Quick hits (part I)

1) This Andrew Sullivan essay on intersectionality as religion is a definite must-read (in response to recent Charles Murray incident):

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

2) And Frank Bruni with his take on the “dangerous safety of college.”

3) Speaking of colleges… the ongoing fiasco and horrid waste of NJ taxpayer dollars that is Rutgers athletics.

4) As mentioned, I’m reading SapiensAustralians, where I learned that one of the unsolved mysteries in the study of prehistoric humans is how they managed to get to Australia around 50,000 years ago.  The latest on what scientists are learning about the original .

5) Speaking of humans…there really seems to be an increasing problem with male sperm.  And that’s a problem for all humans.  Mine have done their part, but I worry about my sons.

6) I’m not usually a big fan of the liberal rants, but this one against rural, white, conservatives is really, really good:

Here are the honest truths that rural Christian white Americans don’t want to accept; until they accept these truths, nothing is going to change:

  • Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
  • Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and food prices would soar.
  • Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. The almost exclusively white business owners are responsible, because they care more about their shareholders (who are also mostly white) than about American workers.
  • No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
  • Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white god they want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, have a gay pastor or accept gays for membership.
  • Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their lives either, especially women they complain about being teenage single mothers.
  • Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard-earned tax dollars” any more than many of their fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy or outsourcing overseas belong to all races.
  • They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to farm subsidies, crop insurance and commodities protections, they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
  • They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • They complain about globalization, yet line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple products. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engines were made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radios made in Korea, and computer parts made in Malaysia.
  • They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
  • When jobs dry up for whatever reason, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in failing towns.
  • They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers,” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare checks every month.

And plenty more good ones in that list.

7) LeVar Ball— most insane sports dad ever?  I’m thinking so.

8) I saw “Into the Woods” at my son’s high school last night.   First time seeing it.  The kids were terrific– fabulous performance.  As for the musical itself, I’ve concluded that it’s hugely over-rated.  I agree with both these takes.

9) I love the Oxford comma.  Always use it.  It matters.

10) Helpful reminder: “learning styles” are a fiction.

11) Chuck Todd makes a ludicrous argument that big data led to polarization.  Seth Masket shoots him down.  Classic post hoc ergo propter hoc.

12) The British wiretap thing.  Seriously, just step back for a minute and think about how insane it is that somebody like Trump is a president!  The man is a toddler.

13) Are teenagers using smartphones instead of drugs?!  Maybe.  But see #11.

14) Just so we’re clear.  Steve King is a disgusting, deplorable human being.  And he’s mainstream in today’s Republican party.

15) Using artificial intelligence to prevent suicide.

16) For-profit colleges suck. They are basically a scam on poor people.  And taxpayers.  Oh, and, of course, they are making headway with the Trump administration.

17) North Carolina’s loss (HB2) is South Carolina’s gain.  Ugh.

18) Why does Trump hate cities?  Because they show that liberalism (and ethnic diversity) works.

19) Love the headline for this take on Trump’s budget, “Trump’s Budget Expands the G.O.P.’s War on Math.”

20) On how the internet is saving culture because people are willing to pay for good content (agree, says this subscriber to Netflix, HBO, NYT, etc.)

21) Since I’m just queuing this up anyway, and one of quick hits two biggest fans (DJC) is already up and 6:00, I’m moving the queue time up in his honor.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, we should admit that integrating large numbers of refugees may be hard and complicated.

2) When the headline says it all, “G.O.P. Repeal Bill Would Cut Funding for Poor and Taxes on Rich.”

3) The kids are alright.  Or, at least committing way less crime than they used to.

4) Cutting the IRS means good news for wealthy tax cheaters.  Hooray!

5) Seth Masket with the case for Democratic recklessness.

6) George Will just amuses me– bringing up the fact that liberals in the early 20th century supported eugenics to damn current liberals.  Yeah, yeah, and lots of Southern Democrats used to be racists.

7) Oh, man have I loved our super-warm winter and early spring, but there are potentially serious ecological costs:

These kinds of mismatches can upset complex relationships between animals and their environment. In the Arctic, some grasses bloom a month before normal, depriving hibernating animals of a crucial early-spring food source. Snowshoe hares turn white during the winter, and then brown during the summer, so that they can be better camouflaged against the ground. But now that snow is melting earlier in the year, many are still wearing their white coats in the spring mud—making them especially easy for predators to pick off.

These kind of seasonal mismatches are best documented in the Arctic, but researchers are increasingly finding them elsewhere.

8) Trump’s bizarre virtual conversation with Fox & Friends.

9) Marines are generally seen as holding themselves to an especially high-standard of honor.  Thus, this disgusting and pervasive sexual harassment of female Marines is especially problematic.

10) Fascinating story of an adoption gone wrong.  This situations are always so difficult.  And a college friend of mine, now law professor (Kevin Maillard) weighs in.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on the sketchy logic of Trump’s new travel ban.

12) Last wee I listened to an utterly fascinating interview of Yuval Harari by Ezra Klein and started reading Sapiens.  So good.  Here’s Harari on AI and the future of humans.

13) Time Inc. is cutting back on the magazine business.  Can’t blame them.  There was a long time when I had weekly subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly.  But that was a long time ago.

14) Read this amazing essay by a dying woman about trying to find a good partner for her soon-to-be-widowed husband.  Heartbreaking.  And then I realized it was by one of my very favorite children’s book authors– the brilliant Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  So sad.  (If you have kids in the picture book, give Yes Day and Uni the Unicorn a try).

15) Frank Bruni defends Trump against the food snobs.

16) Kristoff on the reality of Planned Parenthood.  Defunding it is just so, so stupid.

This is health care at its best, preventing diseases and averting teenage pregnancies, all while saving public money. Yet clinics like these across America are in peril because of myopic Washington politics…

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about the government paying for abortions. That’s already mostly banned. This is about paying for birth control and cancer screenings when the provider has some connection, even a remote one, to abortions…

Pence and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, I think, well-intentioned politicians driven by a revulsion for abortion. But the truth is that these clinics do more to reduce abortion rates than any army of anti-abortion demonstrators.

17) Washing your produce is probably a waste of time.  I’ll stick with it anyway.

18) Republicans in control of Congress = easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes.  That’s good– right?

19) Making up data about your cancer research is a problem.  Unless you bring in millions in grant money to your university.

20) The hallways of my department are too quiet, too.

21) I love birds.  I love pantones.  Thus, I reallyarticle loved this about the role of bird coloration in the evolution of pantone.

22) I was waiting in the dentist office this week when I randomly came across this article on twitter about how it really makes no sense to divorce oral health from the rest of human medicine.

23) This NYT feature on the shame of Baylor sports (coddling sex offenders to achieve victories) is really good.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I think I shared this once already, but I went back and read it more closely.  This idea of moral re-framing is really important, I think.

2) Twelve bacteria to be afraid of.

3) Thanks to computers, we can be very clear on whether there’s gerrymandering.  Here’s hoping the Supreme Court accepts the inescapable logic.  Monkey Cage:

There is a perfectly good scientific standard for determining whether there is partisan gerrymandering. This is the “partisan symmetry” measuredeveloped by Andrew Gelman and Gary King. Essentially, symmetry requires that a specific share of the popular vote (say, 60 percent) would translate into the same number of congressional seats, regardless of which party won that share of the vote. For instance, if winning 60 percent of the popular vote in a state gives the Republican Party 65 percent of the congressional seats, then the Democratic Party should also win 65 percent of the seats if it wins 60 percent of the vote.

….But as Justice Scalia pointed out in his Vieth opinion, parties do not have a right to equal representation, any more than any other social group. It is only individual voters who have a right to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution….In our book, we show that the partisan symmetry standard can be logically derived from the equal treatment of individual voters, based on recent results in social choice theory. In partisan elections, you cannot treat all individual voters equally without treating all parties equally. This means that the party that gets more votes must get more seats. This sounds obvious, but it is precisely what the Supreme Court did not accept in the Vieth case. We show — line by mathematical line — that this logic is inescapable.

4) What’s the deal with Japan’s problematic economy you are always hearing about?  Not much– they’re just getting older.  Oh, and a great way to counter-act that (and one of our keys to success)– immigration.

5) Emily Bazelon looks at how Bannon and Sessions could reshape federal law enforcement (not for the better, mind you).

6) Love this Hidden Brain podcast on the tremendous benefits of using therapy for Chicago teens at high risk for violence.

7) After DeVos hailed HBCU’s as “school choice” Yglesias with a nice piece on just how dumb the selection and confirmation of DeVos was:

the Republican Party only sabotaged itself by confirming weak nominees like DeVos. Her confirmation hearing was a gaffe-tastic disaster, and her tenure in office is shaping up to be much the same. It would not have been difficult to find someone with similar policy views to DeVos but a somewhat deeper understanding of them and some actual experience in a job that involves a heavy public communications element. Republicans count DeVos’s confirmation as a “win.” But your Cabinet is supposed to be a portfolio of assets, and she’s a huge liability.

8) Nice to see the book thrown at these white supremacists using racism as terrorism.  That says, 13 years in prison seems awfully harsh.

9) I, too, am all for more reasonable alcohol policies in North Carolina.  And as for the drinking age, I think it is ridiculous that at 18 you can go to war, be sentenced to death for a crime, and vote for president, but not buy a beer.

10) It is truly amazing and appalling the degree to which our “justice” system will forgive bad forensic “science” if it has already led to a conviction.  In this case, the absurd non-science of the “death mask.”  Radley Balko on it, as always.  This quote is the key:

As I wrote here in 2014, the main problem is that both federal court precedent and the federal code value the finality of verdicts more than justice.

11) The headline says it all, “What Trump’s travel ban ignores: Radicalized U.S. citizens pose the greatest threat.”

12) This NPR story about the problem of replacement music in streaming TV shows was really interesting.  I hate that the rights owners are so petty on this.  I also assume that at this point when TV shows buy the rights to music they also buy the rights for future digital broadcast.

13) Fred Kaplan on the absurdity of Trump’s proposed Defense increase:

Many Republicans, including Trump, like to say that the nation has fewer planes and ships than at any time since the end of World War II or since some other signpost from the distant past. Assuming the numbers are accurate, they’re irrelevant. The firepower of a single aircraft carrier dwarfs the entire fleet of any nation from earlier eras. No generals or admirals would say they’d trade the force of today with that of any yesteryear.

One might argue that the military needs more weapons of specific types to meet rising threats of a certain sort. If so, the question isn’t how much to spend but what to buy. Trump’s directive spells out no such details. Those will be filled in and hammered out later by the Office of Management and Budget, the comptrollers of the various departments, and the relevant committees in Congress. Meanwhile, simply throwing money at the Pentagon won’t necessarily solve the problems, especially if it means taking money away from other buildings in town.

14) Amanda Marcotte on the rule of not abortion, but race and segregation, in the founding of the religious right.

15) Jamelle Bouie on Trump’s deafening silence on the Kansas shootings:

Trump’s selective outrage is more than just a double standard. Like his early blitz of executive orders, it’s an important symbolic gesture. Proclaiming new draconian measures to protect police officers is explicitly siding with “Blue Lives Matter” against protesters and reformers. Likewise, elevating one kind of attack as worthy of condemnation and ignoring another is to implicitly say that one kind of assailant is more dangerous than another—and for that matter, the life of one kind of victim is more valuable than another. For Trump, “radical Islamic terrorism”—which in practice just means Islam—is the principal threat to the United States. And so any attack on a Western target (Trump is also seemingly indifferent to terrorist violence against Muslim targets) from anyone who fits that description, or who can be linked to refugees or immigration, becomes a cause for focus and attention from the White House.

The opposite is true for anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant hate crimes, or acts of terror planned or committed by white supremacists. Despite the real toll they take on communities, those attacks are of little interest to the administration. Indeed, in another largely symbolic move announced at the beginning of this month, Trump said he would revamp and rename a program designed to counter all violent extremism so that it focused on “radical Islamic extremism.” It will no longer target white supremacist groups and other racist extremists. Again, it’s a symbol and a signal: Islam is the threat, not racism or weaponized hate toward nonwhites and immigrants.

16) The “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it” billboard conflict in NC.

17) On insane prescription drug prices and how pharmaceutical companies give away free drugs to deflect attention from the problem.  Don’t tell me we need more capitalism in health care.  $4500 for a $1 drug is not working.

Patient-assistance programs like Kaleo’s have historically been used to justify exorbitant price hikes, while undercutting the political case for pricing regulation. “That has been an effective P.R. tactic that has helped to forestall regulation for half a century,” said Jeremy Greene, a medical historian and the author of the book, “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine.” Philanthropy programs, in other words, are used to inoculate the company against complaints that the full prices of their drugs are too high. “The patient-assistance programs are ways to charge much higher prices to people in insured populations,” Geoffrey Joyce, a health economist at the University of Southern California, said. “But that money gets paid by someone, generally by ending up in premiums or by being born by taxpayers.”

18) Trump’s crazy adviser, Sebastian Gorka, will literally not even admit that Islam is a religion.  Ugh.

19) This story about an Idaho teen who got a slap on the wrist for sodomizing a mentally disabled teammate with a coat hanger has one breathtakingly awful quote from the judge:

Stoker, as he sentenced Howard to community service and probation, was emphatic that the assault did not constitute a rape, the British newspaper reports.

“Whatever happened in that locker room was not sexual,” he said. “In my view, this is not a case about racial bias,” he also said.

“People from the east coast have no idea what this case is about,” he said, according to the Guardian. “But I’m not going to impose a sentence that is not supported by the law.”

Idaho values.

20) In defense of the college lecture:

Lectures are not designed to transmit knowledge directly from the lecturers’ lips to students’ brains — this idea is a false one, exacerbated by the problematic phrase “content delivery.” Although lecturers (hopefully) possess information that, at the beginning of a lecture, their students do not, they are not merely delivering content. Rather, giving a lecture forces instructors to communicate their knowledge through argument in real time.

The best lectures draw on careful preparation as well as spontaneous revelation. While speaking to students and gauging their reactions, lecturers come to new conclusions, incorporate them into the lecture, and refine their argument. Lectures impart facts, but they also model argumentation, all the while responding to their audience’s nonverbal cues. Far from being one-sided, lectures are a social occasion.

21) I really love this on how good typography could have prevented the Oscars fiasco.  So very true.

22) Should we move to open peer review?  One neuroscientist strongly thinks so.

23) Apparently a bunch of idiots at Middlebury College shouted down Charles Murray’s lecture and then attacked his car when he was leaving.  There’s some open dialogue for you.  Damn, do I hate, hate, hate, that it is liberals that act this way.  Bill Ayres‘ take:

That said: this behavior reported here by a group of Middlebury students is appalling. If free speech on a campus means anything, it means that people who are invited by members of the community – people who apparently thought he had something worth listening to – be allowed to share their views with decorum and civility. Shouting a speaker down, and then jumping on his car as he attempts to leave, are inconsistent with this notion.

The open letter referred to in the article linked above tries to square this circle by arguing, essentially, that there are certain views that are outside the boundaries of free speech protection and which therefore can and should be censured. It also argues that the airing of those views in and of itself constitutes a threat to other members of the community, a form of (their word) intimidation…

The students in question (on both sides) probably don’t see it this way, but this is a politics of force. It is a politics that says, I am right and you are wrong and I am going to use all of the power at my disposal to impose my will on you. It is as anti-democratic as anything they are protesting against. I do not envy my colleagues in the Middlebury administration as they try to untangle this mess.

24) Really interesting interview on the roots of the opioid epidemic:

At the end of the day, opioids were the solution not for patients’ problems but for doctors’ problems.

There has been a huge transformation in the past 30 years in health care delivery, beginning with a migration out of private practice into large integrated health care centers. That’s something that I call the Toyotazation of medicine — tremendous pressure on doctors within these large integrated health care centers to practice medicine in a certain way and get patients out in a timely fashion to be able to bill insurers at the highest possible level and to make sure that their patients were satisfied customers.

This was a huge contributing factor to the opioid epidemic — by giving doctors a way to just give a pill to patients to get them out the door, while also feeling like they were doing something to help patients, at least in the short term. Opioids became the proxy for a doctor-patient relationship.

The other underrecognized piece of this is what I call the medicalization of poverty. Opioids have become a proxy for a social safety net. So we have doctors routinely confronted with patients who not only have multiple medical problems — from diabetes to hypertension to asthma to cardiac disease — but also very significant psychological, social, and economic problems. Many of them are undereducated. Many of them are underemployed. Many of them are homeless. Many of them are struggling with multigenerational trauma.

Because we lack a social safety net to take care of these people, we are now medicalizing their problems, and telling doctors that they have to take care of their problems. Doctors are feeling incredibly overwhelmed in this space with this growing population of individuals with very complex biological and psychosocial problems. In the face of that, they’re prescribing opioids — because opioids work quickly, patients are grateful, and it seems to be something they can do in the face of overwhelming problems.

The other piece of it are new illness narratives that have now become commonplace. Everything from “pain is dangerous” to “people are fragile” to “the body can’t heal itself” and “doctors have superhuman abilities to heal” and “illness is an identity” and “victimhood gives you a right to be compensated.” These are illness narratives that I think create a culture in our society, which we’re not even aware of, that’s contributed to the opioid epidemic.

25) Happy Birthday to my lovely wife, Kim.  I think she reads my blog from time to time, but I doubt ever makes it to the bottom of quick hits :-).

Photo of the day

This image of the Oscars audience at the moment of the all-time epic screw-up is pretty priceless.  Especially Matt Damon and the Rock:

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that "Moonlight" and not the previously announced "La La Land" had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that “Moonlight” and not the previously announced “La La Land” had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Quick hits

1) Women who voted for Trump in their own words (short version: they prefer their self-delusional fantasy view of Trump).

2) This interactive feature of Obama’s legacy in chart form was really, really cool.

3) The headline mostly says it all for me, “Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do With Your Success.”  Though, I would add, “especially you, Republicans!”

4) A million reasons to miss Obama.  One of them, that he is a true lover of books.  His life and he still manages to read so much more great books than me.  In contrast, this tweet highlights a recent Trump interview on the matter of books:

5) Modern electro-shock therapy can be hugely beneficial, but it still has a very bad and outdated reputation.  Kitty Dukakis is trying to change that.

6) I hope it doesn’t make a bad feminist, but I really believe that a violent stranger rape is worse than an acquaintance rape.  That doesn’t mean the latter is okay, but, from a public order and police perspective, I know where I want my police force using their non-infinite resources.

7) What Frankenstein can tell us about the anti-vaxxers.

8) Chris Kobach is just a major league a$$hole.  And the lengths he will go to in order to prove “voter fraud” are pathetic.

9) Flesh-eating screwworms are back in the US.  I found it fascinating to read how we eradicated them 30 years ago.

10) More marijuana, less opiate abuse.  Seriously.  German Lopez:

Well, medical marijuana appears to offer one way to help deal with America’s pain problem without the risks of opioids.

The best review of the research to date on marijuana, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, looked at more than 10,000 studies to evaluate pot’s potential benefits and harms.

The review concluded that there’s “conclusive evidence” for marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain, as well as multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The review also found “substantial evidence” linking pot to respiratory problems if smoked, schizophrenia and psychosis, car crashes, lagging social achievement in life, and perhaps pregnancy-related problems — but it didn’t find any good evidence that marijuana causes health complications, such as overdose, that can lead to death.

So the evidence suggests marijuana is good for treating chronic pain, even if it may come with some nonfatal risks.

What about opioids? While there is research that opioids effectively treat acute pain, the evidence on whether opioid painkillers can treat chronic pain is weak at best.

11) Great Fresh Air interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones on school segregation`.

12) On being an “ethical parent” versus being a “good parent.”  I know I’ve been disappointed in some liberal friends who think integrated schools are great, just maybe not for their kids:

The school decision highlights the problem at the heart of moral parenting. We want to teach our children to be ethical, yet is parenting in itself a constant choice between what is best for our individual child and what is best for all children?

Are we, for example, obligated to send our child to a low-performing school because if we don’t, we are participating in the failure and neglect of underperforming schools? Or are we obligated to send our children to the “best” school that we can provide?

13) I found the story of Malia Obama’s secret trip to Bolivia, fascinating.

14) I assume most parents have already come to the conclusion that it is okay to send your sick, but recovering, kid to school:

According to a new NPR story about the often confounding process of deciding whether a slightly sick child should go to school, my husband was probably right. Reporter Katherine Hobson looks into the science behind this decision and discovers that sending an on-the-mend, but still not quite 100-percent, kid to school can be morally sound.

“The science really tells us that most disease is spread before the child gets sick,” pediatrician and pediatric emergency medicine physician Andrew Hashikawa told Hobson. He explained that, in a good many cases, keeping a child home is useful insofar as it helps the child recover, and not because it prevents others from catching whatever bug the child has. He points to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for child care illness exclusions, which are surprisingly chill. The long list of conditions that they don’t see as being cause for keeping a child home includes: common colds; runny noses; watery, yellow or white discharge or crusting eye discharge without a fever; fever without any signs or symptoms of illness; pink eye; and a rash unaccompanied by a fever or behavioral changes. After reading this list, I will be sleeping better tonight.

15) Tom Edsall asks a lot of really smart journalists and political scientists why they think the Russians wanted Trump.  Included is one of my very favorite political scientists, Gary Jacobson (not all that long ago I was in an elevator with him in a conference and told him my early undergraduate exposure to his research is one of the key things that made me want to be a PS professor).  Now, I love him even more.

Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, was outspoken in his response to my question asking why the Russians favored Trump:

His shameless mendacity, narcissism, authoritarian instincts, inability to tolerate opposition or criticism, hostility to formal institutions and the media, vast ignorance of foreign and domestic issues, indifference to constitutional restraints and eagerness to whip up and exploit xenophobia and (barely disguised) racism. We might add his affection for authoritarian leaders and other tough guys. Have I left anything out? Probably. All of these characteristics lead him to say things and propose actions antithetical to democratic norms and standards.

16a) Really interesting NYT story on a fake news “masterpiece” and the young Republican behind it.

16b) Since he’s a NC boy, the N&O also ran a piece.  As if this guy wasn’t an ass enough, his utterly false equivalance self-serving justification just kills me:

“Fake news flourished during this election cycle because it served the purpose of reinforcing these biases, and it occurred on both sides,” Harris continued. “It catered to predispositions that Americans already held, and while fake news has been widely discussed, the dynamics behind it have largely been ignored. Whether fake news remains prevalent or not (and I hope that it doesn’t), our nation cannot move forward from such a divisive election cycle if we continue to seek comfort in our own beliefs and refuse to challenge our personal world views.”

17) Presumably you’ve seen the photos going around of Trump’s inauguration compared to Obama’s.  I love that this must bother Trump so much.

18) Drum with the fine “thanks Obama” post I needed to see:

In the end, Obama wasn’t a transformative president. But that’s a high bar: in my book, FDR and Reagan are the only presidents of the past century who qualify. Still, Obama turned the battleship a few degrees more than most presidents, and we’re all better off for it. He also brought a certain amount of grace and civility to the White House, as well as a genuine willingness to work across the aisle. In the event, that turned out to be futile, because Republicans had already decided to oppose everything he did sight unseen. But he did try.

19) Loved this Freakonomics podcast episode with Raj Chetty.  Lots of good ideas on the best ways to try and reduce poverty.

20) Obama’s c.v. should he need a new law professor gig.

21) Nice Chait piece on 6 books that explain how the GOP went crazy.  This part is particularly interesting:

I was told my list could not be published because it was too partisan — to be suitable for publication, I would have to swap out some of the books I chose, and substitute some that made the case that the Democratic Party had also gone off the rails, for the sake of balance. I replied that I could not make this change because I don’t believe that the Democratic Party, in its current historical period, has gone off the rails. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats flawless, just that they are a normal party with normal problems. It contains a broad range of interest groups and politicians. Sometimes one interest group or another gains too much influence over a particular policy, and sometimes its leading politicians get greedy or make bad political decisions.

The GOP right now is an abnormal party. It does not resemble the major right-of-center parties found in other industrialized democracies. The most glaring manifestation of this is Donald Trump, the flamboyantly ignorant, authoritarian Republican president-elect. But for all his gross unsuitability for public office, Trump also grows out of longstanding trends within his party, which has previously elevated such anti-intellectual figures as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as plausible leaders of the free world not despite but because of their disdain for empiricism. And it had grown increasingly suspicious of democracy even before a reality television star with a longstanding admiration for strongmen from Russia to Tiananmen Square came upon the scene — which is why the “mainstream” Paul Ryan wing has so willingly suborned Trump’s ongoing violations of governing norms.

It is still fashionable to regard the two parties today as broadly symmetrical to each other — as, indeed, they once were for many decades. But that quaint notion has blinded many of us to the radical turn the Republican Party has taken, and which has brought the American political system to a dangerous point.

22) All the family is totally loving Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

23) This, is how you write a climate story (though, I don’t think it’s an accident that it appears to be a science writer, not a political writer):

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

In reality, the Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Would really like to see some rigorous studies of microdosing with LSD.  I think there is some real potential there.  Alas, all we are left with is lots of anecdotes– like Ayelet Waldman’s— thanks to good old schedule I.

2) Not all that surprisingly, if you want your kids to have safer sexual practices you should, you know, talk to them about sex.  Also, boys get left out of this a lot.

3) Farhad Manjoo on how Netflix is deepening our cultural divide:

Yet for a brief while, from the 1950s to the late 1980s, broadcast television served cultural, social and political roles far greater than the banality of its content would suggest. Because it featured little choice, TV offered something else: the raw material for a shared culture. Television was the thing just about everyone else was watching at the same time as you. In its enforced similitude, it became a kind of social glue, stitching together a new national identity across a vast, growing and otherwise diverse nation.

“What we gained was a shared identity and shared experience,” Mr. Strate said. “The famous example was Kennedy’s funeral, where the nation mourned together in a way that had never happened before. But it was also our experience watching ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘All in the Family’ that created a shared set of references that everyone knew.”

As the broadcast era changed into one of cable and then streaming, TV was transformed from a wasteland into a bubbling sea of creativity. But it has become a sea in which everyone swims in smaller schools.

4) Republican legislators in two states looking to abolish tenure at public universities.  Presumably, only a matter of time before NC legislators get this idea.

5) I saw “Silence” with David yesterday and we both really, really liked it.  Powerful and thought-provoking.  It certainly took it’s time, but I was never bored.

6) The real problem for teacher in NC says an NC teacher?  Not enough time.  I will totally buy that.

7) It’s Girl Scout Cookie time.  Loved this feature in the LA Times that lays out the differences in the cookies between the two bakeries.  I grew up loving “Samoas” and my wife grew up loving “Carmel Delites.”  This graphic shows that, clearly, Samoas are superior.

8) On Ivanka Trump’s fake feminism.

9) Loved this James Kwak piece on “economism” as applied to the minimum wage:

The argument against increasing the minimum wage often relies on what I call “economism”—the misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems, creating the illusion of consensus and reducing a complex topic to a simple, open-and-shut case. According to economism, a pair of supply and demand curves proves that a minimum wage increases unemployment and hurts exactly the low-wage workers it is supposed to help…

The real impact of the minimum wage, however, is much less clear than these talking points might indicate. Looking at historical experience, there is no obvious relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment: adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum was highest from 1967 through 1969, when the unemployment rate was below 4 percent—a historically low level. When economists try to tackle this question, they come up with all sorts of results. In 1994, David Card and Alan Krueger evaluated an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage by comparing fast-food restaurants on both sides of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. They concluded, “Contrary to the central prediction of the textbook model … we find no evidence that the rise in New Jersey’s minimum wage reduced employment at fast-food restaurants in the state.”

10) Seven hard questions about health care reform that Democrats need to hold Republicans feet to the fire on.

11) The areas where both experts and the public agrees on effective gun control.  Hey, maybe give these a try!  Oh, right, Republican politicians are not in these charts.

12) Neither GRE’s nor undergraduate GPA appear to be particularly good measures of graduate school success.  Well, that makes things difficult.

13) The latest PS research on Voter ID and vote suppression.  This is important:

The proliferation of increasingly strict voter identification laws around the country has raised concerns about voter suppression. Although there are many reasons to suspect that these laws could harm groups like racial minorities and the poor, existing studies have been limited, with most occurring before states enacted strict identification requirements, and they have uncovered few effects. By using validated voting data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study for several recent elections, we are able to offer a more definitive test. The analysis shows that strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections. We also find that voter ID laws skew democracy toward those on the political right.

14) Saw some pretty strong liberal pushback against this NYT piece, but I think it is worth having a reasonable discussion over whether we should be subsidizing the purchasing of sugar soda through food stamps.  Maybe that opens a Pandora’s box, but it seems that we could probably all agree this is not something the government should be subsidizing.

15) Quirks and Quarks just did a whole show on mindfulness meditation.  This segment was the best explanation I’ve yet heard.

 

16) Good stuff from Roger Cohen:

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

17) Gender bias in health care is a real problem.  How checklists can fix it.

18) Evan Osnos on the Senate confirmation process:

Trump is making an astonishing bet that he will be the first President in a quarter century to manage not to have a single nominee disqualified. And he is betting that the American people, having just elected the first modern President to refuse to release his tax returns, are, in effect, done with ethics. He is betting that, like his oft-cited prediction that he could shoot someone and not lose votes, virtually nothing that could come out after a nominee is confirmed will undermine his Presidency. He is betting, in effect, that we’re too dumb or too demoralized to care.

19) These fake books are so hilarious.

20) I may have posted this before, but if so, I just re-came across it.  I’ve been saying for years that free, widespread, encouraged IUD use is the best anti-poverty program we could have.  Jordan Weissman explains.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on how Trump’s domestic policy agenda is really GWB part II.

Bush rode into office on the strength of white working-class voters who were drawn to his heartland cultural politics, alienated by Al Gore’s aloof demeanor, and appeased by Bush’s repudiation of the hard-right orthodoxy of the congressional GOP of the era. Bush scolded congressional Republicans for seeking to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and promised to deliver a much-needed prescription drug benefit to America’s senior citizens.

“George Bush is a different kind of right-winger,” wrote the Economist’s US politics columnin April 2001, “a card-carrying conservative who nevertheless believes in active government.”

Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard called him a “big government conservative.”

None of this entailed a retreat from the Republican Party’s basic commitment to an agenda of tax cuts for high-income households and favorable regulatory treatment of businesses. It was, instead, a political strategy to make plutocracy workable. And while Bush-era deficits probably contributed to some long-term problems, the interest rate environment of the time was certainly conducive to “irresponsible” budgeting.

And, indeed, it’s very difficult to imagine Bush securing reelection in 2004 if his trillion-dollar tax cut had been paid for with cutbacks to public services. In reality, however, Bush expanded public services by lavishing new subsidies on American agriculture, introducing new health benefits on American seniors, and increasing federal K-12 education spending in exchange for the accountability reforms of the No Child Left Behind law.

When, eventually, Bush’s administration collapsed into ignominy, conservatives quickly pinpointed these big-spending ways as the reason. Even Bush’s brother Jeb found himself saying that “in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money.”

But by the time Jeb was out on the campaign trail distancing himself from his brother’s big-spending ways, Trump was kicking his butt precisely by distancing himself from the tight-fisted fiscal policies of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

2) Trump takes credit for a $1 billion investment in the US.  Drum points out that this happens about once per day, on average.

3) Wired on Apple’s need to move past the Iphone, on its 10-year anniversary.

4) And David Pogue’s take on the original Iphone from 10-years ago.  Nice reminder of how revolutionary it was.

5) Jeff Sessions should not be our next Attorney General.

6) Neurotracker has convinced professional teams and athletes that it can improve their performance by improving the mental tracking so key in many sports.  Alas, there’s no real evidence it actually does.  It’s honestly a pretty easy experiment to do (randomly assign a college or HS football, soccer, etc. team with experimental and control for a couple weeks, then test), so the fact that there’s not any such evidence makes me very skeptical.  I find the following critique compelling:

Williams, at the University of Utah, challenged the notion that tracking bouncing objects in a simulation could train or quantify anything other than a person’s ability to track bouncing objects in a simulation.

“I’ve never seen a soccer player chasing multicolor balloons around on the field,” Williams said. “It’s just not what soccer players do.”

What soccer players do, he said, is read patterns of play, anticipate what might happen next based on movements of teammates and opponents, and identify familiar sequences as they unfold. This “inside” knowledge, built up over time, promotes the effectiveness and efficiency that Ericsson argues are the hallmarks of expertise.

7) My 10-year old Evan received a mini-drone for Christmas.  A friend said, “so what do you do with it?”  My response, “crash it.”  Managed to actually get it down from 30 feet up in a tree where I stranded it within the first 5 minutes.  Loved this NYT article on Christmas drone horror stories.  We still have our and it still works and we’ve only broken to propellers.  We’ll try again when all our snow and ice melts.

8) This essay by Karl Marlantes on how Vietnam permanently disrupted Americans’ faith in their government is a must read.  (Also makes me think I need to move his novel, Matterhorn, further up my queue).

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

9) Gotta love that the guns rights folks (and DJT Jr) are arguing that we need to make it way easier to buy silencers/suppressors, through legislation titled The Hearing Protection Act.

10) Love that a Dairy Queen owner who unleashed racist rants on his customers had his franchise pulled from him by DQ corporate.  That’s the power of social media for good.

11) The insanity of trying to get even a low-level Senate confirmation from today’s dysfunctional Congress.  Though, that will change.

12) Greg Sargent on Trump’s (lying, of course) response to Meryl Streep:

It’s often argued that we should perhaps give less attention to Trump’s tweets. But Monday’s barrage gets at something important. Yes, all politicians lie. But with only days to go until Trump assumes vast power, Monday’s tweetstorm is a reminder that we may be witnessing something new and different in the nature and degree of the dishonesty at issue. Here again we’re seeing Trump’s willingness to keep piling the lies on top of one another long after the original foundational lies have been widely debunked, and to keep on attacking the press for not playing along with his version of reality, as if the very possibility of shared reality can be stamped out by Trumpian edict, or Trumpian Tweedict.

13) Among the dumbest things we do in American democracy: abysmally poor compensation for state legislators.  Because, you know, it’s not like what state governments do is important or anything.  NPR:

While a few big states have full-time legislatures with higher pay (California pays lawmakers $100,113 a year and Pennsylvania pays $85,339) but in most states, legislators are paid like it’s a part-time job.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states pay $30,000 a year or less to legislators. New Mexico doesn’t pay lawmakers at all, while those in New Hampshire make just $200 per two-year term…

Median household income in the United States was $55,775 in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

“Not paying legislators is like a very penny-wise, pound foolish thing,” given the size of state budgets and complexity of issues that legislatures tackle every year, said Stanford University political scientist Neil Malhotra.

That low level of pay also keeps many people from entering politics, said Malhotra. “There’s very, very few working class people in legislatures. This might have something to do with why a lot of legislation does not seem very friendly towards working class people.”

14) I don’t doubt that there really is something to “attachment theory” that proper bonding in very-early childhood can be key for personality throughout life, but this article is absolutely preposterous in not addressing the role of genetics in this issue.  Any parent of more than one child can sure as hell tell you that.

15) How video game designers need to engineer in just the right amount of luck.

16) The difficulty in enforcing ethics laws under Trump.

17) Yglesias reminds of what we do know about Trump and Russia:

18) The Amherst College new mascot– Hamsters.  Kind of love it.  Kind of think it’s silly to change a mascot based on the now-odious, but mainstream enough in the 18th century views, of Lord Amherst.

19) Interesting idea from Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse— many Republican politicians actually want to fight climate change but the fossil fuel industry they are beholden to will not let them.  I’m not convinced.  If true, just more profiles in cowardice.

20) Even if you have good health insurance through your employer, an ACA repeal can really hurt you, too.

21) Hooray for San Diego for not being a hostage to the NFL and refusing to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars to further enrich a billionaire.  And, on the not-so-great economics of having an NFL team in your city.

22) Some interesting research suggests conservative politicians in several countries are more attractive than liberal politicians.

23) This long, thoughtful, post from an Ohio teacher on our way over-reliance on standardized testing is really, really good:

The most critical solution to this is to untie student, teacher, and school accountability measures from testing outcomes, or to combine these scores with a variety of other measures of success. In addition, we need to dramatically reduce the time spent on testing by requiring tests in fewer grades, or not administering tests every year. No high-performing nation in the world tests all students annually…

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

24) Best explanation I’ve yet read for why recent rules changes have led to college football being so high scoring (it’s all about the blocking on the run-pass option).

25) Pippa Norris responds to the many issues raised on the whole “is North Carolina a democracy” flap.

 

 

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