Quick hits (part I)

1) I get that this piano composition is physically punishing and hard as hell to play.  But that sure doesn’t make it a “masterpiece.”

2) I’ve yet to read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker feature on Christopher Steele (of dossier fame), but her interview with Terry Gross was fascinating.

3) Uh, yeah, so maybe this isn’t the confederate mural you want in your elementary school gym.

4) Another clear demonstration of both racial and gender bias in online courses:

A study being released today by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, however, finds that bias appears to be strong in online course discussions.

The study found that instructors are 94 percent more likely to respond to discussion forum posts by white male students than by other students. The authors write that they believe their work is the first to demonstrate with a large pool that the sort of bias that concerns many educators in face-to-face instruction is also present in online education.

The study looked at discussion forums in 124 massive open online courses (all were provided on a single MOOC platform that the paper does not identify, citing confidentiality requirements). The researchers created fictional student accounts, with names that most would identify as being either white, black, Indian or Chinese, with male and female names for each racial/ethnic group.

Over all, instructors responded to 7 percent of comments posted by students. But for white male students, the response rate was 12 percent.

“Our results show compelling experimental evidence that instructor discrimination exists in discussion forums of online classrooms,” says the paper. “Simply attaching a name that connotes a specific race and gender to a discussion forum post changes the likelihood that an instructor will respond to that post.”

The gap in instructor response rates was the same in courses in science and technology and in other subject areas.

This is just really, really unfortunate.  I have on-line discussion fora for my on-line classes, but I’m actually pretty sure I don’t even notice the names before I respond.  And now I’ll make a point not to.

5) Interesting piece on the history of how corporations became “persons.”

6) How Economics works, Trump style:

Speaking to Bloomberg on March 7, Navarro heaped praise on his boss and described his own role as that of an enabler.

“This is the president’s vision. My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters,” Navarro said. He compared the White House to the successful New England Patriots football team. “The owner, the coach, and the quarterback are all the president. The rest of us are all interchangeable parts.”

7) Roger Cohen with a nice piece to help understand the mess of Italy’s elections.  And a really useful take from John Cassidy.

8) The very good reasons you should not get your dog cloned.

9) Really fascinating take on evolution and heart disease:

If you look back and see what it was that has threatened human beings for more than 95 percent of our existence, it’s been three main things: infections, injuries or wounds, and malnutrition. In that setting, the most successful human being was the one who had the most paranoid and xenophobic immune system, which would detect any outside activity and then try to destroy it as soon as possible.

Now, that of course, has changed. We don’t have the burden of infections, especially in higher-income countries, but what has happened is that we have been self-selected to have a very, very robust immune system.

For most of human history, things like being bitten by some wild animal or having any type of traumatic injury has been a part of routine human life. The way that we’ve always combated that has been with inflammation. When the immune system is activated, it results in inflammation. For example, you get a viral infection and you have a fever. That fever is really as a result of the inflammation that’s being caused by the immune system.

What we’re learning is that inflammation is in fact at the heart of atherosclerosis, which is basically at the heart of all heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks. White blood cells, many of them, are full of cholesterol, and they’ll start depositing. Over time, as these plaques build up, they result in blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

These very robust immune systems are in some ways like a post–Cold War nuclear arsenal, in which you don’t have that threat anymore, but these weapons are still lying around. That’s why we see all these autoimmune diseases, and also we see such a high prevalence of atherosclerosis.

[In a similar way,] even though our nutrition has changed a lot, adaptive mechanisms that were meant to protect us from starvation have now, in fact, led to the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes, which are some of the main reasons why heart disease remains the number-one killer of people around the world.


10) When divorcing parents disagree as to whether head-injury concerns should prevent their teenage son from playing football.

11) Yet more evidence of the over-use of opioids— big study shows they are no better than tylenol or NSAIDS for long-term arthritis or lower-back pain.

12) Identity politics is for Republicans.  Good political science here:

Interestingly, in the realm of “identity politics,” it is generally the Democratic Party that is associated with the use of social identities for political gain. In fact, what we find here is that, if anything, Republicans are more responsive to the alignment of their party-associated groups. Among Republicans, the most cross-cutting identities are more detrimental to in-party allegiance than they are among Democrats. Grossman and Hopkins (2016) suggest that Democrats are the party of group interests and Republicans the party of ideological purity. What we find is that Republican “purity” applies to in-party social homogeneity. A Republican who does not fit the White, Christian mold is far less attached to the Republican Party than one who does fit the mold. This effect is stronger among Republicans than among Democrats, who include significantly more individuals whose racial and religious identities do not match those of the average Democrat. The concept of a “deal-breaker” identity among Republicans is more feasible than it is among Democrats, as Republicans are generally associated with fewer linked social groups. In this sense, Republicans are more reliant than Democrats on their social identities for constructing strong partisan attachments.

Taken together, these results demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of identity politics, and its power to affect partisan ingroup preferences. Unlike pundits who characterize “identity politics” as appeals of the Democratic Party to minorities and other marginalized groups, we show that social identities are a critical ingredient to partisanship across the political spectrum. In an era of increasing affective polarization, it is crucial to underscore the point that identity politics includes the politics of traditionally high-status groups, as well as the politics of traditionally marginalized groups.

One implication for these findings is that political elites may have varying incentives to remind their voters about the multiple groups that make up each partisan team. In particular, the Republican Party, being the less socially complex of the two parties, could relatively easily remind voters of their White and Christian identities to enhance partisan identity strength. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, would likely find it more useful to remind their voters about their achievements on behalf of multiple and varied groups. All partisans, however, are incentivized to portray the other party as social strangers, making the in-party ever more attractive.

13) An interesting case that retweets make twitter worse by rewarding the worst of twitter.  The key is to only follow good people on twitter.  I follow interesting, smart, thoughtful people and when they retweet something from somebody I don’t follow, it is usually interesting and worth my time.  Like all things, just use twitter wisely.

14) Jordan Weissman, hell yeah there’s no good reason to deregulate banks now.

15) Enjoyed this review of Radley Balko’s new book on junk science.  Alas, this is so much a problem of junk prosecutors and judges:

As it so often does in the criminal justice system, the story goes back to the prosecutors. No matter how many times defense lawyers raised concerns about the credibility of Hayne and West, prosecutors called the doctors to the stand. No matter how many individuals were exonerated in cases that turned on Hayne’s or West’s word, prosecutors fought like hell to preserve their convictions. As one book reviewer put it: “When Mississippi prosecutors were in need of physical evidence in a murder case, they often would turn to Hayne and West.” Prosecutors wanted nothing more than to win. Whether the evidence was reliable, whether the experts were credible, whether the defendant actually committed the crime—those questions became irrelevant. The truth was optional.

“The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist” also brings shame to the judiciary. Despite hefty challenges backed by the testimony of real medical experts, Mississippi judges refused to shut down Hayne and West. Requarth writes, “[a]ccording to Balko and Carrington, not a single Mississippi judge in 20 years even held a hearing to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of the ‘West Phenomenon.’ No trial judge ever refused to let Hayne testify.” While there are a number of plausible explanations for the judiciary’s failure—we certainly have our own theory—the shame that this text brings should shine a light on the role courts play in permitting the introduction of junk science.

16) Thanks to Nicole for this interesting article on how Xyrem (GHB) is basically a wonder-drug for narcoleptics, but, it is priced super-high and can be very difficult to get for some.





Gender wage gap redux

There was recently a really big and fascinating about the gender pay gap using Uber drivers.  Since you have no idea of the gender of your driver when you request a ride, this presents a really interesting area to look at gender differences.  Freakonomics did a terrific podcast on the topic, which is well worth your time if you are interested in the issue.

And here’s Drum’s summary and take on the findings:

A new paper with access to Uber’s massive database of driver records concludes that female drivers earn 7 percent less than male drivers. Why? Mostly because women drive more slowly than men.

There are a couple of other factors as well that are tied to experience, and that’s interesting enough by itself. But the authors call their result “surprising,” and I think that’s the wrong conclusion. The proper conclusion is that in a job that pays via algorithm and has no special rewards for working long hours, the gender gap is only 7 percent. That’s what you get when there’s no opportunity for discrimination.

In the rest of the world, of course, the gender pay gap is about 19 percent. The usual estimate is that less than a third of this is due to outright discrimination, but the Uber data suggests that it might be more than we think. Perhaps it’s more like 12 percentage points from discrimination and, like Uber, about 7 percentage points from other causes. Food for thought.

In the Uber case, it does not seem to be 7% actual discrimination, though.  Basically, women drive slower and drive less for Uber and more experienced Uber drivers earn more by figuring out how to better work the system.  Anyway, an interesting case of technology dramatically shrinking, but not eliminating the gender pay gap.

And while we’re at it, Sarah Kliff with the results of a Denmark study that re-emphasize that this is so much aboutt a childcare (i.e. motherhood) penalty.

An important new study makes a compelling case for another explanation: The gender wage gap is mostly a penalty for bearing children.

The research comes from Henrik Kleven, an economist at Princeton University. He uses data from a country with one of the world’s most robust social safety nets: Denmark. This is a country that offers new parents an entire year of paid leave after the birth of a child. The government offers public nursery care for children under 3 at the equivalent of $737 a month — a fraction of typical costs in the United States.

Yet Denmark has a gender wage gap nearly the same size as that of the United States, a country where women are not guaranteed paid maternity leave and child care increasingly costs more than rent. How does that happen?

Kleven finds a sharp decline in women’s earnings after the birth of their first child — with no comparable salary drop for men. The cumulative effect is huge: Women end up earning 20 percent less than their male counterparts over the course of their career.

His study is among a growing body of research that suggests what we often think of as a gender pay gap is more accurately discussed as a childbearing pay gap or motherhood penalty. [emphasis mine]

And, because I’m sexist, I’m going to switch to Drum.  Okay, actually, Drum combined separate charts to make one chart to rule them all and it’s really telling:


And this, too:

And a nice summary:

After childbirth, fewer women work; they work fewer hours; and they get lower wages. And this is unrelated to education level: college graduates bear childbirth penalties that are about the same as high school grads. In fact, nearly all gender inequality has been wiped out in Denmark except for the gender gap due to childbirth…

However, this still doesn’t answer the question of why. Do women with children work less out of preference, or because firms treat them badly and eventually some of them give up? There’s a limit to what administrative data can tell us, but by expanding their dataset the authors are able to conclude that some of it is due to family influence:

Women incur smaller earnings penalties due to children if they themselves grew up in a family where the mother worked more relative to the father….The size of this effect is roughly unaffected by including the detailed non-parametric controls for education and wealth….[This] suggests that female child penalties are driven partly by female preferences formed during her childhood, rather than by male preferences formed during his childhood.

Women from more traditional families form an early preference for working less when they have young children to take care of. Women from more liberal families don’t. In other words, it’s women from traditional families who account for the biggest share of the childbearing penalty. However, the size of the difference between traditional and liberal families isn’t large, so there’s clearly a lot more going on than just that.

So, in the end, to a considerable degree it is shaped by broad cultural and personal ideas about gender and child-rearing.  You want to really change the gender wage gap then that’s what we’re talking about.

Not easy, but Anne-Marie Slaughter’s got some good ideas on the matter.


Men are from wars, women are from Hogwarts

Or something like that.  Thanks to MDG for bringing to my attention this interesting 538 article on how IMDB movie ratings are heavily skewed by male preferences.  Here’s a screenshot of the top 9 weighted by gender (click through for the full interactive chart).

Women not so big on the Godfather.  And look at that all-gender love for Shawshank (really need to watch that with David).

Anyway, somebody had the cool idea of finding out which films had the overall largest difference in ratings by gender and here you go:

Short version… what do men have against Harry Potter?  The first couple are fine and after that they are generally quite good.  As for the movies men love way more, it seems the common theme is violence– war and westerns.

Anyway, pretty interesting.  Would love to see some actual social science with this data.


The gender gap in science

Okay, first things first, take the Pew Science Knowledge Quiz.

Yes, damn straight I got 12/12 (94th percentile).  Of course, I was worried I’d blow something and suffer a blow to my highly-science-literate self concept.

Now, that you’ve taken the quiz, you can see how the rest of America did (based on Pew’s national random sample) and check out the cool report.

Probably the most distressing thing I noticed was the rather substantial gender gap.  Here it is in chart form.

College Graduates and Postgraduates Most Knowledgeable About These Science Topics

This is not just because there are more male scientists/science majors, etc., this is the case at every level of education.

Men Score Higher on Science Questions at All Educational Levels, on Average

So, short version– we’re doing something wrong!  I honestly find it pretty preposterous on its face to suggest that there is something biological which makes the female brain less suited to retain basic science knowledge.  Thus, our culture is clearly doing a pretty crappy job in somehow steering boys more towards and women away from science.  There’s nothing inherently male about science except that most scientists are males.  I don’t expect that we’re going to have 50% women astronomers and micro-biologists in the near future, but, damn, it seems that if we cannot even have women and men without college degrees performing pretty equivalently in science knowledge we got to really re-think how we are doing things at a basic level.

Okay, time for me to go home and watch the Science Channel (instead of Spongebob) with my daughter.

Women and the future of gun policy

Given my recent heightened interest in gun policy and my longstanding interest in gender and public opinion I thought I should see what’s out there political science-wise on the matter.  It’s basically well-established that women are more liberal than men on gun control (and pretty much all use-of-force issues) so not all that much of recent vintage.  That said, came across this nice article from Tiffany Barnes and Erin Cassese that examines gender differences within parties.  I.e., of course with women being more liberal/Democratic overall they are more liberal on guns, so how much of this is about just partisanship and how much gender.  Short version– it’s a lot about gender.  Here’s the abstract:

Research on the gender gap in American politics has focused on average differences between male and female voters. This has led to an underdeveloped understanding of sources of heterogeneity among women and, in particular, a poor understanding of the political preferences of Republican women. We argue that although theories of ideological sorting suggest gender gaps should exist primarily between political parties, gender socialization theories contend that critical differences lie at the intersection of gender and party such that gender differences likely persist within political parties. Using survey data from the 2012 American National Election Study, we evaluate how party and gender intersect to shape policy attitudes. We find that gender differences in policy attitudes are more pronounced in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party, with Republican women reporting significantly more moderate views than their male counterparts. Mediation analysis reveals that the gender gaps within the Republican Party are largely attributable to gender differences in beliefs about the appropriate scope of government and attitudes toward gender-based inequality. These results afford new insight into the joint influence of gender and partisanship on policy preferences and raise important questions about the quality of representation Republican women receive from their own party.

Interestingly, it fails to make any mention of guns in there.  Yet, guns were actually the biggest intra-party difference they found:

With respect to issues linked to violence and the use of force, Republican women (M = .20) are far more likely than Republican men (M = .54) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 41.10, p < .001. This is the largest within-party gender difference (gender gap = .34) in our analysis…

Whereas Republican men and women hold significantly different positions on a number of issues, Democratic men and women have similar views for all but three issue areas. Women (M = −.46) are far more likely than men (M = −.17) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 35.82, p < .001. As with Republicans, the gender gap on gun control is the largest within-party gender difference among Democrats.

Hmmm.  Interesting.  Among other things it very much suggests that any hope for saner (check that, less insane) gun policies in the future rest largely on getting more women in office.  And 2018 looks to be a good start for that.


Quick hits (part II)

Late and gun-heavy edition.

1) The unwillingness of so many prosecutors to admit that they are human and make mistakes (or worse, cover up their misconduct) and thereby make innocent people suffer is really infuriating.

2) Nate Silver’s take on how much Russia ultimately influenced the election.  TLDR– hard to say.

3) I don’t know how many fathers there are on the U.S. Olympics team, but I do think it is pretty telling about gender and social roles that there is literally only one mom on the U.S. Olympic team.  On the bright side, she won gold in incredibly dramatic fashion.  Just watch this.  Seriously.

4) Yglesias makes a pretty strong case for Trump being guilty of something nefarious on Russia:

Emerging conventional wisdom in Washington, however, remains that there’s little reason to believe that Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation will end up proving much of interest. Politico magazine editor-in-chief Blake Hounshell this weekend wrote one of the buzziest pieces advocating a skeptical approach to Mueller’s ongoing inquiry, titled “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,” throwing cold water on the notion of high-level cooperation between Trumpworld and the Russians.

But to believe this, frankly, requires a much greater suspension of disbelief than to posit that the president colluded with Russia. You have to believe that after a decade of paying Manafort millions for his expertise to help pro-Russian candidates win elections in Ukraine, no one from Moscow thought to consult with him about how to help a pro-Russia candidate win an election in the United States.

And we have to believe that even though we know Trump’s son was both in touch with WikiLeaks and openly enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating with Russia on obtaining and disseminating anti-Hillary Clinton dirt, when he met with Russians on this very topic, they didn’t talk about it. And, of course, we have to believe that Trump’s specific — and quite public — call for Putin to hack more Clinton emails was completely random.

Trump–Russia skeptics, legion in the political press, brush all this aside in a gesture of faux sophistication, positing a bizarre series of coincidences complete with a massive cover-up all — for no particular reason.

5) In reference to some commentary discussion on my recent weight loss post, looks like there is some good evidence for the power of chewing gum in helping with weight loss.

6) Really like Perry Bacon Jr’s 538 piece on how he and the media got John Kelly wrong:

The media narrative around Kelly’s appointment had two central ideas, one outward- and one inward-facing: He would calm and professionalize the White House, and he would provide a more measured leadership style than his boss. Kelly’s views on policy were largely downplayed — he would simply be implementing Trump’s agenda and was “non-ideological” and “apolitical” anyway.

But the media got it wrong, myself included. Kelly seems to have deeply held views, particularly on immigration, that he has asserted — and they are not those of the McCain-like GOP establishment. Unlike past chiefs of staff, he hasn’t been careful to avoid bombastic comments. There was the attack on Wilson. But more recently, Kelly suggested that undocumented immigrants who had not yet signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were “lazy.” He has also praised Confederate general Robert E. Lee. You might even call Kelly’s rhetoric Trumpian.

7) Lee Drutman on why Parkland could be a gun control turning point:

And so for a long time, the lore in Washington was this: Nobody ever lost reelection for being too supportive of gun rights. So why take the chance? If there were a sizable number of gun owners in your state or district, why pick a fight you were sure to lose? Especially since it seemed likely everybody in Congress was making the same risk-averse calculation, and as a result, no gun control legislation seemed likely to pass anyway. Why be courageous for a lost cause?

Baked into this calculus was the assumption that not only were there single-issue gun rights voters but Democrats could win these voters by being pro-gun, and Republicans could losethese voters by being anti-gun.

But as partisanship has taken over just about everything in political life, the power of the single-issue voter (on any issue) has diminished. Spend some time reading and soaking in the NRA’s powerful propaganda, and it’s harder and harder to distinguish its own advocacy from core Republican identity politics of nostalgic American greatness. The NRA is now part of the Republican Party. Ninety-nine percent of its money goes to Republican candidates. As a result, it has lost the leverage it once had over swing-state Democrats.

In the short term, this made the NRA stronger, because its gamble paid off. Republican control of the House, Senate, and presidency makes meaningful gun control legislation unlikely. In the long run, however, this makes the NRA weaker, because its power is tied to Republicans being in power. [emphasis mine]

8) Michael Ian Black on the obviously gendered problem of mass shooters.

9) Get really tired of hearing people say variations of “in only we knew what to do.”  We do and we’re just not doing it.

10) Will Wilkinson on the ethno-nationalism behind opposition to the Dream Act:

The fact that there’s any question about affording legal status to a class of rooted young immigrants who grew up American among Americans is shameful. It’s a reflection of the disgraceful fact that so many of us are doggedly ignorant of the country we claim to revere, and deny the plain historical truth that America has always been multicultural, that Spanish colonial mestizo culture is a foundational American culture, and that many Mexican Americans have deeper roots in American soil than those of us whose European ancestors arrived rather late in the day at Ellis Island.

It makes no more sense, culturally or ethnically, to call into question the Americanness of a young woman whose mom brought her from Hermosillo to Tucson at the age of 6 than it does to doubt that a white guy raised in Syracuse but born in Toronto can ever really belong there.

Threatening to hang DREAMers out to dry — to arrest them, to uproot them, to jail them, to rip them from their families, to sever their bonds of loyalty and love, and to cast them into exile — threatens the equality and security of tens of millions of American citizens who are ethnically and culturally identical to them.

And a threat to any subset of Americans is a threat to America — to us. Trump’s unilateral act of political hostage-taking was, from the beginning, an act of violent division, an assault on the integrity of the actual, existing, real-world American people.

The ethnically purified fantasy of the populist imagination is a seditious force that obscures our higher loyalties, shatters the peace of liberal equality, and splits Americans into warring tribes ready to abuse people whom patriotic decency would otherwise compel us to defend.

11) Any time I come across a good article on how stupid tipping is, count on me to share it.  The sub-headline, “The data is overwhelming: Tipping encourages racism, sexism, harassment, and exploitation.”

12) Former Republican member of NC Supreme Court is pretty fed-up with his party:

Having found a political party willing to be the vehicle for its pro-gun agenda, the NRA has become a political force that Republican candidates and office holders are simply unwilling to renounce. You’d have a better chance of Republicans condemning the FBI, passing trillion-dollar budget deficits and siding with Putin and the Russians long before they’d ever condemn any agenda advocated for by the NRA. Oh, seems that’s already happened.

13) Pew with the demographics of gun ownership:

14) Of course the Schiff memo totally eviscerates the Nunes memo.  And, Nunes wins, because coverage of the just-released Schiff memo is a total after-thought.  It was A6 in my N&O today.  The Nunes memo was, of course, the lead story.  Once again, the liars win.

15) Pretty sure I’ve linked to some opioid myth-debunking before, but this is important to get right:

I have also watched a false narrative about this crisis blossom into conventional wisdom: The myth that the epidemic is driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids, or painkillers like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). One oft-quoted physician refers to opioid medication as “heroin pills.” This myth is now a media staple and a plank in nationwide litigation against drugmakers. It has also prompted legislation, introduced last spring by Senators John McCain and Kirsten Gillibrand—the Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, which would impose prescriber limits because, as a news release stated, “Opioid addiction and abuse is commonly happening to those being treated for acute pain, such as a broken bone or wisdom tooth extraction.”

But this narrative misconstrues the facts. The number of prescription opioids in circulation in the United States did increase markedly from the mid-1990s to 2011, and some people became addicted through those prescriptions. But I have studied multiple surveys and reviews of the data, which show that only a minority of people who are prescribed opioids for pain become addicted to them, and those who do become addicted and who die from painkiller overdoses tend to obtain these medications from sources other than their own physicians. Within the past several years, overdose deaths are overwhelmingly attributable not to prescription opioids but to illicit fentanyl and heroin. These “street opioids” have become the engine of the opioid crisis in its current, most lethal form. [emphases mine]

If we are to devise sound solutions to this overdose epidemic, we must understand and acknowledge this truth about its nature.

For starters, among people who are prescribed opioids by doctors, the rate of addiction is low. According to a 2016 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 87.1 million U.S. adults used a prescription opioid—whether prescribed directly by a physician or obtained illegally—sometime during the previous year. Only 1.6 million of them, or about 2 percent, developed a “pain reliever use disorder,”

16) Among the ridiculous tropes is the idea that it should be relatively easy to predict and thereby stop mass shooters.  So not so.  Thought experiment– what if we had a machine that could predict mass shooters with 99% accuracy and ran it on 100,000 people:

What? I thought this thing was 99 percent accurate! What junk!

Well, it is 99 percent accurate. But that means it will falsely label one out of every 100 people a mass shooter.

In a group of 100,000 people, we’d be left with 1,001 potential mass shooters: 1,000 false positives and one correct guess.

17) This x1000– the media should stop making school shooters famous!!  And enough with the stupid stories looking for “motive” of the mass shooters.  They wanted to kill a lot of people!  There’s no sane way to explain this.

18) Molly Worthen on the misguided drive for colleges to measure learning outcomes.  Speaking from the trenches (my departmental assessment I am working on is due this week)… Amen!  As one of my colleagues put it, we devise beans to be counted.

19) German Lopez on the real harm of the stupid, stupid, stupid arming teachers discussion:

In any other country in the world, the idea of arming teachers with guns in classrooms to protect children would be seen as the policy equivalent to random screaming. Yet in the United States, it’s an idea that now has support from President Donald Trump — who recently said that he’s willing to pay teachers “a little bit of a bonus” if necessary to arm and train them…

As we all concentrate on this, we leave aside other issues that the NRA would rather not talk about — from universal background checks to gun bans to confiscation schemes like Australia’s. So the ridiculous discussion sucks up the oxygen during the few weeks in which there’s a window to do something about guns, nothing happens, and the current situation remains.

20) Why nobody wants to host the Olympics anymore.  Here’s a hint, Pyeongchang will be demolishing it’s $109 million stadium after four uses.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the lateness.  Busy, busy day yesterday.  Here goes…

1) Erica Goode on how school shooting can be viral.  As horrible as it is, we need to learn from suicide and give these mass shootings way less attention.

Finally, there is nascent, but increasing, evidence that violence begets violence, with one school shooting — especially if it receives a lot of publicity — leading to others, a phenomenon that researchers refer to as “contagion.” And some psychologists believe that news media reports of mass killings may propel people who are already at risk of violence into committing copycat crimes.

2) Damn did David Brooks come in for it among political scientists with his naive article about a multi-party future in the U.S.  This Monkey Cage post sums up the problems:

The problem for Brooks’s vision of a popular overthrow of the two-party system, however, is not just the formidable structural barriers — it’s also that the very people most disaffected with the two parties are the least likely to be politically active. As a result, dissatisfaction with the Republicans and Democrats may not be enough to spur a fundamental change to the party system…

In a sense, Brooks is ahead of a lot of pundits in observing that the “us versus them” politics of the Democratic and Republican parties has led people to desire something new. To be sure, the parties are not hemorrhaging voters, though there has been a small decline in partisan identification over the last decade. In the 2016 ANES, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted a third party.

The problem, however, is that a new party would have to mobilize these Americans. And what defines these citizens — the ones who express the most disenchantment with the two-party system — is that they’re not politically engaged. As we saw, many don’t even want to talk about politics even when they agree with the other person.

3) Republican legislators in NC have basically been taking hostages with elementary education after delivering a dramatic unfunded mandate.  Damn I hate them.  Susan Ladd with the details.

4) Enjoyed coming late to the party to this New Yorker profile of U.S. skiier, Mikaela Shiffrin.   It’s clear that her parents are insanely dedicated and that she works hard as hell, but still incredibly naive to think that she doesn’t have natural genetic advantages, as any champion in any sport does.

5) Enjoyed David Graham’s take on the warning signs in mass shootings:

First, it depends heavily on retrospect. But things that seem like obvious warning signs after the fact may have just seemed weird beforehand. (People rarely really expect anyone to become a mass shooter, since statistically such attacks are vanishingly rare.) Conversely, there are thousands of people, and especially young men, who might set off warning bells—they act strangely, they’re obsessed with weapons, they engage in various anti-social behaviors—but who will never take a gun to school and open fire.

Second, even if one could more effectively sort the people who are just kind of weird from the people who might be more likely to perpetrate a shooting, what would the government do about it? Put differently, even if people “report such instances to authorities, again and again,” the authorities cannot arrest someone who has not committed a crime, simply because he makes people uncomfortable. Pre-crime is not prosecutable.

6) I really like how this “bad faith” critique of Congressional Republicans seems to be catching on.  Here’s Krugman on the matter.  The key will be to see if it works its way into ordinary reporter’s stories when Republicans are demonstrating bad faith.

7) This McSweeney’s take, “Please don’t get murdered at school today,” on school shootings is about my favorite I’ve come across:

I know that may sound scary, but what you need to remember is that this country was founded on freedom. And that includes the freedom of all people (sane, crazy, whatever) to have unchallenged access to guns that are capable of executing at least 20 first graders or 12 moviegoers or 9 of the faithful at a church service or even a baby asleep in her car seat. This is very, very important in terms of staying true to the principles and spirit upon which this country was founded. Just ask the Internet…

I’m sorry, I wish I had better news. But let’s keep our sympathies where they belong — with the powerful and the armed. With those who feel threatened in the face of the most toothless efforts to hold back the bloodshed and those who believe scary monster stories about their guns being taken away. Let’s face it, it would be easier to take away the ocean or the stars. Did you know that there are more guns than people in this country? That means everyone in your class already has a gun with their name on it, so to speak. Maybe mention that at share time.

8) Chait really does make a pretty compelling case that Trump is being blackmailed by the Russians.  It honestly explains his behavior and this set of facts better than about anything else.

9) While we’re at it, former NYT national security reporter James Risen asks, “Is Donald Trump a traitor?”

10) This Post story on “Divided Congress” unable to act on guns is just a case study it the pathetic “both sides” pathology of so much political journalism.  It’s not “Congress” it’s Republicans.

11) I’m totally shocked that the latest research continues to debunk the “good guy with a gun” theory as the solution to America’s absurd gun homicide problem:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models—including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime—and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

12) Of course Trump and Jeff Sessions are basically doing everything 180 opposite of what you would want for better criminal justice.

13) Interesting take on gender bias in academia and in reporting.

Other biases are even more glaring. A 2013 study found that political science papers by women are systematically cited less than those by men. Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, a University of Iowa political scientist, found that women in academia are more likely to get stuck in less prestigious jobs or leave their fields entirely because of structural gender issues like citation biases, straightforward sexism and pressure on women to do committee work while men get to devote time to their research.

The result is that the highest echelons of academia, think tanks and research institutions are dominated by men. So if we go by seemingly objective criteria like seniority or citation counts, the “best” experts will overwhelmingly be men. We can’t fix those imbalances on our own, but we can try to correct for them in our own writing by ignoring seniority and deciding for ourselves whose work is worth quoting. We start by looking offline to find equally qualified — or, often, better qualified — women, by scanning academic journals and asking around for names.

That, unsurprisingly, can rankle people. It can rankle the men who believe we skipped over them unfairly and the institutions that wish to promote their most senior figures. Tellingly, some think tanks that publicize all-female panels also bar junior fellows from speaking to the news media, silencing the women in that role. And it can rankle readers, some of whom inevitably ask a variation of, “Isn’t that just more discrimination?”

This is the challenge of systemic gender bias. No one person can fix it, even with the benefit of a platform as powerful as The New York Times. But conscious efforts to correct for its effects can, at a glance, look unfair because the biases that privilege men, while far more systemic, are often less visible.

Though, I do have to add, non-conscious or not, there’s just no way that I am systematically under-citing women’s research.  Heck, I don’t even know the first names (and thus gender) of a fair amount of stuff I cite.

14) Steven Pinker on the intellectual war on science.

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