerance for risk, and greater patience.

This is basically it. This is a study showing associations, but that’s all:

Our findings do not rule out an influence of gender-specific roles that drive gender differences in preferences. They also do not preclude a role for biological or evolutionary determinants of gender differences. Our results highlight, however, that theories not attributing a significant role to the social environment are incomplete….Greater availability of material resources removes the human need of subsistence, and hence provides the scope for attending to gender-specific preferences. A more egalitarian distribution of material and social resources enables women and men to independently express gender-specific preferences.

In other words, being richer provides more opportunity to act the way you want to, and it turns out that this means men and women are more likely to take on gender-specific roles. However, this study merely notes these differences, it doesn’t try to explain them.

14) Early childhood education may not have long-lasting academic benefits, but the evidence suggests it is still totally worth it.

15) Microplastics are found in 90% of table salt.  Sometimes I think, just maybe, we’ll look back on this era and wonder how we so thoroughly poisoned our environment with plastic.

16) Read Ezra Klein’s big think-piece this week, “The rigging of American politics: Political systems depend on legitimacy. In America, that legitimacy is failing.”

American politics is edging into an era of crisis. A constitutional system built to calm the tensions of America’s founding era is distorting the political competition between parties, making the country both less democratic and less Democratic.

Since 2000, fully 40 percent of presidential elections have been won by the loser of the popular vote. Republicans control the US Senate despite winning fewer votes than Democrats, and it’s understood that House Democrats need to beat Republicans by as much as 7 or 8 points in the popular vote to hold a majority in the chamber. Next year, it’s possible that Republicans will control the presidency and both chambers of Congress despite having received fewer votes for the White House in 2016 and for the House and Senate in 2018.

Kavanaugh now serves on a Supreme Court where four of the nine justices were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote in his initial run for office, and where the 5-4 conservative majority owes its existence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary decision to deny Merrick Garland a hearing. This Court will rule on the constitutionality of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, union dues, campaign finance, Obamacare, and more; that is to say, they will rule on cases that will shape who holds, and who can effectively wield, political power in the future.

“The party that is trying to keep minority rule is also going to be the party that has less interest in true democratic representation,” says Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “You have to break some rules of democracy in order to keep minority rule.”

If these dynamics were at least split — if the geography of the House boosted Democrats while the Electoral College leaned toward Republicans — perhaps the dissatisfaction would be diffused, or the dueling interests of the parties would permit a compromise.

But that’s not the case. America’s growing zones of anti-democracy buoy Republicans, who, in turn, gain more political power to write the rules in their favor. As the left realizes it’s playing a rigged game, it’s becoming determined to rewrite those rules itself. If they succeed, the right will see those rewritten rules as norm-defying power grabs that need to be reversed, matched, or exceeded. It is difficult to imagine, from here, the construction of a political system both sides believe to be fair.

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