Quick hits (part II)

1) Sarah Kliff had some great pieces on the insanity of ER bills a couple weeks ago.  You can make sure you actually go to an in-network ER when having an emergency only to be billed for out-of-network physicians in your in-network ER.  Only in America.  Her follow-up is called, “There are actually some great policy ideas to prevent surprise ER bills.”  But, of course, there are.  I don’t think policy to prevent this is actually all that complicated.  It’s political will, damnit.

2) Caitlyn Flanagan on Title IX and “mutually non-consensual sex.”

3) The famous marshmallow test of delayed gratification is not all it’s cracked up to be.  And, like so much in life, it’s really all about socio-economic background.

Watts and his colleagues were skeptical of that finding. The original results were based on studies that included fewer than 90 children—all enrolled in a preschool on Stanford’s campus. In restaging the experiment, Watts and his colleagues thus adjusted the experimental design in important ways: The researchers used a sample that was much larger—more than 900 children—and also more representative of the general population in terms of race, ethnicity, and parents’ education. The researchers also, when analyzing their test’s results, controlled for certain factors—such as the income of a child’s household—that might explain children’s ability to delay gratification and their long-term success.

Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success…

This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages.

4) Paul Waldman on the pardons:

On Thursday, President Trump announced that he is pardoning conservative pundit and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pled guilty in 2014 to violating campaign-finance laws. Unlike other presidents who used their pardon power to correct injustices, Trump has used it almost exclusively to dole out favors to the right wing.

That Trump decided to pardon D’Souza, one of the most despicable and poisonous figures in American public life, is further proof that this president spends a good deal of his time acting like a right-wing Internet troll whose greatest pleasure in life comes from finding ways to Trigger the Libs.

I suspect a lot of the coverage of this decision will be framed as “Trump Pardons Conservative Author,” which will inevitably soft-pedal the rancid bile D’Souza regularly spews into American debate. So we have to be clear about just who D’Souza is. He isn’t just a conservative or a provocateur. He’s a bigot, a liar, a criminal, and a peddler of insane and hateful conspiracy theories.

First, let’s put this in context. Trump’s previous pardons were granted to the authoritarian racist Joe Arpaio; Kristian Saucier, a sailor convicted in a case in which he photographed classified spaces on a submarine, who became a cause celebre on the right when conservatives tried to use him as an argument for why Hillary Clinton should be punished for having a private email server; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who revealed the name of a covert CIA operative in order to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration; and the boxer Jack Johnson, whose case was championed by Sylvester Stallone.

In other words, with the exception of Johnson’s pardon — which Trump gave solely because a celebrity asked him to — all of his pardons were meant as favors to the right wing…

In other words, D’Souza is a conservative for the Trump era: bigoted, hateful, happy to spread lies, and consumed with bizarre theories about Democrats’ secret plans to destroy the country. In fairness, we should acknowledge that many conservatives find D’Souza an embarrassment, someone they wish would go away and not sully their ideological cause with his loathsome ideas.

5) Chait, “The Constitutional Crisis Is Already Underway.”

6) Alexis Madrigal on how Americans still watch a ton of TV:

Americans still watch an absolutely astounding amount of traditional television. In fact, television viewing didn’t peak until 2009-2010, when the average American household watched 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day. And the ’00s saw the greatest growth in TV viewing time of any decade since Nielsen began keeping track in 1949-1950: Americans watched 1 hour and 23 minutes more television at the end of the decade than at the beginning. Run the numbers and you’ll find that 32 percent of the increase in viewing time from the birth of television to its peak occurred in the first years of the 21st century.

Over the last 8 years, all the new, non-TV things—Facebook, phones, YouTube, Netflix—have only cut about an hour per day from the dizzying amount of TV that the average household watches. Americans are still watching more than 7 hours and 50 minutes per household per day.

7) When abortion is illegal but still common (which it would be in America) there are a host of new problems, as we can see in Latin America.

8) One of the most frustrating things about our criminal justice system is the utter lack of respect and concern for real science.  The idea that somebody would be put away for life based on dubious “blood splatter” analysis is so appalling.  Great summary of this problematic issue in an NYT editorial:

That unreliability is not unique to bloodstain-pattern analysis. As DNA testing has revolutionized forensic science and helped to exonerate hundreds of wrongfully convicted people, it has also shined a light on the inadequacy of earlier methods. The National Academy of Sciences report found significant problems with the analysis of bite marks, tire treads, arson and hair samples. In 2015, the F.B.I. released an initial review of hundreds of convictions it had won and found that over two decades, the bureau’s “elite” forensic hair-sample analysts testified wrongly in favor of the prosecution 96 percent of the time. Thirty-two of the defendants in those cases were sentenced to death, and 14 of those were executed or died in prison.

The scientific analysis of forensic evidence can be essential to solving crimes, but as long as the process is controlled by the police and prosecutors, and not scientists, there will never be adequate oversight. Changing this was the goal of a national commission established in the wake of the 2009 report. Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long sided with prosecutors and rejected efforts to look more critically at forensic sciences, let the commission expire last year.

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this Atlantic story on how one community college is doing all it can to help students in poverty succeed.  But it is hard, hard work.

2) The NFL is just such a disgusting organization.  The extreme sexism behind the modern cheerleader/models is just too much:

Several N.F.L. teams determined cheerleading programs had a scarcity problem on game days. If cheerleaders were on the sideline dancing, none were available to serve as scantily clad hostesses who could mingle with fans high up in the cheap seats or in the luxury suites, where teams catered to big-money customers.

To address that shortcoming, some teams created a different kind of cheerleading team — one whose members did not do any cheering or require any dance training. They were hired mainly for their appearance. Their visits with male fans, the teams believed, produced a better game-day experience, akin to the approach of the Hooters restaurant chain.

In interviews with a dozen women who have worked for N.F.L. teams as noncheering cheerleaders and six others who had direct knowledge of the noncheering squads, they described minimum-wage jobs in which harassment and groping were common, particularly because the women were required to be on the front lines of partying fans. The fans had no reason to believe these women were not actual cheerleaders because the women often dressed exactly like the cheerleaders dancing on the field or nearly the same.

3) Conor Friedersdorf on Roseanne is great:

Still, I’ve favored public censure in some circumstances—and this is among them.

Without question, Barr’s excretion was protected speech under the First Amendment. But as surely as anti-Semitism is among the most odious social transgressions in Germany, dehumanizing black people ought to be among the most socially stigmatized in America, where African Americans were enslaved then subject to repression and domestic terrorism.

Stigmatizing such hateful, racist words is a social good that protects a clear, longstanding, vital norm. Its absence abetted horrific atrocities in living memory…

Finally, this was not an anomalous misjudgment in a career of mostly upstanding behavior—it is something like strike 3,000. Barr’s oeuvre is rife with flagrantly irresponsible conspiracy theories, some drawing on pernicious racial stereotypes. She even appears to have likened a different black woman to an ape. If social censure is ever warranted for non-crimes, it is here. And Trump supporters who bristle at the notion that their coalition is half “deplorables” ought to be furious at Barr for embodying that stereotype.
Of course, as I’ve previously noted, they ought to have been furious at Donald Trump, too:

The most dangerous thing a leader can do in an ethnically diverse country is stoke ethnic tensions in order to gain power. One needn’t invoke the Nazis to see that truth. Look to the former Yugoslavia, or Rwanda, or Iraq and Syria today. America isn’t on the verge of civil war, but that’s in large part because, while the exploitation of ethnic grievances has always been part of our politics, our leaders have at least held themselves to a certain standard in their public statements.

In contrast, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign by encouraging his followers to think of Mexican migrants as mostly rapists, attacked an American-born judge of Hispanic ancestry, repeatedly savaged Muslims, inspired multiple hate crimes against minorities, used his Twitter platform, with an audience of millions, to retweet and elevate anti-Semites, and inspired more energy and assertiveness from the white supremacist movement than I can ever recall seeing.

Trump’s behavior has been much worse than Barr’s behavior.

His mere words as a candidate and as president have been something like a three-alarm fire for bigoted demagoguery, so Barr’s outburst seems unlikely to serve as a wake-up call to the populist right that its coalition has a serious racism problem.

4) Arlington Cemetery is filling up with no room to grow.  That presents quite a dilemma.

5) How austerity policies in the UK are shaping it to be more like the US.

6) Dinesh D’Souza is such a sleazeball.  Of course Trump pardoned him.  Michelle Goldberg’s take.

7) Teenagers are abandoning facebook.

8) OMG (but not surprisingly) Trump’s CDC pick is awful.

9) From the depressing and unsurprising headline says it all, file: “Black Defendants Get Longer Sentences From Republican-Appointed Judges, Study Finds”

10) I don’t know what happened with Keith Mumphery and a woman at Michigan State University.  I do know that many university Title IX proceedings make a mockery of due process.

11) Loved Frum’s take on Trump’s Memorial Day tweet:

Trump’s perfect emptiness of empathy has revealed itself again and again through his presidency, but never as completely and conspicuously as in his self-flattering 2018 Memorial Day tweets. They exceed even the heartless comment in a speech to Congress—in the presence of a grieving widow—that a fallen Navy Seal would be happy that his ovation from Congress had lasted longer than anybody else’s.

It’s not news that there is something missing from Trump where normal human feelings should go. His devouring need for admiration from others is joined to an extreme, even pathological, inability to return any care or concern for those others. But Trump’s version of this disconnect comes most especially to the fore at times of national ritual.

12) Police often do a horrible job dealing with people in mental health crisis with tragic consequences.  This is a serious and under-appreciated problem.  Vox on the case.

13) Saw some pretty harsh reviews of Solo, so I went in with only modest expectations.  Ended up finding it generally delightful.  Also, really appreciated the use of original John Williams music.

14) The way the horribly misguided “War on Drugs” so discourages basic respect for Civil Liberties is truly one of the worst aspects.  Radley Balko:

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that evidence seized during raids in which police violate the “knock and announce” requirement is not subject to the exclusionary rule. That rule says that evidence seized during a search that violates the Fourth Amendment can’t be used against a suspect at trial. It’s meant to deter illegal searches. Writing for a 5-to-4 majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that although the knock-and-announce rule is indeed part of the Fourth Amendment, excluding evidence from raids in which police failed to abide by it was too extreme of a remedy for such a minor violation. Instead, Scalia argued that the “new professionalism” in police departments around the country as well as a trend toward more internal discipline at police agencies were sufficient to deter police from violating the requirement.

That was 12 years ago. I’d submit that there’s growing pile of evidence (and a growing pile of bodies) showing that Scalia was wrong. And there’s no better example than South Carolina’s 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).

Here at The Watch, we’ve been following the case of Julian Betton, whose Myrtle Beach, S.C., residence was raided by the DEU in 2015. The evidence for the raid on Betton came from a confidential informant, who claimed to have bought pot from him on two occasions for a total of $100. On April 16, 2015, the task force battered Betton’s door open with a ram, then almost immediately opened fire, releasing at least 29 bullets, nine of which hit Betton. One bullet pierced a back wall in the building, sped across a nearby basketball court and landed in the wall of another house. (This was a multi-family building.)

Yep.  Heavily-armed, trigger-happy SWAT teams for a couple hundred of marijuana.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Steve Saideman makes the case for disbanding ICE.  I’m increasingly inclined to agree.

2) One thing that really intrigued me in this pre-vote story on the Ireland abortion referendum was the pervasive belief that this was an issue for women to decide:

The argument over the referendum has exposed wide divisions among Irish women and has emerged to some extent as a debate among women for women.

In contrast to the United States, where male politicians, donors and social commentators have often dominated the abortion issue, many men in this Irish vote are tending to hang back, seeing abortion as a woman’s matter. That is in large part a reaction to earlier generations, when women’s issues in Ireland were solely decided by men, including leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

3) And the post-referendum coverage which emphasizes how far Ireland has moved in such a short amount of time.  My brief take– the near-absolute power of the Catholic Church in Ireland led to obscene levels of corruption.  Once that corruption was finally revealed, the Catholic Church has basically lost all credibility.

4) Sad, sad story of heart transplant gone wrong and everything cascading from there.

5) What is wrong with people that think a man who has clearly been rehabilitated and living a great life out of prison should be sent back in over a technicality?!  Also, he should have never had 35 years in the first place for selling drugs.  This is where you need the pardon power.  But alas, the man is Black and this is a federal issue and Trump is president.

He’s going to prison. To finish out a 35-year term for selling crack to an informant in the 90’s.

Charles had already served 21 years before his sentence was cut short as a result of crack guideline changes passed by the Obama administration. But the U.S. Attorney’s office appealed his release on the grounds that Charles was legally considered a “career offender” due to a prior stint in state prison. They said the retroactive change in the law did not apply to him — and a Court of Appeals agreed.

“He’s rebuilt his life and now they’re coming to snatch it,” says “Wolf”, who met Charles at a halfway house in 2016. They’ve volunteered together almost every Saturday since, long after fulfilling their community service requirements.

6) Was pretty interested to see how Liverpool used Moneyball principles to make it to the Champions League final.

7) Party identification is everything.  The latest research:

In short, people sought and then followed the advice of those who shared their political opinions on issues that had nothing to do with politics, even when they had all the information they needed to understand that this was a bad strategy.

Why? This may be an example of what social scientists call the halo effect: If people think that products or people are good along one dimension, they tend to think that they are good along other, unrelated dimensions as well. People make a positive assessment of those who share their political convictions, and that positive assessment spills over into evaluation of other, irrelevant characteristics.

Our findings have obvious implications for the spread of false news, for political polarization and for social divisions more generally. Suppose that someone with identifiable political convictions spreads a rumor about a coming collapse in the stock market, a new product that supposedly fails, cheating in sports or an incipient disease epidemic. Even if the rumor is false, and even if those who hear it have reason to believe that it is false, people may well find it credible (and perhaps spread it further) if they share the political views of the source of the rumor.

Our results also suggest some harmful consequences of political polarization. Suppose that people trust those who are politically like-minded, even on subjects on which they are clueless. Suppose that they distrust those with different political opinions on nonpolitical issues where they have real expertise. If so, the conditions are ripe for a host of mistakes — and not just about blaps.

8) Antibiotics in meat animals is a complicated issue.  It could be damaging our own gut microbiomes.

9) Dan Balz on Trump’s Mueller strategy:

President Trump is waging a war of attrition against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. If his goal is to poison the reception to whatever Mueller’s findings turn out to be, as seems evident from what he and his allies have done, he is making progress.

The slow but steady separation of public opinion underscores the degree of success in the president’s strategy. Through constant tweets in which he has used exaggeration, distortion and outright falsehoods — combined with the activities of his congressional supporters in hectoring the Justice Department and the FBI — Trump hopes to turn the ultimate confrontation into one more partisan battle.

He has created diversions that have helped to reshape attitudes, primarily among Republicans. It started long ago, when he charged, without evidence, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped the phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. That proved to be false, but it did not deter him from claiming other alleged abuses without solid evidence to back them up…

The pattern continues to repeat itself. Step by step, week by week, the president and his allies cross lines that legal experts insist should not be crossed. The president’s ongoing conflict with the Justice Department and his inflammatory tweets about the Mueller investigation have become so commonplace that it can be easy for people to forget how abnormal it all is.

10) What is the responsibility of a college to let parents know one of their students may be suicidal?

11) Really good Atlantic essay on how to limit school shootings (or at least make them less lethal):

Virtually everyone I spoke with, from the FBI to academic researchers, told me it’s nearly impossible to stop a determined shooter; they’re always one creative step ahead. In one way, Dimitrios Pagourtzis broke with recent shooters: He used his father’s shotgun, rather than a semiautomatic weapon—although Pagourtzis made the shotgun far more lethal by using buckshot. In other cases—at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; at Virginia Tech; at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut—the gunman used a semiautomatic weapon to wreak even more carnage. Stopping a young person from stealing his parents’ legally owned shotguns is impossible; but experts like Michael Caldwell say that restricting the sale of semiautomatic weapons would go some way to limiting the carnage.

“It may not decrease the number of incidents, but it would decrease the number of fatalities,” says Michael Caldwell, the University of Wisconsin professor, not just because he can get off fewer rounds, but because bullets fired from an AR-15 are so much more lethal. “You don’t have to hit the target straight on to kill a person. If you’re shot in the torso, it will kill you.”

One study tracked school shootings in three dozen countries—incidents in which two or more people died. Half of those shooting incidents occurred in the United States. Given that, according to some studies, Americans are no more emotionally troubled than people in Europe and Canada, the stark difference is guns. Children outside the U.S. “don’t have access to AR-15s or Glocks or other weapons that our kids have access to,” says Dewey Cornell. “That’s a huge glaring obvious problem. It’s obvious to scholars in the field. It’s obvious to folks in other countries. For some reason it’s not obvious to our politicians.”

12) A sad question reveals our cycles of violence:

Researchers with the Boston Reentry Study were one year into their interviews, following 122 men and women as they returned from prison to their neighborhoods and families, when they asked the kind of question that’s hard to broach until you know someone well.

They prompted the study’s participants to think back to childhood. “Did you ever see someone get killed during that time?”

Childhood violence, including deadly violence, kept coming up in the previous conversations. The references suggested a level of childhood trauma among people leaving prison that standard survey questions don’t capture. And so the researchers wanted to be methodical — to ask everyone, directly, just like this.

The answers, among hundreds of other questions the study explored, give insight into the life trajectories that precede prison, and the limitations of the criminal justice system that places people there. In total, 42 percent of the study’s participants said “yes.”…

What, then, is to be done with the knowledge that four in 10 prisoners typical to the Massachusetts state prison system saw someone killed as a child?

Mr. Western argues that this should force us to reconsider the simplified model of offenders-and-victims, and to allow more second chances to people we peg in the first category.

“The whole ethical foundation of our system of punishment I think is threatened once you take into account the reality of people’s lives,” he said. In the study, the people who had experienced the most extreme childhood trauma and violence also struggled the most in adulthood with drug addiction and mental and health problems. The line between the two is not straightforward. But it’s also not irrelevant.

13) 24 years of marriage today.  Pretty happy with it ;-).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Social science says you should try and get along with your siblings.  I get along well with my siblings, but undoubtedly, could do significantly better:

The quality of sibling relationships is one of the most important predictors of mental health in old age, according to The American Journal of PsychiatryResearch shows that people who are emotionally close to their siblings have higher life satisfaction and lower rates of depression later in life. In times of stress or trauma, siblings can provide essential emotional and monetary support.

2) A couple days ago, everybody was all like, “read Julia Azari on norms versus values.”  They were right.

3) Jay Willis has a terrific deconstruction of how a conservative conspiracy (spygate!) comes into being and then is zealously embraced by the president.

4) So, what I really found interesting about this is that the NBA actually has a strict national anthem policy, but everybody is okay with it because the league really is with the players.

5) And, you gotta love Steve Kerr on the matter:

“It’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “They’re just playing to their fanbase. Basically just trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic. But thats how the NFL has conducted their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and peacfully protesting. Our leadership in the NBA understands when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or military. But our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit, pandered to their fanbase, created this hysteria. It’s kind of what’s wrong with our country right now – people in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag as if the flag is something other than it really is – which is a representation of what we’re about, which is diversity, peaceful protests, right to free speech. It’s ironic actually.”

6) This teacher’s stop bullying strategy really does sound like a great idea.

7) Sure, we should let it go, but still, a good argument, “Why Comey’s October Surprise Was Pointless and Wrong.”

8) Really good Vox interview on marriage:

Sean Illing

I’ve always objected to this idea that the best wife or husband is the one who helps you become the best version of yourself. I think the best partner is the one who helps you transcend yourself, who draws you out of yourself. I guess that’s why I always hated that line from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” To me that’s narcissism, not love.

Eli Finkel

I agree! I would say that the Maslovian perspective isn’t the Jerry Maguire perspective because “you complete me” suggests that there is a void that has to be filled — that I have a void in me and that I need somebody else to fill it. I actually think that is sometimes the opposite of what I’m talking about or what Maslow might be talking about.

We have goals, we have aspirations. We’re reasonably proud of who we are, but we can think of ways that we can be better, more ambitious, more energetic, or maybe better at relaxing. We’re trying to achieve those goals, and the reality is that humans aren’t individual, isolated goal-pursuers. Our social relationships have profound influence on the extent to which we get closer to versus further from our ideal self.

The best marriages these days take that seriously. They take the responsibility for trying to help each other grow and live authentic lives to an extent that would have seemed bizarre in 1950.

Sean Illing

I like the idea of love as a practice that takes our attention away from ourselves — away from our needs, away from our petty desires, away from our impulses. I understand the egoistic accounts of love, but I think they’re describing something other than love, and hopefully something other than marriage.

Eli Finkel

I love that. Remember that the modern marriage is not just about what I get; it’s also, and more importantly, about what I give. We’re looking for a marriage to help us with our self-expression and personal growth. I believe that the majority of us have an understanding that that’s a two-way street.

9) Drum and NBC with a nice chart on gender and political candidates:

10) Dahlia Lithwick on the moral dilemma for conscientious Republicans in the age of Trump.

11) How to overcome your hidden weaknesses. Of course, you don’t get published without regular feedback or teach college classes with student evaluations, so that should help in my case. Also, my kids are not shy about feedback on my parenting ;-).  So, how am I doing as a blogger?

First, ask for feedback. It’s not easy, and it can sometimes be tough to hear, but outside input is crucial to shining a light on your blind spots. Here are some tips for getting and giving better feedback.

Second, keep learning. The more knowledgeable you are about something, the more you’re able to identify the gaps in your own understanding of it.

12) How to accept a compliment?  Don’t just say “thank you.”

In other words, in the United States, the compliment is a coded invitation to chitchat, and simply saying, “Thank you” linguistically slams the door in the complimenter’s face.

13) The case for treating addiction like cancer:

The surgeon general’s report defines it as a “chronic neurological disorder” and outlines evidence-based treatments. These include drugs like methadone and buprenorphine; individual and group counseling; step-down services after residential treatment; mutual aid groups like Alcoholics Anonymous; and long-term, coordinated care that includes recovery coaches.

Unfortunately, much of this knowledge isn’t being applied in doctors’ offices or even many treatment centers. “There’s a wealth of literature collected over many decades, along with a robust medical evidence base, showing what works and what doesn’t,” Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford University Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, told me. “Treatment for addiction works, on par with treatment for other chronic relapsing disorders. So, it’s not really that there’s no road map. It’s that the road map has not been recognized or embraced by the house of medicine.”

14) The NYT asks, “Is Joe Bryan an innocent man, wrongfully imprisoned for the past 30 years on the basis of faulty forensic science?”  Ummm, this is America, I’m pretty sure we know the answer.  Ugh.  Story after story after story after story like this.  Damn I wish “beyond a reasonable doubt” actually meant something in murder trials.  Unfortunately, our societal thirst for vengeance means that’s not the case.  How many innocent people are in prison for crimes they did not commit.  Almost surely thousands and thousands.  And don’t get me started on forensic “science” that’s not.

15) How asking about previous salary helps fuel the gender pay gap.  In Britain they are trying to use transparency and shame to improve the gap.

16) Of all the stuff I’ve read this week, the Vox article on why human feet keeping washing ashore has stuck with me the most.

Coolest map ever!

Friend shared this on twitter.  Every ship currently at sea and you can zoom in and click on a ship and learn what it is, where it’s going, etc.  Amazing!

Quick hits (part I)

1) I like this take on all the Superhero/comic book movies through the lens of opportunity cost of better films not made:

Marvel’s commitment to pretty good filmmaking has made it enormously successful and helped reshape the business of studio filmmaking. But it has also come at a cost — not only for superhero movies, but for ambitious studio filmmaking writ large…

The deeper problem is not so much Marvel as its imitators and boosters. As the major studios continue to chase the reliable returns of Marvel’s business model, and critics continue to celebrate Marvel’s merely satisfactory efforts as better than they really are, the likely outcome is that Hollywood studios will focus even more of their resources and top-tier talent on the production of movies that are watchable, even enjoyable, but aspire to little else. Smaller-budget films and television will fill in some of the gaps, as they already are, but the grandest productions will be reserved for the cautious and competent.

2) I’m excited to be using John Pfaff’s Locked In for my Criminal Justice Policy summer class starting in a couple weeks.  Here’s a nice summary of his key arguments.  Short version: blame prosecutors.

3) It’s not easy to change a country’s alphabet.  I’d love to look at the politics of this.  I almost wonder if you need an autocrat to force it.  There’s huge long-term gain, but that gain is down-the-road, and short-term, what a pain!  The case of Kazakhstan moving from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

4) McSweeney’s presents a “generic college paper.”  I feel like I read a few of these this week ;-).

5) Eric Posner and Glen Weyl on the corporate monopoly power behind our new gilded age is really, really good:

In the past two decades, growth rates in the United States have fallen to half of what they were in the middle of the 20th century. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent has nearly doubled since the 1970s, while the share of income going to all workers has fallen by nearly 10 percent.

These are the marks of our new Gilded Age. It’s tempting to blame impersonal market forces such as globalization and automation for widening inequality. But the true villain would be familiar to anyone who lived through the previous one: market (that is, monopoly) power…

Today, market power takes new forms, but the solution is the same: antimonopoly laws and laws protecting workers, but updated for the problems of the 21st century.

The era of “supply-side economics” championed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — which called for tax cuts, deregulation and narrow antitrust enforcement — explains a lot of our current predicament. The key assumption of that era was that markets work best when the government focuses exclusively on enforcing contract and property rights.

This theory turned out to be wrong — not because it celebrates the market but because it misunderstands it. Two centuries earlier, Adam Smith pointed out that the easiest way for businesses to earn profits is not by slashing costs and innovating but by agreeing among themselves not to compete — to exert market power to raise prices or lower wages.

This sort of agreement is now illegal, but businesses have nevertheless found new and creative ways to achieve monopoly profits, while antitrust enforcers have fallen behind.

6) Love Benjamin Wittes game-theorying out whether Mueller subpoenas Trump.

7) How’s that Republican tax cut working out?  Krugman:

In short, the effects of the Trump tax cut are already looking like the effects of the Brownback tax cut in Kansas, the Bush tax cut and every other much-hyped tax cut of the past three decades: big talk, big promises, but no results aside from a swollen budget deficit.

You might think that the G.O.P. would eventually learn something from this experience, realize that tax cuts aren’t magical, and come up with some different ideas. But I guess it’s difficult for a man to understand something when his campaign contributions depend on his not understanding it. [emphasis mine]

8) Why, yes, Arizona’s teacher pay is so low that they bring in low-cost teachers from the Philippines.  Ugh on so many levels.

9) I have an 18-year old about to not leave home.  Looks like I should kick him out and give him money.  Here’s some interesting research from NCSU.

A recent study finds that young people who get financial support from their parents have greater professional success, highlighting one way social inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next.

“The question underlying this work was whether parental support gives adult children an advantage or hinders their development,” says Anna Manzoni, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and author of a paper on the work…

Specifically, Manzoni found that the more direct financial support young people received from their parents, the higher their occupational status. This was particularly true for college graduates who got direct support from their parents.

On the other hand, young people who received indirect financial support by living at home had lower occupational status. Again, this was particularly true for college graduates.

10) Some very cool visualizations of segregation in America.

11) Oh my goodness.  This is clearly just a not-very-funny, old department store joke.  Not sexual harrassment. And, hey, the whole big story was at a Political Science conference.  Ruth Marcus:

But for goodness’ sake, let’s maintain some sense of proportion and civility as we figure out how to pick our way through the minefield of modern gender relations. Not every comment that offends was intended that way, and intent matters. Maybe check in with the speaker before going nuclear? Maybe consider that there is a spectrum of offensiveness? That not every stray statement by a 76-year-old man warrants a resort to disciplinary procedures?

Because making a federal case, or even a disciplinary one, over a stray elevator remark is not only, well, frivolous — it’s also counterproductive. Take a culture of eggshell fragility. Pair it with a hypersensitive disciplinary mechanism. What you get is a result that serves only to diminish real, and continuing, instances of truly offensive behavior.

12) The Vox headline says it all, “How Medicaid work requirements can exempt rural whites but not urban blacks.”

13) I hate lying in politics.  Sure, politicians are going to spin things, but, ugh, the outright lies.  We’ve got a bunch of Democrats competing against each other for the County Commissioners.  The challengers claim that the controversial decision of the incumbents to buy a failed golf course to turn into a park (we need parks, sounds good to me) is “bailing out a failed golf course.”  Even if you think our dollars should be spent otherwise, this is just a flat-out lie.  Any chance I was going to vote for the challengers went out with that mailer.

14) Paul Waldman on Democrats taking to Republican style of politics:

For many years, Democrats have been convinced that the American people, and even their Republican opponents, are open to persuasion. If they could just have the opportunity to explain why their policies are morally right and practically effective, they could win almost anyone over.

Republicans, on the other hand, harbored no illusions about persuading Democrats of anything. Instead, they had a much more hard-headed view of how politics works.

And now it seems that Democrats are finally coming around to the GOP’s way of thinking.

That has broad ramifications for the future of American politics, not just in how elections are run but how policy is made…

But that strategy has not been met by the other side, which adopts a categorical opposition to any compromise. The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:

  1. Take maximal positions that excite your base
  2. Win elections
  3. Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like

This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.

So many Democrats have concluded that with an electorate as polarized as ours, persuading the other side on almost anything has become basically impossible. If that’s true, and if mobilization is what wins elections, then one important question when crafting policy proposals (especially at a time like now when they’re out of power and can’t actually pass anything) is: “What version of this is going to get our base most excited?

15) Big jury verdict against NC hog farmers for externalizing their pollution onto their neighbors.  But NC’s hog-farm-friendly laws probably dramatically limit the impact.

16) People who think they know a lot about politics just think they know a lot:

Individuals expressing belief superiority—the belief that one’s views are superior to other viewpoints—perceive themselves as better informed about that topic, but no research has verified whether this perception is justified. The present research examined whether people expressing belief superiority on four political issues demonstrated superior knowledge or superior knowledge-seeking behavior. Despite perceiving themselves as more knowledgeable, knowledge assessments revealed that the belief superior exhibited the greatest gaps between their perceived and actual knowledge. When given the opportunity to pursue additional information in that domain, belief-superior individuals frequently favored agreeable over disagreeable information, but also indicated awareness of this bias. Lastly, experimentally manipulated feedback about one’s knowledge had some success in affecting belief superiority and resulting information-seeking behavior. Specifically, when belief superiority is lowered, people attend to information they may have previously regarded as inferior. Implications of unjustified belief superiority and biased information pursuit for political discourse are discussed.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Pretty intrigued by how amazingly gigantic windmills are manufactured and used to generate power.

2) Helaine Olen on how Ronny Jackson sums up the Trump presidency:

Actually, the Ronny Jackson mess is entirely Trump’s fault. And it’s basic to his way of doing business. In fact, it represents a great deal of what we’ve come to expect from this presidency.

If it turns out the Trump administration did conduct due diligence on the appointment, it won’t matter. Because Jackson should never have been nominated for this position in the first place — which highlights how often Trump attempts to appoint people to positions they have no business being in.

Remember Andy Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants, the would-be secretary of labor whose fast food outlets were a mess of labor-law violations but who was undone by allegations he abused his first wife? Or Betsy DeVos, who couldn’t answer basic questions about education policy at either her confirmation hearing or on “60 Minutes“?

Jackson, who is Trump’s personal physician, almost certainly received the nod only because he gave Trump what he wanted — obeisance…

That brings us to another less than savory part of Trump’s presidency: He presides over Cabinet and staff meetings where courtiers — oops, I mean Cabinet secretaries and other appointees — regularly describe serving him in cloyingly obsequious terms (a “blessing”) and ooze praise for the successes of his presidency.

So Trump picked Jackson despite his lack of significant administrative experience, something one might think necessary to successfully run an agency such as the VA, which has more than 375,000 employees. It appears no one bothered to run anything more than a cursory background check, so they missed the allegations that started surfacing over the past couple of days, such as creating a hostile work environment, overprescribing of medication and on-the-job boozing…

Complaining, as some pundits are doing, that the White House didn’t conduct proper vetting is to miss the point. The real problem is that his requirements for service are the opposite of good governance. We don’t know who Trump will nominate to replace Jackson if and when he drops out. But here’s one thing I can promise. Competence won’t even be on the list of requirements for getting the job.

3) I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m really not much of a drinker.  And I’ve been perfectly willing to forego whatever health benefits moderate alcohol consumption may bring.  It now looks, though, that whatever those health benefits are, they have probably been overstated.

4) In a more normal political world, Mick Mulvaney’s shocking/not-shocking confession would be getting a lot more play:

THE BIG IDEA: Mick Mulvaney said the quiet part out loud.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” [emphases in original]

Mulvaney, who represented South Carolina in the House from 2011 until President Trump appointed him as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017, told the 1,300 industry executives and lobbyists that they should push lawmakers hard to pursue their shared agenda.

5) So, I don’t think the Fresno State professor who had the extremely nasty and disrespectful comments about Barbara Bush should have any official punishment from her university, but certainly seems like her opprobrium is deserved.  We may take our “don’t speak ill of the dead” taboo too far sometimes, but this is just so uncivil and mean-spirited.

6) Maybe these Republican teachers in Arizona who want to raise taxes to fund teacher salaries need to re-think their partisanship given that the sine qua non of the Republican Party is tax cuts.

7) Speaking of which, David Roberts lays out the case for why Republican never-Trumpers need to vote Democratic:

All the momentum on the right is in the same direction, toward white grievance and lawlessness — in other words, in precisely the direction Taylor identifies as an existential threat to American democracy. The party has been beaten along the way (2006, 2008, 2012), but it has not flinched. Conservative elites wrote a whole elaborate plan for reformafter the 2012 election, counseling a softening on immigration (ha ha). The party utterly ignored and repudiated it.

I know it is difficult for principled conservatives to see it like this, but the GOP’s devolution toward ethnonationalist populism can be traced all the way back to President Ronald Reagan, or earlier. And though it has zigged and zagged, occasionally paused, it has generally accelerated in the direction of radicalism…

Like it or not, there are only two parties that matter in the US. For a Trumpist GOP to lose, the Democratic Party must win. ‘Tis math.

So Taylor should suck it up and vote for Democrats — not because he likes their policies, but because the alternative is an existential threat.

8) The Greene family loves BattleBots.  So excited for a new season in a couple weeks.  And love this Wired article on the physics of different types of battlebots.

9) Really, really liked Saletan speaking from experience on the race and IQ debate:

I’ve watched this debate for more than a decade. It’s the same wreck, over and over. A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic. He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness.

I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person. I saw a comment from Nobel laureate James Watson about the black-white IQ gap, read some journal articles about it, and bought in. That was a mistake. Having made that mistake, I’m in no position to throw stones at Sullivan, Harris, or anyone else. But I am in a position to speak to these people as someone who understands where they’re coming from. I believe I can change their thinking, because I’ve changed mine, and I’m here to make that case to them. And I hope those of you who find this whole subject vile will bear with me as I do.

Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames.

I’m not asking anyone to deny science. What I’m asking for is clarity. The genetics of race and the genetics of intelligence are two different fields of research…

It’s one thing to theorize about race and genes to assist in disease prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, as Reich has done. But before you seize on his essay to explain racial gaps in employment, ask yourself: Given the dubiousness of linking racial genetics to IQ, what would my words accomplish? Would they contribute to prejudice? Would they be used to blame communities for their own poverty? Would I be provoking thought, or would I be offering whites an excuse not to think about the social and economic causes of inequality?…

No, data aren’t racist. But using racial data to make genetic arguments isn’t scientific. The world isn’t better off if you run ahead of science, waving the flag of innate group differences. And if everyone is misunderstanding your attempts to simultaneously link and distinguish race and IQ, perhaps you should take the hint. The problem isn’t that people are too dumb to understand you. It’s that you’re not understanding the social consequences of your words. When you drag race into the IQ conversation, you bring heat, not light. Your arguments for scientific candor will be more sound and more persuasive in a race-neutral discussion.

10) Pretty fascinating how a genealogy DNA database led to catching the Golden State Killer.

11) I enjoyed Julia Azari’s 538 piece on how Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are more alike then people give them credit for.  I also really liked this Sides, Tesler, Vacreck piece I had somehow not seen before:

Ingroup identification is generally less prevalent and politically potent for white Americans than it is for other racial groups. We argue, however, that presidential candidates who appeal to racial threats posed to whites from non-whites, such as Donald Trump in 2016, Pat Buchanan in 1996, and George Wallace in 1968, should activate the dormant political power of white consciousness. We show that white consciousness had a significantly stronger impact on evaluations of Trump than on evaluations of eighteen other political figures in two different 2016 surveys. Furthermore, white consciousness was powerfully associated with support for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries—much more so than it was for Mitt Romney in 2012. We also show that white consciousness was more strongly associated with vote choice in the 2016 general election than in prior elections and more strongly associated with support for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton than it was when other Republican candidates were pitted against Clinton in trial heats. Finally, we show that George Wallace’s and Pat
Buchanan’s prior presidential campaigns also activated white identity. These results suggest that white consciousness can be a potent force in mass political behavior, and could foreshadow a rising white identity politics in the Age of Trump.

12) I’m sticking with Westworld for season 2, but I really wish the writers were as interested in character and story as they were in puzzles.

13) Loved this about what the Terminator gets right and Back to the Future gets wrong about time travel.  Love both movies.

14) I love reading aloud to my kids (really enjoying reading the Hobbit aloud once again, currently).  Plus, science says it’s good:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

15) Like this from Chait about how Democratic female politicians should avoid the “victim trap”

Last June, Senator Kamala Harris used a televised hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee to mercilessly dismantle Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Sessions told the committee he could not answer any questions about President Trump, citing a vague “policy.” Using the rapid-fire questioning method she had honed as a prosecutor, Harris forced Sessions to admit he could not describe the policy in any specificity and didn’t even know if it was written down. At several points, Harris so flustered her prey that his former Republican Senate colleagues came to his defense, asking that he be given more time to answer her chain of queries.

I found Harris’s performance highly compelling, not only as a demonstration of effective legislative oversight, but also as a set piece of political theater for a potential presidential candidate in 2020 or beyond. Many liberals took away from the episode something different. The dominant focus of their commentary was the fact that Republican senators interrupted her in order to give Sessions more time to answer her questions. The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage. And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed. News reports of the hearing produced headlines like “Once Again, Kamala Harris Is Interrupted at a Senate Hearing” (Huffington Post) and “Kamala Harris Is (Again) Interrupted While Pressing a Senate Witness” (New York Times.)

These headlines are not descriptions of Harris’s commanding testimony, or anything she did. They are descriptions of things that were done to her. And while the intent of the people expressing outrage at the interruptions was sympathetic, it probably was not helpful to Harris, or to her political goals. It removed Harris of her agency, and reduced her to the status of victim. This illustrates the degree to which left-wing political discourse can paradoxically have a harmful effect on women who are trying to break political barriers.

16) Wisconsin’s welfare “reform” is just mean.  And not good policy.

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