Quick hits (part I and only)

Sorry, just one this weekend.

And we’ll start with more Elizabeth Warren:

1) Matt Taibbi:

Media critics like Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) have pointed out that early campaign coverage is often an absurd tautology. We get stories about how so-and-so is the “presumptive frontrunner,” but early poll results are heavily influenced by name recognition. This, in turn, is a function of how much coverage a candidate gets.

Essentially, we write the most about the candidate we write the most about.

We do this with polls, but also narratives. Is Howard Dean “too liberal” to win? He is if you write 10,000 articles about it.

You’ll often see this “we think this because we think this” trick couched in delicate verbiage.

Common phrases used to camouflage invented narratives include “whispers abound,” “questions linger” and today’s golden oldie from the Times, “concerns” (as in, the prospect of Warren and Sanders running has “stirred concerns”).

Warren recently also has been hit with bad-coverage synonyms like a “lingering cloud” (the Times), a “darkening cloud” (the Globe) and “controversy” that “reverberates” (the Washington Post).

The papers are all citing each other’s negative stories as evidence for Warren’s problems. It’s comic, once you lay it all out.

2) And Peter Beinart:

Read enough news reports about Elizabeth Warren’s declaration that she is running for president, and you notice certain common features. In its story on her announcement, The New York Times noted that Warren has “become a favorite target of conservatives” and that, in a recent national poll, “only about 30 percent [of respondents] viewed her favorably, with 37 percent holding an unfavorable view.” The Washington Post observed that Warren’s claim “that she was Native American” has “come under relentless attack from Republican opponents.” It also quoted a Boston Globe editorial that called Warren “a divisive figure.” On CNN, the election analyst Harry Enten suggested that Warren’s “very liberal record, combined with the fact that Donald Trump has already gone after her” has made her a—you guessed it—“divisive figure” whose “favorable ratings are not that high.”

These observations are factually correct. But they also help create a false narrative. Mentioning the right’s attacks on Warren plus her low approval ratings while citing her “very liberal record” and the controversy surrounding her alleged Native American heritage implies a causal relationship between these facts. Warren is a lefty who has made controversial ancestral claims. Ergo, Republicans attack her, and many Americans don’t like her very much.

But that equation is misleading. The better explanation for why Warren attracts disproportionate conservative criticism, and has disproportionately high disapproval ratings, has nothing to do with her progressive economic views or her dalliance with DNA testing. It’s that she’s a woman.

As I’ve notedbefore, women’s ambition provokes a far more negative reaction than men’s. For a 2010 article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, two Yale professors, Victoria Brescoll and Tyler Okimoto, showed identical fictional biographies of two state senators—one male and one female—to participants in a study. When they added quotations to the biographies that characterized each as “ambitious” and possessing “a strong will to power,” the male state senator grew more popular. But the female state senator not only lost support among both women and men, but also provoked “moral outrage.”

The past decade of American politics has illustrated Brescoll and Okimoto’s findings again and again.  [emphasis mine]

For the record, I think there’s plenty of non-gender-based opposition to Warren, but it is disingenuous to completely ignore the gender angle.

3) Liked Michele Goldberg’s take (where she also praises Washington governor, Jay Inslee).

Inslee dreams of uniting the country — including at least some of corporate America — against an existential external threat. “This is a moment where we can all be heroes, and all of us have a role to play in this heroic effort,” he said.

Warren is ready to lead a fight — a word she uses often — against the bloated, monopolistic ruling class inside our society. “America’s middle class is under attack,” she said in the video announcing the launch of her presidential exploratory committee. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie.”

4) AOC suggests a 70% top marginal rate.  Yglesias explains that, given U.S. history, this is actually entirely reasonable.

5) A serious and thoughtful essay from Brook Lindsey on what the future of a sane, center-right, Republican Party should look like.  I wouldn’t vote for this party, but our country would be immeasurably better if this were what Democrats were fighting against/working with.

6) As for the rather sharp language on a potential impeachment, Jon Favreau is exactly right.

Of course, the NYT, apparently, does not have the power to ignore it, and it had front homepage coverage all day yesterday.

7) Really interesting Dana Goldstein piece on the various policies (and controversies) super-expensive school districts are looking at so that teachers can afford to live where they teach.  Just gotta love the wealthy homeowners who object to the “low-income housing” (specifically for educators!) bringing down their nearby home values.

8) Somehow I missed this September Amanda Ripley piece on why American colleges are so expensive.  It’s really good.

Ultimately, college is expensive in the U.S. for the same reason MRIs are expensive: There is no central mechanism to control price increases. “Universities extract money from students because they can,” says Schleicher at the OECD. “It’s the inevitable outcome of an unregulated fee structure.” In places like the United Kingdom, the government limits how much universities can extract by capping tuition. The same is true when it comes to health care in most developed countries, where a centralized government authority contains the prices.

9) Scott Alexander’s posts tend to be amazing in their thoroughness, which is why I don’t read them all that often.  And rarely read the whole thing when I do.  But even just skimming through this post on the astounding cost increases in health care and education was fascinating.

10) I actually came across a lot of interesting slightly older stuff this week while looking for readings for my syllabi.  Really liked this on education, “What If High School Were More Like Kindergarten? Students in the U.S. are being taught to focus only on becoming educated.”

After visiting a Finnish kindergarten, I felt anxiety thinking of my hyper-stressed high-schoolers. The kindergarten classroom had little seating; in fact, we were told that there were never more than eight chairs in it at a time. Instead, there were pillows and small stools placed haphazardly around the room. A large, beautiful, wooden tree created a canopy over a cozy carpet in one corner. A nook in another corner provided a quiet space for students who wanted time to reflect by themselves. Musical instruments, books, and art supplies were readily available at eye level for little hands ready to grab them.

As I observed this student-centered classroom created for independent learning and play, I wished it for my students; and even stronger still, I wished it for my own 1- and 3-year-old children. Because even though I am a public-school teacher who has an undying commitment to public education, I still worry about my own children entering school. I worry that years of driving toward academic achievement will morph them into tear-filled teenagers who have forgotten how to play. In fact, according to a separate Gallup survey, 79 percent of elementary-aged children feel engaged in school, while only 43 percent of high-schoolers do. This breaks my heart. Like Lauri Jarvilehto, I think learning matters more than education, and somewhere along the way, students in the U.S. are being taught to forget to learn and focus only on becoming educated. Even in Finland, many high-school students still find school boring, but Finland takes the issue of student boredom seriously. Recently, the country has begun a reform to rid high-schools of mandatory subjects altogether, leaning instead on “phenomenon-based” curriculum.

11) Matt Grossman with a terrific summary of what we know about ideological media bias.  Straight into the syllabus.

12) What happened to Tucker Carlson anyway?

People in media ask themselves this question with the same pearl-clutching, righteous tone they use when discussing their aunt in Connecticut who voted for Trump.

In a tweet, Jon Lovett of Crooked Media and Pod Save Americanoted, “Tucker Carlson’s transition from conservative serious-ish writer to blustery CNN guy to Daily Caller troll to race-baiting Fox News host is like ice core data on what led to this moment in our politics.”

In June, Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic, “Carlson squandered his considerable God-given talent for scrupulously true commentary, opting instead for clickbait at The Daily Caller or dumbed-down demagoguery at Fox.”

13) A former student (who should know better) recently posted about term limits.  I responded with Bernstein:

The U.S. is a large, complicated nation. It requires expertise to write laws for such a nation. Anyone can have good ideas, but it takes some real knowledge to turn them into laws. If members of Congress are only to serve for a short time, then they’re going to turn elsewhere for that expertise. Where? Lobbyists are happy to write laws if Congress will let them. So are bureaucrats in executive-branch departments and agencies. So is the president — well, not the president specifically, but the White House staff and others within an administration. Term-limited legislators would inevitably turn to one of those choices. And neither lobbyists nor federal bureaucrats are term-limited, nor are they likely to be interested in the particular circumstances of any member’s constituency.

14) I’m doing pretty damn well.  But I decided to give the NYT’s 30-day Wellness challenge a go anyway.  Starting tomorrow.

15) David Roberts on Republicans and “innovation” as the solution to climate change:

As The Hill recently noted, a growing number of Republicans have “settled on innovation as their primary position to counter progressive Democrats” on climate change. Innovation “has a critical role,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told Fox News Sunday in November, “What the US needs to do is participate in a long-term conversation about how you get to innovation, and it’s going to need to be a conversation again that doesn’t start with alarmism.”

And most notably, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), current chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote a New York Times op-ed called “Cut Carbon Through Innovation, Not Regulation.”

The US has reduced emissions recently not through “punishing regulations, restrictive laws or carbon taxes,” he writes, “but because of innovation and advanced technology, especially in the energy sector.” He touts “investment, invention, and innovation.”

There’s no arguing: These are nice words. You’d be hard pressed to find an analyst in any field of economic policy who is against invention and innovation. Indeed, I have trouble recalling a single articulation of the anti-innovation position (though I’m open to correction).

But in the remainder of the op-ed, Barrasso — who has a lifetime score of 8 percent from the League of Conservation Voters — reveals what he means, and as climate policy, it is … unimpressive.

Rather than taxes, regulation, or legislation, Barrasso is eager to offer subsidies to the nuclear industry. He also wants to subsidize various uses for carbon dioxide captured from fossil fuel combustion — like enhanced oil recovery, which uses CO2 to force more oil out of the ground. (Needless to say, Barrasso is not among the co-sponsors on any carbon tax bill.)

That’s it. There’s not so much as a mention of whether these particular subsidies to large energy incumbents might produce the emission reductions needed, or any emission reductions at all. And Barrasso frames them as an alternative to policies that cost taxpayers money — as though subsidies are free.

It isn’t a climate policy. Like Paul Ryan’s infamous child-poverty initiative, it is an attempt to repackage familiar conservative policies — in this case, sporadic subsidies to favored industries, along with a promise of deregulation — under a fresh label.  [emphasis mine]

16) Why you should not freak out about the robot revolution.

17) Drum on how Americans seem to think crime is worse elsewhere despite the local news basically being crime, weather, and sports.

18) Richard Hasen with a very pessimistic (and, sadly, realistic) case for the Supreme Court doing all it can to enshrine partisan gerrymandering.

19) Three big insights into human evolution:

I will emphasize three big insights.

First, modern humans did not originate in a bottleneck after 200,000 years ago. Our origin was much deeper in time than this.

Second, our species originated in Africa from deeply structured ancestral populations. These were much more different from each other than any human populations are today. We do not know how they interacted or which gave rise to living peoples.

Third, some of these deeply divergent populations survived in Africa until recent times. During the time of human origins, “modern” humans were not alone.

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