Quick hits (part II)

1) I wasn’t sure what I would make of “The Evangelical Roots of Our Post-Truth Society,” but there’s definitely some important points here:

THE arrival of the “post-truth” political climate came as a shock to many Americans. But to the Christian writer Rachel Held Evans, charges of “fake news” are nothing new. “The deep distrust of the media, of scientific consensus — those were prevalent narratives growing up,” she told me.

Although Ms. Evans, 35, no longer calls herself an evangelical, she attended Bryan College, an evangelical school in Dayton, Tenn. She was taught to distrust information coming from the scientific or media elite because these sources did not hold a “biblical worldview.”

“It was presented as a cohesive worldview that you could maintain if you studied the Bible,” she told me. “Part of that was that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.”

Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right.

2) I’ve heard a couple good interviews with Chris Hayes on his new criminal justice book.  Definitely sounds like good stuff (and the other book reviewed here looks good as well).

3) Enjoyed this NYT feature on how retail is changing.

4) You know what really need to change about policing?  The culture.  It’s enough that there’s too many bad cops out there.  Worse, is that otherwise good cops protect the bad ones.  Also, how many, many incidents of police brutality are lied about and gotten away with without any video to prove otherwise.  Truly, the numbers must be staggering.

5) Personally, I think life is too short and there’s too many books I’ll never get to spend time “hate reading,” but the author of this essay has a point.

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

Right now I’m reading Deception Point by Dan Brown with David.  I don’t hate it.  But it does remind me that while I do enjoy a relentless plot, I really don’t like unrealistic political fiction that thinks it’s realistic (here’s looking at you House of Cards).

6) Yes, Americans vote their partisanship on a pretty much tribal basis.  But I reject the argument that wealthier Democrats are necessarily voting against their own economic interests.  There’s far more to one’s economic interests (like living in vibrant, healthy communities with a growing economy and a healthy middle class) than top marginal tax rates.

7) We can learn a lot about the natural history of penguins through penguin guano deposits.

8) Interesting take on Mitch McConnell’s most consequential decision:

We learned last night from the New York Times that by the time of McConnell’s intervention, the CIA in particular was sounding its loudest alarms, and not just about nebulous “meddling.”

In an Aug. 25 briefing for Harry Reid, then the top Democrat in the Senate, [CIA Director John] Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, according to two former officials with knowledge of the briefing. The officials said Mr. Brennan also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.

We can’t be certain that Brennan shared the same concerns with McConnell, but it is hard to imagine why he wouldn’t. McConnell, like Reid, was among the handful of members of Congress receive regular briefings on highly classified intelligence. In either case, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community sought a united front ahead of the fall against Russian election interference—whatever its nature—and McConnell shot it down.

You can fault the Obama White House, to some degree, for acquiescing to McConnell, but it’s worth noting that McConnell clearly understood his threat to be more ominous than simply a promise to call Obama mean names. The claim of partisanship would have implied that Obama was using contested intelligence to meddle in the election on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. This would have invited the press to summon yet-more dark clouds over both of them, and lead, most likely, to a new, urgent congressional investigation. Consider the media and GOP congressional response to the unfounded allegation that Susan Rice spied on Donald Trump, and you can see the Obama White House had good reason to take McConnell’s threat seriously.

The upshot is that McConnell drew a protective fence around Russian efforts to sabotage Clinton’s candidacy, by characterizing any effort to stop it as partisan politicization of intelligence at Trump’s expense.

Given the outcome of the election, I’d say this move was not only far more consequential than stealing a Supreme Court seat from Democrats, it was the key to the theft itself.

9) Diane Ravitch argues the public should pay for public schools, not religious schools.  I agree.

10) Sorry, calling out conservative (or Southern ones, in this case) Christians for their hypocrisy does not get old for me:

Tribal bonds have always been a challenge for our species. What’s new is how baldly the 2016 election exposed the collision between basic Christian values and Republican Party loyalty. By any conceivable definition, the sitting president of the United States is the utter antithesis of Christian values — a misogynist who disdains refugees, persecutes immigrants, condones torture and is energetically working to dismantle the safety net that protects our most vulnerable neighbors. Watching Christians put him in the White House has completely broken my heart…

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” All the rest is window dressing.

But this is the part of Christ’s message that most conservative Christians ignore when they step into the voting booth. In part that’s because abortion has become the ultimate border wall for Southern believers. I can’t count the number of Christians I know who are one-plank voters: They’d put Vladimir Putin in the White House if he promised to overturn Roe v. Wade. To someone who ardently believes abortion is murder, that idea is not as crazy as it seems. But reasonable people can disagree on the moment when human life begins, and I don’t see my own commitment to protecting a woman’s legal right to choose as a contradiction of my religious practice. No matter how you define it, protecting human life should never stop at the zygote.

Republicans now have what they’ve long wanted: the chance to turn this into a Christian nation. But what’s being planned in Washington will hit my fellow Southerners harder than almost anyone else. Where are the immigrants? Mostly in the South. Which states execute more prisoners? The Southern states. Which region has the highest poverty rates? The South. Where are you most likely to drink poisoned water? Right here in the South. Where is affordable health care hardest to find? You guessed it. My people are among the least prepared to survive a Trump presidency, but the “Christian” president they elected is about to demonstrate exactly what betrayal really looks like — and for a lot more than 30 pieces of silver.

11) Really good New Yorker article reviewing several books that help explain why humans are so bad at reasoning and responding to facts.  Short version: tribal needs– sociability trumps needs to actually understand things.

12) And, with that, Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Here’s some cool political science from– air polluters like to position themselves just upwind from the border of a neighboring state.   Stick it to the other guy!

2) Just got Elizabeth Rosenthal’s new book on American health care.  I assign her fabulous NYT series on the matter to my Public Policy classes.  Can’t wait to read this.

3) On the resilience of failed fast food chains.  My wife and I still reminisce about Rax roast beef on our travels to and from Ohio State.

4) Both Derek Thompson and Father James Martin blame the law, as much as United for what happened.  I especially like Martin’s take:

Someone in authority—pilots, stewards, ground crew—might have realized that this was an assault on a person’s dignity. But no one stopped it. Why not? Not because they are bad people: They too probably looked on in horror. But because they have been conditioned to follow the rules.

Those rules said: First, we may sometimes overbook because we want to maximize our profits. Second, we can eject someone because we have overbooked, or if we decide that we want those seats back, no matter what a person can reasonably expect, and no matter how much of an inconvenience this is. And third, and most tragically, human dignity will not get in the way of the rules. A toxic cocktail of capitalism and corporate culture led to a man being dragged along the floor.

That is why bland “nothing to see here” defenses of the ills of corporate America and of the dictates of capitalism bother this capitalist and former corporate employee so much. They fail to see the victims of the system.

5) Tech products are specifically designed to be psychologically addictive.  I know I look at my phone too much, but I still think I’m pretty far from “addicted.”

6) When families use school vouchers for their children with disabilities, they often find they lose the legal protections for children with disabilities.  And they learn this the hard way.  Enough with vouchers, already.  Let’s just invest in high (or at least medium) quality schools for all.

7) Corwin Smidt’s work on the disappearance of swing voters just came out in the latest issue of AJPS and I couldn’t remember if I had ever quick-hitted this Vox piece on it.  It’s good stuff, even if Alvin Chang does not seem to realize that leaners = partisans is not exactly new.  Also, I can think of a view damn relevant piece’s on Party ID from a fellow Ohio State PhD that Smidt fails to cite.

8) In the face of the latest ANES data, Drum argues, “We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race.”  He’s got some good points:

Klinkner thinks race played a big role in the election. There’s no question this is true, but did it play a bigger than expected role? The two major parties have been splitting further apart by race for years, with Republicans becoming the party of whites and Democrats the party of non-whites. This means that to survive with an ever growing white base, Republicans have to cater to white resentment more and more. Likewise, Democrats have to cater to black and Hispanic interests more and more. This is a cycle with positive feedback, so it’s only likely to get worse.

Racial attitudes certainly played a bigger role in this election than in the past. But did Trump himself accelerate this partisan trend, or was he merely the beneficiary of it? That still seems like an open question to me.

Great points, from Drum.  That said, I think his headline is wrong (and as a blogger, I presume he writes his own).  We know race played a helluva role, like it does with almost everything in modern American party politics.  What we don’t know if this was more for Trump than it would’ve been for Rubio, etc.  I suspect that answer is yes, but for now, I do think that remains somewhat TBD.

9) I find it absolutely appalling that the 4th amendment seems to not apply at all upon entry into the country and that CBP can legally search the entire contents of your smartphone (i.e., the entire contents of your life) without a warrant.  Congress can and sure as hell should change this.

10) What color was that dress anyway, two years later.  Great stuff from a cognitive psychologist who studies color perception.

11) Uncovering the secrets of proto-dinosaurs (this one is for you, DHG).

12) Literally surprised by all these headlines about the “mystery” of why shoelaces untie.  Seriously?  You’ll be shocked to learn that it’s the ongoing low-level stresses caused by your foot hitting the ground and moving through the air.

13) Jay Geils just died.  I found this NPR story about the evolution of the band and the transition of pop music in the early 1980’s utterly fascinating.

14) In case you missed the story of the NC legislator (Republican, of course) who likened Lincoln to Hitler while he was defending his anti gay marriage bill.

15) I know most NYC apartments on TV are pretty unrealistic, but I really enjoyed this piece looking at the apartments on several popular shows.  I was also interested to learn where a lot of the characters lived.

16) Why social mobility is so bad in the South.  Short version: concentrated poverty and lack of social capital:

Concentrated poverty is related to another factor Chetty and his colleagues mention: social capital, which is essentially the mechanism that allows people to interact with others and become a part of broad networks that can lead to opportunity. It can help people get hooked up to first jobs, internships, and scholarships. Without these types of connections, children are more likely to take a similar path to their parents. For those who live in areas of concentrated poverty, this means they don’t learn about opportunities that might get them out of poverty, or about people in different income brackets.

17) Atlantic article summarizing some nice new PS research on how Trump may be changing the meaning of “conservative.”

18) Apparently, job interviews are pretty worthless.  Should we really just hire people based on resumes and application files?  Maybe?

19) I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Susan Rice did absolutely nothing wrong in the silly “unmasking” episode.  I’m sure the cable news networks will devote plenty of time to this point.

20) Chait on Trump’s budget director accidentally telling the truth:

For more than a generation, the Republican Party has single-mindedly pursued the goal of maximizing economic inequality. They have been almost as single-minded about not describing this as their priority. Republicans say their goal is reducing out-of-control deficits, or reducing out-of-control surpluses, or promoting economic growth, or saving Social Security and Medicare. But Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney, in a new interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, basically admits that what he cares about is reducing transfers from the rich to the poor…

The place to begin understanding Mulvaney’s ideas here is where he says “letting people keep more of their money … is the most efficient way to actually allocate resources.” The premise of this statement is that the market distribution of income is sacrosanct, and progressive taxation is thus both morally wrong (because it takes money that rightly belongs to high-income people who earned it on their own) and inefficient. Mulvaney concedes that cutting taxes for high-income earners can “contribute to the deficit,” but this fact is “less important.”

21) Seth Masket says goodbye and good riddance to the judicial filibuster.

22) Krugman on Trump’s mean and stupid health care negotiating tactic:

The nastiness should be obvious, but let’s spell it out. Mr. Trump is trying to bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of innocent bystanders — ordinary American families who have gained coverage thanks to health reform. True, Democrats care about these families — but Republicans at least pretend to care about them, too.

Why does Mr. Trump even imagine that this threat might work? Implicitly, he’s saying that hurting innocent people doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers his opponents. Actually, this is probably true — remember, we’re talking about a man who once cut off health benefits to his nephew’s seriously ill 18-month-old son to gain the upper hand in a family dispute. But it’s not the kind of thing one expects to hear from the occupant of the White House.

What makes Mr. Trump’s tactic stupid as well as nasty is the reality that Democrats have no incentive whatsoever to give in.

For one thing, what is he offering by way of a deal? Obamacare increased coverage two ways, via Medicaid expansion and subsidized private insurance. Mr. Trump might be able to undermine the private markets, but Medicaid wouldn’t be affected. Why would Democrats ever agree to Republican plans, which would basically kill both?

Then there’s the political reality that by sabotaging Obamacare, the Trump administration would be handing Democrats a huge electoral gift.

Quick Hits (part II)

1) Social science says don’t spy on your teenager.  (But if you know your teenager is reading this blog post you wrote, does that change things?)

2) Recent research finds that children of older mothers have higher cognitive ability at age 10.  If I was teaching a research methods class, I would so use this article to discuss selection bias.

3) You know I’m a fan of GMO crops, properly-used.  Alas, it can be a problem when farmers don’t use them properly and fail to plant enough refuge crops.  Some recent NCSU research:

For about 20 years, growers have made use of Bt crops to limit crop damage from pests. Bt crops, including corn, are genetically engineered to produce proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium. These proteins are harmless to vertebrates, but toxic to a specific class of invertebrate crop pests.

To date, these Bt crops have been remarkably successful. However, insect pests have shown the ability to evolve resistance to Bt proteins. In order to slow down the development of Bt resistance, farmers who plant Bt crops are urged to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops – called refuge crops. In fact, in the case of Bt corn, farmers are required to plant a section of their fields with refuge crops.

That’s because refuge crops provide fodder for insect pests that are not resistant to Bt proteins. These pests are then able to breed with their Bt-resistant counterparts, diluting Bt resistance in the overall pest population.

But compliance with planting refuge crops is variable. Some growers plant too little of their fields with Bt crops, and some don’t plant refuge crops at all.

4) Speaking of NCSU, my colleague Jim Zink with a post on how “Constitutional Veneration” is an obstacle to constitutional change.

 

5) How comedy gets made via an annotated Daily Show script.

6) Eduardo Porter on the need to think seriously about geo-engineering and climate change.

7) Great Brooks‘ column on Trump’s incompetence.  So good!

The normal incompetent person flails and stammers and is embarrassed about it. But the true genius at incompetence like our president flails and founders and is too incompetent to recognize his own incompetence. He mistakes his catastrophes for successes and so accelerates his pace toward oblivion. Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it…

Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull.

It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.

It is in its own way a privilege to be alive at the same time as a man who is the Albert Einstein of confirmation bias, a man whose most impressive wall is the one between himself and evidence, a man who doesn’t need to go off in search of enemies because he is already his own worst one.

8) Why, yes, those champions of the little guy leading the NC legislature are looking to protect massively-polluting hog farms from lawsuits.  Maybe they should try living next-door and downwind from one of these farms!

9) In case you were wondering about the nutritional benefits of human cannibalism

10) The headline says it all, “The Texas-size scapegoating of an illegal voter is a travesty of justice.”

11) A reminder that there’s really not a lot of value to an elite college beyond a good non-elite college(unless you get tons of personal happiness from following their basketball team as a student and alumnus).  Interestingly, though, for minority students, there is a very real benefit.  Thus:

Elite colleges are most valuable for the students they are least likely to admit—and least valuable for the students they are most likely to admit. More than the size and weight of many thousand envelopes currently in the mail, that is an admissions dilemma worth fretting about.

12) Of course getting on the UNC Board of Governors is all about political donations (instead of, you know, knowing and caring about higher education).  The thing is, you are not supposed to actually admit that when vying for the position.

13) I don’t love all of this essay on how Trump has “blown up” on Republicans, but there’s definitely some good stuff:

Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.

The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.

This is how Mitch McConnell ended up so hugely unpopular and despised in his own party that he attracted a high-profile primary challenger during the period when he was doing more than any other person in Washington to thwart the Democratic Party. This is how and why a deal to cut social insurance benefits with support from a Democratic president repeatedly failed to happen despite President Obama’s best efforts. And this is why Republicans couldn’t repeal Obamacare. The marginally cannier guys thought up a plausible legislative strategy for forcing through an unpopular proposal with minimum oversight, and the House Freedom Caucus guys played a key role in blowing it up because it didn’t repeal Obamacare enough.

The Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-odd true-believers (all men, of those publicly identified as caucus members, and mostly men over the age of 50), rejected the deal because it was hugely unpopular, but what they can’t grasp, or admit to themselves, is that it was hugely unpopular mainly because of the ways in which it did resemble their preferred set of policies, not because of how it diverged from them. It does not compute that a bill that follows their stated priorities—a stingier government that is crueler to its citizens of modest means—would be unpopular even among their own constituents.

14) Easily the best thing I’ve read on Trump and Syria is Frum’s take.

15) And a terrific Margaret Sullivan column on how the media so stupidly just loves any show of military force.

16) Sorry, to mess up your usual weekend quick hits plans, but here’s me at the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower yesterday.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) The headline for this WP essay just kills me, “I gave up TV, then qualified for Olympic marathon trials and got my PhD.”  Oh, please, plenty of people manage to accomplish similar goals while enjoying TV.  I got a PhD, tenure, full professor and co-wrote a book while watching lots of TV!

2) Scott Pelley is pulling no punches on Trump.  I hadn’t realized– good for him.

3) Radley Balko on the foolhardiness of putting immigration enforcement above criminal law enforcement.

4) Fun take on how TV Opening Titles have gotten so good.  I totally agree, but, please, no reason to diss Magnum PI!

5) Vox interview with Pippa Norris on the entho-nationalist basis of Trump’s appeal.

I want to return to what you said earlier about the cultural roots of modern populism. In one of your recent papers, you tell a familiar but troubling story: Since at least the 1970s, Western societies have emphasized what you call “post-materialist” and “self-expression” values among the young educated strata of society. This has produced movements toward greater gender and racial equality, equal rights for LGBTQ people, more acceptance of diverse lifestyles and cultures, etc. It’s also resulted in less focus on redistributionist economics.

You argue that we’ve reached something of a tipping point culturally as less educated and older citizens, particularly white men, are now increasingly resentful of a society that no longer privileges them or their values.

Pippa Norris

The idea that values are being changed has long roots going back to the 1970s, but it has new traction, if you like. The argument is that you adopt the values at the time that you grew up and it’s part of your societal conditioning. Look, for example, at the actual groups who were growing up in Europe when there was a welfare state from cradle to grave. The arguments were about meeting basic material needs — full employment, free education, free health care, etc.

In many of these countries, values changed from a focus on material needs — jobs, economic growth, and the things people who lived through the Great Recession and the period of war cared about — to a different set of values, which was environmental, gender equality, participation, democracy and a whole range of other post-material values. This is a long-term change which my co-author, Ron Inglehart, has predicted for many decades.

What we think happened is that there’s been a tipping point in terms of where majority values have become the new minority. So it’s really about population change more than anything else. If a generation grows up with certain values, those values gradually take over that culture. We can see the manifestation in many policies.

Think, for example, of gay marriage and the way in which marriage rights were something that was not even discussed 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. They weren’t mainstream in the political agenda. And now many, many countries have equalized gay marriage, although affluent countries are still going through that process. Similarly, tolerance of homosexuality, ideas that women should have equal values, secular values as well, the idea that religion is no longer central to people’s lives. So those are values which are shifting.

Those people that are benefiting from these shifts take them for granted as they grow in their status and their power, but there’s been a tipping point when those groups and the values around them are no longer being reflected and, what’s more, they can’t even talk about them.

6) A scientifically-validated app that you can use to train your brain so that you won’t need reading glasses.  Cool!  One of the few benefits of my extreme nearsightedness (-10!) is that it delays onset of the need for reading glasses.  But once that small print starts becoming a problem, I am so doing this.  I’d like my wife to be the family guines pig as she’s definitely getting close.

7) No, we cannot blame fancy new dorms for the increasing cost of college.  And, yes, administrative costs are up.  But, mostly, its the cutbacks from state governments.

8) Nate Cohn concludes that poor Democratic turnout was not the driver of HRC’s defeat.  It’s that damn wwc:

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.

The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It’s not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton’s losses.

9) Hobbyhorse riding is big in Finland ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  Mika?

10) Oh man is the NFL evil and greedy.  And damn do they abuse the suckers who pay for their stadiums to support their greed.  The Las Vegas case is particularly egregious:

In the N.F.L.’s world, displays of principle and common economic sense are for chumps. Las Vegas and Nevada adopted the league’s preferred stance: They rolled belly up. Politicians raised taxes to provide a historic $750 million public subsidy.

This led to unremarked-upon cognitive dissonance in Las Vegas. Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students. There was simply no money. “This is the last thing we ever want to do,” Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time.

It’s a shame the school board did not build a football stadium, perhaps with a public school annex.

One team owner, Stephen M. Ross of the Miami Dolphins, voted against the relocation. “We as owners and as a league owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in communities that have supported us,” he said in a statement.

That was so sweet of him; I hope he has put a few food tasters on his staff.

The N.F.L. makes two demands of its owners: Build ever-grander stadiums with as many public dollars as you can find; and never, ever feel shame.

11) Cost of HB2 to the NC Economy? Just a measly $3.8 billion.

12) Good Conor Friedersdorf on how the egregious, scare-mongering lies of right-wing media set repeal and replace up for failure.

13) Damn, Texas is anxious to execute the mentally disabled.  Fortunately, five members of the Supreme Court believe otherwise.  Among other things, totally asinine to think that if an IQ test comes out 69 execution is off the table but at 74 it is okay.  This puts way too much faith in both the validity and reliability of IQ tests.  Love this key quote:

Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. She was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

 14) Among the lessons of the AHCA failure– policy expertise and seriousness matter.  As I’ve often mentioned, there’s only one party in America that takes public policy seriously and we’re all the worse for it.

15) Alabama’s prisons are truly, horribly, shameful.  There is literally no excuse for this in a modern nation.  We really need judges to step in if the people of Alabama and their representatives are not going to.

16) I’m sure the law and order types hate the idea of college classes in maximum security prison.

17) There are bipartisan steps we can take to actually make the ACA work better.  Alas, there’s really little evidence many Republicans have any interest in ACA working better.

18) Terrific episode of Hidden Brain on Bandwidth Poverty.  If you are not familiar with the concept, you should be.  And this is a great listen.

19) Nice mini tweetstorm from Christopher Frederico on the just released 2016 ANES data.  Short version: confirming Brian Schaffner’s analysis from earlier data, it’s all about the racial resentment.

20) Why professors should not shame their students, even anonymously.

21) Good take from Vox’s Brian Resnick on the crazy/scary new poll showing that 74% of Republicans believe Trump Tower was wiretapped.

22) Ross Douthat wrote a column about how Obamacare doesn’t actually save lies.  Nice rebuttal from Drum:

folks has never been likely to have much effect on death rates.1 Below age 55, it’s even less likely: the death rate is so minuscule that it would take a miracle to invent any kind of health-related practice that had a measurable effect on life expectancy. If the crude death rate is already below 0.5 percent, there’s just no way to reduce it much more.

And yet, people like health care anyway. They like it so much that we’re collectively willing to spend vast amounts of money on it. As you’ve probably heard many dozens of times, health care is one-sixth of the economy. On average, that means we all pay about one-sixth of our income to provide health care for ourselves.

Why? At the risk of repeating the obvious, most medical care isn’t about lifespan. Before age 65, almost none of it is about lifespan. It’s about feeling better.

23) This is cool– evolution is slower and faster than you think.

24) This will be my last quick hits ever.

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And plenty more good ones in that list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) Using artificial intelligence to prevent suicide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

5) Seth Masket with the case for Democratic recklessness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) Frank Bruni defends Trump against the food snobs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

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

2) Twelve bacteria to be afraid of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idaho values.

20) In defense of the college lecture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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