Vietnam

Well, it took me almost two months, but I just finished Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War.”  Brilliant.  So good.  Easily my favorite documentary series ever.  I only wish it had been there for me to watch 20 years ago.  It looks like it’s not exactly easy to stream now (I had it all saved on my DVR) but presumably it will be easier to watch in the future.  And if you haven’t watched it.  Watch it.  So eye-opening in so many ways and so moving.  Just great stuff.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting take on how to parent our kids— a lot more gender neutrally– to prevent our boys (mostly) from becoming sexist pigs.  Whatever my mom did certainly worked and I’d like to think I’m carrying that on another generation.

2) That said, when you start getting into posts saying that nobody should have to hug anybody because it’s all about consent and bodily autonomy, you are going too far.  Wanting all my kids (boys or girl) to hug their grandparents when they visit does not make me a sexist pig.

3) There’s just sooooo  much everything that Russia revelations that would have dominated weeks of news in a different presidency hardly get any notice.  Drum on the latest:

Russians were behind the email hacks. They were behind the social media agitprop. They were behind the attempts to compromise polling places. There’s really not any doubt about this anymore.

Did Donald Trump collude with the Russians? Did Wikileaks know they were acting as a Russian pawn? Did the Russian hacks do enough damage to steal the election from Hillary Clinton? Nobody knows. It’s possible we’ll never know. But we do know that Russian officials were behind all this, and that their goal was to weaponize a personal grudge and ensure that Clinton never became president of the United States. This should outrage you even if you support Trump. The fact that an awful lot of Republicans don’t seem to care is a grim harbinger of a decadent political system on the precipice of decline and collapse.

4) Nice to see that the regional University accrediting body (SACS) is now paying attention to the fact that UNC said its totally illegitimate classes were legit to escape NCAA sanctions.

5) The gruesome world of 19th century surgery.  Not for the faint of heart.

6) This David Roberts piece is the scenario that really scares me, “What if Mueller proves his case and it doesn’t matter?”

7) Of course Trump’s EPA is ignoring its own scientists in favor of industry shills.

8) What ICE is doing is not good for our criminal justice system.

9) This is one of those social science findings you just want to like so much that it really makes me wonder how true it is.  Would love to see some replication in a variety of realms.  Short version– being a loser (at least when playing video games) makes men far more likely to lash out at women in sexist ways.

10) Let’s stick with the social science deserving of extra skepticism because it confirms my priors.  I really like this one because I think Just World bias is a huge and under-appreciated factor in political beliefs:

It is commonly assumed that political attitudes are driven by self-interest and that poor people heavily favor policies aimed at redistributing wealth. This assumption fails to explain the popularity of economic conservatism and the degree of support for the capitalist system. Such outcomes are typically explained by the suggestion that most poor people believe they will become rich one day. In a representative sample of low-income Americans, we observed that less than one-fourth were optimistic about their economic prospects. Those respondents who believed that they would become rich one day were no more likely to endorse the legitimacy of the system and no more supportive of conservative ideology or the Republican Party, compared to those who did not believe they would become rich. From a system justification perspective, we propose that people are motivated to defend the social systems on which they depend, and this confers a psychological advantage to conservative ideology. Providing ideological support for the status quo serves epistemic motives to reduce uncertainty, existential motives to reduce threat, and relational motives to share reality with members of mainstream society. We summarize evidence from the United States, Argentina, Lebanon, and other countries bearing on these propositions—including a survey administered shortly before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election—and discuss political implications of system justification motivation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

11) Of course Republicans are approving conservative bloggers with no courtroom experience as Federal judges.

12) The Virginia exit polls.  Lots of goodies in here.

13) Seth Masket on the rural white “no shows” in Virginia.

14) I liked the way David Brooks described the divide in Virginia:

One way to capture the emerging divide is by using the British writer David Goodhart’s distinction between Somewheres and Anywheres.

Somewheres are rooted in their towns and have “ascribed” identities — Virginia farmer, West Virginia coal miner, Pennsylvania steelworker. Anywheres are at home in the global economy. They derive their identity from portable traits, like education or job skills, and are more likely to move to areas of opportunity.

Somewheres value staying put; they feel uncomfortable with many aspects of cultural and economic change, like mass immigration. Anywheres make educational attainment the gold standard of status and are cheerleaders for restless change…

These days, only a tiny percentage of Northern Virginia workers are government employees. Instead, the region is defined by the two big drivers of Anywhere culture: highly educated information age workers and fiercely energetic immigrants. In Bailey’s Crossroads, there are Korean grocery stores near Persian, Indian and Salvadoran restaurants. The Dulles office corridor is a hub of the global economy.

Trump’s party is not at home on this ground and can’t play on it. Trumpians just want to wall it off. “DC should annex NOVA and return the governance of Virginia to Virginians!” Jerry Fallwell Jr. tweeted, referring to Northern Virginia, after the election results.

Populism has made the Republicans a rural party and given the Democrats everything else. In Virginia, Democrats won by a landslide among anybody who grew up in the age of globalization. Among voters 18-29, they won by an astounding 69 to 30 percent. Among voters 30-44, they won by 61 percent to 37 percent.

We could be seeing the creation of a new Democratic heartland, exurbia, and this alignment could hang around for a while. The stain Trump leaves on the G.O.P. will take some time to wash away. But this is bigger than Trump; it’s an alignment caused by the fundamental reality of the populist movement.

15) The Republican tax bill, “House Republican: my donors told me to pass the tax bill ‘or don’t ever call me again’: Chris Collins is saying the quiet part loud.”

16) Of course the tax plan is a huge giveaway to the rich that raises taxes on many middle-income Americans.

17) Michelle Goldberg’s election anniversary column was really good:

A secular Turkish journalist told me, her voice sad and weary, that while people might at first pour into the streets to oppose Trump, eventually the protests would probably die out as a sense of stunned emergency gave way to the slog of sustained opposition. The Russian dissident writer Masha Gessen warned that there’s no way, with a leader who lays siege to the fabric of reality, to fully hold on to a sense of what’s normal. “You drift, and you get warped,” she told me.

They were both right. The country has changed in the past year, and many of us have grown numb after unrelenting shocks. What now passes for ordinary would have once been inconceivable. The government is under the control of an erratic racist who engages in nuclear brinkmanship on Twitter. He is dismantling the State Department, defending the hollowing out of the diplomatic corps by saying, on Fox News, “I’m the only one that matters.”

He publicly pressures the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. He’s called for reporters to be jailed, and his administration demanded that a sportscaster who criticized him be fired. Official government statements promote his hotels. You can’t protest it all; you’d never do anything else. After the election, many liberals pledged not to “normalize” Trump. But one lesson of this year is that we don’t get to decide what normal looks like.

18) David Simon’s “The Deuce” is no “The Wire” but it did grow on me a lot.  Perhaps, because like the greatest TV show ever, it is ultimately about capitalism.

19) Ezra Klein takes a look at the political science research on partisanship versus ideology (partisanship wins):

In theory, ideology comes first and party comes second. We decide whether we’re for single-payer health care, or same-sex marriage, or abortion restriction, and then we choose the party that most closely fits our ideas. You’re a liberal and so you become a Democrat; you’re a conservative and so you become a Republican.

The truth, it seems, is closer to the reverse: We choose our party for a variety of reasons — chief among them being the preferences of our family members, core groups, and community — and then we sign on to their platforms. In this telling, write Kinder and Kalmoe, “ideological identification is primarily an effect, not a cause, of a person’s political views.”

This theory makes a prediction: If party identification is stronger than ideological identification, then as parties change their ideological identities, their loyalists will change with them, rather than abandoning them. And that’s a lot closer to what we see…

Trump’s ideological heterodoxies were a key reason pundits assumed he would eventually be wiped out in the Republican primaries. Many believed Republicanism was conservatism, and so a non-conservative could never win over Republican voters. But party trumps ideology. Republicanism is Republicanism, and for most voters, it is based more on group attachments and resentments than it is on ideology. These were the voters Trump understood and political elites didn’t, and he understood them because he is one of them: His group allegiances were tribal even as his ideology was flexible.

Trump was far better than Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz at expressing his distaste for Democrats, for immigrants, for Black Lives Matter protesters, for condescending cosmopolitans, for President Obama. That Rubio and Bush and Cruz were better at expressing their fealty to conservative ideology didn’t much matter. Henry Adams once wrote that “politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds,” and Trump was masterful at organizing those hatreds.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Of course researchers should house monkeys in shared cages.  To do otherwise with any social animal is just cruel.  I wish there weren’t primates in research at all, but since there are, it is nice to see it moving in this direction.

2) Let’s stick with the animal theme here.  Ed Yong on how domestication ruined dogs‘ pack instincts.

“The idea is that we’ve changed their psychology to make them into super-cooperative beings,” says Marshall-Pescini. But that’s only true for their relationships with us. By domesticating dogs (or rather, providing the conditions for them to domesticate themselves), humans ruined the pack instinct that makes wolves some of the most gregarious and cooperative hunters on four legs. “They adapted to the niche we provided for them and it changed their sociality,” Marshall-Pescini says…

Around 80 percent of dogs, in fact, are free-ranging, and their behavior shows just how different they are to wolves. They’re mostly solitary, scavenging alone on human garbage. When they do form packs, these groups are usually small and loose-knit. They might hunt together, but they mostly congregate to defend their territory. By contrast, wolves live in extremely tight-knit family groups. They rely on their pack-mates to bring down large prey, and they work together to rear each other’s pups. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack, as Rudyard Kipling’s poem goes.  [And a slogan frequently seen on NC State t-shirts]

3) It was not that hard for the Vikings to deforest Iceland a thousand years ago.  It’s damn hard for modern day Icelanders do grow trees.  Leaving the country a wet desert.

4) Some researchers got the gender coding exactly backwards in their study meaning their interesting and unusual finding was flat-out wrong and exactly the opposite.

5) Damn, what is it with on-line social justice warriors and YA fiction?!  Ugh.  And, shame, shame, shame on Kirkus for giving in.

6a) A damn fine response to John Roberts “Sociological gobbledegook” pronouncement.  Honestly, Roberts is an intellectual embarrassment with statements like that.

“I don’t put much stock in the claim that the Supreme Court is afraid of adjudicating partisan gerrymanders because it’s afraid of math,” Daniel Hemel, who teaches law at the University of Chicago, told me. “[Roberts] is very smart and so are the judges who would be adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims — I’m sure he and they could wrap their minds around the math. The ‘gobbledygook’ argument seems to be masking whatever his real objection might be.”

But if the chief justice hides his true objections behind a feigned inability to grok the math, well, that’s a problem math can’t solve.

6b) And an Election Law Blog post on the same matter.

7) And John Pfaff makes a solid argument that the Court could really benefit from official fact-checkers.

8) Conor Friedersdorf raises some really good points about universities and micro-aggressions.

9) Chait on the pending Republican tax cuts:

The last time Republicans had control of government, they explained that cutting taxes would not get in the way of fiscal responsibility. Not only would tax cuts produce faster growth, they argued, they would also force Congress to restrain spending. Their strategy utterly failed. Not only did the tax cuts fail to produce higher growth, they also failed to encourage spending restraint….

And so there they are, back to the exact same policy they tried in 2001: Pass a huge tax cut and hope somehow it leads to cutting spending. That this policy is now being carried out by the same people who rose to power by denouncing the failure of the exact same policy last time tells you everything you need to know about the state of economic policy thought in the Republican Party now.

10) I love this, “Want to raise an empowered girl? Then let her be funny.”  I do.  Also, my wife is really, really funny, but you have to know her pretty well first before you learn that.

Today we encourage our daughters to be ambitious and athletic, opinionated and outspoken. We want them focused on STEM and outfitted in T-shirts that read, “Who runs the world? Girls.”

But what if raising truly empowered girls also means raising funny ones? What if we teach our daughters that humor is their turf — just as much as any boy’s?

“One of the things that happens to girls is that they are encroached upon by the world,” says Lisa Damour, a psychologist and author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood.” “And one of the things that humor can do is . . . help girls stand up for themselves in ways that people don’t retaliate for.”

11) Speaking of my funny wife, I was telling her about the ACES scale earlier this week.  Came home and opened up the NYT, and first thing I saw was this story about childhood trauma impacting an troubled man’s adult life.

12) How prosecutors are banding together to hinder criminal justice reform.  All the more reason we need to reform prosecutors offices.

13) You really should read the Washington Post story on how opiate distributors worked to undermine DEA enforcement.

14) The (college) kids are alright.  Or, at least they are slightly more accepting of free speech of young adults not in college:

15) Sometimes I just have to call out George Will for being so pathetic.  Seriously, the man sure as hell does not deserve column inches anymore.  Here he is on abortion:

Pro-abortion absolutists — meaning those completely content with the post-1973 regime of essentially unrestricted abortion-on-demand at any point in pregnancy — are disproportionately Democrats who, they say, constitute the Party of Science. They are aghast that the Department of Health and Human Services now refers to protecting people at “every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This, however, is elementary biology, not abstruse theology: Something living begins then — this is why it is called conception. And absent a natural malfunction or intentional intervention (abortion), conception results in a human birth…

The court decided that the right to abortion becomes a trifle less than absolute — in practice, not discernibly less — when the fetus reaches viability, meaning the ability to survive outside the womb. The court stipulated that viability arrived at 24 to 28 weeks.

For the record, that’s a blatantly dishonest reading of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the matter (especially post-Casey) and a blatantly dishonest reading of liberal public opinion on the matter.

16) Yes, the White House seriously did release a graphic that says free trade causes wife-beating, among other social ills.  Dana Milbank:

On a page titled “socioeconomic costs of a weakened manufacturing base,” Navarro’s document lists, among other things: “higher abortion rate,” “lower fertility rate,” “increased spousal abuse,” “lower marriage rate,” “higher divorce rate,” “higher crime,” “rising mortality rate” and “increased drug/opioid use.”

Now, it’s true that job loss can lead to social ills, but the Trump White House officials involved in such social-science “research” made some enormous leaps of logic — that the social ills are caused specifically by the loss of manufacturing jobs and by nothing else, and that the job losses are caused by free trade rather than, say, productivity, technology or the failure of government policies. To use the technical, social-scientific lingo, Navarro “pulled this one out of his butt.”…

There is something charming and elegant about the White House’s sophistry, both in Sessions’s backlog calculation and in the free-trade=spousal-abuse logic. Essentially, Navarro identified two occurrences that may or may not be related and, without furnishing any evidence, proclaimed a correlation.

By that same logic, it would be fair to argue that the growth of free trade is also responsible for Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women, the rise of fidget spinners and the noxious habit of dabbing.

But why stop at free trade? Let’s apply the White House’s logic — identifying two things that correlate and capriciously declaring causation — to President Trump and his actions.

Using the White House method, we can conclude that Trump’s election has caused: a surge in inflammatory bowel disease and erectile dysfunction and, at the same time, record-high levels of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

17) Loved  this New Yorker article arguing that Civilization actually pre-dated agriculture.  And for the importance of fire in the matter.  My favorite part?  My 11-year old son read his first New Yorker article.

18) This NYT magazine feature on the replication crisis in Psychology and how the “revolution” came for Amy “power pose” Cuddy was great reading.  Had a great discussion about this with my colleagues.

Shakespeare is stupid!

Okay, not really, but I couldn’t resist the clickbait link title.  That said, I really don’t care for Shakespeare much at all.  Why?  Because it is written in a similar, but distinct, language, Early Modern English, from my own.  The idea that we have to preserve the original words is as absurd as not translating Tolstoy from Russian into English.  Do you lose something from the original Russian?  I’m sure you do (though Pevear and Volokhonsky do a hell of a job), but what you gain is the ability to fully understand the amazing characters and insight into the human condition that Tolstoy provides.  Whatever insight is to be gained from Shakespeare is far too easily lost because he was writing in literally a different language.  If you really want to understand Shakespeare in all his nuance, you need to be a native speaker of 16th century English.

So, I bring this up because my son is currently reading Hamlet in high school (and I promised him I would write this blog post– here you go, David, at least give me a comment).  I have not much to offer him but sympathy and frustration.  I’m sure you lose some of Shakespeare’s wonderful prose, rhythm, turns-of-phrase, etc., when you translate to modern English, but what you gain is actually the ability to understand what he is saying!  That needs to be worth more.  I was recently talking to a Russian friend who told me he is quite a fan of Shakespeare.  And I realized that he surely read translations into 20th century, rather than 16th century, Russian.  I imagine that helps immensely.    My favorite linguist, John McWhorter, has been writing about this for years.  Here’s a nice TNR piece from a while back.

“Iconoclastic” as I am thought to be on race, I have been struck by how equally unexpected one view of mine has been considered: that much of Shakespeare’s language is impossible to comprehend meaningfully in real time, so much so that most first-time viewers of a Shakespeare play are understanding grievously less of the meaning than they are aware…

First, however, I should dispel two possible misimpressions. I am not arguing that Shakespeare’s language can be too “dense” or “poetic,” but that it can be simply incomprehensible because of the passage of time…

The problem is words’ changing meanings. This was especially problematic with Touchstone’s lines. Here he is in his scene with Audrey the goatherd (Act III, Scene III). After some cynical whimsy about the nature of honesty, beauty, “sluttishness,” and the best synergy between them, I fell off a cliff when Touchstone launched into this passage about entering into marriage with Audrey:

A man may, if he were of a fearful heart,
stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple
but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what
though? Courage! As horns are odious, they are
necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and
knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of
his wife; ‘tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so. Poor men alone? No, no; the noblest deer
hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man
therefore blessed? No: as a walled town is more
worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a
married man more honourable than the bare brow of a
bachelor; and by how much defence is better than no
skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want.

One may know that horns refer to cuckoldry, and even that Elizabethans found cuckoldry especially hilarious. Yet I could glean no real meaning from this passage, heard for the first time through the ear. I had to simply enjoy the visual and aural pleasure the actors lent. “Many a man knows no end of his goods?” This is not said in my era, and I could not grasp what it meant in real time—which meant losing the meaning of the rest of that sentence about men who have “good horns.”

McWhorter has a great podcast, Lexicon Valley, and one of his key ongoing themes is simple– words change.  And many of them change a lot in the 500+ years since Shakespeare wrote his plays.  It is absolutely absurd to expect a 21st century audience to fully appreciate any literary work written in 16th century English.  Far too many words now mean entirely different things.  David, was gobsmacked when I informed him that Shakespeare was perfectly well understood by the commoners of the time who enjoyed his plays.  We have this crazy idea now that Shakespeare is elitist and should be work to understand.  Enough people love Shakespeare that I’ll take their words for it that he really does have a universal and insightful understanding of human nature (a key to most all great literary works of art, in my book), but I was never able to glean that at all because there are simply far too many words I don’ t know.  And that’s a shame.  Long past time for a change.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox’s Julia Belluz on Trump’s absurd anti birth control argument, “The Trump administration’s case against birth control is a stunning distortion of science:

As to why the White House is ignoring the evidence, we have some clues. One of the architects behind the new birth control rules is reportedly Matthew Bowman, a lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy (and anti-choice) group. Another top Trump adviser on health care is Katy Talento, an anti-abortionist who has claimed that side effects of hormonal birth include cancer and miscarriages. Trump put Teresa Manning, another anti-abortion lawyer who once said giving people easy access to the morning-after pill was “medically irresponsible” and “anti-family,” in charge of Title X, HHS’s federal family planning program. Trump’s positions on abortion have been wishy-washy, but it’s well known that Vice President Mike Pence has been crusading against reproductive rights for years.

2) The NYT’s [post-Trump] Republican’s guide to Presidential etiquette is terrific.

3) “Christian” women gather on the National Mall to criticize feminism.  And they’re pathetic:

For Linda Shebesta of Burleson, Tex., it was a day to pray alongside the family members of three generations who traveled to Washington with her. “We believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation. The enemy is trying to take it in another direction, not Christianity,” she said. She saw lots of proof of Satan at work during the Obama administration, especially the Supreme Court’s ruling authorizing same-sex marriage nationwide, she said. She’s relieved to see the Trump administration undoing many of Obama’s policies.

“We believe God put Donald Trump in,” Shebesta said.

Damn, God must have one hell of a sense of humor.

4) And the Onion nails it again, “EPA To Drop ‘E,’ ‘P’ From Name.”

5) Very nice TPM piece on how Russian propaganda exploits America’s prejudices.

6) Drum on Trump’s attempt to destroy the healthcare marketplace.  This is not hyperbole:

We’ve never before had a president who used millions of the poor and sick as pawns like this. It’s just plain evil.

7) Apparently, rather than relying on common sense, many in Silicon Valley are over-reacting to sexual harassment in the workplace in ways that are also harmful to women.

8) Sad story of an escaped Circus tiger.  I love the amazing exploits of humans in the circus.  I hate that the circus engages in horrible animal abuse while they are at it.

9) Why is Oklahoma’s female incarceration rate so high?  Because they are disturbingly, inhumanely, punitive about drug crimes.

10) Interesting to see how American sports fandom has changed over the past 5 years.  Yeah, professional soccer!

11) Interesting column on how the mistreatment of returning Vietnam Veterans is almost completely false and very persistent myth.

12) Seth Masket on the silliness of blaming Democrats for Harvey Weinstein’s behavior:

Harvey Weinstein’s support for Democrats, however, is highly unusual as political scandal material. His reprehensible and likely criminal alleged behavior has only become widely known in the past few weeks — nearly a year after the 2016 presidential election. To be sure, quite a few people in the entertainment industry seem to have known about the behavior he’s accused of for years to one extent or another. But it strains credulity to suggest that Clinton and Obama (whose teenage daughter interned for Weinstein last summer) knew the extent of Weinstein’s predatory tendencies in the past.

In sum, Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats are being blamed for having taken money in the past from someone who has recently been widely accused of being a sexual predator. It is akin to holding fans of the 1970s Buffalo Bills and the 1978 film Capricorn One accountable for O.J. Simpson’s behavior in 1994.

This sort of scandal coverage may be useful in the long run by promoting a discussion about the obligations candidates have to their donors and about the campaign finance system in general. But the idea that a recipient is somehow culpable for the later-disclosed criminal activity of a donor seems rather thin gruel.

13) Love Drum on the rage of rural voters:

The two big explanations for the rise of this rural anger (and the rise of Trump) revolve around economics and race. The modern economy has screwed these folks over and they’re tired of it. Or: they’re badly threatened by the growth of the nonwhite population. Which is it? Almost certainly both, and in any case it doesn’t matter much: both of these things are likely to get worse from their point of view. The nonwhite population share is obviously going to keep growing, and the economy of the future is only going to become ever more tilted toward the highly educated. If working-class whites really are enraged by either or both of these things, they’re only going to get more enraged as time goes by.

That’s especially true if they keep voting for Republicans, who will actively make these things worse while skillfully laying off the blame on “elites” and “Hollywood liberals.” Keeping the rage machine going is their ticket to political power.

How do we prick this bubble? Obama tried to give them cheap health care, and it enraged them. He passed stricter regulation on the Wall Street financiers who brought us the Great Recession, and they didn’t care. He fought to reduce their payroll taxes and fund infrastructure to help the economy get back on track, and they sneered that it was just a lot of wasted money that ballooned the national debt.

14) Tom Ricks with a great personal essay on the importance of a good editor.

15) Dana Milbank: the Bible according to Trump.  Good stuff.

16) Loved this post from Dan Kennedy on journalists’ obsessive needs for “both sides!” when it comes to the political parties.  No, it’s not both sides:

Washington Post columnist Dan Balz, who epitomizes establishment thinking as David Broder once did, went out of his way to balance the Democrats’ “leftward movement” with the Republicans’ “rightward shift” and warned that Democrats “must find a way to harness the movement into a political vision that is attractive to voters beyond the Democratic base.”

The problem is that no reasonable comparison can be made between the two parties’ ideological shifts. Long before the age of Trump, the Republicans established themselves as the party of no. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was impeached because of a personal scandal that would have — should have — remained a secret but that was revealed through a partisan Republican investigation. The filibuster became routine under Republican rule, making it impossible to conduct the business of the Senate. The Republicans refuse to talk about gun control or climate change. The party hit bottom by refusing even to consider Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee — a deeply transgressive breach of longstanding norms on the part of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. And all of this was before the race-baiting, white-supremacist-coddling Donald Trump became president…

The institutional desire for evenhandedness, though, is so deeply ingrained that journalists struggle to move beyond it. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen has called this the “production of innocence,” meaning that the press reflexively adopts equivalence between the two major parties as its default position even when the facts scream out against balance. “The conceit is that you can report and comment on politics truthfully while always and forever splitting the difference between the two sides so as to advertise your own status as perpetually non-aligned,” Rosen wrote. “What if that is not even possible? What if you have to risk the appearance of being partisan in order to describe accurately what is going on in a hyper-partisan situation?”

On a related note, so excited to be bringing Jay Rosen to NCSU in 10 days.

 

17) Digging around in SlateStarCodex the other day and really liked this post about adult developmental milestones.  Of course, I particularly liked it because I think I (and any decent social scientist, and many others, of course), have all of these.  And, because I think these are super-important.

Here are some other mental operations which seem to me to rise to the level of developmental milestones:

1. Ability to distinguish “the things my brain tells me” from “reality” – maybe this is better phrased as “not immediately trusting my system 1 judgments”. This is a big part of cognitive therapy – building the understanding that just because your brain makes assessments like “I will definitely fail at this” or “I’m the worst person in the world” doesn’t mean that you have to believe them. As Ozy points out, this one can be easier for people with serious psychiatric problems who have a lot of experience with their brain’s snap assessments being really off, as opposed to everyone else who has to piece the insight together from a bunch of subtle failures.

2. Ability to model other people as having really different mind-designs from theirs; for example, the person who thinks that someone with depression is just “being lazy” or needs to “snap out of it”. This is one of the most important factors in determining whether I get along with somebody – people who don’t have this insight tend not to respect boundaries/preferences very much simply because they can’t believe they exist, and to simultaneously get angry when other people violate their supposedly-obvious-and-universal boundaries and preferences.

3. Ability to think probabilistically and tolerate uncertainty. My thoughts on this were mostly inspired by another of David Chapman’s posts, which I’m starting to think might not be a coincidence.

4. Understanding the idea of trade-offs; things like “the higher the threshold value of this medical test, the more likely we’ll catch real cases but also the more likely we’ll get false positives” or “the lower the burden of proof for people accused of crimes, the more likely we’ll get real criminals but also the more likely we’ll encourage false accusations”. When I hear people discuss these cases in real life, they’re almost never able to maintain this tension and almost always collapse it to their preferred plan having no downside.

18) Finally saw Blade Runner 2049Vox a few days ago.  Loved the visuals, the general story, and the themes.  That said, a good example of more is less.  This would have been a much better 2 hour movie than the 2:45 it was.  Also, I was really disappointed in the score as I so love Vangelis’ score for the original and here the composers seemed to want to make up for lack of melody with loudness.  Appreciated Alyssa Wilkonson’s review for also pointing out these flaws.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)-

1) Everything is connected.  How people foolishly letting their pet pythons loose into the everglades has no unleashed more mosquito-borne illness in Florida.

2) Gabriel Sherman on the adult day-care center that is the White House.

3) My one-time co-author Eric McGhee on how Alito deliberately mis-used his research.

4) Nothing divides Americans like owning a gun (and plenty of other cool maps, too).

5) Professor makes a case for, “Conservatives are the real campus thought police squashing academic freedom.”

6) How HBO’s “The Night Of” should be the model for single-season TV.

7) Fred Kaplan on Trump’s no-good, horrible, awful, Iran speech (and the no-good, horrible ideas behind it):

President Trump’s statement Friday on the Iran nuclear deal may be the most dishonest speech he has ever given from the White House—and, depending what happens next, it could be his most damaging. It flagrantly misrepresents what the deal was meant to do, the extent of Iran’s compliance, and the need for corrective measures. If he gets his way, he will blow up one of the most striking diplomatic triumphs of recent years, aggravate tensions in the Middle East, make it even harder to settle the North Korean crisis peacefully, and make it all but impossible for allies and adversaries to trust anything the United States says for as long as Trump is in office.

It is well known that Trump hates the Iran nuclear deal, which is formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. During the election campaign, and again in Friday’s speech, he has called it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” in U.S. history. And yet, all of his advisers, all the European allies who co-signed the deal, and even the vast majority of Israeli military and intelligence officers—including some who opposed the deal in the first place—have urged him not to pull out.

8) Personally, I love the idea of flat-out limiting the number of guns you can own, and two sounds like plenty to me.

9) Yes, even white supremacists should have freedom of speech.  And for BLM to try and deny freedom of speech to the ACLU for believing that everybody gets freedom of speech is a real stain on the William & Mary chapter that did this.

10) All those people who complain about how much teachers unions protect bad teachers should maybe focus on police unions.  Bad teachers don’t lead to dead people.  Bad cops who get reinstated, though…

11) Linda Greenhouse on Trump, birth control, and church over state:

The real point is that the Trump administration has outsourced a crucially important building block of national health care policy, enabling a fanatical fringe of the Republican base to exercise raw political power, clothed in religiosity under cover of the grandiloquently named Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That 1993 law, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and signed by President Bill Clinton, is the object of growing buyer’s remorse on the part of liberal and moderate Americans — and should be…

The Trump administration’s rescission of the government’s birth control mandate, not only for these organizations but also for others that never even got around to asking for it, is thus a reward for intransigence matched only by the Senate’s blockade of the Supreme Court vacancy intended for Merrick Garland that it eventually handed to Neil Gorsuch…

I used to think — in fact, I wrote last year — that the resistance to the contraception mandate was fueled by cultural conservatives’ determination not to let federal policy normalize birth control. But now I think it’s deeper than that. Conservatives, even the publicly pious ones, don’t seem to have a problem with limiting the size of their families. (Vice President Mike Pence has two children, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three. Need I say more?) The problem they have is with what birth control signifies: empowering women — in school, on the job, in the home — to determine their life course. That’s what they don’t want to normalize. It comes as no surprise which side Donald Trump is on; his administration’s action last week makes perfect sense. Or none at all.

12) I love this simple rule for men to avoid sexual harassment, “It’s as clear cut as this: Treat all women like you would treat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.”  Really.

13) The California couple who barely survived the wildfires by hiding in their neighbors’ swimming pool.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Why does majority opinion keep losing on guns?  Because America is increasingly a non-majoritarian democracy.  EJ Dionne:

But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, “One Nation After Trump,” the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.

Our fellow citizens overwhelmingly reject the idea that we should do nothing and let the killings continue. Majorities in both parties favor universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and measures to prevent the mentally ill and those on no-fly lists from buying guns.

Yet nothing happens.

The non-majoritarian nature of our institutions was brought home in 2013. After the Sandy Hook slaughter, the Senate voted 54 to 46 in favor of a background-checks amendment crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Those 54 votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, which the GOP regularly abused during the Obama years. Worse, since most large-state senators voted for Manchin-Toomey, the 54 “yes” votes came from lawmakers representing 63 percent of the population. Their will was foiled by those who speak for just 37 percent of us.

2) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick to my stomach as I did reading this Atlantic article on the horrible, horrible death at a Penn State fraternity.  I don’t deny there’s real benefits from fraternities, but my personal reading of their reality is that the costs substantially outweigh the benefits.

3) Nice NYT article on the growth of quality podcasts for kids.  My daughter loves “Wow in the World” like nobody’s business.

4) I love Chris Molanphy’s explorations of Rock/Pop music history on The Gist.  His Slate article was my favorite take on Tom Petty.

5) Love this Upshot piece on how marriage became increasingly class-based:

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults ages 18 to 55 are married, according to a research brief published from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.

In 1990, more than half of adults were married, with much less difference based on class and education: 51 percent of poor adults, 57 percent of working-class adults and 65 percent of middle- and upper-class adults were married.

A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material.

“Women don’t want to take a risk on somebody who’s not going to be able to provide anything,” said Sharon Sassler, a sociologist at Cornell who published “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships” with Amanda Jayne Miller last month.

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring…

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

College graduates are more likely to plot their lives methodically — vetting people they date until they’re sure they want to move in with them, and using birth control to delay childbirth until their careers are underway.

Less educated people are more likely to move in with boyfriends or girlfriends in a matter of months, and to get pregnant at a younger age and before marriage. This can make financial and family stability harder to achieve later on.

6) Clear evidence that government workers– even librarians– racially discriminate based on whether a name sounds Black or White.

7) I hate that even a Supreme Court justice can be just a plain old partisan hack.  Hard to see how Alito is anything but in his approach to the Wisconsin gerrymandering case.  Same goes for Roberts in his absurdly anti-intllectual reference to “sociological gobbledygook.”  Actually, it’s called math.

8) Amazing how low the bar is for Trump on speeches.  CNN couldn’t get enough of Trump being not horrible on Las Vegas.  David Frum, however, was not impressed.

9) Is there any hypocrisy as base as that from “pro-life” politicians:

There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.”

10) I did enjoy Ta-Nahesi Coates’ big anti-Trump essay and Coates almost always makes me think.  But, he really does have a bad habit of making everythingWilliams about race.  Some nice pushback from Thomas Chatterton .

11) Loved Thomas Friedman on the Las Vegas shooter:

If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted “Allahu akbar” before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS … If only we had a picture of him posing with a Quran in one hand and his semiautomatic rifle in another …

If all of that had happened, no one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies.

No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11. Then Donald Trump would be tweeting every hour “I told you so,” as he does minutes after every terror attack in Europe, precisely to immediately politicize them. Then there would be immediate calls for a commission of inquiry to see what new laws we need to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Then we’d be “weighing all options” against the country of origin.

But what happens when the country of origin is us?

What happens when the killer was only a disturbed American armed to the teeth with military-style weapons that he bought legally or acquired easily because of us and our crazy lax gun laws?

Then we know what happens: The president and the Republican Party go into overdrive to ensure that nothing happens. Then they insist — unlike with every ISIS-related terror attack — that the event must not be “politicized” by asking anyone, particularly themselves, to look in the mirror and rethink their opposition to common-sense gun laws.

12) Few political authors are purchased by both sides of the political spectrum (in cool graphical form).

13) So, this is a real thing.

14) Came across this “do you have a generous marriage” quiz.  I only came out average.  I honestly suspect, though, that people are too likely to give themselves “always.” The response categories seem like bad social science to me.  Such as, “How often do you express respect or admiration to your partner?”  I think I’m pretty good at telling my wife I appreciate her, but “always”?!

15) Florida has a chance to undo it’s incredibly punitive and racism felon disenfranchisement:

This particular historical evil began after the Civil War, when white-supremacist legislatures were resisting efforts to treat blacks as fellow humans with equal rights and dignity.

Though attempts to block the 14th Amendment failed, and though the Reconstruction Act of 1867 forced Florida to add an article to its state constitution granting suffrage to all men, creative racists kept many blacks from the ballot box with educational requirements and a lifetime voting ban for convicted felons, knowing blacks had been and would be abused by the criminal-justice system.

16) Love this Kurt Andersen piece on the delusional anti-government fantasies of the gun nuts (and, alas, how our political system has given into them):

Let me put a finer point on what I’m saying. Very, very few of the guns in America are used for hunting. Americans who own guns today keep arsenals in a way people did not 40 years ago. It seems plain to me that that’s because they—not all, but many—have given themselves over to fantasies.

The way I did as a child and still do when I shoot, they imagine they’re militiamen, pioneers, Wild West cowboys, soldiers, characters they’ve watched all their lives in movies and on TV, heroes and antiheroes played by Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson and the Rock, like Davy Crockett or Butch or Sundance or Rambo or Neo (or Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor). They’re like children playing with lightsabers, except they believe they’re prepared to fight off real-life aliens (from the Middle East, from Mexico) and storm troopers, and their state-of-the-art weapons actually wound and kill. Why did gangsters and wannabe gangsters start holding and firing their handguns sideways, parallel to the ground, even though that compromises their aim and control? Because it looks cool, and it began looking cool after filmmakers started directing actors to do it, originally in the ’60s, constantly by the ’90s. (It also made it easier to frame the gun and the actor’s face in the same tight shot.) Why are Americans buying semi-automatic AR-15s and rifles like it more than any other style, 1.5 million each year? Because holding and shooting one makes them feel cooler, more like commandos. For the same reason, half the states now require no license for people to carry their guns openly in public places. It’s the same reason, really, that a third of the vehicles sold in America are pickups and four-wheel-drive Walter Mitty–mobiles, even though three-quarters of four-wheel-drive off-road vehicles never go off road. It’s even the reason blue jeans became the American uniform after the 1960s. We are actors in a 24/7 tableau vivant, schlubs playing the parts of heroic tough guys…

But beyond the prospect of protecting oneself against random attacks—and by the way, among the million-plus Americans interviewed in 10 years of Crime Victimization Surveys, exactly one sexual assault victim used a gun in self-defense—several outlandish scenarios and pure fantasies drive the politics of gun control. One newer fantasy has it that in the face of an attack by jihadi terrorists, armed random civilians will save the day. Another is the fantasy that patriots will be obliged to become terrorist rebels, like Americans did in 1776 and 1861, this time to defend liberty against the U.S. government before it fully reveals itself as a tyrannical fascist-socialist-globalist regime and tries to confiscate every private gun.

17) The Buzzfeed piece with much buzz about how Breitbart quite purposely tried to make racists and neo-nazis mainstream.

18) Brooks get this right about guns– they are part of our identity politics:

Four in 10 American households own guns. As Hahrie Han, a political science professor, noted in The Times Wednesday, there are more gun clubs and gun shops in this country than McDonald’s. For many people, the gun is a way to protect against crime. But it is also an identity marker. It stands for freedom, self-reliance and the ability to control your own destiny. Gun rights are about living in a country where families are tough enough and responsible enough to stand up for themselves in a dangerous world.

(Of course, this is also largely fantasy, as Andersen points out)

 

19) How computers turned gerrymandering into a science.

20) Is Maggie Haberman’s coverage of Trump changing the news culture of the NYT?

21) This Radley Balko piece is just so depressing.  Poorly trained police shoot an unarmed person in a no-knock drug raid, but, of course, it’s not actually their fault:

In a morning drug raid. As one of the officers took a battering ram to the door, Jesus Ferreira was sleeping on the couch. Ferreira wasn’t a suspect. He happened to be visiting. Within seconds, one officer shot him, claiming that Ferriera was “moving toward him” and had something in his hand. Ferreira suffered significant injuries, and doctors later had to remove his spleen.

No one disputes that Ferreira was unarmed. But the police claim he had a video-game controller in his hand, which the officer who shot him mistook for a gun. Ferreira and his lawyers say that he was sleeping at the time of the raid, that he raised his hands when the police entered and that they put the controller in his hand after the fact to retroactively justify the shooting.

Ferriera sued. The result of that lawsuit demonstrates yet again just how difficult it is for even completely innocent people shot by police to get any sort of justice…

One other thing: McAvoy notes in his ruling that the city argues that these raids are extremely volatile, and therefore officers should be granted a great deal of leeway when making mistakes such as shooting innocent people. The city is right. These raids are extremely volatile. But the police themselves  created that volatility. They didn’t have to go in with a SWAT team early in the morning. They chose to. And despite the fact that the police have the advantage of both training and of being the party that is aware of what’s happening, the police are given extraordinary leeway to make mistakes during these raids. The people on the receiving end of the raids are not. This case again is a perfect example. In the heat of the moment, the cop who shot Ferreira shot an innocent, unarmed man. He did this despite his training, and despite the fact that he knew what was happening as it was happening. The city of Binghamton argued in court that Ferreira bore the ultimate responsibility for his own injuries. Because he rose up and moved toward the officers with a video-game controller as the raid went down, he had no one to blame but himself. The cop who shot Ferreira can make mistakes that end lives. Ferreira was expected to react perfectly — to wake up, immediately realize that the armed men breaking into the home were police and immediately know how to surrender in a manner that could in no possible way be interpreted as a threat. [emphasis mine]

 

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