Quick hits (part II)

1) In theory, the idea of a semi-automatic transmission where you can shift gears without worrying about a clutch is pretty cool.  In practice, the majority of drivers pretty much completely ignore this feature on their cars.  Me, too.  I will admit, though, to enjoying shifting into Sport mode some of the time.

2) Honestly, I don’t even get the point of pretending that a study of a scant 49 Facebook users is real social science.  That said, the typology seems to comport with reality and I especially like this description as I’ve used almost these exact words myself:

Relationship builders

This cohort uses Facebook much the way humans once used actual mail and landline telephones: to strengthen existing relationships with friends and family. In fact, Facebook is an extension of their offline life, according to Tom Robinson, associate director of BYU’s Graduate School of Communication and a professor of advertising.

3) Vox with an ex-CIA officer on Trump Jr, “An ex-CIA officer: the Trump Jr. meeting shows how the Russians exploit intelligence targets.  “This is how it’s done.” —Glenn Carle

4) Yale law school dean on free speech on campus.

5) Yglesias on why Trump JR has no credibility:

But as the old saying says, fool me twice, shame on me. Trump Jr. has already tried to fool us four or five times about this meeting, and there’s absolutely no reason we should trust him. Fox News, tellingly, has in part already moved on to justifying collusion, showing little faith from Trumpworld that the denials of collusion will hold up over the long run. Those of us who aren’t in the tank ought to muster at least the same level of skepticism.

6) This is from two years ago, but I found it utterly fascinating the level of engineering and design that goes into canned beverages and foods.  Why hasn’t there been a 99% Invisible on this?!

7) Enjoyed this complete guide to the religions on Game of Thrones.  That said, I have strong opinions on the matter and feel like far more people should have converted to the Lord of Light (he actually gets stuff done!).

8) OMG, sure there’s some imbalance in who’s doing what’s “cool” and “not cool” in this poster, but taken it it’s totality, it strikes me as a long way from “racist” (especially since most of the non-white kids in the poster, including the lifeguard, are perfectly well-behaved.  Mostly, it strikes me as an effort at inclusive racial harmony in a swimming pool, where some kids need to be better at following the rules.

9) Say it with me, “the dose makes the poison.”  Ignoring this fact is fearmongering.  NYT should know better.

10) Nice review/summary of Dan Drezner’s new book on public intellectuals.

11) Jon Cohn on why a bipartisan health care bill might make sense for Republicans.

12) And on how health insurance companies are unloading on the “unworkable” idea Ted Cruz is pushing to undermine pre-existing conditions protections.

13) The Breitbartification of right-wing media:

As recently as five or 10 years ago, every major news outlet would have treated this set of facts [the Russia story] as front-page news and a dire threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The conservative press and Republican voters might disagree on certain particulars or points of emphasis. But their view of reality — of what happened and its significance — would have largely comported with that of the mainstream. You’d have had to travel to the political fringe of right-wing talk radio, the Drudge Report and dissident publications like Breitbart News to find an alternative viewpoint that rejected this basic story line.

Not anymore. Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics.

14) Nice piece in TNR on how to best make the case for “Medicare for all.”  Surely, if we are going to get a policy like this, it needs to be framed and sold to the public as effectively as possible.

15) Nice column from Jamelle Bouie asks, “How long can Republicans risk everything to pretend Russia is no big deal?”  I know!  Until they get their tax cuts for rich people.  Bouie’s damning conclusion:

If nothing else, Republican behavior—the extent to which the party is still powering through a hyper-partisan agenda, even as evidence of something untoward mounts—is an implicit statement that foreign interference is an acceptable path to partisan gain. At the risk of cliché, it normalizes outside meddling in American democracy. And the 2016 election won’t even be the end of Russian interference in our elections. There is real potential for further, more damaging hacking aimed at often-obsolete local election infrastructure. Preventing this is of national concern and requires cooperation from both sides at all levels of government. It requires both parties to show a commitment to the ideals of American democracy.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that both parties have that commitment. The GOP’s recent enthusiasm for voter ID laws (and the voter suppression they cause) has long since thrown that issue of commitment into question. But the institutional indifference to foreign intervention is something different. It signals a dangerously zero-sum attitude, where any price—including subversion from outside forces—is worth paying if it clears a path to partisan and ideological victory. Perhaps the worm will turn and Republicans will join Democrats in demanding real answers from President Trump and his associates. For now, at least, we have a Republican Party that values its success above the integrity of our system.

16) Former Trump employee on the disastrous consequence of Trump putting family first in his business endeavors.

17) So, basically, a lot of favorite breakfast items are pretty much dessert.   I did discover that my go-to cereal, Kashi Go Lean fares quite well, though (of course, I used to claim that it “tastes like twigs.” I’m use to the lower sweetness now).

18) Long time conservative columnist Mona Charen is not exactly persuaded by the Trump line on Russian collusion.

19) It’s amazing how much genetics seems to explain how our brains process looking at faces.  And this can help us understand autism better, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) In light of the recent Pew findings on Republicans and higher education, Dan Drezner with a nice post on the GOP’s “war on college.”

2) Personally, I’m all for using genetically-modified mice to try and save endangered bird populations (it’s pretty cool how this would work).  NCSU scientists are working to make this happen, but probably not anytime soon.

3) Much talked about article this week painting a doomsday picture of climate change.  Interesting discussion as to whether this is an effective approach.

4) Speaking of climate change, I was a little abashed that I did not get this key driver of climate change right in this quiz.  And excellent article on abating the issue.

5) David Brooks on Trump family morals:

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life. When the Russian government offer came across his email, there doesn’t seem to have been a flicker of concern. Instead, he replied with that tone of simple bro glee that we remember from other scandals.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

Successful business people, like successful politicians, are very ambitious, but they generally have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive. The House of Trump has sprayed an insecticide on any possible complementary code, and so they are continually trampling basic decency. Their scandals may not build to anything impeachable, but the scandals will never end.

6) Honestly, bashing Evangelical Christians for their love of Trump just never gets old for me.

7) Pretty cool story on how the mis-use of the Calibri font helped catch a forgery.  Also, I didn’t even realize that I use it all the time in various Office documents.

8) Catherine Rampell, “Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse.”

9) Jennifer Rubin on Trump and the GOP’s “moral rot.”  She might as well become a Democrat already:

Let me suggest the real problem is not the Trump family, but the GOP. To paraphrase Brooks, “It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.” Again, to borrow from Brooks, beyond partisanship the GOP evidences “no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”

Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America…

Out of its collective sense of victimhood came the GOP’s disdain for not just intellectuals but also intellectualism, science, Economics 101, history and constitutional fidelity. If the Trump children became slaves to money and to their father’s unbridled ego, then the GOP became slaves to its own demons and false narratives. A party that has to deny climate change and insist illegal immigrants are creating a crime wave — because that is what “conservatives” must believe, since liberals do not — is a party that will deny Trump’s complicity in gross misconduct. It’s a party as unfit to govern as Trump is unfit to occupy the White House. It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any “external moral truth or ethical code.” [emphasis mine]

10) Love this from political scientist David Hopkins, “Want to Influence the Democratic Party? Try Joining the Democratic Party.”

11) Thanks to Mika for enlightening me about cloudberries (and telling me of his unpleasant childhood cloudberry picking trips).  I shall be sticking with blueberries.

12) Loved this story about how “South of the Border” on I-95 in SC keeps it going after all these years.

13) In a different administration, we wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by wrongdoing that stuff like this simply flies under the radar, “State Department spent more than $15,000 for rooms at new Trump hotel in Vancouver.”

14) Big Steve went to town coming up with D&D stats for various Trump folks.  Big Steve is rusty on the D&D side, I wonder what my 5th-edition-conversant son would come up with.

15) Apparently “Baby Driver” is creating Ipod nostalgia.  I still love my 6th generation Ipod Nano (so compact and easy to use with a built in clip).  Still use it for all my workouts.  I have no interest in having a smartphone with me when I’m exercising.

16) So, I know Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” became a giant controversy.  As for me, I simply really enjoyed the movie.  Pretty much agree with this review.

17) Bloomberg thinks plug-in electric cars are going to start making dramatic inroads within the next 10-15 years:

The Bloomberg forecast is far more aggressive, projecting that plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will make up 54 percent of new light-duty sales globally by 2040, outselling their combustion engine counterparts.

The reason? Batteries. Since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion battery packs has plunged by two-thirds, to around $300 per kilowatt-hour. The Bloomberg report sees that falling to $73 by 2030, without any significant technological breakthroughs, as companies like Tesla increase battery production in massive factories, optimize the design of battery packs and improve chemistries.

18) Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is bullish on renewable energy:

Research analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that renewable energy like solar and wind power are hurtling towards a level of ubiquity where not even politics can hinder them. Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast. Basic economics, the analysts say, suggest that the US will exceed its commitments in the Paris agreement regardless of whether or not president Donald Trump withdraws, as he’s stated he will.

“We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe,” with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday.

19) Really enjoyed this story about mass-producing GM mosquitoes to help fight mosquito-borne disease.  The key is separating the males from females (sterile males are released) and now robots and software can do that really well.

20) I was particularly interested in this article about dentists looking to prescribe less opioids after wisdom teeth extraction.  I remember the huge benefit I got from my opioids many years ago.  And just this past December, the Vicodin my son got seemed dramatically more effective for his pain relief than high dose ibuprofen (and I love ibuprofen).  Interestingly, though, the latest research suggests nsaid/acetaminophen combinations may actually be the most effective for pain after wisdom teeth extraction.  But the doctors don’t care.

 

How colleges are the ruin of America

Sometimes, at a very select few, over-zealous students with insufficient respect for the values of free speech, protest speakers.  Oh, yeah, and lots of liberals work there.

So, just set aside the fact that American higher education is the envy of the world and is hugely important for producing a knowledgeable, skilled, productive workforce, clearly on the balance, colleges are bad for Amerrrica– right?

Well, sadly, that’s what a majority of Republicans now seem to believe.  Ugh.  Nice write-up in Insidehighered based on a recent Pew survey:

The partisan stratification is apparent even within the GOP. Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65 percent) said colleges have a negative impact, compared to 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans.

Viewers of right-leaning news media might not be surprised by Pew’s findings. Virtually every day Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative outlets run critical articles about free speech disputes on college campuses, typically with coverage focused on the perceived liberal orthodoxy and political correctness in higher education.

For example, Breitbart on Monday riffed on a report from The New York Times about a 35 percent enrollment decline at the University of Missouri at Columbia in the two years since racially charged protests occurred at the flagship university.

Bogus right-wing outlets also often target higher education. A fictitious story about California college students cutting off their genitals to protest Trump’s Mexican border wall plan recently made the rounds on purported news sites and social media.

In addition, Republican politicians in recent years have pushed back on the four-year degree, saying that not all jobs require the credential. Some also question the value of four-year degrees and criticize increasing college tuition levels.

Whatever the cause, a wide range of Republican voters are buying in to skepticism about higher education…

“Is the precipitous drop in conservative regard for postsecondary education reflecting a decline in confidence in higher education attainment as a sure path to socioeconomic mobility, or is this more about perceptions of ‘liberal bias’ in higher education among conservatives?” she said via email. “Are these attitudes more an expression of backlash against rising cost of college and student debt load, and the accompanying belief that colleges are businesses that care more about their bottom line than students (as we’ve found in our research), or is this about the rise of an emboldened anti-intellectualism in the wake of the last presidential election?”

More data would be nice, but I’m going to pretty confidently hazard this is about symbolism and cultural signifiers rather than dissatisfaction with college affordability and as a pathway for social mobility.  Especially, given the sharp shift, “emboldened anti-intellectualism” sounds about right.

And here’s an excellent tweetstorm on the matter from a Princeton professor:

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Obviously I don’t know much about China and North Korea.  But I do know that if Evan Osnos thinks something is our least bad option, there’s a good chance it actually is:

At the G-20 meeting in Hamburg this week, the world’s attention will focus largely on Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. But Trump’s meeting with Xi will have more immediate relevance in dealing with the Korea crisis. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Jake Sullivan and Victor Cha, foreign-policy advisers in the Obama and Bush Administrations, respectively, proposed a new approach to getting China invested in freezing the North Korean missile tests. Instead of threatening North Korea with cutting off trade, they propose, in effect, paying it to cut off missile tests. “The basic trade would be Chinese disbursements to Pyongyang, as well as security assurances, in return for constraints on North Korea’s program. . . . If North Korea cheated, China would not be receiving what it paid for. The logical thing would be for it to withhold economic benefits until compliance resumed.” The Times outlined a similar idea in an editorial of its own this week.

This approach is no silver bullet, but, in the “land of lousy options,” as diplomats call the North Korea problem, it is as good as any, in part because it does not rest on a false understanding of the other party. The relationship between Xi and Trump–leaders of the world’s two largest economies, a rising power and an addled power, straining to coexist—may well prove to be the most consequential diplomatic liaison of its time.

2) Emily Yoffe on Trump’s TV addiction.

3) Linda Greenhouse in Gorsuch:

Whether out of ignorance or by deliberate choice, Neil Gorsuch is a norm breaker. He’s the new kid in class with his hand always up, the boy on the playground who snatches the ball out of turn. He is in his colleagues’ faces pointing out the error of their ways, his snarky tone oozing disrespect toward those who might, just might, know what they are talking about. It’s hard to ascribe this behavior to ignorance — he was, after all, like three of his colleagues, once a Supreme Court law clerk. But if it’s not ignorance, what is it? How could the folksy “Mr. Smith Goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee” morph so quickly into Donald Trump’s life-tenured judicial avatar? …

And while liberals have every reason to gnash their teeth over the justice who holds the seat that should have been Merrick Garland’s, they can perhaps take some comfort in the unexpected daylight that has opened between him and two of the court’s other conservatives, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. My concern when Justice Gorsuch joined the court was how like Chief Justice Roberts he seemed in demeanor and professional trajectory. I could see him as a natural ally who would bolster the chief justice’s most conservative instincts. It now seems just as likely that Neil Gorsuch’s main effect on John Roberts will be to get on his nerves.

4) I had not heard of the Charlie Gard case till I read about it in Vox.  I don’t think it all unreasonable that a health system without unlimited resources (British NHS) does not want to spend millions of dollars on an unproven treatment for a single child.

5) Amusingly enough, Americans pretend to order their steak less cooked than data suggests they actually do.  I make no apologies for being a medium-well person.  Not big on blood in my food.  Here’s a chart based on orders at Longhorn Steakhouse:

how americans order steak

6) Surprise, surprise, immigrant farm workers are not actually taking the jobs of Americans:

Before they can hire workers through the program, farmers must first try to recruit locally. But many say they don’t have much luck.

“We just don’t have the local labor here to work the farms,” Wooten said. “We wouldn’t be able to run without immigrant labor. It’s that simple, and it’s a lot more than just agriculture.”

A 2013 study by the Center for Global Development analyzed more than a decade’s worth of data from North Carolina farms and found that “no matter how bad the economy becomes, native workers do not take farm jobs.”

7) In other unsurprising news, internet trolls tend to test high in psychopathy.

8) Headline I was not expecting to see, “FBI investigated complaints that Bobby Knight groped women at U.S. spy agency.”

9) Good news for the con artists who pose as “scientific” experts based on fraudulent “forensic science.”  They are protected from lawsuits even in cases of gross negligence.

10) This very computer I’m typing on used to use Kasperky anti-virus until NC State decided to go with another vendor.  Apparently, national security types are so hot on the idea of a Russian company providing key cyber-security.

11) I watched a ton of TV as a kid and safe to say I turned out fine.  My kids have lots of screen time and I’m pretty sure they’ll (well, most of ’em) will turn out fine, too.  Loved this NYT essay:

But the ability of parents to limit screen time, like the ability to limit unwholesome food, has become more than a matter of health. It has become a statement of class, order, purity and parental authority.

We are told that tech billionaires, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, limited screen time strictly for their own children. The internet is awash with articles linking screen time to depression, A.D.H.D., even psychosis…

Perhaps my writing this is just an attempt to wash away guilt, but I have even made peace with our love of poor-quality screen time, so long as we are still doing the other things that make up a good life. There are too many problems in the world worth worrying about for bourgeois parents like me to waste energy and resources perfecting and regimenting our little worlds.

And what is this teaching my children? I hope it is teaching them that it is O.K. to waste some of the 24 hours in a day. I hope it is teaching them that there is value in making space in your life for laziness and pleasure, for the purposeless passing of time.

12) Enjoyed Dana Goldstein’s article on the growing trend of campus common reading.  I’ve  been a discussion leader for NC State’s program for at least 8 years or so now.  NC State even got the shout-out for this year’s Between the World and Me, which I’ll be starting soon.

13) Hollywood sure does have a bad movie problem.  Maybe there’s hope that Chinese viewers will stop paying for any American crap with a bunch of explosions and this can get better.

14) This John Roberts graduation speech is so good.  It’s honestly hard to believe that the person who could say these words takes some of the SC positions that he does.

15) I’d noticed some Axios links in my various feeds, but didn’t realize it was basically dumbed-down Politico.  Don’t expect a lot of Axios links here.

16) Ezra’s excellent July 4th essay:

We are diminished when our president lies, and even more so when we begin taking his habitual lying for granted. The New York Times published a comprehensive list of falsehoods Trump told since taking office and found it wasn’t until March that Trump went a full day without saying something flatly untrue. The absence of public dishonesty, for Trump, is usually driven by an absence of opportunity to be publicly dishonest. “On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing,” the Times found…

We are diminished when our president spends his time and energy — and thus the nation’s time and energy — on the wrong issues. At Axios, Mike Allen notes Trump has tweeted the words “opioid” or “opioids” just once — but “loser” 234 times, and “dumb” or “dummy” 222 times. Political capital is finite, and our future is harmed when it is squandered.

We are diminished when the president knows nothing about the issues he faces, and does not try to learn more. It is embarrassing that the president’s staffers have taken to writing his name as often as possible in briefing documents for fear that he will lose interest otherwise, that they fill his press clips with sycophantic praise in an effort to distract him from Twitter, that they fight to appear on Fox & Friends because they know he takes advice from the television better than from his own advisers. We have a president who was not humble enough to realize health care and North Korea are complex problems, and who has not responded to that realization by seriously studying the issues.

17) The science of why bird eggs have different shapes.

18) Among the crazy and horrible things the U.S. does, sending kids adopted from foreign countries as young children back to their “home” country via adult deportation is pretty up there in the wrongness.

19) Texas seems to think that the court system should be fair and merciful for police officers.  Others, not so much.

20) A friend shared something on Facebook about glysophate being responsible for the rise in Celiac and gluten problems.  And it’s based on a study in Interdisciplinary Toxicology.  Well, that sounds good.  Not so much.  Turns out it’s a Slovakian pay to publish journal.  And worst, part, there is not actually Roundup-resistant GMO wheat, upon which the whole idea is predicated.

21) Chait’s been really excellent on Republicans and health care lately:

And today McConnell himself made the same point again. Only this time, he didn’t phrase it quite like a threat. “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement,” heannounced, “then some kind of action with regard to private-health-insurance markets must occur.”

This is, of course, a comical admission that the entire premise of the Republican onslaught has always been a lie. Republicans have insisted for seven years the law was totally beyond repair, and that the entire thing must be repealed, including its Medicaid expansion. The truth is that the marketplaces have largely stabilized, and they face long-standing challenges providing competition in rural areas, but nothing like the death spiral Republicans have claimed. Even Trump’s own health-care experts have admitted the Obamacare exchanges are healthy. [emphasis mine]

If Republicans want to give up their long-standing boycott of any tinkering with the bill and instead pass some simple patches, they might anger some conservatives, but they will also steer clear of inflicting humanitarian disaster on their own constituents, who might not appreciate it.

22) Very nice piece in Upshot about how Republicans are all for local government.  Except when local government is controlled by liberals who want to pass, you know, liberal policies.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice Pew report on gun ownership and attitudes.  A large majority of gun owners believe owning a gun is “essential to their freedom.”  Newsflash: it’s not.

2) Heaven forbid people in North Carolina drink alcohol before noon on a Sunday.  The pathetic, backward, explicitly right-wing Christian justification for this law is just embarrassing.

3) Oh my is this one hell of a summer reading list from an Alabama social studies teacher.

4) As if our criminal justice system wasn’t already shameful enough, it’s really unconscionable how the system tries to extract exorbitant profits from criminals and their families.

5) I like Josh Barro’s column on how the Democratic party needs to follow Elizabeth Warren’s approach– unrig the system.  It came to me via a critical posting from a middle-aged white male political science professor who questioned how we could ever expect a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white person to lead the current Democratic party.

6) Pretty amazing what British campaigners did with Tinder to get more Corbyn voters.

7) I liked this “5 reasons it’s hard so to think like a scientist.”  I don’t actually find it hard, but that’s because of years of excellent training.  I especially liked this conclusion as my mom was really, really smart, but the fact that she had never had any science or social science training was clear:

Being smart isn’t enough
Even expert researchers suffer from the human foibles that undermine scientific thinking. Their critical faculties are contaminated by their agenda, by their ultimate motives for doing their experiments. This is why the open science revolution occurring in psychology is so important: when researchers make their methods and hypotheses transparent, and they pre-register their studies, it makes it less likely that they will be diverted, even corrupted by, confirmation bias (seeking out evidence to support their existing beliefs).

Take the example of systematic views in psychotherapy research: a recent analysis found that the conclusions of many are spun in a way that supports the researchers’ own biases. Other times, the whole scientific publishing community, from journals editors down to science journalists, seem to switch off their critical faculties because they happen to agree with the message to emerge from a piece of research.

In their chapter, Shah and her colleagues point out that raw cognitive ability (IQ) is not a good predictor of a person’s ability to think like a scientist. More relevant is mental attitude, such as a person’s “need for cognition” and their ability or motivation to override gut instinct and reflect deeply. On a positive note, these mental dispositions may be more malleable, that is more trainable, than basic intelligence. But we’ll need plenty of solid evidence to test that.

8) Naomi Klein makes the case for identity politics as preeminent for the left.  Interesting interview, but I remain unpersuaded.  And I think her critique of the center-left on climate change is a massive and willful mis-representation.

9) There is no #9 :-).

10) Yglesias on Trump’s America and passing the Senate health care bill:

The watchwords of Trump-era politics are “LOL nothing matters.” If you’re in a jam, you just lie about it. If you’re caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.

11) This tweetstorm on Philandro Castille and what we expect out of police versus ordinary citizens is so good; please read it.

12) This NPR story on the “driving life and death of Philandro Casttille” is very good.  If you think a similar white man would get pulled over half this much, you are part of the problem.

13) Okay, a little too liberal preachy, but I really did enjoy this, “Christian: you are upset about the wrong things”

If you become upset when people use the greeting “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” but you are less upset at the wasteful use of resources during this season and the rampant shallow consumerism while many live in poverty: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset when the government uses its power to make corporations protect their workers and protect the environment, but you are less upset when those workers are exploited, injured, or the environment is critically harmed: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset at the grocery store when you see someone pay for their food with vouchers or food stamps, but you are less upset with the institutional and cultural structures that often create the very need for such help: You are upset about the wrong things.

14) This is important— how the Senate bill creates a sneaky, but effective, backdoor for essentially removing protection for those with pre-existing conditions.  Read this, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

15) NC State senator refers to “jihad media.” NC State PS professor actually says what he really thinks:

“It is exactly the type of loaded, symbolic term one might use preaching to the choir of the Republican base, which is presumably very much Bishop’s audience on Twitter,” Greene said in an email. “This seems of a similar intellectual vein of President Trump referring to the media as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Complaining about the ‘bias’ of very middle-of-the-road mainstream media has been a trope of the Republican right wing for years; this is just taking it to a new level. That said, when one considers the absolutely fundamental role of free media in a properly functioning democracy, this is not the type of rhetoric which should be a part of reasoned political debate.”

16) Excellent NYT Editorial on the psychologist/torturers.

17) Jordan Weissman on the media’s short attention span and McConnell’s evil brilliance:

But whether or not the GOP’s bill ultimately passes, McConnell has already pulled off a frightening coup by showing how easily you can get away with legislating by dark. Even worse, you might be rewarded for it by a media that doesn’t like to harp on the same old story about congressional minutiae day after day when it could be focusing on something with intrigue and a dramatic narrative arc, like James Comey and Trump’s Russia scandal.

U.S. democracy functions thanks to dull rules created by dull men in dull institutions. McConnell has shown that nobody bothers to tune in when a dull man smashes them.

18) Former Reagan administration official, Bruce Bartlett rips Trump and today’s GOP like nobody’s business.  Read it.

And if those policies weren’t enough, conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.

Mid-week quick hits

Tuesday night and I’m already up to 21 for the week!  So, here you go.

1) You’d think that anybody who was actually a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld would know he would not want to hug a stranger.

2) This is the dumbest HS yearbook oversight yet– a kid’s “Trump: Make America Great Again” shirt was photoshopped to plain black in his yearbook photo.  OMG that’s so stupid.

3) Enjoyed this from Paulina Porizkova (who used to adorn my middle school locker with photos cut out from the SI Swimsuit issue) on how America made her a feminist.

4) I try not to use the term “evil” about politicians, but it may well fit Kris Kobach, the man trying to make it as hard as possible to vote behind fraudulent voter fraud claims.

For Kobach, the question of citizenship, and who has a rightful claim to it, is at the heart of his lawsuits and legislation. Years before Donald Trump began talking about building a wall, the fate of America’s white majority was a matter of considerable interest to Kobach, who once agreed with a caller to his radio show that a rise in Latino immigration could lead to the “ethnic cleansing” of whites and has written scores of laws across the country to crack down on undocumented immigration…

Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.

5) I love this from David Plotz on all the jobs in America that employ way more people than (Trump’s obsession of) coal miners.

6) The headline from the Monkey Cage post captures it, “The Confederate flag largely disappeared after the Civil War. The fight against civil rights brought it back.”

7) Loved this “in defense of cultural appropriation.”  Hell yeah:

The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy. It’s the insistence that certain beliefs and images are so important to particular cultures that they may not appropriated by others. This is most clearly seen in the debate about Ms. Schutz’s painting “Open Casket.”

In 1955, Emmett Till’s mother urged the publication of photographs of her son’s mutilated body as it lay in its coffin. Till’s murder, and the photographs, played a major role in shaping the civil rights movement and have acquired an almost sacred quality. It was from those photos that Ms. Schutz began her painting.

To suggest that she, as a white painter, should not depict images of black suffering is as troubling as the demand by some Muslims that Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” should be censored because of supposed blasphemies in its depiction of Islam. In fact, it’s more troubling because, as the critic Adam Shatz has observed, the campaign against Ms. Schutz’s work contains an “implicit disavowal that acts of radical sympathy, and imaginative identification, are possible across racial lines.”

Seventy years ago, racist radio stations refused to play “race music” for a white audience. Today, antiracist activists insist that white painters should not portray black subjects. To appropriate a phrase from a culture not my own: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

8) How Dallas— a city with a third white residents, but only 5% white public school students– is looking to integrate.  Good for them.

9) It’s not exactly shocking to learn how cruise ships exploit their workers, but it is sad.

10) Seth Masket on what we can learn from the White House’s ongoing problem with typos.

11) Good stuff from Katherine Cramer on how rural people are so resentful of those in cities.  Huge flaw in this, though.  Nowhere does she point out that rural people are 100% wrong in thinking that they are subsidizing those in cities (an example from Minnesota).

12) Mentally ill people should not wield knives at police.  Police– especially a pair of them– should not should people for brandishing a knife until non-lethal and deescalation measures have proven ineffective.  Alas, legally, they can just shoot.

13) MS is obsessed with emoji differences between platforms.  Here’s a nice Slate video on the matter.  I love the tongue-out ghostImage result for ios emoji ghost and use it all the time.  Little did I realize how different it appears to my non-IOS friends.  And here’s a website with a comprehensive comparison.

14) Even Erick Erickson seems to get the reality of race in America.  Now for the rest of the Republican party.

15) Why, yes, there is a vegan strip club in Portland.

16) I was curious as to whether google image search could identify an insect I found.  

It couldn’t, but my FB friends could.  It’s a milkweed bug.  Great NPR story on the difficulty computer algorithms have with tasks like this– best one, labradoodle vs fried chicken.

17) This EJ Dionne piece on the (asymmetric) destruction of political norms is very good.

18) Radley Balko on Sessions’ amazing wrongness on drug policy.

19) McSweeney’s with writing advice with a title that makes this hilarious, “WRITING ADVICE TO MY STUDENTS THAT WOULD ALSO HAVE BEEN GOOD SEX ADVICE FOR MY HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIENDS.”

20) I don’t think I previously linked this excellent NYT feature on women in the infantry.  Good stuff.

21) Elevators are key to the modern city.  Cool New Yorker video:

The history of elevators is a history not just of engineering but also of psychological trickery and human adaptation. It’s the job of elevators to obscure from passengers that they’re “hovering over an abyss,” as Paumgarten says. And the passengers, in turn, keep our cities moving by stepping into these small flying boxes every day, as though it were nothing at all.

 

Does more school spending help students?

Yes.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is definitely wrong when she claims that spending more money will not help public schools.  NPR’s Kayla Lattimore uses this as a nice starting point to examine the research on the issue.  Of course money is no magic bullet, but spent in the right ways in the right places, it can sure help:

To be sure, spending more in troubled schools won’t automatically lead to better student outcomes. But, when the dollars are spent wisely and consistently, research suggests, they can have a profound effect in the classroom…

This idea, that sprinkling more dollars over troubled schools won’t magically improve test scores or graduation rates, is a common refrain among many politicians, activists and experts. And they have research to back it up…

In short, these critics say, it’s How You Spend School Money, not How Much You Spend.

This debate has raged for at least half a century, and today we’re going to put both sides under a microscope…

In places like Revere, north of Boston, where nearly 80 percent of students come from low-income families, many of those dollars were spent on people: to hire and keep good teachers and give them better training.

This is key, says Bruce Baker, who studies school funding at Rutgers. “If you have enough money to hire enough people to have reasonable class sizes and to be able to pay them sufficient wages so that you’re getting good people coming into the profession, that’s most of the battle of providing quality schooling.” …

So, quick recap: While the money in Camden, N.J., has led to relatively little academic progress, our stories from North Carolina, Indiana and Massachusetts offer a compelling counterpoint to the idea that money doesn’t really matter.

So, too, do a pair of recent studies that look not at one state but at many where parents, activists and school leaders from low-income districts sued and won increases in school funding…

The Takeaways

So, is money pixie dust?

No. If it were, there would be no debate. Or, at least, the debate wouldn’t be nearly as loud.

But, does money matter — especially for low-income students? Even Stanford’s Eric Hanushek agrees that it does.

“Money matters, of course,” he bristles. “And I think that’s a straw-man way to phrase the question.”

Make no mistake, money can make a difference in the classroom. If:

Takeaway #1: The money reaches students who need it most…

Takeaway #2: The increases come steadily, year after year…

Takeaway #3: The money stays in the classroom: paying, training and supporting strong teachers, improving curriculum and keeping class sizes manageable. [emphasis mine]

So, yes, absolutely, we should spend our money wisely and simply spending money in anyway is not enough.  But if we spend more money in smart, already-identified ways, we can absolutely improve education.  Let’s do it.  I’m all for starting by paying teachers more, especially where we need them the most.

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