Quick hits (part II)

Late again.  You will be pleased to know, though, that my Boys U18 Rec soccer team, the Blasters, finished up the Spring season 8-0-0 on top of a Fall 8-0-0 season.  We’ve still got a tournament in a couple weeks, but I’m going to miss coaching these boys  so much.

1) Why do Evangelicals support Trump so much?  Race.

I spent the first 15 years of my career as a scholar studying American evangelicals and race, and in my view, the failure to consider motivations rooted in anxieties about race and gender as an explanation of evangelical Trump support represents a striking omission. The history of American evangelicalism is intensely racially charged. The persistent approval for Trump among white evangelicals ought to prompt far more critical self-reflection within the evangelical community than we’ve seen so far.

Evangelicals’ tenacious affection for Donald Trump is not a bug driven by expediency. Instead, it reflects defining features of American evangelicalism that become clearer when we examine the historical record. Doing so reveals that when white conservative evangelicals feel threatened by cultural change, the old demons of racism and misogyny, which lurk at the heart of the American evangelical tradition, return with a vengeance. Trump is just another chapter in that story.

2) Charles Pierce pulls no punches on the White House Correspondent’s Association:

Faced with an administration* and a president* dedicated to poisoning both the spirit and the institutions of free government, and faced with an administration* and a president* dedicated only to looting those institutions that it cannot destroy, the representatives of the elite political media, through the woman at the head of their formal association, Margaret Talev, have determined that bowing to the fauxtrageaimed at a comedian on behalf of the administration*’s paid liar is the proper way to respond to the weekend’s festivities. The commitment to a free press is not common to this nation’s people any more, if it ever was, and it damn sure doesn’t have any fans in this administration*. Anyone who thinks that “a vigorous and free press” and “honoring civility” are equally desirable goals doesn’t love the former enough to deserve the latter.

3) We need more automatic voter registration.  The only real reason to oppose it is if you just don’t want more people voting.  Shockingly, Republicans are often opposed.

4) This is a really good Drum post on how we need more economic redistribution but that a jobs guarantee is not the best way to go about it:

Since 1980, per-capita GDP has grown 85 percent. If all that growth had been shared equally, median income would also have gone up 85 percent. It hasn’t, and we all know why: because most of the money has gone to the upper middle class and the rich. If we want something fairer, we need to increase taxes on the affluent by enough to raise about $15,000 for most working adults. I’ll let others do the arithmetic. In round numbers, call it a trillion dollars or two.

The obvious candidates for this money are universal health care and universal child care. The former goes a long way toward leveling the benefits of living in a rich country while the latter makes it far easier to hold a job. But what about something that directly tackles employment? My favorite idea is job subsidies…

Bottom line: over the past few decades, the rich have taken all this money. Let’s take it back. In the same way that Republicans compete to offer the biggest tax cut plans during primaries, Democrats should be competing to offer the biggest tax increases on the rich. That will give us all a nice, quantitative measure of just how progressive each candidate really is. And as a bonus, this is already an extremely popular position even before anyone really makes a case for it:

5) Masha Gessen on Michelle Wolf:

There is a fiction that holds that journalists and their subjects can eat and socialize together and yet maintain the distance necessary to continue performing their professional roles. There is a fiction that they can laugh at one another and themselves and not take offense, that the divisions among guests are ultimately bridgeable, that all of them inhabit the same reality, and that both the humor and the objects of the humor are innocuous.

The same fiction continues to dominate our public sphere. In this story, Trump performs the role of President, albeit poorly, and those in the media maintain a strained civility in their coverage of him. In this story, the statement that the President is a racist is still controversial. In this story, the media can discuss his affair with a porn star, and even the question of whether he used a condom, without undermining respect for the office. This is an essential pretense, because respect for the office of the President is indeed a value that should transcend the current Presidency. But it is this pretense, and these fictions, that cast a pall of unreality over most media coverage and make late-night comedy shows the better news outlets. And then there is the pretense that the late-night comedians exist in a parallel universe, separate even from the television channels that broadcast them.

Wolf’s routine burst the bubbles of civility and performance, and of the separation of media and comedy. It plunged the attendees into the reality that is, in the Trump era, the stuff of comedy. Through her obscene humor, Wolf exposed the obscenity of the fictions—and the fundamental unfunniness of it all. Her last line, the most shocking of her entire monologue, bears repeating: Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

6) I hope it doesn’t make me a bad liberal to say “it’s just a dress!” and that his “cultural appropriation” business has gone way too far and is the sort of stuff that makes middle America hate liberals and not listen to us.  Should you intentionally belittle and condescend to other cultures?  Hell, no.  But borrowing from other cultures is as human as making fire.

7) Chait on Trump, Giuliani, and the GOP’s slide into authoritarianism:

Last night, in the midst of a long, deeply incriminating interview, Rudy Giuliani called FBI agents “stormtroopers.” Here was the president’s lawyer, not an outside lobbyist, comparing federal law enforcement to Nazis directly, rather than indirectly. The Washington Post’s account of Giuliani’s interview noted the remark in a single sentence, in the 30th paragraph of its story. The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Politico accounts of Giuliani’s interview did not even mention the stormtrooper remark at all.

No doubt the flurry of hair-on-fire legal jeopardy unleashed by Giuliani’s remarks helped bury the newsworthiness of his stormtrooper line. Still, the casualness with which the line was uttered and received does indicate something important about the way Republican thinking about law enforcement has evolved. The party’s respect for the rule of law is disintegrating before our eyes, and in its place is forming a Trumpian conviction that the law must be an instrument of reactionary power…

…in the same interview, Giuliani called for James Comey to be prosecuted and Hillary Clinton to be thrown in prison, beliefs that, in the Trump era, have become almost banal. Republicans simultaneously advocate total impunity for their presidency from the law coupled with harsh and even extra-legal punishments for their enemies.

The potential for abuse in turning law enforcement into a weapon of the party that controls government is so terrifying that any democracy has to limit it. For decades, federal law enforcement has observed a series of norms, codified after Watergate, designed to wall it off from partisan considerations…

Republicans are now engaged in a concerted effort to break down these protections altogether.

8) Want to know what’s best to drink to stay hydrated?  Milk!  Here’s looking at you, David Greene.

9) Paul Waldman, “Crimes are no longer a disqualification for Republican candidates.”

Following his lead, Republican Senate candidates with criminal convictions in West Virginia and Arizona have cast themselves as victims of the Obama administration’s legal overreach. Another former Trump adviser who pleaded guilty to a felony has also become an in-demand surrogate, as Republicans jump at the chance to show their opposition to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Here’s a general rule of thumb: Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers,” said Susan Del Percio, a New York GOP consultant who advised Grimm in 2010 but opposes his candidacy. “I guess it’s a different political norm we are facing today.”

10) Pretty interesting article on how Democrats are way more concerned by technological privacy issues than are Republicans.

11) Want to improve your health?  Just move.  Doesn’t matter if it’s 30 minutes at a time, or 10, or 2.  Just move.

12) What should the law do with someone who has pretty clear plans and intent to carry out a mass shooting, but has taken no concrete/imminent steps to do so.  It’s actually pretty tough.  And we just may need to modify our laws to deal with situations like this.

13) Thanks to this pretty disturbing story of racial profiling at Colorado State, I am now familiar with the band “Cattle Decapitation.”  I am astonished by the drumming, but death metal is not my thing.

14) Whatever one thinks of John McCain— and, honestly, I think he’s a pretty complicated figure– I’ve got a soft spot for people who love books and literature and I heretofore had no idea that McCain does.

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) I like this take on all the Superhero/comic book movies through the lens of opportunity cost of better films not made:

Marvel’s commitment to pretty good filmmaking has made it enormously successful and helped reshape the business of studio filmmaking. But it has also come at a cost — not only for superhero movies, but for ambitious studio filmmaking writ large…

The deeper problem is not so much Marvel as its imitators and boosters. As the major studios continue to chase the reliable returns of Marvel’s business model, and critics continue to celebrate Marvel’s merely satisfactory efforts as better than they really are, the likely outcome is that Hollywood studios will focus even more of their resources and top-tier talent on the production of movies that are watchable, even enjoyable, but aspire to little else. Smaller-budget films and television will fill in some of the gaps, as they already are, but the grandest productions will be reserved for the cautious and competent.

2) I’m excited to be using John Pfaff’s Locked In for my Criminal Justice Policy summer class starting in a couple weeks.  Here’s a nice summary of his key arguments.  Short version: blame prosecutors.

3) It’s not easy to change a country’s alphabet.  I’d love to look at the politics of this.  I almost wonder if you need an autocrat to force it.  There’s huge long-term gain, but that gain is down-the-road, and short-term, what a pain!  The case of Kazakhstan moving from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

4) McSweeney’s presents a “generic college paper.”  I feel like I read a few of these this week ;-).

5) Eric Posner and Glen Weyl on the corporate monopoly power behind our new gilded age is really, really good:

In the past two decades, growth rates in the United States have fallen to half of what they were in the middle of the 20th century. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent has nearly doubled since the 1970s, while the share of income going to all workers has fallen by nearly 10 percent.

These are the marks of our new Gilded Age. It’s tempting to blame impersonal market forces such as globalization and automation for widening inequality. But the true villain would be familiar to anyone who lived through the previous one: market (that is, monopoly) power…

Today, market power takes new forms, but the solution is the same: antimonopoly laws and laws protecting workers, but updated for the problems of the 21st century.

The era of “supply-side economics” championed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — which called for tax cuts, deregulation and narrow antitrust enforcement — explains a lot of our current predicament. The key assumption of that era was that markets work best when the government focuses exclusively on enforcing contract and property rights.

This theory turned out to be wrong — not because it celebrates the market but because it misunderstands it. Two centuries earlier, Adam Smith pointed out that the easiest way for businesses to earn profits is not by slashing costs and innovating but by agreeing among themselves not to compete — to exert market power to raise prices or lower wages.

This sort of agreement is now illegal, but businesses have nevertheless found new and creative ways to achieve monopoly profits, while antitrust enforcers have fallen behind.

6) Love Benjamin Wittes game-theorying out whether Mueller subpoenas Trump.

7) How’s that Republican tax cut working out?  Krugman:

In short, the effects of the Trump tax cut are already looking like the effects of the Brownback tax cut in Kansas, the Bush tax cut and every other much-hyped tax cut of the past three decades: big talk, big promises, but no results aside from a swollen budget deficit.

You might think that the G.O.P. would eventually learn something from this experience, realize that tax cuts aren’t magical, and come up with some different ideas. But I guess it’s difficult for a man to understand something when his campaign contributions depend on his not understanding it. [emphasis mine]

8) Why, yes, Arizona’s teacher pay is so low that they bring in low-cost teachers from the Philippines.  Ugh on so many levels.

9) I have an 18-year old about to not leave home.  Looks like I should kick him out and give him money.  Here’s some interesting research from NCSU.

A recent study finds that young people who get financial support from their parents have greater professional success, highlighting one way social inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next.

“The question underlying this work was whether parental support gives adult children an advantage or hinders their development,” says Anna Manzoni, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and author of a paper on the work…

Specifically, Manzoni found that the more direct financial support young people received from their parents, the higher their occupational status. This was particularly true for college graduates who got direct support from their parents.

On the other hand, young people who received indirect financial support by living at home had lower occupational status. Again, this was particularly true for college graduates.

10) Some very cool visualizations of segregation in America.

11) Oh my goodness.  This is clearly just a not-very-funny, old department store joke.  Not sexual harrassment. And, hey, the whole big story was at a Political Science conference.  Ruth Marcus:

But for goodness’ sake, let’s maintain some sense of proportion and civility as we figure out how to pick our way through the minefield of modern gender relations. Not every comment that offends was intended that way, and intent matters. Maybe check in with the speaker before going nuclear? Maybe consider that there is a spectrum of offensiveness? That not every stray statement by a 76-year-old man warrants a resort to disciplinary procedures?

Because making a federal case, or even a disciplinary one, over a stray elevator remark is not only, well, frivolous — it’s also counterproductive. Take a culture of eggshell fragility. Pair it with a hypersensitive disciplinary mechanism. What you get is a result that serves only to diminish real, and continuing, instances of truly offensive behavior.

12) The Vox headline says it all, “How Medicaid work requirements can exempt rural whites but not urban blacks.”

13) I hate lying in politics.  Sure, politicians are going to spin things, but, ugh, the outright lies.  We’ve got a bunch of Democrats competing against each other for the County Commissioners.  The challengers claim that the controversial decision of the incumbents to buy a failed golf course to turn into a park (we need parks, sounds good to me) is “bailing out a failed golf course.”  Even if you think our dollars should be spent otherwise, this is just a flat-out lie.  Any chance I was going to vote for the challengers went out with that mailer.

14) Paul Waldman on Democrats taking to Republican style of politics:

For many years, Democrats have been convinced that the American people, and even their Republican opponents, are open to persuasion. If they could just have the opportunity to explain why their policies are morally right and practically effective, they could win almost anyone over.

Republicans, on the other hand, harbored no illusions about persuading Democrats of anything. Instead, they had a much more hard-headed view of how politics works.

And now it seems that Democrats are finally coming around to the GOP’s way of thinking.

That has broad ramifications for the future of American politics, not just in how elections are run but how policy is made…

But that strategy has not been met by the other side, which adopts a categorical opposition to any compromise. The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:

  1. Take maximal positions that excite your base
  2. Win elections
  3. Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like

This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.

So many Democrats have concluded that with an electorate as polarized as ours, persuading the other side on almost anything has become basically impossible. If that’s true, and if mobilization is what wins elections, then one important question when crafting policy proposals (especially at a time like now when they’re out of power and can’t actually pass anything) is: “What version of this is going to get our base most excited?

15) Big jury verdict against NC hog farmers for externalizing their pollution onto their neighbors.  But NC’s hog-farm-friendly laws probably dramatically limit the impact.

16) People who think they know a lot about politics just think they know a lot:

Individuals expressing belief superiority—the belief that one’s views are superior to other viewpoints—perceive themselves as better informed about that topic, but no research has verified whether this perception is justified. The present research examined whether people expressing belief superiority on four political issues demonstrated superior knowledge or superior knowledge-seeking behavior. Despite perceiving themselves as more knowledgeable, knowledge assessments revealed that the belief superior exhibited the greatest gaps between their perceived and actual knowledge. When given the opportunity to pursue additional information in that domain, belief-superior individuals frequently favored agreeable over disagreeable information, but also indicated awareness of this bias. Lastly, experimentally manipulated feedback about one’s knowledge had some success in affecting belief superiority and resulting information-seeking behavior. Specifically, when belief superiority is lowered, people attend to information they may have previously regarded as inferior. Implications of unjustified belief superiority and biased information pursuit for political discourse are discussed.

The Jar Jar principle

Listened to the Fresh Air interview with Jake Tapper this morning and so loved this part:

Too often in this world, people rise to the level that they remove from their orbit anybody that would tell them Jar Jar Binks [from Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace] is a horrible character. [Star Wars director] George Lucas would be an example of that. I think he’s one of the most brilliant people on this planet, but I don’t know what happened with those [Star Wars] prequels, but they are not good. The prequels are not good and they made a billion dollars and they’re successful and all that, but they’re not good.

So I see the Jar Jar Binks principle everywhere, and I think it’s important to keep people around you who will tell you when you’re being a jerk. And I have lots of people like that in my life — many, many people. Some of them are even in my house. I think it’s very important, and I think that President Trump is a victim of the Jar Jar Binks principle. I think he removes people from his life that tell him negative things and sometimes for survival they stop criticizing the president, sometimes for survival they leave, sometimes they get pushed out the door. But I think that’s a problem with him and I think it’s one for successful people to keep in mind. [emphasis mine]

Fortunately, my wife definitely lets me know if I’m about to write any Jar Jar characters.  I think I’ve got some friends who will also tell me if I’m wrong.  Of course, I’m not exactly president or a famous movie-maker.  But, all of us need this in our lives.  I honestly think I notice this a lot in books.  For example, you know I love Harry Potter and think JK Rowling is brilliant, but I think people were afraid to tell her about her later books “you know, this is great, but would be even better about 100 pages shorter.”  Or, one of my favorite Science Fiction series, The Hyperion Cantos, in which the initial volume as popular and award winning and the subsequent books were also excellent, but, to my reading, bloated as nobody wanted to tell Dan Simmons they needed to be edited.  Anyway, just make sure you have people in your life who call you out on Jar Jar Binks.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Like this on how Netflix owes its business model of original programming to Stephen Bochco.  Damn, did I love NYPD Blue.  RIP Bobby Simone.

2) Yes, Sinclair broadcasting does have an impact:

Critics have claimed that Sinclair — a company with close ties to the Trump administration and conservative politicians — is pushing its stations away from local coverage and toward a partisan brand of political reporting on national politics.

In new research, we find evidence that that appears to be the case. Stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market.

3) So, apparently the new thing for Climate Change deniers is to claim that things really aren’t so bad for polar bears.  Pathetic and bizarre.

4) I don’t usually agree with Megan McArdle, but she’s usually thoughtful.  Honestly, though, it’s pretty funny to see somebody who should so know better still be suckered by Paul Ryan.

5) Talk about out of touch.  This Chronicle of Higher Ed piece complaining that professor salary increases were barely enough to make up for inflation.  Uhhhh, yeah, poor, poor college professors.

A rise in the cost of living chipped away at salary gains by full-time faculty members in the 2017-18 academic year, according to new survey data published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors.

Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year. But that salary increase was cut by nearly two-thirds, to 1.1 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The average salary ranged widely, depending on rank: Full professors earned $104,820, associate professors made $81,274, and assistant professors took in $70,791. The average pay for lecturers was about $57,000 while, for instructors, it was $59,400.

6) So, yeah, learning styles are a total myth:

Either way, “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.

Husmann thinks the students had fallen into certain study habits, which, once formed, were too hard to break. Students seemed to be interested in their learning styles, but not enough to actually change their studying behavior based on them. And even if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered.

“I think as a purely reflective exercise, just to get you thinking about your study habits, [vark] might have a benefit,” Husmann said. “But the way we’ve been categorizing these learning styles doesn’t seem to hold up.”

Another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.

7) I’ve got a student doing a really cool independent study on artificial intelligence (he’s a computer science major, PS minor, if I remember correctly).  He just read some interesting stuff on AI and our criminal justice system.  Reminded me of this disturbing Pro Publica report I think I have failed to share here about how algorithms used to predict future criminality are basically biased against Blacks.

8) Phil Klay is the author of one of my favorite books ever.  Such a great writer and so thoughtful on military issues.  His essay in the NYT about how soldiers and civilians think about each other, and should think about each other, is terrific.  Read it.

Such disdain for those who haven’t served and yet dare to have opinions about military matters is nothing new for Mr. Kelly. In a 2010 speech after the death of his son, Mr. Kelly improbably claimed that we were winning in Afghanistan, but that “you wouldn’t know it because successes go unreported” by members of the “‘know it all’ chattering class” who “always seem to know better, but have never themselves been in the arena.” And he argued that to oppose the war, which our current secretary of defense last year testified to Congress we were not winning, meant “slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

This is a common attitude among a significant faction of veterans. As one former member of the Special Forces put it in a social media post responding to the liberal outcry over the deaths in Niger, “We did what we did so that you can be free to naïvely judge us, complain about the manner in which we kept you safe” and “just all around live your worthless sponge lives.” His commentary, which was liked and shared thousands of times, is just a more embittered form of the sentiment I indulged in as a young lieutenant in Iraq…

Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited by this patriotic correctness. Yet, if I have authority to speak about our military policy it’s because I’m a citizen responsible for participating in self-governance, not because I belonged to a warrior caste.

If what I say deserves to be taken seriously, it’s because I’ve taken the time out of my worthless sponge life as a concerned American civilian to form a worthy opinion. Which means that although it is my patriotic duty to afford men like John Kelly respect for his service, and for the grief he has endured as the father of a son who died for our country, that is not where my responsibility as a citizen ends. [emphasis mine]

9) Almost nobody wants to admit it, but to a substantial degree, sex offender registries are pointless and counter-productive.  Lenore Skenazy on how they are also filled up with kids.

What is the most common age at which people land on the registry? Most folks I put the question to think it’s about 39. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”

10) A mom of a child with autism talks about the incredible life-line that Facebook provides for her in connecting with other similar parents.  When Alex was first diagnosed with his rare disease, an on-line community (though a list-serve, this was prior to social media) was an absolute lifesaver for me.

11) Compared to women, men are over-confident in their science ability.  If I’m not mistaken, men are over-confident in pretty much everything.

12) Loved going to Duke basketball games way back in my day, but never spent any time camping out at K-ville.  I’ve never spent a night in a tent and I don’t ever plan to.  Certainly not in winter with a cozy dorm room nearby.  My junior year I got in line the morning of the game and got in to see it that evening.  Apparently, the system now has tents plus a “walk-up line” that actually lasts for days.  The whole thing has also, apparently, devolved not only into drunken bacchanalia, but mass chaos.  Not pretty.

13) More reason to love Pope Francis.  He actually believes Catholics should focus on humans not just before birth, but after they are born.  Atheist, Drum, with the papal post (and Drum’s emphases):

The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

14) Interesting from Gallup, though, to see the slide in Catholic Mass attendance:

20180408_ChurchAttendance@2x (002)

15) At this point, we’ve basically reached the limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball.

16) The NYT article on how teenagers become “allergic” to their parents was really good.  I only did to a very modest degree.  And my oldest son, basically not at all.

Growing up involves becoming separate from our parents. This project often begins in early adolescence with an abrupt and powerful urge to distinguish oneself from the adults at home. It’s no small task for teenagers to detach from those who have superintended nearly every aspect of their lives so far.

As teenagers begin to disentangle from their folks, they inevitably sort a parent’s every behavior and predilection into one of two categories: those they reject, and those they intend to adopt. Unfortunately for the peace of the household, each of these categories creates its own problem for teenagers intent on establishing their individuality.

You may think nothing of wearing dated athletic shoes, but if your teenager doesn’t agree with your choice of footwear he may, at least for a while, find it unbearable. Why should it matter to him what’s on your feet? Because his identity is still interwoven with yours; until he’s had time to establish his own look, your style can cramp his.

Given this, you’d think that teenagers wouldn’t be allergic to the proclivities they share with their parents. But they are, precisely because the interests are mutual.

17) And speaking of my teenager, he’s also a trendsetter as, “Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges.”  Presumably, if he were more “allergic” to us, he’d be more inclined to go away.  I’m not at all allergic to the thousands I’ll save over the next couple years before he transfers to a four-year university (hopefully, NC State).

18) Among certain crustaceans, those with the largest penises go extinct the fastest.

19) This is pretty disturbing.  Increasingly, among dog “rescue” organizations, dogs are increasingly purchased at auctions from puppy mills!  Whoa, that ain’t right.  We’ve had three rescues and all three were definitely found as strays.  (Or were provided to us by very good liars).

20) I never did read 1491, but damn did I love Charles Mann’s 1493.  One of my favorite non-fiction books ever.  He’s got an absolutely terrific piece in a recent Atlantic (read it!), based on his new book, that looks at two competing visions of how we can manage to feed 10 billion humans (as we’ll need to before all that long).

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) A little dated now (that happens fast these days), but I liked Jack Shafer’s take on Kevin Williamson and the Atlantic.

That Goldberg invested in a feral conservative like Williamson spoke well for the Atlantic. The last thing the magazine needed was another house-broken righty like David Frum who would speak nicely to its largely liberal and centrist readers. But as it turned out, Goldberg’s tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate somebody of Williamson’s swagger. The writer’s proximate undoing was a tweet and then the discovery of a podcast in which he proposed hanging as the proper punishment for women who have abortions—a perfect example of a writer going too far. In the internal email announcing the departure, Goldberg justified the dismissal by writing that Williamson’s “callous and violent” comments run “contrary to the Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace,” and hinting that Williamson may have misrepresented the offending tweet as a momentary lapse rather than a deeply held belief.

Without relitigating Williamson’s abortion views—which I don’t share—let’s agree that if he hadn’t been sent packing for his less–than-modern views on abortion, his critics would have griped about something else in his archives to engineer his removal. Let’s be real here: Kevin Williamson wasn’t sent packing for expressing strong language on abortion but for being Kevin Williamson. The very things that made him so appealing to Goldberg were destined to lead to his exit.

The loser here isn’t Williamson. Like other excellent writers who’ve gotten the ax, he’ll find a new job soon enough—and now he’s become the right’s latest free-speech martyr. The real losers are Atlantic writers and Atlantic readers—writers because they’ll become faint-hearted about their work (who wants to be the next Williamson?) and readers because the magazine will be less eager to challenge them.

2) Separate (by gender) and unequal in the Marine Corps.

3) Speaking of the Marines, I loved Eat the Apple by Matt Young.

4) My Jordan Peterson quasi-obsession has abated for the moment, but I came across again the Current Affairs article that first introduced to him.

5) The decline of local news is bad for democracy.  Hell, yeah, it is.

6) Nice article in Wired looking at the decline in teen driving by the numbers.  My 18-year-old is certainly indicative of this decline. “71% of high school seniors have a driver’s license—the lowest percentage in decades.”

7) Oh man this cartoon is awesome:

8) Nicholas Kristoff on “how to win an argument about guns.”  How sweet that he thinks you can win arguments with facts and reason.

9) NYT with 5 interesting case studies of plants and animals confused by climate change.

10) I was telling a new friend at last week’s PS conference about my undergrad’s honor’s research (which he presented in a poster at the conference) and she told me about this very similar research.  When it comes to a political campaigns, Southern accents are a decided disadvantage.  (And more on my student’s research in a later post).

For the study, the researchers had 757 participants from Alabama and Connecticut listen to a 1-minute campaign speech from a fictitious political candidate. The speech was either read by a male candidate with a Southern accent, a male candidate with a neutral accent, a female candidate with a Southern accent, or a female candidate with a neutral accent. But in all four cases the content of the speech was the same.

The candidate with a Southern accent was viewed as less trustworthy, less honest, less intelligent, and less competent. Participants also assumed the candidate was more conservative and rated them as less likeable when he or she had a Southern accent.

“The Southern accent can be a detriment to political candidates,” Cooper told PsyPost. “Surprisingly, the negative attributes associated with the Southern accent exist even among Southerners themselves. These accents also come with political assumptions about ideology and issue stances, which candidates should keep in mind when trying to communicate their agendas.”

11) Weather in NC has finally March turned for the better this Spring.  But I’ve been somewhat unhealthily obsessed with just how unusually cold March and early April have been.  Turns out in Raleigh was 6.5 degrees colder than February.  That’s nuts!

12) Enjoyed this Sean Illing interview with Robert Sutton on how to deal with what I like to refer to as very-unpleasant-self-centered persons:

Sean Illing

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the book, which is about how to deal with assholes. So tell me, what’s your best asshole neutralization strategy?

Robert Sutton

First, it depends on how much power you have. And second, on how much time you’ve got. Those are the two questions that you have to answer before you can decide what to do. Assuming that you don’t have Dirty Harry power or you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire people you don’t like, I think you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

To begin with, you’ve got to build your case. You’ve also got to build a coalition. One of my mottos is that you have to know your assholes. We already talked about temporary versus certified assholes, but another distinction that’s really important is that some people, and you mentioned this at the outset, some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well.

In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line. This is simple persuasive work. But if it’s somebody who is one of those Machiavellian assholes who is treating you like shit because they believe that’s how to get ahead, in that case you’ve got to get the hell out of there if you can.

13) Under a remotely normal presidency, EPA director Scott Pruitt’s fabulously corrupt behavior would be a much bigger story.  Drain the swamp?!  How about make it 6 feet deeper and throw in a broken sewer pipe feeding into it.

14) Yglesias on Paul Ryan, “House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics.”

15) Action/thriller movies for grown-ups are such an endangered species now.  At least a few still managed to get made.  Looking forward to seeing Beirut.

16) Really enjoyed Thomas Frank’s book on success and luck.  Here’s his short version of how to reduce inequality in a nice Wonkblog compilation of expert takes (oddly, none of them advocate cutting taxes on the wealth):

Two of the biggest problems now confronting the nation are runaway growth in income inequality and crumbling infrastructure. That the best ways to address these problems are mutually reinforcing should therefore come as welcome news.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would cost more than $4.5 trillion to bring our existing stock of infrastructure into serviceable condition by 2025. Given the incentives that engineers face, this may be an overstatement. But no one doubts that the task would be enormously expensive. Raising taxes on the nation’s top earners is the only feasible way to pay for it. That step alone would reduce the skewness of the nation’s post-tax income distribution.

But it would also reduce inequality by boosting the incomes of those further down the income ladder. As previous expansions of infrastructure investment — such as the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and the Interstate Highway System initiative of the 1950s — have taught us, many useful tasks can be done by properly supervised unskilled workers. Infrastructure projects couldn’t employ all unskilled workers, but increased demand for such workers in some sectors invariably creates labor shortages and more rapid wage growth in others.

Top earners have historically resisted tax hikes, in the apparent belief that higher rates would make it harder to buy things they want. But that view is a garden variety cognitive error. Top earners, who already have everything they might reasonably be said to need, are like others in their desire to buy additional things that seem special. But “special” is a relative concept. A nice house is one that is nicer than most other houses. A high-performance car is one that performs better than most other cars, and so on. To get such things, we must outbid others who also want them. Successful bidding depends almost entirely on relative purchasing power. And because tax increases don’t affect relative purchasing power, they have no effect on our ability to buy special things.

Consider the following thought-experiment: Rich car enthusiasts in World A, which has low taxes, can afford to buy $300,000 Ferraris but must drive them on roads riddled with foot-deep potholes. Their counterparts in World B, which has higher taxes, can afford only $150,000 Porsches, which they drive on roads maintained to a high standard. In which of these worlds would rich motorists be happier?

17) Great piece from Vox’s Brian Resnick on “9 essential lessons from psychology to understand the Trump era.”  Lots of great political psychology here.

18) I’ll always be a Duke basketball fan.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like what they’ve become in the one-and-done era.  Loved this piece on the very real downsides for the players involved.

19) This is really, really interesting for those of us who grew up on John Hughes movies.  Molly Ringwald looks back through the #metoo lens.

20) Love this– in a great prank, Georgia high school somehow gets “What’s New Pussycat” stuck on the PA system in a loop for 45 minutes.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Great Wired article on the inherent difficulties in self-driving cars and testing the technology:

Dozens of companies are developing autonomous driving technology in the United States. They all rely on human safety drivers as backups. The odd thing about that reliance is that it belies one of the key reasons so many people are working on this technology. We are good drivers when we’re vigilant. But we’re terrible at being vigilant. We get distracted and tired. We drink and do drugs. We kill 40,000 people on US roads every year and more than a million worldwide. Self-driving cars are supposed to fix that. But if we can’t be trusted to watch the road when we’re actually driving, how did anyone think we’d be good at it when the robot’s doing nearly all the work?

2) I’ve become quasi-obsessed with what seems to be the great new intellectual charlatan of our age, Jordan Peterson.  Loved this NY Review of Books take:

Such evidently eternal truths are not on offer anymore at a modern university; Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited. But Peterson, armed with his “maps of meaning” (the title of his previous book), has only contempt for his fellow academics who tend to emphasize the socially constructed and provisional nature of our perceptions. As with Jung, he presents some idiosyncratic quasi-religious opinions as empirical science, frequently appealing to evolutionary psychology to support his ancient wisdom.

Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations…

Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by Peterson’s loathing for “social justice warriors” and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds (“Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.”

In all respects, Peterson’s ancient wisdom is unmistakably modern. The “tradition” he promotes stretches no further back than the late nineteenth century, when there first emerged a sinister correlation between intellectual exhortations to toughen up and strongmen politics.

3) As I was hearing about many lives being saved by Narcan (nalaxone) this weekend, I couldn’t help think about this study (that suggested it actually led to increased opioid use through moral hazard) that was a pretty much classic example of how to lie with statistics.

4) Chait on all the “but liberals should be attacking important problems rather than giving right-wingers ammunition on the illiberalism on campus issue”

Many columns have made the case that too many columns have made the case against political correctness on campus. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If people have intense feelings about the number of columns devoted to discussing free speech on campus, they should express them. The heart wants what the heart wants.

But complaints about the quantity of a discussion tend to devolve into non sequiturs. Many of the anti-anti-PC-niks, while conceding that it’s wrong to shout down speakers or close down newspapers, use the moral power of some other issue to make their case. Because we have too many anti-PC columns, they insist, we have too few columns on some worthier subject. “This is not to say that counter-protests and free speech debates aren’t important and don’t deserve our attention,” argues McClennen. “But it is stunning to note the public apathy toward the systematic defunding of higher ed — a move that affects all families regardless of political beliefs.” Uyehara complains bitterly that “The Free Speech Grifters” — her term for critics of illiberalism on campus — “were silent when Maya Wiley, the Social Justice SVP at the New School, made news for the humanity she showed toward Sam Nunberg during his six-hour media meltdown over an FBI subpoena.”

As a matter of fact, I was not silent about Maya Wiley’s extraordinary gesture toward Sam Nunberg. But imagine that Uyehara was factually correct, and I had failed to discuss that episode. What does one have to do with the other? If the real problem with anti-PC columns is that they ignore more important issues off campus, then doesn’t that criticism apply with equal force to anti-anti-PC columns?

The anti-anti-PC columns propose numerous psychological theories to explain the perverse motivation of the moderate liberals and (generally) anti-Trump conservatives who talk too much about the campus left. We have supposedly given aid and comfort to the far right, which has deftly exploited the excesses of the campus left.

My response is that the right is attempting to discredit liberalism by attaching it to the illiberal left, and the proper response, both morally and politically, is to separate the two. It’s obvious to me why conservatives want everybody who’s alienated by the callout culture to self-identify as a conservative. It’s less obvious to me why liberals should also want that. [emphasis mine]

5) Dave Leonhardt on how education should be an easy winning political issue.

6) The evidence for gender bias in student evaluations of college teaching is ever more clear.  Good case that we should therefore not use them in employment/tenure decisions.  Given the alternative of an entirely non-empirical way to assess teaching (still susceptible to gender bias), I suggest we put a lot more thought into finding the right way to do this.

7) The funding for K-12 education in Oklahoma is just a joke (many systems have moved to 4-day weeks to make the budgetary ends meet).  Yet, how many frustrated Oklahomans will actually reject the Republican party that has brought them this low-taxes-at-all costs educational disgrace?

8) Looks like human culture as we know it may have began well earlier than we thought:

When Rick Potts started digging at Olorgesailie, the now-dry basin of an ancient Kenyan lake, he figured that it would take three years to find everything there was to find. That was in 1985, and Potts is now leading his fourth decade of excavation. It’s a good thing he stayed. In recent years, his team has uncovered a series of unexpected finds, which suggest that human behavior and culture became incredibly sophisticated well before anyone suspected—almost at the very dawn of our species, Homo sapiens.

The team found obsidian tools that came from sources dozens of miles away—a sign of long-distance trade networks. They found lumps of black and red rock that had been processed to create pigments—a sign of symbolic thought and representation. They found carefully crafted stone tools that are indicative of the period known as the Middle Stone Age; that period was thought to have started around 280,000 years ago, but the Olorgesailie tools are between 305,000 and 320,000 years old.

Collectively, these finds speak to one of the most important questions in human evolution: When did anatomically modern people, with big brains and bipedal stances, become behaviorally modern, with symbolic art, advanced tools, and a culture that built on itself? Scientists used to believe that the latter milestone arrived well after the former, when our species migrated into Europe between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, and went through a “creative explosion” that produced the evocative cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet. But this conspicuously Eurocentric idea has been overturned by a wealth of evidence showing a much earlier origin for modern human behavior—in Africa, the continent of our birth.

The new discoveries at Olorgesailie push things back even further. They suggest that many of our most important qualities—long-term planning, long-distance exploration, large social networks, symbolic representation, and innovative technology—were already in place 20,000 to 40,000 years earlier than believed. That coincides with the age of the earliest known human fossils, recently found elsewhere in Africa. “What we’re seeing in Olorgesailie is right at the root of Homo sapiens,” Potts says. “It seems that this package of cognitive and social behaviors were there from the outset.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) I get that this piano composition is physically punishing and hard as hell to play.  But that sure doesn’t make it a “masterpiece.”

2) I’ve yet to read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker feature on Christopher Steele (of dossier fame), but her interview with Terry Gross was fascinating.

3) Uh, yeah, so maybe this isn’t the confederate mural you want in your elementary school gym.

4) Another clear demonstration of both racial and gender bias in online courses:

A study being released today by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, however, finds that bias appears to be strong in online course discussions.

The study found that instructors are 94 percent more likely to respond to discussion forum posts by white male students than by other students. The authors write that they believe their work is the first to demonstrate with a large pool that the sort of bias that concerns many educators in face-to-face instruction is also present in online education.

The study looked at discussion forums in 124 massive open online courses (all were provided on a single MOOC platform that the paper does not identify, citing confidentiality requirements). The researchers created fictional student accounts, with names that most would identify as being either white, black, Indian or Chinese, with male and female names for each racial/ethnic group.

Over all, instructors responded to 7 percent of comments posted by students. But for white male students, the response rate was 12 percent.

“Our results show compelling experimental evidence that instructor discrimination exists in discussion forums of online classrooms,” says the paper. “Simply attaching a name that connotes a specific race and gender to a discussion forum post changes the likelihood that an instructor will respond to that post.”

The gap in instructor response rates was the same in courses in science and technology and in other subject areas.

This is just really, really unfortunate.  I have on-line discussion fora for my on-line classes, but I’m actually pretty sure I don’t even notice the names before I respond.  And now I’ll make a point not to.

5) Interesting piece on the history of how corporations became “persons.”

6) How Economics works, Trump style:

Speaking to Bloomberg on March 7, Navarro heaped praise on his boss and described his own role as that of an enabler.

“This is the president’s vision. My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters,” Navarro said. He compared the White House to the successful New England Patriots football team. “The owner, the coach, and the quarterback are all the president. The rest of us are all interchangeable parts.”

7) Roger Cohen with a nice piece to help understand the mess of Italy’s elections.  And a really useful take from John Cassidy.

8) The very good reasons you should not get your dog cloned.

9) Really fascinating take on evolution and heart disease:

If you look back and see what it was that has threatened human beings for more than 95 percent of our existence, it’s been three main things: infections, injuries or wounds, and malnutrition. In that setting, the most successful human being was the one who had the most paranoid and xenophobic immune system, which would detect any outside activity and then try to destroy it as soon as possible.

Now, that of course, has changed. We don’t have the burden of infections, especially in higher-income countries, but what has happened is that we have been self-selected to have a very, very robust immune system.

For most of human history, things like being bitten by some wild animal or having any type of traumatic injury has been a part of routine human life. The way that we’ve always combated that has been with inflammation. When the immune system is activated, it results in inflammation. For example, you get a viral infection and you have a fever. That fever is really as a result of the inflammation that’s being caused by the immune system.

What we’re learning is that inflammation is in fact at the heart of atherosclerosis, which is basically at the heart of all heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks. White blood cells, many of them, are full of cholesterol, and they’ll start depositing. Over time, as these plaques build up, they result in blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

These very robust immune systems are in some ways like a post–Cold War nuclear arsenal, in which you don’t have that threat anymore, but these weapons are still lying around. That’s why we see all these autoimmune diseases, and also we see such a high prevalence of atherosclerosis.

[In a similar way,] even though our nutrition has changed a lot, adaptive mechanisms that were meant to protect us from starvation have now, in fact, led to the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes, which are some of the main reasons why heart disease remains the number-one killer of people around the world.

 

10) When divorcing parents disagree as to whether head-injury concerns should prevent their teenage son from playing football.

11) Yet more evidence of the over-use of opioids— big study shows they are no better than tylenol or NSAIDS for long-term arthritis or lower-back pain.

12) Identity politics is for Republicans.  Good political science here:

Interestingly, in the realm of “identity politics,” it is generally the Democratic Party that is associated with the use of social identities for political gain. In fact, what we find here is that, if anything, Republicans are more responsive to the alignment of their party-associated groups. Among Republicans, the most cross-cutting identities are more detrimental to in-party allegiance than they are among Democrats. Grossman and Hopkins (2016) suggest that Democrats are the party of group interests and Republicans the party of ideological purity. What we find is that Republican “purity” applies to in-party social homogeneity. A Republican who does not fit the White, Christian mold is far less attached to the Republican Party than one who does fit the mold. This effect is stronger among Republicans than among Democrats, who include significantly more individuals whose racial and religious identities do not match those of the average Democrat. The concept of a “deal-breaker” identity among Republicans is more feasible than it is among Democrats, as Republicans are generally associated with fewer linked social groups. In this sense, Republicans are more reliant than Democrats on their social identities for constructing strong partisan attachments.

Taken together, these results demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of identity politics, and its power to affect partisan ingroup preferences. Unlike pundits who characterize “identity politics” as appeals of the Democratic Party to minorities and other marginalized groups, we show that social identities are a critical ingredient to partisanship across the political spectrum. In an era of increasing affective polarization, it is crucial to underscore the point that identity politics includes the politics of traditionally high-status groups, as well as the politics of traditionally marginalized groups.

One implication for these findings is that political elites may have varying incentives to remind their voters about the multiple groups that make up each partisan team. In particular, the Republican Party, being the less socially complex of the two parties, could relatively easily remind voters of their White and Christian identities to enhance partisan identity strength. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, would likely find it more useful to remind their voters about their achievements on behalf of multiple and varied groups. All partisans, however, are incentivized to portray the other party as social strangers, making the in-party ever more attractive.

13) An interesting case that retweets make twitter worse by rewarding the worst of twitter.  The key is to only follow good people on twitter.  I follow interesting, smart, thoughtful people and when they retweet something from somebody I don’t follow, it is usually interesting and worth my time.  Like all things, just use twitter wisely.

14) Jordan Weissman, hell yeah there’s no good reason to deregulate banks now.

15) Enjoyed this review of Radley Balko’s new book on junk science.  Alas, this is so much a problem of junk prosecutors and judges:

As it so often does in the criminal justice system, the story goes back to the prosecutors. No matter how many times defense lawyers raised concerns about the credibility of Hayne and West, prosecutors called the doctors to the stand. No matter how many individuals were exonerated in cases that turned on Hayne’s or West’s word, prosecutors fought like hell to preserve their convictions. As one book reviewer put it: “When Mississippi prosecutors were in need of physical evidence in a murder case, they often would turn to Hayne and West.” Prosecutors wanted nothing more than to win. Whether the evidence was reliable, whether the experts were credible, whether the defendant actually committed the crime—those questions became irrelevant. The truth was optional.

“The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist” also brings shame to the judiciary. Despite hefty challenges backed by the testimony of real medical experts, Mississippi judges refused to shut down Hayne and West. Requarth writes, “[a]ccording to Balko and Carrington, not a single Mississippi judge in 20 years even held a hearing to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of the ‘West Phenomenon.’ No trial judge ever refused to let Hayne testify.” While there are a number of plausible explanations for the judiciary’s failure—we certainly have our own theory—the shame that this text brings should shine a light on the role courts play in permitting the introduction of junk science.

16) Thanks to Nicole for this interesting article on how Xyrem (GHB) is basically a wonder-drug for narcoleptics, but, it is priced super-high and can be very difficult to get for some.

 

 

 

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