Quick hits (part I)

1) Not going to read the memoir of Steve Jobs’ daughter, but found the NYT book review really fascinating.

2) Ezra Klein on Republicans blaming Obama for the rise of Trump:

There are reams of evidence supporting this explanation, and I run through much of it in my piece “White Threat in a Browning America.” Obama’s presidency was inextricable from the massive demographic change that made it possible, and that continues to reshape American life and politics. But it wasn’t just demographic change that Obama represented. Obama, though a Christian himself, led an increasingly secular coalition, and was othered as a secret Muslim in the minds of many conservatives. Similarly, perceptions of economic change were filtered through broader views about Obama and the country: the political scientist Michael Tesler found that the most racially resentful Americans were the most economically pessimistic before the 2016 election and the most economically optimistic after it…

Trump, for all his flaws, ran a campaign based on clear positions and aspirations. He promised to build a wall; he said that our country was being weakened by louche, violent, parasitic immigrants; he said Obama was an illegitimate president with a forged birth certificate; he vowed to stop Muslims from traveling to the country; and in every speech, at every turn, he promised to turn back the clock, to make America great again.

That a crucial portion of the Republican electorate agreed with him in all of this is undeniable. What it says about them is often treated as if it is unspeakable — either because to state their beliefs clearly is insulting or because it just makes a bad political situation worse.

Trump did not create these voters. They long predated him — they were present in both Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s candidacies — but they were homeless in American politics, suppressed by the two parties for reasons of both principle and political expediency.

Trump, with his money, celebrity, and media-savvy, taking advantage of new communication technologies, a weakened Republican Party, and the rage that grew on the right amid the daily affront of Obama’s presidency, was able to break through the cartel and offer those voters the choice they actually wanted, and in the Republican primary, enough of them took it to make him the nominee.

3) My wife and I keep arguing about the utility of the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I’m definitely in the they are fun, but not really science, camp.

4) Evidence that ancient Siberians ritually (and selectively) sacrificed dogs:

Choosing which animals would live, work, and reproduce is a form of selective breeding and an important feature of domestication, the study authors argue. As such, these human actions shaped the physical characteristics and personality traits of the animals that lived at Ust’-Polui.

The fact that some dogs were ritually buried while others were butchered suggests a complex set of beliefs regarding the place of dogs in society. Canines were not seen as a homogeneous group. Researchers don’t know why they received different treatment, but these new findings suggest that humans only built an enduring relationship with the dogs they deemed valuable to the community, molding them to their needs and cultural specificities. “These diverse practices—whether intentional or not—drove the evolution and domestication of dogs in this region,” says Angela Perri, an archaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved with the study.

5) I’m honestly pretty curious for Nicole’s take on how much of the rise in transgender is social construction.  I don’t don’t the reality of any individual’s transgender experience, but it does strike me that there may be a strong social element in some cases.  The Economist:

Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of behavioural and social sciences at Brown University, was curious about what was causing these changes. She had come across reports from parents on online forums describing a new pattern of behaviour: adolescents without a history of childhood gender dysphoria were announcing they were transgender after a period of immersing themselves in niche websites or after similar announcements from friends. Her study suggests that these children may be grappling with what she calls “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”.

For the study, Dr Littman recruited 256 parents of children whose symptoms of gender dysphoria suddenly appeared for the first time in adolescence. These parents—Ms Miller among them—took part anonymously in an online, 90-question survey. Dr Littman’s findings suggest that a process of “social and peer contagion” may play a role. According to the parents surveyed, 87% of children came out as transgender after spending more time online, after “cluster outbreaks” of gender dysphoria in friend groups, or both. (In a third of the friendship groups, half or more of the individuals came out as transgender; by contrast, just 0.7% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 are transgender.) Most children who came out became more popular as a result. Rachel, Ms Miller’s daughter, says that when she told her friends, all of whom she had met online, they congratulated her: “It was, like, welcome home.”

Dr Littman thinks that some adolescents may embrace the idea that they are transgender as a way of coping with symptoms of a different, underlying issue. Almost two-thirds of the children had one or more diagnoses of a psychiatric or developmental disorder preceding the onset of gender dysphoria; nearly half had self-harmed or experienced some trauma. This is consistent with other studies of gender dysphoria when it sets in during puberty. Some people distract themselves from emotional pain by drinking, taking drugs, cutting or starving themselves. Dr Littman suggests that, for some, gender dysphoria may also be in this category.

6) I really don’t care who wrote the anonymous Op-‘ed, but William Saletan makes a good case for Jon Huntsman.

7) Given that Title IX reforms are coming from Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration, it is understandable that liberals would be hugely skeptical.  And, I suspect some of the reforms will be not good.  But Emily Yoffe is right that reforms move things in the right direction:

What happens when a morally reprehensible administration puts forth morally just reforms? We are about to find out. A New York Times report on Wednesday outlined the Trump administration’s proposed revisions of rules governing how campuses deal with sexual misconduct allegations (the official release is expected by October)…

On campuses, this type of discussion—or indeed any introspection about the excesses of Title IX, the unfairness of the procedures, and the damage done to both young men and women on campus—has been strenuously avoided. But institutions of higher education are exactly the place where such examination should take place. I understand the unease in embracing policies promulgated by a reprehensible administration. But reprehensible things have been happening on campus for too long now. The Trump administration is proposing needed reform that will go through the safeguards of public notice and comment. Those who seek to resist and discredit due process and fairness are only hurting their own cause.

8) This Slate article makes a pretty strong case that Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate in earlier hearings.  All else aside, I really don’t think we should have Supreme Court justices who have done that.

9) Damn do I love this Alexis Madrigal history of modern capitalism through the perspective of the straw.  And a great 99PI on it.

10) Society generally thinks morning birds are awesome and night owls are lazy slackers, but this is actually largely genetically set.  Most people are somewhere in the middle, but I’m definitely towards the night owl side.

11) Given that I had three boys followed by a girl, my wife runs an on-line children’s clothing store,  and that I teach a class on Gender, I’m definitely interested in what gendered clothing has to say about our society. Really enjoyed this essay:

I eventually realized that, even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty. Now when I shop for Lia, I hit the boys’ section first. It’s not just about avoiding skinned knees, but also the subtle and discouraging message that’s woven right into girls’ garments: you are dressed to decorate, not to do.

Sarah has always loved girlie clothes (though, now it is shorts and t-shirts instead of dresses) and she has definitely noticed the lack of practicality when it comes to pockets, etc.

12) Love this Op-Ed, “The False Comfort of Securing Schools: The instinct to use law enforcement tactics to make parents feel less anxious about mass shootings is misguided.”

The instinct to offer parents immediate relief from their anxieties risks making schools into fortresses. For example, in Texas, the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security used a recent hearing to focus on discussing “various proposals to harden school facilities, including limiting access points, improving screening and detecting of weapons, retrofitting school facilities with improved locks, emergency alarm systems, and monitoring cameras.”

What does transforming schools into “harder targets” really achieve? If anything, it tends to make students feel less safe. For example, in the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, students had an intense and negative reaction to being required to use clear backpacks, expressing concern that these measures were creating a climate of mutual suspicion — “like jail,” as one student put it.

13) We’ve got a bunch of Constitutional Amendments on our November ballot here in NC.  Rather than needed Constitutional change, it’s just pure GOP politics.  This N&O op-Ed captures it:

For Republican leaders, this lack of awareness and general confusion about the impact of the amendments isn’t a problem. It’s their intention. Their strategy for gaining voter approval of amendments that range from needless to dangerous relies on voters being kept in the dark.

That’s why the most consequential amendments were written with vague and misleading language. And that’s why the legislature came back into special session to block a commission from adding clarifying captions about the amendments to the ballot. And that’s why a three-judge panel found the language of two amendment ballot questions so inaccurate that it ordered the legislature to rewrite them.

Informing voters exposes this partisan abuse of the amendment process. When the Elon pollsters read the commission’s official explanations of the amendments that will be distributed to local election boards, support for the photo ID and tax cap amendments dropped. But voters will have to seek out those explanations. They won’t be on the ballot.

14) This 12-year old girl is obviously a truly amazing soccer player. And her parents are obviously everything that’s wrong with over-involved sports parents.

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Can Macbeth explain Trump’s impending downfall

I’m actually not the biggest fan of Shakespeare (updating into a language– modern English– humans actually speak would be a great start), but I love this Atlantic column from Eliot Cohen:

But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as the “Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

And so it will be for Trump…

But in the moment of losing power, the two will be alike. A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well.

And thus their courtiers abandon even monumental tyrants like Mussolini—who at least had his mistress, Claretta Petacci, with him at his ignominious end. (Melania’s affections are considerably less certain.) The normal course of events is sudden, epic desertion, in which an all-powerful political figure who loomed over everything is suddenly left shrunken and pitiful, a wretched little figure in gaudy robes absurdly too big for him, a figure of ridicule as much as, and even more than, hatred.

This is going to happen to Trump at some point. Of the Republicans in Congress it may be said of most of them: Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love. For now, admittedly, there are those who still court his favor—Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, once the trusty vassal of Senator John McCain, the bravest of warriors and noblest of dukes, seems to have switched his allegiance from his dying lord to the swaggering upstart aged prince. But that is about ambition, not affection.

For the moment, the Republicans will not turn on Trump. They fear a peasant revolt, many of them; they still crave favors; they may think his castle impregnable, although less so if they believe what the polls tell them about some of its tottering walls. But if they suffer a medieval-style slaughter on Election Day, the remnants of the knights of the GOP will know a greater fear than that of being primaried. And at the moment when they no longer fear being swept away in 2020, when the economy may be in recession and Robert Mueller’s probe is complete with revelations whose ghastliness would delight the three witches of the Scottish play, they will suddenly turn on Trump. Act V of this play will also have a nonlinear finish.

This sounds good to me.  I wonder if the 5th avenue shooting scenario isn’t more likely, though.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m not sure what the solution is for crushing medical school debt, but insofar as it encourages new physicians to choose over-compensated specialties over primary care, that’s a really bad thing for all of us.

2) Kevin Drum on how segregated urban schools are.  You know who is not so bad?  North Carolina (i.e., Raleigh and Charlotte):

3) I had no idea you could add periods and pluses to gmail addresses.

4) I gotta say, I think this new approach to biometrics and computer security is really cool:

When you’re browsing a website and the mouse cursor disappears, it might be a computer glitch — or it might be a deliberate test to find out who you are.

The way you press, scroll and type on a phone screen or keyboard can be as unique as your fingerprints or facial features. To fight fraud, a growing number of banks and merchants are tracking visitors’ physical movements as they use websites and apps.

Some use the technology only to weed out automated attacks and suspicious transactions, but others are going significantly further, amassing tens of millions of profiles that can identify customers by how they touch, hold and tap their devices.

The data collection is invisible to those being watched. Using sensors in your phone or code on websites, companies can gather thousands of data points, known as “behavioral biometrics,” to help prove whether a digital user is actually the person she claims to be.

5) Tim Miller on Democrats’ “embarrassingly timid” opposition to Trump.

6) Parenting without reward or punishment?  Hmmm.

Many parents grew up with punishments, and it’s understandable that they rely on them. But punishments tend to escalate conflict and shut down learning. They elicit a fight or flight response, which means that sophisticated thinking in the frontal cortex goes dark and basic defense mechanisms kick in. Punishments make us either rebel, feel shamed or angry, repress our feelings, or figure out how not to get caught. In this case, full-fledged 4-year-old resistance would be at its peak.

So rewards are the positive choice then, right?

Not so fast. Rewards are more like punishment’s sneaky twin. Families find them alluring (understandably), because rewards can control a child momentarily. But the effect can wear off, or even backfire: “How much do I get?” a client told us her daughter said one day when asked to pick up her room…

The whole concept of punishments and rewards is based on negative assumptions about children — that they need to be controlled and shaped by us, and that they don’t have good intentions. But we can flip this around to see kids as capable, wired for empathy, cooperation, team spirit and hard work. That perspective changes how we talk to children in powerful ways.

There’s actually lots of good parenting advice in this, but, I cannot imagine parenting without fairly common use of reward and punishment.

7) It’s hard to imagine a policy change more representative of today’s GOP than changing coal regulations that will result in about 1400 more Americans a year dying.

8) Those damn Russians, “Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to Sow Discord, Study Finds: Twitter accounts that were used to meddle in the 2016 presidential election also sent both pro- and anti-vaccine messages and insulted parents.”  On a totally unrelated note, I found “Red Sparrow” not great, but pretty damn entertaining.

9) Just came across this interesting CityLab feature on public bus ridership.  Something I am paying far closer attention to now that it is how my oldest son is committing to community college.  So far, (mostly) so good, but definitely some hiccups.  Also, it needs to work better, but the Transloc app is so cool.

10) It is amazing to me, sometimes, just how alike I think with Kevin Drum and Mike Pesca.  Pesca had a great “spiel” on straw bans recently, but there’s no transcript, so here’s Drum’s post on the matter:

For the moment, I’ll highlight a trivial story that will nonetheless probably piss off a whole bunch of you:

The California Senate on Monday approved legislation barring dine-in restaurants from offering plastic straws to customers unless they are requested….The measure exempts fast-food restaurants and other businesses.

“This bill is the last straw,” Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. “This is a first step to the total banning of plastic straws. To me it almost looks silly. I think the negative consequences [of straws] are a bit overstated.”…But Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said the proposal will help educate the public about the environmental hazard of plasticsthat are not biodegradable. “Let the consumer request it if they want it,” he said.

Here’s what’s going to piss you off: I agree with the Republicans about this. California is too full of performative legislation that’s designed to make some point or other but is almost certain to have no actual effect. I’d prefer that folks pick a career and stick to it. If you want to be a performer, go to Hollywood. If you want to be a politician, propose legislation that actually accomplishes something. How about a plastic packaging tax, similar to what France is doing? If that’s not enough, go bigger. But whatever you do, make it something that delivers real results, not just a pat-on-the-back for getting on board with the fad of the week.

11) I got in yet another ridiculous argument about diet soda last week.  This time with somebody who just kept going on about how your liver turns aspartame into formaldehyde.  Oh no!

Questions about aspartame relate to its metabolites – the chemical products created when our bodies digest the sugar substitute. Critics have raised concerns about the metabolites methanol and phenylalanine.

Over time, methanol can produce the known carcinogen formaldehyde. While this might seem scary, the video claims that the body actually produces and uses 1,000 times more formaldehyde than you could consume through aspartame. After helping to make important proteins, formaldehyde gets turned into formic acid and exits the body through urine.

12) Should you choose a female doctor?  Ummm, yes:

Does gender matter when choosing a doctor?

Whether your doctor is male or female could be a matter of life or death, a new study suggests. The study, of more than 580,000 heart patientsadmitted over two decades to emergency rooms in Florida, found that mortality rates for both women and men were lower when the treating physician was female. And women who were treated by male doctors were the least likely to survive.

Earlier research supports the findings. In 2016, a Harvard study of more than 1.5 million hospitalized Medicare patients found that when patients were treated by female physicians, they were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital over a 30-day period than those cared for by male doctors. The difference in mortality was slight — about half a percentage point — but when applied to the entire Medicare population, it translates to 32,000 fewer deaths.

Other studies have also found meaningful differences in how women and men practice medicine. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed a number of studies that focused on how doctors communicate. They found that female primary care doctors simply spent more time listening to patients than did their male colleagues. But listening comes with a cost. Doctors who were women spent, on average, two extra minutes, or about 10 percent more time per visit

My doctor is a man, but I chose him because he listens.  And I found him through my kids’ amazing pediatrician who is a man and a terrific listener.

13) Good take on Sacha Baron Cohen: and conservative fear.

But Cohen’s real trump card is Col. Erran Morad, an Israeli “anti-terrorism expert” who plays into every fantasy American conservatives seem to have about Israel. Many of the show’s targets show an admiration for him as uncritical as it is unstinting; for the most part, they’re putty in his hands. But I would argue that—unlike “pitiable” Baron Cohen characters, who tend toward absurdism in ways that frequently absolve the targets—Morad does reveal some pretty unsavory things about the American right. For one, the miasma of fear in which it simmers. This was Spencer’s excuse: He claimed he feared for his life and that Cohen “exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety.” Shaun McCutcheon—an Alabamian Republican activist whose main achievement until now was helping to eliminate limits on aggregate campaign contributions—was similarly fearful, telling Morad that he has “a large concern about terrorism and the fact that terrorism is possibly coming to the United States more than it already has.” Three conservative men who decided to throw a fake quinceañera in order to entrap “illegal” Mexicans expressed similarly paranoid sentiments: One claimed that the purpose of the traditional coming-of-age party was to rape young girls.

14) I added a couple of these Chrome extensions the Wired staff cannot live without.  (I saved this week’s quick hits on onetab instead of a bunch of open tabs).

15) Really liked Yglesias‘ generally positive, but honest and not hagiographic, obituary of McCain.  He was a complicated man.

15) If you’ve been looking for the really negative McCain obituary, this is the one for you.

16) Adam Davidson on the serious jeopardy that Alan Weisselberg places Trump in.

There are now multiple investigations of the Trump Organization being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Attorney General, The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Southern District of New York, and—quite likely—other jurisdictions. President Trump is unable to stop most of these investigations. With Cohen and, now, Weisselberg providing information, it is becoming increasingly certain that the American people will—sooner or later—have a far fuller understanding of how Donald Trump conducted business. That is unlikely to go well for him.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this NYT article about how we need to fail and talk about it the right way to enable growth.

We’ve all flopped on a big presentation.

After weeks of careful preparation and practice, you feel ready to knock it out of the park. But the day comes and, for whatever reason, every joke seems to fall flat, you bumble through all your numbers and your technology seems to be working against you.

The embarrassment and blow to your self-worth can manifest in unlimited ways — and sometimes it feels like it’s manifesting in all ways — and our bodies’ response to failure can even mimic that of physical pain, Bradley Staats, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School, writes in “Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself and Thrive.”

“We respond that way, and then we feel bad about responding that way, and so we try to cover it up instead of learn from it,” Mr. Staats said. “We shouldn’t be ashamed of the reaction. It is natural.”

Even though most people prefer to process failure internally and quickly move on for fear of causing a scene or seeming unprofessional, taking the time to reflect on and communicate about unwanted outcomes can go a long way in creating more congenial, trusting and ultimately productive workplaces.

2) NYT again, “An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep.”  To be fair, replace “college” with any number of potential words there.  But, yeah, perhaps a particular problem for college students.  Then again, we aren’t crazy enough to start at 7:30 like they do in HS.

Whatever you may think can get in the way of a successful college experience, chances are you won’t think of one of the most important factors: how long and how well you sleep. And not just on weekends, but every day, Monday through Sunday.

Studies have shown that sleep quantity and sleep quality equal or outrank such popular campus concerns as alcohol and drug use in predicting student grades and a student’s chances of graduating.

3) More research on how sitting for too long is bad for your brain.  This study suggests an advantage to getting up every 30 minutes.  Between my kids always wanting something at home and my frequent bathroom breaks at work, I should be doing pretty well.

4) Really loving Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show (and appreciating the deal I just got on Showtime).  Here’s why it is so hard to win a lawsuit against him (mostly, because he lets people entirely voluntarily make fools of themselves, whether false pretenses or not).

5) Child services launches weeks long investigation for 8-year old walking dog on her own.  Ugh.  It all ended up okay, and I get that child services needs to investigate, but this should have been a 5-minute investigation.

6) NYT’s “Smarter Living” guru argues for the value of life-tracking apps.  I’m mostly with him.  (Big fan of My Fitness Pal).

7) How fun and not surprising that the did Trump or John Gotti say it quiz is not all that easy.

8) It should not take a special counsel investigating the president to hold people accountable for white-collar crimes.  Alas, in 2018 America, it pretty much does.  Sad.

Oh, the audacity of dopes. The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication. The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service. One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely president in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might still be working their frauds today.

But how anomalous are Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen? Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the I.R.S.? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Mr. Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement. The F.B.I. shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of Sept. 11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s. The I.R.S.’s criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition. The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort were so brazen. They must have felt they had impunity.

How could they not? Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.

But the problem goes beyond big banks. The Department of Justice — in Democratic as well as Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drugmakers and so on. Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.

9) NYT NeverTrumper Brett Stephens makes the post-Manafort and Cohen convictions case for impeachment.  Honestly, Trump is so corrupt, but I think campaign finance violations (the whole system is so convoluted and so much of what’s wrong is what’s actually legal) that I really do not think this is the hill upon which to take down the self-dealing, corrupt, incompetent liar in the White House.

10) One area of clear bipartisan agreement?  Not in my backyard.

11) Perhaps you heard about the toppling of the Confederate memorial statue, Silent Sam, at UNC.  Forbes give us, “Scholars Explain The Racist History Of UNC’s Silent Sam Statue.”

12) Just throw some white nationalist chum to Trump (via Fox, of course) and he cannot resist.  Ugh.

13) You really can get addicted to marijuana.  And it’s not great.  That said, cost-benefit wise, I’d still argue almost anything is an improvement over the disaster that is federal schedule I and strict criminalization.

14) An interesting speculation on what if there were a tape of Trump saying the N word:

Let’s play this out for a moment. What would happen if a tape surfaced featuring the president using the N word? History is useful here. For a subset of the country, it would weaken the taboo on using the word. Some of these Americans would likely litigate whether the usage was, in fact, a slur directed at black people, or whether he was merely discussing the word. It was very improper language, and he’s acknowledged that, but I don’t characterize it as a slur.It’s always wrong to use that word. But as the president today he has not used that word. It was a quipLocker-room talka private conversation that took place many years agoTalk and action are two different thingsAlso within this subset would be the vocal contingent of folks—most, apparently, white men—for whom the proscription on saying the word constitutes the last, totemic vestige of racial discrimination. This is part and parcel of the left’s hypocrisy when it comes to the N wordThe question is, will the American people be smart enough to see beyond the manipulation? I expect this group already glories in the usage of the word in private, and if the president used it, they would consider that full license to take their newly desegregated word public, and shout it from the mountaintops. Free at last.

15) Your scientific guide to making friends.

So what should you do if your social life is lacking? Here, too, the research is instructive. To begin with, don’t dismiss the humble acquaintance. Even interacting with people with whom one has weak social ties has a meaningful influence on well-being. [7] Beyond that, building deeper friendships may be largely a matter of putting in time. A recent study out of the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of socializing to go from acquaintance to casual friend, an additional 40 hours to become a “real” friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend. [8]

If that sounds like too much effort, reviving dormant social ties can be especially rewarding. Reconnected friends can quickly recapture much of the trust they previously built, while offering each other a dash of novelty drawn from whatever they’ve been up to in the meantime. [9] And if all else fails, you could start randomly confiding in people you don’t know that well in hopes of letting the tail wag the relational dog. Self-disclosure makes us more likable, and as a bonus, we are more inclined to like those to whom we have bared our soul. [10]

[7] Sandstrom and Dunn, “Social Interactions and Well-Being” (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, July 2014)

[8] Hall, “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?” (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, March 2018)

[9] Levin et al., “Dormant Ties” (Organization Science, July–Aug. 2011)

[10] Collins and Miller, “Self-Disclosure and Liking” (Psychological Bulletin, Nov. 1994)

 

 

Quick hits

So, I was completely computer-less from Wednesday morning until Friday night this week.  I’ll admit, it was oddly liberating, but I’m sure I failed to read so much good stuff.  So this solo edition of quick hits is an amalgam of really recent stuff and older stuff I somehow missed posting before.

1) WP editorial on the abuse of migrant kids in detention, “Migrant kids were stripped, drugged, locked away. So much for compassion.”

2) (Big) Steve Saideman with an “it’s all identity politics” post:

Either way, much of politics is very much identity politics.  The only people who deny this reality are those whose identities already dominate politics.  I remember reading books about Race and US foreign policy–and it blew my mind to think that white folks and their race influenced US foreign policy.  Seems obvious now, but it was in a time and a context where folks were wondering about whether US foreign policy would remain rational and realist if other groups with other views of the
national interest, or their group’s interests, would shape US foreign policy (Mrs. Spew considers anyone using the term identity politics dismissively is really anti-civil rights so she substitutes civil rights activism for identity politics).

So, today, in the US, when I hear people dismiss identity politics, they tend to be white Christian folks who have always won and imposed their values on US politics (and projecting themselves, fear what the others would do if they are in power).  There was, of course, conflict among these folks about who and what counts as white (are Italians white? are Arabs?) and as Christian (in Lubbock, where I lived, the category of Christian is much narrower than I conceived).  But these folks tend to agree that when People of Color push issues favorable to their group or point out that Black Lives Matter, they get upset, because they are uncomfortable with being informed that their vision of “All Lives Mattering” might just still have some identity politics to it.

In sum, identities always matter, politics is often about defining the content of the identity, the boundaries of identities and how one should treat those of other identities.

3) The group that definitely faces prejudice in college admissions?  Introverts.

4) My former student who made the political big time with a nice NYT quote on how Republican tax cuts can help fund Republican campaigns:

“The American people know that the Republicans who control Washington sold them out with a disastrous tax giveaway to the rich and big business that the rest of the country is being forced to pay for,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the liberal campaign group American Bridge. “The fact that those same corporations and wealthy individuals have turned around to bankroll Republican campaign efforts is further proof of what this travesty was all about.”

5) Now that it’s a week old and Trump is up to new nightmares, we’ve already forgotten about Peter Strozk.  But this is still a good take:

And this is why the crux of this complicated saga is actually pretty straightforward. Strzok stood accused of undermining public trust in the independence of the FBI through his carelessness. This is indeed a significant offense, one that liberals and conservatives alike should take very seriously. But by caving to a massive campaign of vilification by the president, and publicly violating Wray’s promise that the investigation into Strzok would be done by the book, the bureau’s leadership has undermined that trust in a much more public, deliberate, and grievous manner than the man they scapegoated ever did.

Even at this late stage, many commentators still take it for granted that Trump’s attempts to curb the independence of key political institutions will miraculously be foiled by the Constitution. But Strzok’s firing is only the latest in a series of cases in which high-ranking civil servants have been personally attacked by the president and then been forced to leave office under highly unusual circumstances: At this point, Trump has managed to dispatch the FBI’s director, its deputy director, its general counsel, and the head agent of its investigating agency.

6) So many idiots like this, ”

Sgt. Temo Juarez was a Trump guy. An Iraq combat veteran who served as a Marine infantryman and then an Army National Guardsman, his friends called him a “super conservative.” With his wife, he brought up their two daughters in Central Florida. He supported Trump in 2016, eager for a change.

But now, “I am eating my words,” he told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes in an interview published last week.

On Friday, Juarez and his family became the latest victims of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration.

On that day, his wife, Alejandra, left the country under a deportation order. She had come to the United States from Mexico illegally as a teenager two decades ago and had until now being living undisturbed with Temo, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and daughters, both natural-born Americans. This week, Temo will fly to Mexico with his daughters, 9-year-old Estela and 16-year-old Pamela — and leave his younger daughter there, even though English is her first language. He can’t do his construction job and take care of her in Florida by himself.

7) Nice Benjamin Wallace-Wells piece on John McCain.

8) We’re worried about the wrong bees (this one was really eye-opening to me):

Honey bees will be fine. They are a globally distributed, domesticated animal. Apis mellifera will not go extinct, and the species is not remotely threatened with extinction.

The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 otherbee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of. Incredible losses in native bee diversity are already happening. 50 percent of Midwestern native bee species disappeared from their historic ranges in the last 100 years. Four of our bumblebee species declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three species are believed to already be extinct. A little part of me despairs when I read in a scientific paper: “This species probably should be listed under the Endangered Species Act if it still exists.”…

The evidence is clear that many native wild pollinators are declining. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if commercial honeybees could pick up the slack. They can’t.

Managed honey bee colonies supplement the work of natural wild pollinators, not the other way around. In a study of 41 different crop systems worldwide, honeybees only increased yield in 14 percent of the crops. Who did all the pollination? Native bees and other insects.

9) Mark Joseph Stern on the evil Kris Kobach, “Kansas Is Living in the Mess Kris Kobach Made: The secretary of state ruined the Republican primary just like he ruins everything else.”

10) Trump hires the very worst people.  Paul Waldman:

President Trump, however, follows a different and far more bizarre script. When he gets betrayed by a former aide, he says that he knew all alongwhat a terrible person the aide was, and in fact he even knew before he hired her how awful she was.

Yes, I’m talking about Omarosa Manigault Newman, but only partly about her, because it goes much farther. We may have never had a president who filled out his administration with such a collection of corrupt, incompetent and immoral aides, and we’ve certainly never had a president who was so eager to tell everyone that his own administration is a wretched hive of scum and villainy…

So Trump’s story is that Omarosa was a “crazed, crying lowlife,” but he gave her a job in the White House, a job that many other people would have been happy to have. Then, though he said Monday that “People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart,” he kept her around for a year.

Trump would also like America to know that his attorney general is a complete failure. Trump’s displeasure comes from the fact that by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Jeff Sessions has rendered himself unable to shut it down in order to protect him; as he says, “If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started!” In another tweet, Trump refers to “the ‘Justice’ Department,” to communicate that this vital part of the government he leads is not doing its job…

Now let’s remind ourselves of something. One of the rationales that businesspeople always offer when they run for office is that unlike career politicians, they can bring their hard-nosed business sense to government, including in hiring. Instead of bringing on a bunch of cronies, with their commitment to efficiency and results they’ll hire the best people for the job. This is what Trump himself said in 2016 when he was asked by a hedge fund manager what criteria he would use to select members of his administration

11) Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial nominee is a true enemy of democracy.

12) Molly Roberts on why we don’t need a tape of Trump saying awful things:

But maybe confirmation is exactly what we’re looking for. The White House lies regularly, and when it’s not lying it’s at least spinning. We’re suffering whiplash from our collective plunge into a post-truth presidency, and something as stubborn and physical as a tape offers stabilization. A recording reassures Trump critics that they’ve been right all along, and more than that, it inspires the optimistic notion that, up against the sort of evidence that’s hardest to contradict, the rest of the country will finally start to see along with them.

It won’t. That’s not only because Sarah Huckabee Sanders could say the tape was tampered with, or because Trump’s backers would probably believe her. It’s because in a post-truth presidency and a post-truth country, it’s not only a matter of our inability to agree on individual facts and individual fictions. It’s also about the inevitable extension of that inability: Americans live in two totally separate realities, where one group’s good guys are the other group’s bad guys, and where Trump either augurs the disintegration of everything admirable in America or is the beginning of a better, brighter era ahead.

America knows Trump is racist, and his base continues to approve of him anyway. America knows he has catered to Russia at every turn, and his base continues to approve of him anyway, discounting the investigation into election interference as unimportant or a witch hunt. America knew during the election that he was a credibly accused sexual assaulter — and there was a tape — and it elected him anyway.

We don’t need a tape, not one bit. But even if we had one, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

13) Really enjoyed this account of a UNC football player who gave up the game he loved and his NFL dream after too many concussions.

14) “How punitive, omniscient gods may have encouraged the expansion of human society”

Researchers have examined the relationship between “moralistic” gods – those who care about how we treat each other – cooperation and the size of human societies. This research continues to find a strong relationship between belief in such deities and social complexity. For example, the ancient Greeks appear to have appealed to Zeus during oaths, and in the Iliad, Homer attributes him with concern for justice. Along with having various deities, the Greeks also of course lived in a complex, interconnected social system.

Recent experimental research suggests that punitive, omniscient and morally concerned gods may curb selfishness because these gods trigger both the feeling of being watched and the fear of punishment for breaking the rules. Cross-cultural studies using historical or survey data have also found this relationship. But until now, no one had investigated the relationship between types of gods and selfishness directly using experimental methods with as culturally diverse participants as those in our study.

These results suggest that certain religious beliefs may have contributed to the stability of expanded trade, the moderation of conflict among coreligionists, and how coreligionists might be coordinated when confronting outsiders. Belief in a moralistic, punishing god could have helped people overcome selfish behavior to cooperate fairly with more far-flung individuals, laying the groundwork for larger social networks.

Our findings also partially explain why some religions have dominated the globe; conquest, violence and conversion all require extreme levels of coordination and cooperation. Indeed, Christianity and Islam in particular often tout belief in a moralistic, punishing and omniscient deity, and these traditions have spread around the world.

15) The rise of charter schools and failure of public school integration.

16) CRISPR and the future of food (sign me up).

17) Washington Post with the 23 best movies of the 21st century.  I’ve seen 14 and loved about half those 14.

Mid-week Quick hits

I’m going to be on a retreat and totally without electronics but my phone, so not a lot of blogging.  The least I can do is post the delinquent quick hits part II

1) NYT on the nonsense of the “wellness-industrial complex.”

2) Great Daily Show segment on Trump voters and Space Force.

3) Great Ezra Klein piece on “white threat in a browning America.”  Consider this a must-read.  Seriously– this means you.

I spent months talking with politicians, social psychologists, and political scientists about what happens in moments like this one, moments when a majority feels its dominance beginning to fail. The answer, attested to in mountains of studies and visible everywhere in our politics, is this: Change of this magnitude acts on us psychologically, not just electorally. It is the crucial context uniting the core political conflicts of this era — Obama and Trump’s presidencies, the rise of reactionary new social movements and thinkers, the wars over political correctness on campuses and representation in Hollywood, the power of #MeToo and BlackLivesMatter, the fights over immigration.

Demographic change, and the fears and hopes it evokes, is one of the tectonic forces shaping this era in American life, joining income inequality and political polarization in transforming every aspect of our politics and culture. But to understand what it is doing to us as a country, we need to begin by understanding what it does to us as individuals.

4) Fentanyl has made German Lopez reconsider his take on drug legalization.  Sensible, but we still sure need decriminalization, if not full legalization.

5) Paul Waldman on what Democrats have learned from Republicans:

But what distinguishes this moment from the past few decades is that policy caution has become unacceptable to Democratic voters, and Democratic politicians are responding. Past Democratic candidates would say, “Of course we’d all like X, but the policy and political challenges make it impossible, so Y is the best we can achieve.” Democratic candidates in 2018 (and 2020) are saying, “We should do X, and don’t tell me it’s impossible.”

By now you may have heard of the Overton Window, which was articulated by a think-tank scholar named Joseph Overton in the 1990s as a way of explaining to potential donors why they should fund the advocacy of ideas that didn’t seem to have a lot of popular support. The idea predated Overton by some time, but for whatever reason, his metaphor stuck. The theory is that at any particular moment, certain ideas are considered worthy of debate and others are considered too radical to even talk about, but if you can shift the window of debate, you may be able to make a radical idea sound mainstream and eventually turn it into policy.

It’s important to understand that the Overton Window isn’t some kind of magic key anyone can use to transform politics; plenty of activists try to shift the debate and fail. But there are times when we see the process in action. Right now, Democrats have taken an idea — single-payer health insurance — that used to be considered unworthy of consideration and forced it into the center of the national debate.

6) National Geographic, “Early Native Americans Imported Exotic Parrots, DNA Reveals: The discovery suggests that scarlet macaws were being bred for trade centuries earlier than previously thought.” (Thanks, EMG)

7) Rick Gates’ public lesson on money laundering.

8) Not so sure of the validity of suing a nicotine delivery product for getting you addicted to nicotine.

9) Sit better and fix your back pain.  I keep trying to remember to do this.  When I do, it does feel good.

10) David Frum takes it to Dinesh D’Souza:

The desire to wipe the smirk off the condescending face of some resented critics—to expose them, diminish them, hurt them—is that not the mainspring for so much of the pro-Trump political movement? Shortly before the 2016 election, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal seethed at those who believe that “not only is Donald Trump coarse and boorish, anyone who supports the man is as revolting as he is.” The conservative columnist David Limbaugh lamented in the summer of 2017 the “snobbish condemnation” he suffered on social media from Never Trump conservatives. Tucker Carlson Tonight is a nightly eruption of rage against elite “preening.” “Don’t for a second let them take the moral high ground,” Carlson warned in June of this year. Certainly in D’Souza’s case, Obama’s success came to seem more and more of an affront to the proper order of things.

11) Sure, definitely fair to claim, “‘Unite the Right’ flops while the left triumphs,” but we’re talking about the morons in the Washington Post all over the news media.  You know how much news coverage a march of 40 people deserves?  Zero.  Any coverage for these morons is a victory for them.  Just ignore them!

12) Forget “Medicare for all,” how about dramatically expanding Medicaid?

13) It is great that the public school Lebron James is helping is just an ordinary public school.

14) The chicken we eat in America is riddled with Salmonella.  What’s frustrating as hell is that it just doesn’t have to be this way:

Gremillion notes that other countries have taken steps that protect consumers to a much greater degree. Whereas the US regulatory system focuses on salmonella in the slaughterhouse, and the “preferred solution is dousing the chicken with antimicrobial sprays,” regulators in some European countries “make sure that the breeder stock for the poultry are not infected and passing down salmonella, that the feed is not contaminated, that the birds have the vaccinations they need, that the workers follow biosecurity protocols.” As a result, he says, Sweden and Denmark “have practically eliminated salmonella from poultry products.” [emphasis mine]

If knowing that US supermarket chicken quite often carries salmonella isn’t chilling enough, consider this: In a recent analysis of Food and Drug Administration data, the Environmental Working Group found that “over the last five years of available data, on average, 1 in 5 strains of salmonella found on grocery store chicken were resistant to amoxicillin, a type of penicillin.” In short, it’s getting harder for doctors to treat infections from this common pathogen.

We are so damn stupid in this country.  Yes, I’m sure chicken costs a bit more in Europe, but ask people how much money they’d be willing to pay to avoid the risk of Salmonella.

15) Jason Alexander as Colonel Sanders.

16) Just in case you missed the amazing Stephen Miller takedown written by his uncle.

Quick hits (part I)

Well, it was get quick hits done in time for you to read it over the weekend or fully enjoy my time at my sister’s house on the Potomac River.  Obviously, I chose the latter.  Good stuff here, though.

1) John Oliver takes on prosecutors!  (About time this part of our criminal justice system got the John Oliver treatment).

2) Yes, having a state-run monopoly on selling liquor is absurd public policy, but whether this will end in North Carolina will not depend on whose policy arguments make the most sense, but which interest groups end up having the most sway with legislators.

3) Of course Republicans want to make it easier for payday lenders to defraud military servicemen.

4) Noah Smith is right, “Domino’s Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign: Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.”

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.

5) Had an interesting conversation earlier this week about my very religious little sister versus her not particularly religious older sister (both my half-sisters).  In looking to explain the difference, I suggested it was likely genetics as much as anything.  SAR went right to the google and found this:

Social scientific research assumes that religious involvement is primarily, if not exclusively, the product of social‐environmental influences There is growing evidence, however, that genetic or other biological factors also play a role Analyzing twin sibling data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), this study addresses this issue by showing that individual‐level variation on four different aspects of religious life—organizational involvement, personal religiosity and spirituality, conservative ideologies, and transformations and commitments—is indeed the product of both genetic and environmental influences Specifically, genetic factors explain 19–65 percent of the variation, while environmental influences account for the remaining 35–81 percent depending upon the aspect of religion under investigation [emphasis mine] Research of this type enhances contemporary social science by providing a new perspective that nicely supplements existing ones, but it also highlights potential implications, including explanatory power deficiencies and potentially bias.

6) Speaking of religion, I saw the Book of Mormon and loved it.  Just super-entertaining.  And, part of the enjoyment was seeing the conventions of musical theater used in utterly profane and taboo ways.  And I did find David Brooks‘ take on the show to be thought-provoking.

7) Great interactive piece from Nate Cohn on the Trump coalition.  Check it out.

8) This was really fascinating from Ed Yong, “An Ancient Genetic Quirk Could Doom Whales Today: After losing an unnecessary gene millions of years ago, marine mammals are now uniquely vulnerable to pesticides that have only existed for a century.”

9) Loved this NYT interactive essay on why all the popular songs of recent years sound the same.  (Max Martin).  Actually, very cool visuals with this one.

10) In a different week, I would have written a nice post on the Trump administration’s appalling proposal on legal immigration.  This week, I’ll just tell you to make sure you read Catherine Rampell:

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health…

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is  everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are U.S. citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their U.S.-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of U.S.-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent…

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish. We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers.

But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

11) Hmmm, lots of great NYT stuff this week.  Here’s a really cool interactive Upshot feature on the “age gap” for new mothers:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

People with a higher socioeconomic status “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career,” said Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies fertility. “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”

12) Whatever the politics of “Medicare for All” even a conservative thinktank admits it saves money (though, they kind of hid that).  Drum doesn’t:

Here’s some good news. The libertarians at the Mercatus Center did a cost breakdown of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and concluded that it would save $2 trillion during its first ten years:

Now, as you might guess, this was not the spin the Mercatus folks put on their study. Their headline is “M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget.” This isn’t really true, of course, since M4A would absorb all the costs of our current health care system but would also absorb all the payments we make to support it. That includes current taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare), premiums paid by employers, premiums paid by individuals, and out-of-pocket costs from individuals. Instead of going straight to doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, it would go instead to the federal government, which would then pay everyone else. It’s a lot of money, but it’s no particular “strain” on anything.

And overall we’d save at least $2 trillion over ten years.

13) Science ways in on “boxers vs briefs” and the answer is “boxers.”  At least if you want to reproduce.

 

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