Quick hits (part II)

1) This is really good, “Roe’s Death Will Change American Democracy”

The dissolution of Roe will not make the tensions that preceded it disappear. Several states have already issued sweeping laws criminalizing abortion, while others have declared an intention to become sanctuaries for people seeking abortions. State leaders seem intent on influencing what happens outside their borders, encouraging or punishing travel for abortion. Anti-abortion leaders hope to ban abortion across the country through federal legislation or yet another Supreme Court decision, while abortion-rights groups are seeking to ensure access, circumvent criminal laws and wage battle in state courts.


But more fundamentally, the story the Supreme Court tells is dangerously incomplete. The decades-long fight to reverse Roewas not an effort to restore democracy but instead an attempt to change the way American democracy works — one that, now realized, will touch areas of life well removed from reproduction.

The leaders of the anti-abortion movement have long seen their cause as a fight for human rights in which compromise was a betrayal of principle. Their stance was clear in the 1960s, as they fought the loosening of criminal abortion laws, and it was obvious after Roe was decided, when the movement agreed on the need for a constitutional amendment recognizing fetal personhood and thus banning abortion nationwide.

American party politics as we know them today were, in time, shaped by those efforts…

After Casey, some anti-abortion groups expanded their focus:To gain even more control over Supreme Court nominations, they sought to overhaul the Republican Party and the rules of campaign spending. Anti-abortion lawyers waged war on campaign finance limits, which they believed hamstrung social conservatives, disempowered small-dollar donors and violated the First Amendment. They joined other groups working to unleash a torrent of spending from nonparty outside groups, fought for donor anonymity and played an instrumental role in the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down certain limits on corporate election expenditures.

With new money and influence in the G.O.P., anti-abortion groups were able to do something new: weaken the traditional leadership of the Republican Party, which had not made the fight against Roe as much a priority as business-friendly attacks on regulations and taxes…

It is appealing to believe that judges can rise above politics, interpreting the law and nothing more, and remain indifferent to the consequences of their decisions. But it’s clear that over the years the Supreme Court has become yet another partisan institution — and one that’s unaccountable to the American people. In that light, it’s hard to see the court’s aggressive moves to remake American constitutional law as anything but anti-democratic.

The fight to undo Roe, then, has been a fight to remake our country — and it has succeeded. That fight seems even more ominous when one looks around the globe: Other countries that have recently undone abortion rights are backsliding democracies.

We live in a post-Roe America now, and we are just beginning to understand what that means.

2) Just because conservatives are not interested in meaningful criminal justice reform or try and scare people with crime, doesn’t mean rising crime isn’t a real problem, “The Liberals Who Won’t Acknowledge the Crime Problem: Refusing to admit the gravity of the problem won’t make it go away.”

Anecdata, of course, are not the same as data. And in cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco, progressive district attorneys have insisted that their critics have gotten the facts wrong. As The New York Times recently reported, the now-recalled San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin routinely “confront[ed] voters with data that shows overall crime has not increased meaningfully while he has been in office.” Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s cantankerous district attorney, has developed a habit of browbeating critics in town-hall meetings with appeals to “the science.” His in-house criminologist, Krasner has insisted, can give people the real numbers if they really want them. Ordinary residents are being told that what they perceive to be true is not, in fact, true.

The problem here is that humans understand and interact with the world based on perception and feeling. Politics is about policy, but it is also about human nature—which, however one wishes to characterize it, is a constant to contend with. You can try to transcend human nature by appealing to people’s better angels or through education and enlightenment—but only up to a point. Information and education dont necessarily serve the purpose liberals assume they will. Very few of us will read a detailed academic journal article about trends in crime reporting before deciding how to feel about crime. Your assessment also depends on which facts you pay attention to. Any self-respecting political scientist will be aware of how the data can be manipulated to confirm one’s prior beliefs. A criminologist—considering how politicized debates over crime are—is likely to have ideological biases that inform his or her research. Are you looking at “overall crime” or certain subcategories—and who’s to say which subcategories matter more than others? The notion of neutrality may be comforting, but no one, in the end, is a disinterested observer…

Being forthright with the public when certain categories of crime are increasing is important, but debates over numbers obscure a more fundamental objection. The data miners, the journalists, and the otherwise well-intentioned people who believe—as one might believe in a religion—that all we need to come to the right conclusion is the right information seem unable to grasp that crime isn’t just crime…

To be a liberal is to take care to balance one’s individual need for basic security with a benefit of the doubt for the least fortunate and compassion for the victims of an uncaring society. The good liberal knows that poverty, substance abuse, and untreated mental illness fuel criminal activity. These are root causes. But the root causes haven’t been addressed, even by the very progressives who say that they should be. This, too, reflects a debate about moral claims and starting assumptions, and fact-checking can’t quite address those. Are the least fortunate necessarily morally superior simply by virtue of their victimhood? Is crime simply a matter of addressing grievances—or is it also true that there is bad and even evil in a fallen world and that it can’t always be resolved through social policy? Sometimes, particularly when it comes to actual criminals, crime must be punished.

3) Greg Sargent, “Texas’s new secessionist platform exposes a big GOP scam”

Of all the lies that Republicans have told about the 2020 election, one of the most insulting is the “election integrity” ruse. In this telling, GOP state legislatures passed restrictions on voting across the country not to make it harder for the opposition’s voters to cast ballots, but rather to restore GOP voters’ “confidence” in elections going forward.

The Texas GOP has adopted a new platform that’s generating headlines for its open discussion of secession from the union. But the platform also exposes how that “election integrity” scam really functions. In so doing, it lays bare some ugly truths about how radical the abandonment of democracy among some Republicans has truly become.

The new platform, which thousands of GOP activists in Texas agreed to at the state party convention over the weekend, is a veritable piñata bursting with far-right extremist fantasies. It states that Texas retains the right to secede from the United States and urges the Texas legislature to reaffirm this…

But the document might be most revealing in its treatment of voting and democracy. It declares President Biden was “not legitimately elected” in 2020. It says Biden’s win was tainted by voting in swing-state cities, furthering a GOP trend toward more explicitly declaring votes in urban centers illegitimate.

It urgently warns that Republicans must vote in high numbers in November 2022 to “overwhelm any possible fraud.” And notably, it calls for repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

4) Catherine Rampell, “Here’s what voters will get if they cast their ballots based on gas prices”

Americans are mad about inflation. They’re especially outraged that gasoline averages $5 per gallon nationwide. And history suggests they may act on that furor by voting the bums out.

But voters should think carefully about what they’ll get if they cast their ballot based on gas prices.

Unexpected inflation tends to cause voters to punish incumbents at the polls. The cost of gasoline looms especially large in public consciousness; it also weighs heavily on presidential approval ratings. The president does not have some super-secret special dial on his desk that can adjust gas prices, but many voters believe otherwise.

Republicans hope this widespread confusion will turn the midterms into a referendum on painful economic conditions and, by extension, Democratic leadership. They’re counting on voters to project their hopes and dreams — including their wildest fantasies about cheaper gas — onto Republican challengers.

But here’s the thing.

There are relatively few tools that the president and Congress can deploy to help boost oil production or moderate overall inflation. They probably won’t make a huge dent in price growth, but they could help a little on the margin. Unfortunately, these are not the things that either party is proposing right now. Democrats are grandstanding about “greed” and considering silly stuff such as export bans and price controls;meanwhile, Republicans demagogue about President Biden’s supposed “war on fossil fuels” and socialism.

Neither party has a serious plan for dealing with inflation overall or gas prices specifically.

Assuming that Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to disrupt energy markets, then voters realistically face a choice between high gas prices and the rest of the Democratic agenda; or, high gas prices and the rest of the Republican agenda. So it’s worth considering what that “rest of” the agenda for each party actually entails…

So what do Republicans stand for?

Their national leaders won’t say, even when asked directly; their state-level rising stars are mostly focused on fighting with Mickey Mouse and drag queens. But if you look at GOP actions taken over the past several years, including when they had unified control of the federal government, you get a sense of what Republicans are likely to prioritize.

Mostly, Republicans seem to care about tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They want to find ways to repeal Obamacare, or otherwise reduce access to health care by (for example) slashingMedicaid.

5) Nice piece in Science on trying to understand long Covid:

For each of these researchers—and many others exploring the causes of Long Covid—untangling the complex syndrome, with a still-evolving definition, is a laborious, step-wise process. First, they must show that a possible contributor—such as minuscule clots, lingering virus, or immune abnormalities—crops up disproportionately in people with Long Covid. Then comes the hard part: proving that each of these traits, alone or in combination, explains why the coronavirus has rendered millions of people shadows of their former selves.

All agree that solo operators are unlikely. Lingering virus, for example, could attack the circulatory system, triggering blood clots or chronic inflammation. “I see this as a triangle,” Buonsenso says, with each trigger potentially explaining, or even amplifying, the others.

6) Chait, “They Will Do It Again Republicans have not been chastened by the revelations of the January 6 committee.”

The January 6 hearings are about the events of a single day, but they implicate a much broader phenomenon: the Republican Party’s faltering commitment to democracy. The mob attack on Congress a year and a half ago was merely the most grotesque manifestation of Donald Trump’s rejection of democracy, and Trump himself merely the most grotesque manifestation of his party’s authoritarian impulses.

“Parties that are committed to democracy must, at minimum, do two things: accept defeat and reject violence,” wrote the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way earlier this year. Trump has built a movement that does neither. And while he is justifiably known for his petty egocentrism, he has finally and genuinely infused this movement with beliefs that are greater than his self-interest and whose power will outlast him…

Well over 100 Republican nominees for national or statewide office explicitly endorse Trump’s fantasy that the election was plagued by large-scale fraud. A much greater number of Republicans simply refuse to say one way or another if Joe Biden won the election fairly. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, asked recently about Barr’s confession that Trump had no grounds to dispute the election results, first asserted that something fishy did occur (“You saw some states not follow their state-passed legislation”) before pivoting to his desire not to “keep relitigating 2020.”

The party is split between those Republicans who refuse to take a stance on Trump’s coup and those who actively endorse it, with the latter faction rapidly gaining ground. The Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state, a job that would oversee elections, has asserted, “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.” Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for governor not only supports Trump’s election-fraud lie but was present at the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

7) This is very good from Cathy Young.  Yes, Republicans are absolutely demonizing trans people, especially athletes, for cheap political points.  But, damn some of the crazy, hysterical response from the left is just so ridiculous, “Do Ohio Republicans Really Want to Use Genital Exams to Ban Trans Athletes?”

Earlier this month, news of the latest outrageous move from a GOP-dominated state legislature spread on some news sites and on social media: The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill that not only excluded transgender students from school sports but reportedly also required genital checks—and even internal pelvic exams—for female athletes to ensure they were not trans. Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg characterized the proposed law as a “new nadir,” because it “gives anyone . . . the standing to challenge an athlete’s gender, and provides no disincentives for making false reports.” A viral thread on Twitter, with nearly 200,000 likes and nearly 80,000 retweets and quote-tweets, asserted that under this law, any girl in Ohio would have to submit to a medicalized sexual assault to play middle school or high school sports:

In fact, the genital-exam panic is almost certainly a nothingburger, the joint product of Republican clumsiness and Democratic alarmism. It is also a diversion from the underlying problem of sports (particularly school sports), sex, and gender identity—a genuinely complicated issue where reactionary culture-war politics intersect with good-faith concerns about equity for girls and women.

First, let’s get the Ohio dystopia out of the way: A close look at the story shows that the chances of mandatory genital exams for female athletes actually happening are practically nil. For starters, House Bill 151, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” has yet to be approved by the Ohio Senate, let alone signed into law. What’s more, it’s not clear that the bill’s language actually calls for genital checks. What it says (after mandating single-sex teams, permitting the simultaneous availability of mixed-sex teams, and prohibiting schools and scholastic sports bodies from allowing “individuals of the male sex” to participate in female-only teams or events) is this:

If a participant’s sex is disputed, the participant shall establish the participant’s sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement indicating the participant’s sex based upon only the following:

(1) The participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy;

(2) The participant’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone;

(3) An analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup.

This language—added to the bill on June 1 by Republican state representative Jena Powell, who first cosponsored a bill with this same language in early 2020—is hardly a sterling example of legislative draftsmanship. It is vague in several ways. One, it’s not clear whether the physician’s statement would have to be based on all three criteria, or just one or two would be enough. Two, it is not clear whether the physician would be required to actually perform an exam on the student; a similar provision in an Idaho bill was clarified to state that no new physical exam was required as long as the attestation came from a doctor who knew the individual to be a biological female. Leave it to Republican legislators to make a hot mess of any culture-war-related bill.

It seems safe to say that girls who play sports in Ohio schools will not be undergoing genital checks or pelvic exams—if only because any legislators who mandated such a thing would get clobbered by their own conservative constituents. The most likely scenarios are that the bill will either fail to pass the Ohio Senate or will be amended to alter this language. And if somehow the bill were to pass both houses of the legislature, Gov. Mike DeWine indicated last year that he would veto it…

Of course there’s some cynical weaponizing going on. If the only time you mention women’s sports in a non-transgender context is to make lame jokes about how no one watches the WNBA, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take your concern about the trans menace to female athletes very seriously. (Chances are, it’s more about the “trans” part than the “female athletes” part.)

But it is also true that the nominally “conservative” camp on this issue includes many people who can hardly be suspected of fake concern for women’s sports, or of anti-LGBT bias. They include tennis great Martina Navratilova, the first professional athlete to publicly and voluntarily come out as gay—back in 1981, when it cost her a lot of money in endorsements from skittish corporations…

Since the debate has often been framed as one between fairness and inclusiveness, the question of what’s “fair” inevitably comes up. In a recent video examining the issue of trans athletes, German physicist and science commentator Sabine Hossenfelder concludes that “it seems clear from the data that trans women keep an advantage over cis women, even after several years of hormonal therapy” and that “no amount of training that cis women can do is going to make up for male puberty.” In that sense, Hossenfelder admits, trans inclusion “isn’t fair”—but then she pivots to the position that “athletic competition has never been fair in that sense”: Superior athletes, male or female, have genetic advantages over other people, whether it’s the runner’s long legs, the swimmer’s lung capacity, or the basketball player’s height. Others say that the “fairness” question is further diluted by the indisputable fact that young people from affluent families have vastly greater opportunities to benefit from training and coaching.

Such arguments, I suspect, are unlikely to persuade. Most people find it self-evident that the advantage Lia Thomas’s natal sex gives her over biological females is a fundamentally different kind of “unfair” than the advantage Michael Jordan’s genes give him over other males—just as, for instance, they instinctively feel that the advantage conferred by doping is a fundamentally different kind of “unfair” than the advantage conferred by having more time and resources to train. Social justice activists would likely argue that such assumptions arise from precisely the sort of deeply ingrained, culturally constructed biases that we should be encouraged to question: If we feel that the trans advantage is different, they suggest, it’s because, deep down, we don’t believe that transgender women are women. And yet, without getting into the thorny “What is a woman?” question, it is entirely possible to believe that trans identities are real and should be respected and that, in some areas including sports, biological sex matters—especially post-puberty. It’s possible to question cultural biases and still come away with that conclusion.

8) Relatedly, completely hyperbolic twitter threads like this are so popular. 

Somehow, “hmmm, should Lia Thomas really be competing against women?” is not the road to complete totalitarian fascism.  Who knew?

9) How the social justice left is destroying environmental advocacy organizations from the inside-out.  And, of course, those responsible are entirely morally convinced of their rightness:

Yet most environmental activists who spoke with POLITICO saw these types of convulsions as necessary for creating a more effective pressure movement.

“They understand that you cannot win on major pieces of environmental or climate legislation without Black and brown and indigenous and other folks who come from vulnerable communities,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization with the National Wildlife Federation.

Because you know what, of course we should pay attention to their concerns, but this assertion is just not true.

But Henn said it’s important to distinguish the grunt work of organizing from “performative solidarity.” He observed too many organizations distracted by “having internal debates about messaging and identity and your positions on different issues.”

Indeed, in this new phase of environmentalism, Big Green organizations are extending themselves into labor rights, immigration, housing and democracy reform. Some groups are aiming to stir millions of latent Democratic voters across the country; to defeat state-level voter suppression initiatives; to make the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico states; to end the Senate filibuster and erode structural imbalances favoring red-leaning states.

“Do you end up taking on so much that you become paralyzed?” Henn added. “Can you actually do the longer, deeper work to build a base that will turn out for climate? That is a challenge.”

Call me crazy, but… want to improve the environment? Focus on environmental policy.

10) Sure seems like twitter’s favorite liberal historian is guilty of some pretty serious plagiarism. From what I can tell, not many people seem to care because he’s twitter’s favorite historian.  But what he’s done seems… not okay. 

11) Fascinating in National Geographic, “The microbe behind the baby formula recall can be benign—or deadly: Cronobacter sakazakii, a little-known microbe, has evolved traits that make it difficult to destroy, posing a threat to our food safety.”

The bacterium behind the baby formula recall, Cronobacter sakazakii, is less well-known than other food-borne pathogens like E. coli or Salmonella, but itcan wreak havoc in vulnerable populations like newborns or people with compromised immune systems…

Part of the Enterobacteriaceae family, these bacteria are rod-shaped organisms with whiplike appendages that help them move towards nutrients and other targets.

Not only is this bacterium mobile, C. sakazakii is also exceptionally hardy; viable bacteria have been discovered in powdered formula left on the shelf for up to two years. “The fact that it survives in arid environments for a long time is really special,” Chapman says. This trait renders traditional food safety strategies like drying food to inhibit bacterial growth useless against C. sakazakii.

The bacterium’s secret lies in its genome, according to Roy Sleater, a molecular biologist at Munster Technological University in Ireland. Sleater and his team found that C. sakazakii contains seven copies of an osmotolerane gene—which encodes a protein that helps protect the bacteria in low moisture environments—while other bacteria have just one. This enables C. sakazakii to produce much more of this protective protein compared to their less desiccation-resistant peers. And “this protection extends to other forms of stress such as high temperatures and high pressure,” Sleater says, referring to previous research that found bacteria that can survive low moisture also become more resistant to heat.

C. sakazakii is also capable of forming a biofilm, a community of bacteria that live together in a sugary matrix its members produce, Claud says. This biofilm can adhere to surfaces like countertops or hospital equipment as well as organic matter like a baby’s intestinal cells. And in a case of “together we stand and divided we fall,” a biofilm is much more than the sum of its parts—the bacteria within it communicate with one another and adapt to changes in the environment. This flexibility makes biofilms especially tough to destroy.

12) I have The Men out from the library, but haven’t started reading it yet.  As to the basis of it’s “transphobia“? Give me a break:

Some early readers have called “The Men” transphobic, because transgender women disappear along with the cisgender men. I see what they mean. The novel states that an unexplained force “had removed every human with a Y chromosome, everyone who’d ever been potentially capable of producing sperm.” Given that this is an imaginary landscape that Newman could have organized any way she chose, she’s effectively made a strong statement about where transgender people “belong”: Transgender men remain on Earth with the cisgender women. Some readers will — very reasonably — want to avoid this book because of it.

13) I really need to rewatch Flight of the Conchords.  Enjoyed a trip down memory lane with this, “Every (Full) Flight of the Conchords Song, Ranked”

14) And much further back down memory lane, I really enjoyed this on Quora, “What 1980s movies were huge at the time but are now almost forgotten?”

15) Loved this Planet Money story on mandatory employee lunch away from the workplace in France.  Turns out the origins are actually based on ventilation– using lunchtime to clean out the air. 

16) And a great Planet Money newsletter on the history of the racial wealth gap:

his new study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that, despite ostensible progress made since the civil rights movement, when it comes to the most important, bread-and-butter economic issues of income, wealth, and mobility, progress in ending racial inequality is stalling — or even reversing. The study brings into focus the simple math of why — absent radical measures — America won’t be seeing true racial equality anytime soon…

Describing the data pattern as a “hockey-stick shape” (with the hockey stick lying on its handle), Derenoncourt showed that the degree of wealth inequality between white and Black people was extremely high in 1860 and then rapidly plunged through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From 1950 onward, however, it has remained pretty flat. That is, there’s been virtually no progress in closing the wealth gap. In fact, the study finds, since the 1980s, the gap has been widening. 

Let’s start back in 1860. This was before Emancipation, when about 4 million of the 4.4 million Black people in America were enslaved. Slavery robbed the vast majority of Black Americans of the ability amass wealth and pass it on to their children. They themselves were a form of wealth — other people’s wealth. In this barbaric world, the ratio of white-to-Black wealth was 56 to 1. Said in a different way, for every dollar the average white person had, the average Black person had only about 2 cents.

Despite President Johnson rescinding the 40-acres-and-a-mule order, Black Americans made huge progress reducing the wealth gap in the first years after Emancipation. By 1870, just five years after passage of the slavery-abolishing 13th Amendment, the white-to-Black wealth gap dropped to 23 to 1, less than half what it was.

Why did the racial wealth gap fall so quickly? One reason is the effect the Civil War and abolition had on white slaveowners. Enslaved people had been a huge form of wealth — about 15% of the total wealth of white America in 1860. Hence, their liberation reduced the average wealth of white America, thereby shrinking the racial wealth gap. 

However, Derenoncourt and her colleagues calculate that only about 25% of the drop in the racial wealth gap can be explained by white slaveowners’ losses. Instead, they find, most of the reduction was the result of newly freed people being able to earn, save, invest, and amass wealth for the first time. 

As inspiring as the story is of an oppressed people embracing freedom and working hard to build a better life for themselves against all odds, it’s also important to note that a large part of the reason for the steep decline in the racial wealth gap in these early years reflects some simple math. When one group starts off with basically zero wealth, even tiny gains in wealth look huge. When the denominator (the bottom part of the fraction) of the white-to-Black ratio goes from nothing to something, wealth inequality falls sharply.

It’s largely for this reason that the economists find that, despite the failure of Reconstruction, the imposition of Jim Crow apartheid, and the countless other stomach-churning injustices perpetuated against Black Americans in this era, the first 50 years after Emancipation saw the greatest progress in narrowing the racial wealth gap in American history. What had been a 56-to-1 wealth gap fell to a 10-to-1 gap by 1920. That is, by 1920, for every dollar the average White American had, Black Americans had about ten cents.

A hundred years ago, it might have looked like Black Americans were on the fast-track to closing the wealth gap with white Americans. However, progress has slowed since then, and starting in the 1980s, the gap began widening.

17) Enjoyed this story of a woman playing minor league baseball

18) This was interesting from Gallup, “Americans Say Government Should Address Slavery Effects”

Two-thirds (65%) of those who say the government has a responsibility to address the effects of slavery believe all Black Americans should benefit from these efforts, while 32% say only descendants of slaves should. These attitudes are generally similar by racial and ethnic group; between 63% and 69% of Black, Hispanic and White respondents who view the government as responsible say all Black people should benefit.

Even as the public thinks the government is responsible for addressing the effects of slavery, they are divided as to whether it should issue an official apology for the nation’s history of slavery. Forty-seven percent of U.S. adults say the government should apologize, and 52% say it should not. Most Black adults, 73%, say the government should apologize, as do 55% of Hispanic adults. White adults are more likely to believe the government should not apologize (62%) than to say it should (38%)…

As Americans commemorate the Juneteenth holiday, most believe the history of slavery still reverberates in the lives of Black people in the U.S. today, with four in 10 saying it affects Black people “a lot.” The public believes the government is responsible for addressing those effects but does not favor issuing an apology for the history of slavery. The first step may involve passing legislation, or the president issuing an executive order, to set up a committee to study reparations for slavery, something that appears to have support in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives, if not the Senate. The state of California set up its own commission to study the issue and recently released its report. Other state or local governments have set up similar commissions or are considering doing so.

19) Great summary of PS research from Edsall.  This is definitely going into a syllabus, “

Scholars in the field of politics and heritability are generally in agreement about the partial heritability of political ideology.

In the specific case of the United States, Christopher Dawes and Aaron C. Weinschenk, political scientists at N.Y.U. and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, write in their paper “On the genetic basis of political orientation,” “Twin studies show that political ideology is about 40 percent heritable.” …

Given the contentious nature of these studies, McDermott, in a thoughtful email to me, described the thinking of those who are pursuing these lines of inquiry. For that reason I am going to quote her at length:

Genes influence those characteristics that would have made a difference in survival over long swaths of human history. Maybe not even a huge difference but even tiny differences add up to huge effects when multiplied by millions of people over millennia. That means that those characteristics that were most likely to make a difference in survival get preserved in genetic terms. Ideologically, what we have found over many years and many populations tends to fall into a few basic categories: sex and reproduction; in-group defense and out-group discrimination; and resource allocation.

These underlying problems tend to affect all people over time in all situations. The specific issue might look different in a given time and place: in England in the 1840s, it might have looked like debates on pornography, prostitution and slavery or whatnot. In the U.S. now it may look like abortion, transgender bathrooms, immigration, war and welfare. But the underlying political and psychological issues they tap into are exactly the same. They get expressed differently but the underlying challenge to survival is the same…

In “Integrating Genetics into the Study of Electoral Behavior,” Carisa L. Bergner and Peter K. Hatemi, political scientists at Penn State, make the case that contemporary political issues can mirror prompts or situations encountered by human beings in the distant past:

Political traits, orientations, and ideologies, including those participatory acts such as voting, donating, and volunteering, encompass fundamentally the same issues of cooperation, reproduction and survival surrounding group life that confronted our ancestors.

Modern-day ideological issues, Bergner and Hatemi continue,

surrounding sexual freedoms, mores and parenting are reflected in the prehistoric need for access to mates and to ensure the survival of offspring; policy views on immigration are little different than the primal need to recognize and protect against unknown, unlike and potentially “dangerous” others; codified laws, policing and punishment are akin to dealing with mores violators in hunter-gatherer societies; taxes and social welfare programs essentially revolve around questions of the best way to share resources for group living; foreign policy and military are matters of protecting one’s in-group and defending against potential out-groups.

Bergner and Hatemi add:

While the labels and often meanings of issues change across time and cultures, and the medium through which preferences are communicated have changed from direct, immediate and interpersonal (e.g., person to person, group sanction, etc.) to indirect, latent and impersonal (e.g., internet, voting for someone you never met, etc.), the underlying connection between the core issues that are important to humans, revolving around cooperation, defense, reproduction, resources, and survival remain.

19) The story everybody was talking about before the Supreme Court took over, “Teenage Justice A list of boys “to look out for” appeared on a high-school bathroom wall last fall. The story of one of them.”

20) This is concerning and medically/sociologically interesting. “Uterine Cancer Is on the Rise, Especially Among Black Women”

Black women represented just under 10 percent of the 208,587 uterine cancer cases diagnosed in the United States between 2000 and 2017, but they made up almost 18 percent of the nearly 16,797 uterine cancer deaths during that period, Dr. Clarke’s study found.

The uterine cancer death rate for Black women is 31.4 per 100,000 women ages 40 and up, compared with 15.2 per 100,000 for white women in the same age group, Dr. Clarke reported. (Comparable death rates for Asian American women were nine per 100,000, and for Hispanic Americans, 12.3 per 100,000.)

That makes uterine cancer an outlier, since progress has been made toward narrowing the racial gap in death rates from most cancers over the past two decades. Another National Cancer Institute report, published in JAMA Oncology in May, found that overall, death rates from cancer have declined steadily among Black Americans between 1999 and 2019, though they continue to be higher than those of other racial and ethnic groups.

The reasons for the increase in uterine cancer cases are not well understood. The most common form, endometrioid cancer, is associated with estrogen exposure, which is higher when obesity is present, and obesity rates have been rising in the United States.

But non-endometrioid cancer has increased in prevalence, too, and it is not linked to excess weight. Dr. Clarke’s study found that Black women are more likely to have this aggressive form of uterine cancer. They are less likely to be diagnosed early in the course of the illness, and their survival rates are worse no matter when they are diagnosed and what subtype of the cancer they have.

“At every stage of diagnosis, there are different outcomes,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, chief executive of the American Cancer Society. “Are they getting access to the same quality of cancer care?” She has called for more research into the factors driving the trends.

21) You definitely want to check this one out for the photos, “When Antlers Tangle, Sometimes Both Animals Lose: Antlers, the headgear of deer, moose and elk, are more useful for display than combat. But that does not stop deadly lockups from occurring.”

22) And this story is fascinating on both the rabbit front and the virus front.  So just read it (free link). “Think All Viruses Get Milder With Time? Not This Rabbit-Killer.”


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #12 The book topic reminds me of a song written in 1871, long enough ago to be considered a folk song, IMO. It starts with “Reuben, Reuben, I’ve been thinking, what a strange world this would be, if the men were all transported, far beyond the Northern Sea.” It became a child’s song.

  2. itchy says:

    14) Amadeus was so good and is still so good. It has stood the test of time and should not be forgotten!

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