Quick hits (part II)

1) David Leonhardt on Democrats the lessons of 2018:

In last year’s midterm elections, Democrats won 31 congressional districts that President Trump had carried in 2016 — including in the suburbs of Atlanta, Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Va., as well as in more rural parts of Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

How did the Democrats do it? By running a smart, populist campaign that focused above all on pocketbook issues like affordable health care and good jobs. The Democrats who won in these swing districts didn’t talk much about Trump, the Russia scandals, immigration or progressive dreams like single-payer health care. They focused on issues that affect most voters’ daily lives.

2) Farhad Manjoo ordered a lot of abortion pills on-line and had some really interesting thoughts on the matter:

But the pills aren’t just a way to evade today’s restrictions on abortion. Some activists argue that they can also remake tomorrow’s politics surrounding abortion — that the very presence of the underground market could force the authorities to loosen restrictions on abortion pills, eventually paving the way for an alternative vision for terminating a pregnancy in the United States: the inexpensive, safe, very early, private, at-home, picket-line-free, self-managed medical abortion…

Each time I got a pack of pills in the mail, I was increasingly bowled over: If this is so easy, how will they ever stop this? I’ve been watching digital markets for 20 years, and I’ve learned to spot a simple, powerful dynamic: When something that is difficult to get offline becomes easy to get online, big changes are afoot.

3) Krugman was good on Trump’s racism:

What I haven’t seen pointed out much, however, is that Trump’s racism rests on a vision of America that is decades out of date. In his mind it’s always 1989. And that’s not an accident: The ways America has changed over the past three decades, both good and bad, are utterly inconsistent with Trump-style racism.

Why 1989? That was the year he demanded bringing back the death penalty in response to the case of the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers convicted of raping a white jogger in Central Park. They were, in fact, innocent; their convictions were vacated in 2002. Trump, nevertheless, has refused to apologize or admit that he was wrong.

His behavior then and later was vicious, and it is no excuse to acknowledge that at the time America was suffering from a crime wave. Still, there was indeed such a wave, and it was fairly common to talk about social collapse in inner-city urban communities.

4) Arthur Brooks on how your professional decline is coming sooner than you think (like for those of us pushing 50) was really good.  Though, I love where it all ends up:

Here’s a practical lesson we can extract from all this: No matter what mix of intelligence your field requires, you can always endeavor to weight your career away from innovation and toward the strengths that persist, or even increase, later in life.

Like what? As Bach demonstrated, teaching is an ability that decays very late in life, a principal exception to the general pattern of professional decline over time. A study in The Journal of Higher Education showed that the oldest college professors in disciplines requiring a large store of fixed knowledge, specifically the humanities, tended to get evaluated most positively by students. This probably explains the professional longevity of college professors, three-quarters of whom plan to retire after age 65—more than half of them after 70, and some 15 percent of them after 80. (The average American retires at 61.) One day, during my first year as a professor, I asked a colleague in his late 60s whether he’d ever considered retiring. He laughed, and told me he was more likely to leave his office horizontally than vertically.

5) Drum is so right on the fact that we could pretty easily stop all these data hacks if we actually held corporate America responsible:

You know what would put a stop to this? Put in place statutory damages for every personal record hacked. No excuses, no safe harbors. If you lose the records, you pay. I’ll be nice and suggest $100 per record.

I’ll tell you this: if Capital One had to pay $10 billion because of this hack, they’d take security a helluva lot more seriously. What measures would they put in place? I don’t know, but I know that after an endless pity party about how this would be totally unfair and there was nothing they could do and it would put them out of business—well, then they’d magically figure something out. That’s always how it works.

6) Watching the new Lion King movie I couldn’t help but thinking… “no, this is all wrong, lion social groupings are completely matriarchal!”  Nice National Geographic piece on the matter.

7) It’s so depressing that, even know, so many people in positions of responsibility and power on the matter are just completely ignorant on how a rape victim “should act.”  And some damn disturbing implications in the Army.

8) Apparently solid research shows growth mindset training to be a total bust.  Not sure if I should tell the nice and well-meaning teachers at my son’s middle school devoting a lot of effort to this.

9) This is good from Jane Coaston, “A question for conservatives: what if the left was right on race?”  At least Max Boot is a former conservative who has figured this out.  Coaston:

I’ve been writing on conservatism and the right for several years. As part of that work, I spend most of my time reading right-leaning news outlets and opinion journals and talking to conservatives — fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, Trump-supportive, Trump-adjacent, and Trump-skeptical.

And in those travels, there’s an argument I hear a lot, particularly in the past week — that had liberals not been so quick to call some on the right, or some ideas on the right, racist, perhaps the right would not have resorted to uniting behind a racist like Donald Trump.

As former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer put it to the New Yorker, “I am also aware of the fact that Democrats accused my boss, George W. Bush, in 2000, and ran ads calling him a racist. … They called John McCain a racist. They called Mitt Romney a misogynist and a racist. They will call whoever comes after Donald Trump a racist. The issue is a lot less, to me, Donald Trump’s words and behavior, and a lot more of the Democrats’ eternal, ongoing tactics, which I reject.”

To them, I’d like to pose a question, and I pose it as someone who has worked hard to understand the conservative movement and conservatism more broadly, and do so in the most generous possible light:

What if, in truth, the conservative movement’s inability to self-police itself against racism and establish firm guardrails against racists in the movement has resulted in an American right increasingly beholden to racism and racist arguments?

And what if, in truth, it’s the left that has seen this most clearly and that has been pointing it out again and again? Perhaps, if your movement has ultimately rallied around a racist, allegedly in response to being called racist, that’s evidence that the people who saw the power racist arguments held in your movement, and the frequency with which those views were referenced, were onto something all along.

Viewed in this light, the popularity of this excuse — the idea that if the left hadn’t been pointing out racism on the right, the right never would have embraced a racist as its leader — is the same denial that got conservatives into this mess perpetuating itself.

10) I’ve got far better things to do with my time than watch primary debates (another post coming on that, soon).  For one, damn am I loving “Dark.”  Mostly, debates only matter insofar as journalists respond to what happens and I can get that on twitter without subjecting myself to the ridiculous displays.  Pretty much every media critic has called out CNN for being horrible.  Really like this Megan Garber take:

Debates are competitions, yes. They are spectacles, certainly. And the Democrats have noteworthy differences in their policy positions and their political orientations. But there is a revealing absurdity to CNN’s repeated attempts to reduce a 10-person event to a series of highly targeted duels. The moderators might have asked the candidates about health care, and immigration, and gun safety, and racial inequality, and climate change, but mostly they asked the candidates about one another. The result was cyclical, and cynical: Here were matters of life and death, framed as fodder for manufactured melees.

As the debate wore on, candidates’ individual discussions of policy proposals were often cut short (“Your time is up!” was a common refrain among the moderators); petty squabbles, however, proved less beholden to the rigid rules of the clock. “I want to bring in Governor Hickenlooper,” Tapper said at one point. “I’d like to hear what you say about Senator Warren’s suggestion that those onstage not in favor of Medicare for All lack the will to fight for it.”…

Today, as it becomes clear how few of the previous election’s lessons have been learned in time for the one that rapidly approaches, there is an aptness to the idea that CNN would, once again, take refuge in the easy symmetries of an athletic competition. And there is a thudding inevitability to the notion that the network would find new ways to insist that politics is, above all, a sporting event: high in drama, low in stakes.

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Racial appeals is all Trump’s got left

Really good stuff from Greg Sargent:

Once again, we are in the midst of that spin cycle, in which Trump and Republicans insist that this attack on Cummings is brilliant politics.

[Note– there’s not actually any intentional strategy here.  It’s pretty clear that Trump largely just tweets about whatever racialized stuff he sees on Fox News any given morning]

And so, when Republicans and pundits — and Trump himself — say his attacks on nonwhite lawmakers constitute good politics, we all know they’re really saying Trump’s racist attacks will galvanize white voters, in particular the blue-collar whites in Trump’s base.

Putting aside the dim view of those voters this embodies, here’s a follow-up question: Why does Trump need to do this to win reelection, given his own constant suggestion that America is winning everywhere and the Trump economy is the greatest in U.S. history?

Republicans give away Trump’s game

Some new reporting in The Post offers a clue: Republican officials privately say this is a winner, because Trump is “harnessing the anger of those who continue to feel left behind despite the strong economy,” and channeling it by casting Democrats as socialists.

But note the implicit suggestion here that, despite the stupendous Trump economy, non-college-educated white voters are not energized to the degree Trump needs for his reelection campaign. Why?…

Meanwhile, his ineffectual trade wars are causing his own constituencies real pain, requiring a taxpayer-funded bailout. There won’t be any big infrastructure package, and Trump and Republicans oppose the minimum-wage hike that House Democrats just passed.

Trump loyalist Newt Gingrich recently confirmed what those Republican officials say privately, by basically conceding that Trump is far more interested in trying to win reelection by depicting Democrats as radical than he is in working on the populist pro-worker agenda he campaigned on. The former is the substitute for the latter.

Not unrelated, non-college white women seem to be turning on Trump (leaving non-college white men as Trump’s only true supporters).  Sargent:

Brownstein’s thesis, boiled down, is that Trump’s racist attacks on “the Squad” of four nonwhite congresswomen, which have now been followed by more racist attacks on another nonwhite lawmaker, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), could backfire on Trump, if his goal is to use such attacks to galvanize his non-college-educated white base.

That’s because, Brownstein argued, such attacks might prove alienating to non-college-educated white women. Brownstein marshaled extensive polling data that shows Trump’s approval cooling among that demographic, relative to how Trump previously performed among them.

The data provided to me by Quinnipiac does appear to suggest the possibility that this demographic is getting driven away from Trump.

The poll finds that among overall registered voters, 54 percent say they will “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2020, vs. 32 percent who definitely will, and 12 percent who will consider voting for him. Among non-college-educated whites, 45 percent said they will definitely vote for him, vs. 41 percent who say they will definitely not vote for him.

That last number seemed like a large percentage of non-college-educated whites who definitely won’t vote for Trump. So I asked Quinnipiac for a further breakdown, and here it is:


(Quinnipiac/Quinnipiac)

That’s striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women say they will definitely not vote for Trump. (It’s also worth noting the extreme depth of alienation from Trump among college-educated white women: More than 6 in 10 say they definitely won’t vote for him.)

So, as much as Republicans insist that the racism is a winning strategy, it sure doesn’t seem like it.  It’s a strategy for keeping angry, less-educated white men on Trump’s side.  But that’s about it.  To everybody else, he is (deservedly) toxic.

Of course, an interesting research question is why non-college white women seem to be more turned off by Trump’s racism than the non-college white men.

Big picture, though, the racism is about all Trump’s got left.  So, surely plenty more to come.

 

Democrats can be sexist, too (but Republicans are worse)

Is sexism hurting the women running for the Democratic presidential nomination?

Yes.

Great Monkey Cage from Sam Luks and Brian Schaffner:

We wanted to know whether attitudes that can be measured as “sexist” — meaning beliefs that women are less capable than men and overly sensitive to slights — are influencing Democratic voters’ choice about whether to support a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic primaries. For instance, when Democrats worry about whether a candidate is “electable” — i.e., whether others would vote for him or her against Donald Trump — are they actually voicing their own discomfort about voting for women? Do these voters in reality see female candidates as inferior to male alternatives?

Twice, we surveyed 602 Americans online who said that they would be voting in the Democratic presidential primary or caucus in their state in 2020, via YouGov. We first interviewed a larger nationally representative sample of Americans in September and October 2018, having them answer a series of questions that are part of the hostile sexism battery — a scale developed by social psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske to measure prejudice and hostility toward women. This scale asks people whether they agree or disagree with statements such as “women are too easily offended,” “most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist” and “most women fail to appreciate fully all that men do for them.”

When we combine six hostile sexism items into a single scale, we get a picture of how sexist Democratic primary voters are compared to other Americans. This is shown in the plot below. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most Democratic primary voters score lower on hostile sexism than other Americans. But among Democratic primary voters, there’s quite a wide range in sexist attitudes. In fact, more than one-fourth of Democratic primary voters score higher than the average American adult on the hostile sexism scale. [emphases mine]

For each group, we examined vote preferences — while controlling for a host of other demographic and political factors, including partisanship, ideology, gender, age, race, and religiosity. The figure below shows the results.


Democratic voters’ top choices, based on how they scored on the hostile sexism scale (Sam Luks/Brian Schaffner/Sam Luks/Brian Schaffner)

As you can see, levels of sexism appear to heavily influence Democratic primary voters’ candidate choices. Among the least sexist voters, Biden and Warren are neck-and-neck; among the most sexist Democratic primary voters, Biden is preferred by as much as a four-to-one margin. Warren’s support drops from nearly 30 percent among the least sexist voters to less than 10 percent among those who are most sexist. Harris’s support drops from around 15 percent among the least sexist voters to less than 5 percent among those who are most sexist. Thus, in both cases, the top female candidates lose about two-thirds of their support as they move from the Democratic primaries’ least to most sexist voters.

Ummm, wow.  My first thought was “whoa– age” but then I realized this is actually controlling for age and a bunch of other stuff.  Really interesting (and really depressing).  Into the Gender & Politics syllabus for Fall this piece goes.

Meanwhile, Paul Waldman relies on this article and some other good stuff to talk about sexism and the 2020 election more broadly.  I found the part about Republican hostility to female candidates particularly interesting (of minor note, I spent my recent beach vacation within the district that just had the primary Waldman discusses):

But it’s complicated. Let’s start first in North Carolina, where a primary runoff was held Tuesday for a special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Walter B. Jones (R), in a solidly Republican district. Those concerned about the increasingly male face of the GOP invested time and money in the candidacy of Joan Perry, who got trounced by Greg Murphy, a state representative.

As Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the New York Times reported from North Carolina, Perry ran into a suspicion that despite the extremely conservative stances she took on issues, “maybe because she’s a woman she might not be as hard-line as I want her to be,” as Davis put it, characterizing the views of GOP voters.

So with Perry’s loss, the number of Republican women in the House will stay at an incredible 13, out of 197 Republicans. In other words, the House GOP caucus is 93 percent male. Republicans do only slightly better in the Senate, where their caucus is 85 percent male (the figures for Democrats are 62 and 64 percent male, respectively).

Plenty of Republicans are concerned that this dynamic affects how the party is perceived when it comes to competitive elections: Women struggle to win Republican primaries, leaving the face of the party almost entirely male, and combined with the positions the party takes, such as its unceasing efforts to outlaw abortion, it ends up sending a message of unremitting hostility to women.

On the bright side, things are actually getting better.  Well, at least among Democrats.

Abortion attitudes should not be so damn stable, but they are

Thomas Edsall had a column back in May about how interesting it is that while other social issues have undergone dramatic change, abortion has remained such a stable area of conflict.

Over the years, the abortion debate has become a linchpin in the political battle between Democrats and Republicans, mobilizing Christian evangelicals on the right and supporters of the women’s movement on the left.

Why has the abortion issue had such staying power, compared, for example, with the steady liberalization of views on homosexuality and interracial marriage?

Of course, there has been a lot of underlying partisan change:

From 1975 to 1988, the views of Democrats and Republicans on abortion were virtually identical, again according to Gallup, when 18 percent to 21 percent of voters in both parties agreed that abortions should be allowed “under any circumstances.” Since 1988, the parties have diverged: by 2018, 46 percent of Democrats, but only 11 percent of Republicans, said abortion should be “available under any circumstances.”

Contemporary polling shows that there are a number of contradictions in the public view of abortion. In some respects, majority opinion is supportive of abortion rights, in others it is opposed.

There’s all sorts of interesting numbers to dig into.  Mostly illustrating the fact that Americans are far more ambivalent on the issue than you’d ever guess from 1) media coverage, or 2) the views of political elites.

But, overall, what I find most striking, is the overall consistency of opinion while other social issues have changed so much.  Drum:

Needless to say, this violates Kevin’s Law, which states that opinions on abortion never change, and anyone who says otherwise is engaged in special pleading. So without further ado, here is Gallup’s own conclusion:

Little has changed over the past year, or even over the past 10 years, in Americans’ basic outlook on abortion.

And here’s the main chart:

Since 1975, the number of people who think abortion should be illegal under all circumstances has surged from 22 percent to . . . 21 percent.

Give it up, folks. Nothing is changing, and there’s no special reason to think it ever will. Whatever happens, the chart above describes the basic state of public opinion that we all have to deal with. So deal with it.

But here’s the thing, this doesn’t actually make sense.  People with more education are more liberal on abortion.  People who are less religious are more liberal on abortion.

Here’s college grads over time:

Image result for percent college graduates over time

And here’s the rise of the religiously unaffiliated:

No religious affiliation in America has grown to 19.6%

So, two key demographics that favor legal abortion have been growing.

And here’s the modest decline in white Evangelicals:

Image result for percent evangelical christian over time

So, with all this going on, why isn’t support for legal abortion noticeably climbing?!  I honestly don’t know.  But, I’m pretty sure there’s political science research with my name on it that’s going to try and figure that out.

Educator-in-chief?

Really enjoyed Dahlia Lithwick’s take on Elizabeth Warren and the nature of women’s campaigns and leadership more generally.  Lots of good stuff, but I especially liked how Lithwick talked about Warren and policy:

But here is the part that is striking: Warren absolutely came alive when she started taking questions from her audience. Explaining incredibly complex policy problems in a perfectly coherent way turns out to be Warren’s superpower. [emphases mine]And while I went in dubious that Warren’s policy-minded campaign could ever compete with the charisma-driven, Father-Knows-Best performances of presidential candidates from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, let alone the supercharged persona of Donald Trump, I realized that I was completely confused about the nature of political charisma itself…

People think Warren is a wonk because it’s apparent that she spends plenty of time elbow-deep in policy. But really, she’s the polar opposite of a wonk. She’s not a political ambassador of policy for policy’s sake. She’s a politician who is hoping to bridge the gap between policy arcana and citizens who keep falling behind. And every time she releases a new policy, millions of people learn something new about how government works…

What Solnit is holding out as the new ideal of leadership is not, by any stretch, exclusively female. But it is an idea less tethered to goose bump–y speeches, or the kind of charisma that leaves an audience thrilled yet unable to recall any idea actually expressed. We’ve now elected two “charismatics” in a row to the presidency, and the model Warren is building, while not lacking in surface polish, surely doesn’t coast on it. Her campaign is less TED talk than graduate seminar. And her “students” become evangelists of her big ideas more than evangelists of her…

But the women who come to these early Warren rallies like being addressed by an adult as adults. At a time when America has devalued teachers, empathy, expertise, and planning for the future, Elizabeth Warren serves as one reminder of what we have lost. It doesn’t mean the voters will necessarily throng to her side. It just means that the women I spoke to, and more and more of the women I know, don’t mind being educated about how everything went so terribly wrong in their political lifetimes. Elizabeth Warren can explain it, and has a plan for it, and believes she can fix it. It’s not glittery, and it may not make your heart beat faster in a stadium. But in a world of noise and bluster, her clarity has its own sort of charm.

Quick hits (part I)

So, this is from a couple weeks ago, mostly, and I somehow forgot to publish.  And then I added a couple.

1) I swear at this part, it hard to distinguish Mitch McConnell from a Russian pawn.  NYT on election security:

A raft of legislation intended to better secure United States election systems after what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called a “sweeping and systematic” Russian attack in 2016 is running into a one-man roadblock in the form of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The bills include a Democratic measure that would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks and require that states spend federal funds only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.

Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.

But even bipartisan coalitions have begun to crumble in the face of the majority leader’s blockade. Mr. McConnell, long the Senate’s leading ideological opponent to federal regulation of elections, has told colleagues in recent months that he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term, despite clamoring from members of his own conference and the growing pressure from Democrats who also sense a political advantage in trying to make the Republican response to Russia’s election attack look anemic.

2) New Yorker’s realistic birth announcements are so good:

Jack and Nikki welcomed little Nathaniel into their family late Friday evening. Nathaniel has his grandfather’s eyes but hopefully none of his racism.

After a difficult forty-eight hours of labor, I am now the proud mama to little Jeremiah. If anyone has seen my husband, Dave, please tell him that I’m so sorry but I can never take those noises back.

Our little bundle of joy arrived last week, and my first experience pumping has successfully done what twelve Netflix documentaries couldn’t: turned me off of the dairy industry.

I am so proud to announce that, early this morning, Jada gave birth to a healthy little boy. And we know that every new parent thinks this, but we honestly believed he would be cuter.

3) A professor gives his students an assignment to read an actual physical book with interesting results.  Scary part is how amazingly addicted so many of his students are to their phones.

4) Who cares about the Supreme Court’s legitimacy?  I do.  I hope the court’s conservatives do too, but other than Roberts… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  Linda Greenhouse:

In a rational world, the Supreme Court would hit the pause button on the pending census case to take account of new evidence that the Trump administration’s stated reason for adding a citizenship question was a fiction that masked its flagrantly partisan motive. True, the case is to be decided within weeks, to meet what the Commerce Department says is the deadline for preparing the 2020 census, but the country will live for years with the impact of the census on political redistricting and the allocation of federal money.

Unfortunately, given the presidency of Donald Trump and the partisan polarization that has all but overtaken the Supreme Court, it’s hard these days to argue from rationality. And as I suggested last month in describing how, during oral argument, the conservative justices pretended not to understand the fraud that the administration was trying to perpetrate, it’s also hard to argue from shame. Those justices who seemed unable to accept the experts’ conclusions that a citizenship question would distort the census by undercounting immigrant communities seemed beyond embarrassment. It’s highly likely that with the opinion already assigned and presumably circulating in draft, the justices will plow ahead and do what some of them set out to accomplish…

In a rational world, the Supreme Court would hit the pause button on the pending census case to take account of new evidence that the Trump administration’s stated reason for adding a citizenship question was a fiction that masked its flagrantly partisan motive. True, the case is to be decided within weeks, to meet what the Commerce Department says is the deadline for preparing the 2020 census, but the country will live for years with the impact of the census on political redistricting and the allocation of federal money.

Unfortunately, given the presidency of Donald Trump and the partisan polarization that has all but overtaken the Supreme Court, it’s hard these days to argue from rationality. And as I suggested last month in describing how, during oral argument, the conservative justices pretended not to understand the fraud that the administration was trying to perpetrate, it’s also hard to argue from shame. Those justices who seemed unable to accept the experts’ conclusions that a citizenship question would distort the census by undercounting immigrant communities seemed beyond embarrassment. It’s highly likely that with the opinion already assigned and presumably circulating in draft, the justices will plow ahead and do what some of them set out to accomplish.

5) For some reason, I was recently reminded of (and telling the story of) the time Princess Diana and Prince Charles came to my hometown shopping mall.  And thanks to the internet, I could find the story.

6) This was really interesting (and sad to think of all the unnecessary cesareans), “One Hospital’s Plan to Reduce C-sections: Communicate: There might be fewer unneeded cesarean sections if doctors learned to keep mothers informed at every stage of labor.”

Cesarean technology is lifesaving for rare conditions, and for some high-risk women. For most births, the decision whether to perform a cesarean is up to doctors and hospitals. So they are rightly to blame for the crisis of over-operating. But that also explains why doctors and hospitals are now spearheading promising solutions. Dr. Neel Shah, an obstetrician and leader of one C-section reduction effort, said: “Women have goals in labor other than coming out unscathed. Survival, and not being cut open, should be the floor.”

Also, what’s really disturbing/amazing is how many cesareans have been needlessly performed due to very-flawed 1950’s research.

7) Oh my.  Texas teacher, “A teacher asked Trump to round up ‘illegal students’ — in tweets she says she thought were private.”

8) Farhad Manjoo, “I Want to Live in Elizabeth Warren’s America: The Massachusetts senator is proposing something radical: a country in which adults discuss serious ideas seriously”

There’s a good chance you’ll disagree with some or all of these ideas. Three months ago, when Warren outlined her plan for cleaving the economic dominance of large technology companies, I spent a few days quizzing her staff on what I considered to be flaws in her approach. I planned to write about them, but I was beaten by a wave of other tech pundits with similar reservations.

But then, in the discussion that followed, I realized what a service Warren had done, even if I disagreed with her precise approach. For months, commentators had been debating the generalities of policing tech. Now a politician had put forward a detailed plan for how to do so, sparking an intense policy discussion that was breaking new analytical ground. For a moment, it almost felt like I was living in a country where adults discuss important issues seriously. Wouldn’t that be a nice country to live in?

9) I have sympathy for over-worked adjunct faculty.  Really, I do.  I know some good ones.  But I’m really tired of hearing the “how could I have known…” variety of complaints.  Everybody knows.  It’s willful denial of reality to follow a dream.  It’s a great dream, but the numbers are against you.  This in the New Yorker got me going:

People usually try to become professors because they are passionately curious about a particular subject, and the academic system encourages them to believe that this is all that matters. Prospective graduate students are rarely told by department heads or other administrators that they are entering a system that relies on contingent labor to survive. “I went into higher ed because I was selfish, because I wanted to be a teacher and a writer, because those things mattered to me,” Childress writes. The subsequent realization that academia preys on these dreams devastates him. A string of adjunct positions gets him no closer to joining the tenure track; it is “morally indefensible,” he writes, to lure adjuncts to work by dangling a “vague hope” that they may one day be welcome as a permanent faculty member. For people stuck in this permanent holding pattern, that hope of being selected is the contemporary academic version of the larger American dream, and it feels, at this point, no less dubious.

Also, never have I seen dangling vague hope of the tenure track to adjuncts.  The reality is we wouldn’t pay $4000 to teach an NC State class if there weren’t more than enough qualified people out there willing to teach a class for $4000.  And people want to do that, obviously, because teaching a college class is also it’s own non-monetary reward.  But, my entire adult life in academia has never given me the idea that you can adjunct your way onto the tenure track.

10) How the slaughter of America’s wolves paved the way for coyotes to take over the whole country.  Ecosystems are complex.

Like every state east of the Mississippi, Illinois is worried about its growing population of city-slicker coyotes. The animals surged from their original habitat in the West after what many now consider a colossal mistake — government-sanctioned predator removal programs that virtually wiped out red and gray wolves.

Coyotes have been taking over the territory of wolves, their mortal enemies, ever since. It is a textbook example of what the recent United Nations biodiversity report said: Humans are creating chaos for wildlife, placing a million species in danger of extinction.

The report warned that mismanaging nature would come back to haunt humans in a variety of ways, including food and water shortages, and disruptions by invasive species.

As the Trump administration seeks to strip away legal protections for the last remaining wolves, state officials are contending with the consequences of a massacre carried out without regard to science.

11) This is kind of amazing— researcher totally confuses meaning of pretty straightforward variable and gets major conclusions of whole book wrong as a result.  The fact that this came from a purported social scientist is kind of mind-boggling.  This strikes me as the kind of mistake an undergraduate would make.

12) Personally, I’m loving the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing.  Jill Lepore on some new books on the subject.  Very much enjoying the “13 Minutes to the Moon” podcast.  And a nice Wired feature, “The Beauty and Madness of Sending a Man to the Moon.

13) I had no idea there was a particular variant of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy designed specifically for insomnia.  And it works!  I’ve got a couple of kids I need to investigate this further with.  Personally, I have always been grateful for the ease with which I fall asleep 95% of the time.

14) This was really, really interesting, ” A Breakthrough in the Mystery of Why Women Get So Many Autoimmune Diseases: Evolution might have played a trick on women’s immune systems.”  Still an unproven theory, but very intriguing.

Though bearing so many babies might sound grueling, women’s bodies evolved to cope. When the placenta grows during pregnancy, the organ sends signals to the mother’s immune system to change its activity so that the mother’s body doesn’t eject the placenta and the fetus. This might even mean turning down the immune system in some ways, or for some periods of time. Turning down the immune system too much, though, risks leaving women sensitive to pathogens, which would also be bad for the fetus. So instead the mother’s immune system ramps up in other ways throughout adulthood, Wilson and her colleagues think, so as to remain vigilant against germs even when some of its parts become dormant during pregnancies.

Things get complicated, however, when those pregnancies don’t actually occur. Women today tend to have far fewer children—fewer than two on average in the United States, according to the CDC. Wilson reasons that without a more or less constant pushback from placentas during pregnancies—the pushback that women’s immune systems have evolved to anticipate—the immune system can get too aggressive, too ramped up. It starts looking for things to attack that aren’t dangerous, which is how autoimmune diseases set in.

For millions of years, minus the past 100, “the immune system was expecting to have exposure to a placenta,” Wilson says. Imagine if you’re pulling on something heavy, and then the rope snaps. “If you suddenly don’t have that heavy thing anymore,” she says, “you’re gonna go off the moon.”

15) This will be fun to discuss when I teach Gender & Politics in the fall, “Gender Stereotypes Banned in British Advertising: No more commercials showing men struggling to do a load of laundry, or asking women if they are “beach body ready.””

Quick hits (part II)

1) Related to the post about bullying, but here coincidentally (I ended up on this 5-year old article based on a FB post on a friend’s page) some interesting research on the personality of internet trolls:

In the past few years, the science of Internet trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called Internet trolls (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.

That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personalities of trolls themselves. The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It is hard to overplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

2) Women are a majority in Nevada’s legislature.  And it matters:

The female majority is having a huge effect: More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders. Bills to ban child marriage and examine the causes of maternal mortality are also on the docket.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty that we wouldn’t have had these conversations” a few years ago, said Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D). “None of these bills would have seen the light of day.”

3) How they celebrate Hockey championships in Finland (looking forward to Stanley Cup playoffs resuming tonight).

4) Old Democrats love Joe Biden:

That prospect suggests one of the crucial questions in the Democratic primary will be whether Biden can sustain his big early advantage with older voters. Democrats skeptical of his candidacy generally believe that edge is ephemeral, based mostly on the fact that older voters are more familiar with his long career, especially his eight years as vice president for Barack Obama. Particularly among older African Americans, Biden’s support “is all very soft and it is all Obama,” says Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state representative who is supporting Senator Kamala Harris.

But Democrats sympathetic to Biden, and even many neutral observers, believe that Biden’s gray edge will endure. Only a little more than one-fifth of Democratic voters ages 45 and older described themselves as very liberal in 2016; about twice as many described themselves as moderate or conservative. Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina state senator supporting Biden, told me that older voters are more measured about how far left the party can move and still defeat Donald Trump.

5) This is from 2018, but an evergreen message, “The Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Knowing How to Fight.”  I like that it addresses the shift from cornerstone to capstone marriage (big cornerstone advocate here 🙂 ):

The sociologist Andrew Cherlin has observed that marriage has become a capstone, rather than a cornerstone, of adult life. Accordingly, weddings have become less of a symbolic expression of a couple’s commitment to a shared future and more of a curated Instagram spectacle of “having arrived.”

The capstone wedding promotes the notion that its flurry of decisions represents a high point of stress and intensity, to be followed by the predictable routines of married life. Not so. I have been treating couples as a therapist for 20 years. I see couples whose unproductive fights over the dishes or in-laws are virtually unchanged, 17 years in. I also see couples whose frozen 17-year marriage begins to thaw once they start saying difficult things that need to be said.

Newly engaged couples do need to plan a wedding, if they want one. Chicken or fish for 150 doesn’t materialize out of thin air. But while they’re thinking about the Big Day, they should also think about how they will cope with disagreement. We’ve made love and marriage into such an ideal that people are afraid to consider, at the outset, just how stressful it can get…

People who study marriage, or work with couples in therapy, as I do, talk about the need for a “we story,” a collaboration between partners about values and goals. But if couples are going to collaborate, they have to figure out how to have a productive conversation. A conversation — as opposed to parallel monologues — involves two people who are making an effort to understand each other. In the grip of strong emotion, productive conversation can be surprisingly hard.

That is why many manuals offer advice for navigating communication traps. They counsel asking your partner whether it is a good time to talk (since couples routinely broach complicated topics on the fly), and striking a balance between empathy and problem-solving. If your partner is an avoider, don’t give up trying to connect. If your partner is an emoter, stay compassionate and firm: “I’ll be able to respond better if you take it down a couple of notches.” In bad moments, we all need these skills.

6) I suspect I will never watch a complete baseball game again.  Too boring!  And I’m fascinated to see so many kids still playing baseball when pretty much any other sport is more fun (I love playing catch and I love hitting, but most of the actual sport of baseball is standing or sitting around).  That said, I still find baseball intellectually fascinating– especially how the game has changed.  Here’s a great article on how the increase in pitch velocity is at the heart of ruining the game:

A flame-throwing relief pitcher enters a game — mid-inning, runners on base, tie score — sending the telecast to another commercial break, dialing back the tension in the stadium and pushing the game into its fourth hour. As he faces his first batter, two more relievers are warming up in the bullpen.

He takes huge breaths and lengthy pauses between pitches, as he gears up for each neck-straining, 100-mph heater or sharp-breaking slider. The hitter, fully aware he has little chance of making contact, likewise gears up to swing for the fences, just in case he does. The defense, anticipating the full-throttle hack, shifts acutely to the hitter’s pull side.

Within this scenario are the ingredients many believe are strangling the game of baseball: long games with little action, the growing reliance on relief pitchers at the expense of starters, the all-or-nothing distillation of the essential pitcher/hitter matchup. Those are some of the problems Major League Baseball is contemplating, with newly installed and proposed rule changes. But they are merely the symptoms.

What is strangling the sport — the actual disease — is velocity, pitchers’ unprecedented capacity to throw fast. The question facing the stewards of the game is what, if anything, to do about it.

Baseball’s timeless appeal is predicated upon an equilibrium between pitching and hitting, and in the past, when that equilibrium has been thrown off, the game has always managed, either organically or through small tweaks, to return to an acceptable balance.

But there is growing evidence that essential equilibrium has been distorted by the increasing number of pitchers able to throw the ball harder and faster. Rising pitch velocity has altered the sport, many believe, and not necessarily in a good way.

7) There still are some pro-life Democrats out there, like the governor of Louisiana.  A lot of Democrats want to make abortion rights a litmus test, I don’t.

8) In a surprise to nobody, dads still do not pull their share around the house.  I like to semi-joke that even if my wife are roughly equivalent parents, I’m a way better dad than she is a mom, because the bar is so much lower:

The optimistic tale of the modern, involved dad has been greatly exaggerated. The amount of child care men performed rose throughout the 1980s and ’90s, but then began to level off without ever reaching parity. Mothers still shoulder 65 percent of child-care work. In academic journals, family researchers caution that the “culture of fatherhood” has changed more than fathers’ actual behavior.

Sociologists attribute the discrepancy between mothers’ expectations and reality to “a largely successful male resistance.” This resistance is not being led by socially conservative men, whose like-minded wives often explicitly agree to take the lead in the home. It is happening, instead, with relatively progressive couples, and it takes many women — who thought their partners had made a prenatal commitment to equal parenting — by surprise. Why are their partners failing to pitch in more?

The answer lies, in part, in the different ways that men and women typically experience unfairness. Inequality makes everyone feel bad. Studies have found that people who feel they’re getting away with something experience fear and self-reproach, while people who feel exploited are angry and resentful. And yet men are more comfortable than women with the first scenario and less tolerant than women of finding themselves with the short end of the stick. Parity is hard, and this discrepancy lays the groundwork for male resistance.

Though many men are in denial about it, their resistance communicates a feeling of entitlement to women’s labor. Men resist because it is in their “interest to do so,” write Scott Coltrane and Michele Adams, leaders in the field of family studies, in their book, “Gender and Families.” By passively refusing to take an equal role, men are reinforcing “a separation of spheres that underpins masculine ideals and perpetuates a gender order privileging men over women.”

9) Last thing we need is mandatory vaccination to become a partisan issue.  Alas, it’s trending that way:

The arguments of the skeptics — that vaccine-preventable diseases like measles are God’s will, a natural process, or even a way of strengthening a child’s immune system, that the government and a rapacious pharmaceutical industry are joined in an insidious cover-up of the dangers of vaccines — are varied, and cut across political and geographic spectra, from ultra-liberal bastions of California to the religious conservatism of the South.

The GOP tilt is more pronounced among state lawmakers than among federal ones; many prominent Republicans in Congress including most of the 16 GOP doctors have endorsed vaccines. The most visible and voluble exception is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ophthalmologist who says his own kids were vaccinated but the decision should be left to the parents, not the government.

But in states where legislators have advanced serious efforts to tighten restrictions, such as Maine, Washington, Colorado and Oregon, nearly all of the opponents are Republicans who’ve taken a medical freedom stance.

10) Finally read George Packer’s Atlantic cover story on Richard Holbrooke and the decline of America.  It definitely got too into the weeds on Bosnia for my tastes, but once it pulled back out to the bigger picture it was terrific.  Definitely worth a read (and don’t feel bad for skimming the first two-thirds).

If you ask me when America’s long decline began, I might point to 1998. We were flabby, smug, and self-absorbed. Imagine a president careless enough to stumble into his enemies’ trap and expend his power on a blue dress. Imagine a superpower so confident of perpetual peace and prosperity that it felt able to waste a whole year on Oval Office cocksucking. Not even al-Qaeda, which blew up two American embassies in East Africa that August, could get our serious attention—Clinton’s response, a barrage of cruise missiles, was derided left and right for following the script of Wag the Dog. The Republicans decided that destroying the president was more urgent than the national interest, and they attacked his every move at home and abroad. Our leaders believed they had the luxury to start tearing one another apart, and they’ve never stopped. Did any country ever combine so much power with so little responsibility? Slowly, imperceptibly at first, we lost that essential faith in ourselves.

The american century ended in Baghdad and Helmand, in Aleppo and Odessa, and in Beijing. It also ended in Wisconsin and in Silicon Valley and, maybe above all, in Washington, D.C. It ended from overreach and exhaustion, rising competition, the rapid changes and broken promises of globalization, and the failure of our own middle-class democracy, which, when it was thriving, gave us an influence that exceeded even our power.

Another place where the American century ended was Bosnia.

11) David Epstein’s The Sports Gene is one of my favorite non-fiction books of the past decade.  Totally looking forward to his forthcoming, Range.  Here’s a preview where he talks about “Roger dads.”

Consider Roger Federer. Just a year before Woods won this most recent Masters, Federer, at 36, became the oldest tennis player ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world. But as a child, Federer was not solely focused on tennis. He dabbled in skiing, wrestling, swimming, skateboarding and squash. He played basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis and soccer (and badminton over his neighbor’s fence). Federer later credited the variety of sports with developing his athleticism and coordination.

While Tiger’s story is much better known, when sports scientists study top athletes, they find that the Roger pattern is the standard. Athletes who go on to become elite usually have a “sampling period.” They try a variety of sports, gain a breadth of general skills, learn about their own abilities and proclivities, and delayspecializing until later than their peers who plateau at lower levels. The way to develop the best 20-year-old athlete, it turns out, is not the same as the way to make the best 10-year-old athlete.

The same general pattern tends to hold true for music, another domain where the annals of young prodigies are filled with tales of eight hours of violin, and only violin, a day. In online forums, well-meaning parents agonize over what instrument to pick for a child, because she is too young to pick for herself and will fall irredeemably behind if she waits. But studies on the development of musicians have found that, like athletes, the most promising often have a period of sampling and lightly structured play before finding the instrument and genre that suits them…

I found the Roger pattern — not the Tiger (or Tiger Mother) pattern — in most domains I examined. Professional breadth paid off, from the creation of comic books (a creator’s years of experience did not predict performance, but the number of different genres the creator had worked in did) to technological innovation (the most successful inventors were those who had worked in a large number of the federal Patent and Trademark Office’s different technological classifications).

study of scientists found that those who were nationally recognized were more likely to have avocations — playing music, woodworking, writing — than typical scientists, and that Nobel laureates were more likely still.

12) One of my great academic regrets is the paper I wrote for my A.P. US History course in 1989 arguing what a horrible miscarriage of justice Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was.  Alas, this was common belief at the time, but now we no better.  As penance, I should probably read this new book on the matter, but I’ll settle for Chris Hayes‘ review of it:

Impeachment is a doleful affair. The nation has impeached a president only twice, and in each case the Senate failed to remove him from office, leaving a split decision with no clear winner and no clear justice.

The first presidential impeachment, of Andrew Johnson in 1868, has been by and large written into history as a Big Mistake. That’s largely due to the efforts of historians of the Dunning School, who spent decades creating a narrative of Reconstruction as a tyrannical, corrupt and failed social experiment. The restoration of white supremacy in the South was seen as a right and proper undertaking to reconcile a torn nation. According to the Dunning School, the Radical Republicanswho impeached Johnson are the villains of the piece, and the story of Johnson’s impeachment is a cautionary tale about the overreach of ideologues. Given that context, not to mention the headlines of today, it’s hard to think of a better time for a reassessment of Johnson’s impeachment.

Brenda Wineapple’s ambitious and assured volume “The Impeachers” rightfully recenters the story along the main axis of moral struggle in American history: whether the nation is indeed a democracy for all its citizens or not. “To reduce the impeachment of Andrew Johnson to a mistaken incident in American history, a bad taste in the collective mouth, disagreeable and embarrassing,” she writes, “is to forget the extent to which slavery and thus the very fate of the nation lay behind Johnson’s impeachment.” …

Ultimately, as Wineapple explains, there was a miserable mismatch between the cramped proceduralism embedded in Congress’s articles of impeachment and the depth of Johnson’s actual transgressions. The man had betrayed the cause of the war. He had desecrated the memories of the dead Union soldiers, black and white. He was, every day that he stayed in office, endangering the lives of freedmen and white unionists throughout the South. But he wasn’t impeached for any of that. He was impeached largely over the fact that he fired a secretary of defense who openly hated him.

The true “high crime” that Johnson committed was using the power of his office to promote and pursue a White Man’s Republic. That was a usurpation greater than any violation of a specific statute. And for that, Andrew Johnson deserved impeachment and removal. True then; true now.

13) Seth Masket and Hans Noel on the pitfalls of “electability” in primary campaigns:

SM: That’s fair. I suppose my main concern is the way “electability” concerns are used during the nomination process. I’ve seen and heard a number of arguments that only a white male Democratic presidential nominee can beat Trump. The evidence doesn’t really show that. But it’s apparently a pretty compelling argument for many, and it can be hard for candidates to overcome that perception.

HN: I’m in agreement with you here. There’s a case to be made that a woman or candidate of color has an advantage in the general election, because they would mobilize voters that a white dude can’t mobilize. If black voters had voted in 2016 like they did in 2008, they would have tipped Michigan and Wisconsin. But it’s not surprising that they were less excited about Clinton than they were about Obama. So race and gender should be part of the conversation.

SM: This is tricky, though. I’ve been leaning toward, “Let’s try to avoid the ‘electability’ argument since it hurts women and POCs,” and you seem to be suggesting, “No, let’s talk about it, but women and POCs may be more electable than white guys.” Is this right?

14) The latest research on the weight-gain impact of “highly-processed food” is really interesting.  Also, a little concerned that so much of what I eat is not just “processed” but “highly processed.

Now a small but rigorous new study provides strong evidence that not only do these foods tend to make people eat more, but they also may result in dramatic and relatively rapid weight gain and have other detrimental health effects.

The research,published Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that people ate significantly more calories and gained more weight when they were fed a diet that was high in ultra-processed foods like breakfast cereals, muffins, white bread, sugary yogurts, low-fat potato chips, canned foods, processed meats, fruit juices and diet beverages. These foods caused a rise in hunger hormones compared to a diet that contained mostly minimally processed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, grilled chicken, fish and beef, and whole grains, nuts and seeds.

The subjects were recruited by scientists at the National Institutes of Health and assigned to live in a research facility for four weeks. There they were fed both diets — a whole foods diet or an ultra-processed one, along with snacks in each category — for two weeks each and carefully monitored. They were instructed to consume as much or as little as desired.

The most striking finding was that the ultra-processed diet led the subjects to consume 500 extra calories a day — the amount in two and a half Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts — which resulted in an average of two pounds of weight gain in two weeks. Almost all of the extra calories they ate were from carbs and fat.

15) Enjoyed this post GOT interview with Emilia Clarke.

16) How fetal “heartbeat” bills get the science of fetal heartbeats wrong.

17) This from Michele Goldberg was really interesting, “Post-Roe America Won’t Be Like Pre-Roe America. It Will Be Worse: The new abortion bans are harsher than the old ones.”

Feminists sometimes say, of threats to legal abortion, “We won’t go back.” But it’s important to understand that we’re not necessarily facing a return to the past. The new wave of anti-abortion laws suggests that a post-Roe America won’t look like the country did before 1973, when the court case was decided. It will probably be worse.

True, in a post-Roe America, some women would be able to get abortion-inducing medications that weren’t available the last time abortion was criminalized. (Misoprostol, which is also used to treat ulcers, can be ordered online.) But today’s legal context has been transformed by decades of anti-abortion activism equating abortion with murder, as well as by mass incarceration.

While doctors were prosecuted for abortions before Roe, patients rarely were. Today, in states that have legislated fetal personhood, women are already arrested on suspicion of harming or endangering their fetuses, including by using drugsattempting suicide or, in a case in Utah, delaying a cesarean section. There’s no reason to believe that, in states where abortion is considered homicide, prosecutors will be less punitive when investigating it.

Further, the abortion bans in the new wave are harsher than most of those that existed before Roe. At that time, most states prohibited abortion in most circumstances, but according to the historian Leslie Reagan, author of the book “When Abortion Was a Crime,” there was little legal conception of fetal personhood.

 

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