Quick hits (part IA)

It was a crazy day yesterday, but I wanted to have at least some of these up and ready at the crack of dawn Saturday (just in case super-reader DJC wants to read a few before walking 42km to celebrate his 42nd birthday).

1) Wired article argues that the latest Mueller filings near the worst case (for Trump, that is) scenario:

A year ago, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic outlined seven possible scenarios about Trump and Russia, arranged from most innocent to most guilty. Fifth on that list was “Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known,” escalating from there to #6 “Kompromat,” and topping out at the once unimaginable #7, “The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.”

After the latest disclosures, we’re steadily into Scenario #5, and can easily imagine #6.

2) Really liked this Post piece on the few homes that survived the wildfires in California.  Short version– with more thoughtful design, we can do a lot better.  There was also a great 99% Invisible podcast on this this past summer.

3) NYT asks, “North Carolina Republicans Targeted Voter Fraud. Did They Look at the Wrong Kind?”  Ummm, unequivocally, yes.

It was a triumphant moment for North Carolina Republicans in 2013 when they enacted one of the nation’s most aggressive voter-identification laws.

The measure would combat voter fraud, they argued — though, as federal courts later ruled, it would almost certainly reduce African-American Democratic turnout. At the same time, the law made it easier to obtain mail-in absentee ballots, a form of voting that Republicans used more than Democrats.

But now, with an investigation underway into potential abuse of absentee ballots in a disputed House race, North Carolina’s tangled, partisan history of voting rights and fraud is under a spotlight — and Republicans find themselves on the defensive about whether their reliance on voter identification to combat fraud focused on the wrong source of trouble.

“The history of fraud in North Carolina is mostly in absentee ballots,” said Bill Gilkeson, a former lawyer for the General Assembly who worked on election issues. “That’s where the fraud really happens, and there’s a long history.”

4) A nice appreciation of Nivana’s Nevermind in the New Yorker.  I’d definitely put this among my top 5 favorite albums.

5) Interesting look into the psychology of Michael Cohen and why he is cooperating so much with Mueller.

6) Vanity Fair with what it’s like to be a politically conservative woman at UNC.

7) I hate gender reveal parties.  Shouldn’t take a transgender person to make clear just how wrong they are (though, this transgender columnist does a great job of it).  Mind you, I’m a big fan of finding out the gender before birth, for reasons I’ll happily discuss, but there’s just so much wrong with gender reveals, even when they don’t start wildfires.

8) Enjoyed Franklin Foer on GHWB as “the last WASP president:

The world overflows with affection for the man long known as Poppy—that clubbable, slightly daffy avatar of decency. But the encomiums for George H. W. Bush are coated in thick, water-beading layers of nostalgia. On the surface, obituaries for 41 carry the longing for a time when American politics was ruled by men of “high character” and a sense of “public duty,” the very antithesis of the present partisan era’s coarseness.

What goes unstated, however, is the subtext of that yearning. All the florid remembrances are packed with fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.

9) And Jeet Heer’s balanced take:

There are genuine reasons to praise Bush. Although he could be brutally demagogic when running for office—aside from the racist “Willie Horton” ad released by his allies, Bush’s 1988 campaign relied on the portrayal of Bush as a true American who loved the Pledge of Allegiance, as opposed to the unpatriotic “Greek” Michael Dukakis—Bush was an institutionalist who tried to make government work. That meant reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats in a way that now seems inconceivable, leading to the passage of Americans With Disability Act, the amendment of Clean Air Act, and accepting tax increases to lower the deficit. Bush’s institutionalist instincts also stood him in good stead in foreign policy, where he dealt with world-changing events like the end of the Cold War and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by deftly deploying alliances and international organizations like NATO and the United Nations…

Still, to remember Bush only for his successes ignores the grievous faults of that Establishment—particularly its cruelty towards socially marginal groups. Foer, along with David Greenberg writing in Politico, does well to remind readers how Bush opportunistically opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in his failed bid to win a congressional seat in Texas. As a member of the Reagan administration, he opposed sanctioning Apartheid South Africa. The Willie Horton ad is rightly seen as a precursor to Donald Trump’s race-baiting politics.

A cynical willingness to deploy racism isn’t the only point of overlap between Bush and Trump. Bush stuck with a flawed Supreme Court candidate—Clarence Thomaseven after credible allegations emerged that he was guilty of sexual harassment. And Bush’s cynicism about human rights (notably his mild response to 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre in China) calls to mind Trump’s equal indifference to the issue.

10) I have always found not the Civil War itself, but the years leading up to it and the ideological clashes involved to be the most fascinating part of American history.   Gordon Wood with a great essay on these clashes based on two new books about the pre Civil War era.  Short version: it’s complicated.  Long version: read it.


DeVos is right?!

Yes– when it comes to campus sexual assault.  Loved seeing this headline from Lara Bazelon in the NYT Op-Ed, as I have the same sentiments:

I’m a Democrat and a Feminist. And I Support Betsy DeVos’s Title IX Reforms.

No, the reforms aren’t perfect.  But being a feminist and wanting women to feel safe on campus does not mean eschewing due process and accepting the very bad repercussions that follow from that.  Bazelon:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed regulations overhauling how colleges handle sexual assault, which may become law in January, are far from perfect. But there is a big reason to support them: I’m a feminist and a Democrat, and as a lawyer I have seen the troubling racial dynamics at play under the current Title IX system and the lack of due process for the accused. Ms. DeVos’s proposals take important steps to fix these problems…

We represent low-income students of color in California who face expulsion based on allegations of sexual assault.

We see what the Harvard Law School professor Janet Halley described in a 2015 law review article: “The general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them.” That’s why the DeVos regulations are a step forward.

Here is how they would work. Cross-examination would be conducted by an adviser for the accused (not, as some coverage has erroneously said, by the accused.) The accuser may sit in a separate room or participate via videoconference. The right to cross-examine goes both ways: The accused must also answer questions posed by the accuser’s adviser.

The changes would also do away with the problematic “single investigator system” where the person who interviews the witnesses and gathers the facts also serves as the judge and jury — a method the California State University System uses for its 485,000 students across 23 campuses…

The revisions are in line with court decisions that have characterized the current system as unfair. In August, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, ruling in a case from Michigan, declared that if a public university adjudicates what is essentially a “he said, she said” case, “the university must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and adverse witnesses in the presence of a neutral fact-finder.” This year, two California appellate courts have overturned university decisions to suspend students for committing sexual assault because their procedures were so lacking in basic due process…

The Obama rules were written to address a real problem: a tendency by colleges to sweep sexual assault allegations under the rug. But it also gave risk-averse schools incentives to expel the accused without any reliable fact-finding process.

The Office of Civil Rights does not collect data on race in Title IX cases, but the little we know is disturbing: An analysis of assault accusations at Colgate, for example, found that while only 4.2 percent of the college’s students were black in the 2012-13 school year, 50 percent of the sexual-violation accusations reported to the school were against black students, and blacks made up 40 percent of the students who went through the formal disciplinary process.

We have long over-sexualized, over-criminalized and disproportionately punished black men. It should come as no surprise that, in a setting in which protections for the accused are greatly diminished, this shameful legacy persists.

Good stuff.  Also encouraging to see lots of liberal support in the thoughtful comments (yes, NYT, the one place you find thoughtful on-line comments) on the piece.

Meanwhile, though it actually came out a couple months ago, I just listened to this Radiolab “In the No” episode that featured a discussion about the nature of campus sexual assault and the myriad grey areas involved.  The problem is treating an issue that is so often truly ambiguous as if it is always a clear black/white issue.  Now, sometimes it is, of course.  But pretending that an alcohol-fueled, seemingly consensual, then regretted hook-up (for the record, you can absolutely give consent while intoxicated; not while incapacitated) is the same as a rape is not the solution.


Quick hits (part II)

1) How all those deliveries for on-line shopping can make traffic worse.

2) Marc Hetherington (and colleagues) is back at it in a nice Vox piece (this one connecting to the rise of right-wing populism):

Those who prioritize order are more likely to value obedience in children

This relationship might seem at first like a random correlation, but it’s far from it. We believe that these child-rearing ideas capture people’s unreported worldviews — their deep-seated understanding of how the world works and what a good society ought to be. Throughout all human history, people have had worldviews. But they haven’t always been connected to politics like they are now in the US, and, increasingly, the rest of the world.

When the central focus of political conflict was economic — how much government ought to spend and how tightly it ought to regulate business, as it was in the US for most of the 20th century — this worldview did little to structure that conflict. There is no reason to think that how wary a person is about the dangers lurking in the world ought to have anything to do with how much they think the government ought to spend on highways or the merits they see in the free enterprise system.

As American party conflict shifted in the late 20th and early 21st century toward racial and gender equality, sexual orientation, immigration, various religious matters, and how best to remain safe from terrorism, the dividing lines changed. People’s deeply ingrained worldviews about the relative safety of these dramatic social changes and the world around us, in general, evolved into the key pivot between Republicans and Democrats.

Their response is to try to impose order on their political system, much like parents might want to impose order on a chaotic household by emphasizing the qualities of respect, obedience, and good manners in children. Although a preference for traditional qualities in children is fine when managing a household — families, after all, are not democracies and children are not political citizens — imposing them on the political sphere is not entirely benign.

Those who prefer obedient, respectful children tend to be less concerned about bedrock democratic principles like free speech and a free press, which can, of course, produce disagreement. They are more open to a strongman leader who might not heed the legislature or judiciary, but who promises a more orderly society.

No matter where they pop up, right-wing populists use a core set of strategies that appeal to a worldview that desires order and predictability. They disparage challengers of traditional hierarchy, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ people. They advocate granting police wide latitude to weaken social movements that could upset the status quo. And they highlight the potential perils of immigrants — outsiders — in the country…

We are, frankly, alarmed. Most citizens don’t want to live under authoritarian governments that rig or cancel elections. Few citizens clamor for military dictatorships. To use the most extreme example, Germans didn’t vote for Adolph Hitler because he promised to end democracy.

But when people feel like chaos is descending on their society and threats from the outside are ubiquitous, they are willing to turn a blind eye to growing authoritarianism in the interest of the instituting a more “orderly” society.

Democracy is inherently fragile. When right wing-populists find their way into office, the door is open to backsliding on the freedoms and protections of modern democracy as long as it’s done in the name of providing order or harkening back to a time that the country was great.

3) NC Republicans have been surprisingly reasonable, so far, with the new Voter ID law.  Of particular interest to me, unlike their 2013 effort, this one is dramatically more fair to college students.

4) I was no fan of George H.W. Bush at the time, but I did quite enjoy Frank Bruni’s take on the “kinder,” “gentler” George Bush.

5) Nice to see NYT with this “Analysis” piece (rather than an Op-Ed) on Trump’s penchant for lying and liars:

Even more Trump associates are under investigation for the same offense. They are part of a group of people surrounding Mr. Trump — including some White House and cabinet officials — who contribute to a culture of bending, if not outright breaking, the truth, and whose leading exemplar is Mr. Trump himself.

Mr. Trump looks for people who share his disregard for the truth and are willing to parrot him, “even if it’s a lie, even if they know it’s a lie, and even if he said the opposite the day before,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. They must be “loyal to what he is saying right now,” she said, or he sees them as “a traitor.”

Campaign aides often echoed Mr. Trump’s pronouncements knowing they were false. People joined the top levels of his administration with the realization that they would be expected to embrace what Mr. Trump said, no matter how far from the truth or how much their reputations suffered.

6) Just one season of football seems to lead to structural changes in the brains of young football players.  That’s not good.

7) Republicans changing the rules whenever they lose a governorship is so inimical to democracy. Ugh.

8) David Brooks on how to think about the economy in age of social collapse.

There’s an interesting debate going on in conservative circles over whether we have overvalued total G.D.P. growth in our economic policy and undervalued programs that specifically foster dignity-enhancing work. The way I see it is this: It’s nonsense to have an economic policy — or any policy — that doesn’t account for and address the social catastrophe happening all around us. Every single other issue exists under the shadow of this one.

Conservatives were wrong to think that economic growth would lead to healthy families and communities all by itself. Moderate Democrats were wrong to think it was sufficient to maximize growth and then address inequalities with transfer payments. The progressives are wrong to think life would be better if we just made our political economy look more like Denmark’s. The Danes and the Swedes take for granted a cohesive social fabric that simply does not exist here.

To make the crucial differences, economic policymakers are going to have to get out of the silos of their economic training and figure out how economic levers can have moral, communal and sociological effect. Oren Cass’s book “The Once and Future Worker” begins this exploration, as do Isabelle Sawhill’s “The Forgotten Americans” and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.”

It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

9) The content cycle:

But the real question is, why did Tucker Carlson choose to devote so much of his valuable airtime to a HuffPost video about tweets, instead of, say, to educating and empowering his viewers to take action in their communities? One answer might be “because he is a fundamentally unserious person who fumbled his way into a lucrative career of stoking fear and resentment in the elderly.” But let’s not be snide about Tucker Carlson! Let’s be scientific. The reason that Tucker Carlson devoted a segment to Rudolph is because Tucker Carlson, like a mountain river, serves a key role in a beautiful and essential natural process: the Content Cycle. And “Problematic Rudolph” is an object lesson in that process.

The Content Cycle, a phrase I did not just come up with right now, describes how content arises from the internet, is absorbed into cable television, and then gets redistributed back into the internet for the cycle to begin anew. Like the water cycle, the Content Cycle provides sustenance and habitation to a multitude of organisms, and in many ways it exists independently of human thought. Let’s walk through Problematic Rudolph as our emblematic example of the Content Cycle.

10) Michele Goldberg, “Trump Is Compromised by Russia: Michael Cohen’s latest plea is proof.”

But even before those inquiries begin, we can see that Putin has been in possession of crucial information about Trump’s business interests that the president deliberately hid from the American people. In a normal political world, Republicans would have enough patriotism to find this alarming and humiliating. Every day of the Trump presidency is a national security emergency. The question now is whether Senate Republicans, who could actually do something about it, will ever be moved to care.

11) This Buzzfeed feature on “rape by fraud” was absolutely fascinating (and disturbing).

12) Bookmarking this, “The 9 essential cookies every home baker should know how to make.”

13) Very encouraging to see that it looks like the Supreme Court has about had it with the abomination that is Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Tyson Timbs just wants his car back. In 2015, Timbs was charged with selling heroin to undercover officers in Indiana to fund his opioid addiction. After he pleaded guilty, a private law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to confiscate his Land Rover SUV, valued at $42,000. That’s more than four times the maximum $10,000 fine for Timbs’ crimes. But because he briefly carried drugs in the vehicle, the firm claimed that it could seize and sell it, turning over some of the profit to Indiana and pocketing the rest.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of civil asset forfeiture, also known as legalized theft. Every year, the federal and state governments obtain billions of dollars thanks to the work of prosecutors who expropriate property with some tenuous connection to a crime. Most states use the money to fund law enforcement, called policing for profit. Indiana also lets private attorneys file forfeiture claims against defendants, earning contingency fees and a share of the profit. That’s what happened to Timbs—so he sued, insisting that extreme forfeiture violates the Constitution. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court signaled that it agreed, with an unusual coalition of justices assailing the practice. A decision for Timbs could curb law enforcement abuses across the country, limiting one of the most scandalous components of our criminal justice system.

14) Enjoyed seeing my Ohio State Professors Herb Asher, and my dissertation adviser Paul Beck, quoted in this Thomas Edsall article on the Democrats 2020 electoral college strategy?  Try to recapture the industrial midwest or focus more on Arizona, Georgia, etc.  I say… both!

15) Policy lessons from Dayton, Ohio on reducing opioid overdoses.  Lives are at stake– we can and need to implement these policies everywhere we can.

16) Cognitive dissonance alert.  I want Ben Sasse to be the thoughtful person who gave this great interview about reading books not the person with his voting record in the Senate.

Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I was never a big fan of “The Breakfast Club,” but my son actually had to watch it for a college class and it’s currently free on Netflix, so…  Still not a big fan.  I enjoyed this piece which states the basic premise of the film is “all parents suck.” That’s probably a big reason it never did much for me, or for my son, yesterday, for that matter.  And OMG is Judd Nelson’s character so absurdly annoying and unsympathetic.  Also, this Molly Ringwald piece about her looking back on her movies in the #metoo era is pretty awesome.

2) “Do more cops in schools make them safer? New study looking at NC schools says no.”

3) Peter Beinart on Nancy Pelosi’s excellent leadership skills.  Yes, Democrats need a new generation of leaders, but for now, we sure can’t do anywhere near as good as Pelosi from someone else.

4) The Psychology replication crisis grows ever worse.

5) Many for-profit universities are basically a giant scam and the Obama administration tried to do something about that.  Alas, Betsy DeVos is undoing all that.

6) Oh man, the new climate report is dire.  Interesting that the Trump administration wanted it released on one of the days of the year when Americans pay the least attention to news.

7) I’ve hated the electoral college for pretty much my whole life as a political scientist (largely, because in practice it leaves determining our president to a small fraction of Americans in swing states).  I had no idea that an amendment to end it actually passed the House in 1979 before failing in the Senate.  Anyway, really great look at the history of efforts to end the electoral college. 

8) The Department of Education has new rules to give more rights to the accused in matters of sexual misconduct on campus and restore a semblance of due process.  Somehow, the ACLU has totally lost its way and is actually against due process in these matters.  Conor Friedersdorf:

The ACLU doesn’t object to any of those due-process protections when a person faces criminal charges. Indeed, it favors an even higher burden of proof, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to find an individual guilty.

But the ACLU opposes the new rules for campuses. “Today Secretary DeVos proposed a rule that would tip the scales against those who raise their voices. We strongly oppose it,” the organization stated on Twitter. “The proposed rule would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported. It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence. We will continue to support survivors.”

One line in particular was shocking to civil libertarians: It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused. Since when does the ACLU believe a process that favors the accused is inappropriate or unfair?

Not when a prosecutor believes she has identified a serial rapist, or a mass murderer, or a terrorist. In those instances, it is the ACLU’s enemies who declare that crime is alarmingly high and reason that strong due-process rights therefore make the world unacceptably unsafe. It is the ACLU’s enemies who conflate supporting survivors of violent crime with weakening protections that guard against punishing innocents. Those enemies now have the ACLU’s own words to use against it.

9) When the government basically says, “don’t go to that island at all, the isolated indigenous people will probably try to kill you.”  You probably shouldn’t, even if you think they really need to learn about Jesus.  Fascinating story about a misguided missionary and a remote, isolated tribe on an island near India.

10) So glad our previous governor, Pat McCrory, is no longer in office.  In a recent interview he falsely claimed that NC college students were breaking the law in voting where they go to school.  Good on the N&O for calling this out in the headline.  This is how you do it, “Former Gov. Pat McCrory falsely says many college students are committing voter fraud.”

11) Just finished “Big Mouth” season 2.  So profane and so funny.

12) Drum asks, “When Will Conservatives Admit That Racism Exists?”

13) My colleague Jim Zink on the need to amend North Carolina’s amendment process:

North Carolinians just approved four of the six proposed amendments on this year’s ballot. Now, they will have to wait and see exactly what some of those amendments do. This is because, unlike almost all amendments on the ballot over the last 30 years, this year’s amendment proposals were not accompanied by any implementing legislation. Most of the important details about how the amendments work will be hashed-out during the lame-duck legislative session after Thanksgiving.

But what if voters who supported the amendments don’t like how they are implemented?

This scenario highlights a weakness in North Carolina’s amendment process. As things currently stand under the North Carolina Constitution, all amendment proposals are referred to voters by the General Assembly; it acts as the gatekeeper to the amendment process. North Carolinians who don’t like how these amendments are implemented or are otherwise troubled by unintended consequences, therefore, would have to convince their representatives, many of whom were responsible for approving and implementing the amendments in the first place, to adjust or repeal the measures. It would be a real challenge to persuade enough legislators to reconsider: proposals to repeal the amendments or to alter them in order to guide the legislature’s implementation of them would have to first gain the support of three-fifths of all members in each house of the General Assembly before being submitted to voters for approval.

One reform that could mitigate some of these issues is to incorporate a citizen initiative process into North Carolina’s amendment procedures. The details of the process vary from state to state, but generally the 18 states that provide for citizen-initiated amendments require initiative-backers to obtain support (usually in the form of signatures) from a specified percentage of the general population or voters.

14) Really interesting NYT feature on how China is defying the standard model by still manufacturing really cheap consumer goods while also moving into high-end, sophisticated production:

China wants to build homegrown champions in cutting-edge industries that rival Western giants like Apple and Qualcomm. While China has a long way to go, the Communist Party is bringing the full financial weight of the state and forcing other countries to play defense.

In doing so, China is staking out a new manufacturing model.

Economic textbooks lay out a common trajectory for developing nations. First they make shoes, then steel. Next they move into cars, computers and cellphones. Eventually the most advanced economies tackle semiconductors and automation. As they climb up the manufacturing ladder, they abandon some cheaper goods along the way.

That’s what the United States, Japan and South Korea did. But China is defying the economic odds by trying to do all of them.

Look at the evolution of what China sells to the rest of the world. As it ramped up its manufacturing engine in 2000, China was pretty good at making basic products like toys and umbrellas.



Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting experience this week.  Posted an “action shot” of me teaching on social media and was informed by a FB friend and former student that one of the students in the photo was possibly making a white power symbol.  Whoa.  Had no idea this was a thing.  For the record, the student says it was the circle game.  Anyway, interesting experience and I certainly learned some things.

2) Yglesias makes a good case.  Sure, a few years ago we would all say Beto for President is ridiculous, but in 2018 America, why the hell not?

It didn’t really make sense, in a traditional analysis, for a little-known House member from El Paso to run for Senate in Texas, and it certainly didn’t make sense for small donors to pour huge sums of money into a long-shot Senate campaign.

But pour the money they did, and while O’Rourke lost, the Texas Democratic Party made enough gains down the ballot that most of the people who pitched in seem to feel pretty good about themselves. And they feel good about Beto, a candidate who inspires an unusual degree of enthusiasm among the Democratic Party faithful.

The template would, obviously, be Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, in which a young, good-looking, charismatic politician known for his compelling speeches and pretty blah normal Democratic Party ideology set aside questions about what he’d actually accomplished as a senator and set his sights on the White House. Except O’Rourke doesn’t even have modest senatorial achievements to inflate because he’s not a senator at all. Which makes the whole thing vaguely ridiculous.

Except, again, the fact that it doesn’t quite seem totally ridiculous tells us a lot about the state of politics as we enter the 2020 presidential cycle. It’s a moment when it seems like anything is possible, but where Democrats are frustrated by the simultaneous emergence of a huge field of potential candidates and the absence of a true political superstar.

3) I don’t know that Student Evaluations have no value in assessing college teaching, but as currently used, probably pretty close and they need to be fairly dramatically re-imagined:

Review of syllabi and classroom observation by peers are both more “useful means of evaluating,” he said. “And I think asking students how engaged they were in the class — and especially if they also ask why — gets “better input from them than the standard questionnaire.”

Ken Ryalls, president of The IDEA Center for learning analytics and a publisher of SETs, told Inside Higher Edearlier this year that not all evaluations are created equal.

“Our advice: Find a good SET that is well designed and low in bias; use the data carefully, watching for patterns over time, adjusting for any proven bias, and ignoring irrelevant data; and use multiple sources of data, such as peer evaluations, administrative evaluations, course artifacts and self-evaluations, along with the student perspective from SETs,” he said via email.

4) This compilation of “offensive” phrases not to use at work (shared by a friend on social media) is the sort of thing that gives liberals a bad name.  Sorry, I will keep saying “peanut gallery,” “no can do,” and “rule of thumb.”

5) In light of Ivanka’s emails, Yglesias reminds us of how Hillary’s emails really did dominate the 2016 campaign:

If that sounds far too boring and unimportant to have conceivably dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, then it is difficult to disagree with you. And yet the facts are what they are. Indeed, by September 2015 — more than a year before the voting — Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza had already written at least 50 items about the email controversy.

Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions. One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying “we looked into it and there was no crime,” Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton’s behavior. He said she was “extremely careless.”

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

This all still sounds unimportant, but it was not at the time:

Critically, one useful function of email-based criticism of Hillary Clinton was to pull together the Trumpian and establishment wings of the Republican Party. That’s why it served as the central theme of the 2016 Republican convention, allowing the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry to deliver on-message speeches rather than clashing with Trump’s message.

6) Really solid Pro Publica feature (here in the N&O) on the history of hog farm lagoons in NC and efforts at finding a better way.  Honestly, it’s really pretty simple– pay just a little bit more for pork and dispose of the waste in a more environmentally responsible way.

7) Interesting column from Frank Bruni about the fact that, of course, physical attractiveness matters for political candidates, but we rarely talk about it.

Etcoff’s research suggests that people read such positive characteristics as competence, trustworthiness and vigor into someone’s attractiveness, and she told me that this might have special political relevance in our present age of saturation imagery.

8) Interesting Vox interview, “The biggest lie we still teach in American history classes”

Sean Illing

According to your book, the biggest lie we are taught in US history class is that the country started out great and we’ve just been getting better ever since.

But on a long enough timeline, isn’t this partially true?

James Loewen

It’s true enough. My problem is the implication that progress is automatic, which it most certainly isn’t. Second, the idea that we’re always getting better keeps us from seeing those times when we’re getting worse.

Consider the period of 1890-1940, when race relations got systematically worse every year. America actually got more racist in its ideology than at any other time in history. After slavery, white people convinced themselves that there were equal opportunities, which was a lie. They told themselves that black people were criminals and incompetent and unable to succeed.

The point isn’t that life was better for people under slavery; it’s that the story of moral and political progress isn’t so clear. And when we pretend that it is neat and clear, we cause teachers to teach and students to think that progress happens automatically, and that destroys the impulse to change things — to become an activist.

9) Honestly, I love most biscuits.  Sure, some are better than others, but it’s rare biscuit that I don’t enjoy.  Anyway, apparently, southern biscuits really are better and it is about White Lily flour, only available in the South.

10) This was a really interesting story about the decline of Victoria’s Secret since it’s business model is based on women’s underwear that appeals to men, rather than to the actual women that wear them.  A lot harder to pull off in modern America.

11) Enjoyed learning about “explosive odor-pursuit dogs” and how they were deployed in NYC for Thanksgiving.

12) The Chicago hospital shooting and our domestic violence problem:

The story, unfortunately, is a familiar one. Fifty-four percent of shootings with four or more victims are related to domestic or family violence, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. And many shooters, from Ian David Long, who killed 12 people and himself at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 7, to Scott Beierle, who killed two women and himself at a Florida yoga studio less than a week prior, have a history of domestic disputes, domestic violence, or hateful rhetoric toward women.

Domestic violence, unfortunately, is common throughout the world. But ready access to guns in the United States makes it more likely that abuse will turn into mass murder. “The prevalence of guns in this country coupled with the prevalence of domestic violence leads to fatalities,” said Jennifer Payne, an attorney with Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation, which offers free legal aid to people in poverty, including domestic violence survivors.

Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence from buying guns. But because of loopholes and inconsistent laws at the state level, many abusers own guns anyway. Closing those loopholes would go a long way to breaking the connection between domestic violence and gun homicide.

“We know this is an incredibly common form of intimate partner violence, and we know how to stop it,” said Phoebe Kilgour, a spokesperson for Everytown. All that’s needed is the political will to actually do so.

13) Love this from McSweeney’s, “If people talked to other professionals like they talked to teachers.”

“I’d love to just play with actuary statistics all day. That would be so fun! I bet you don’t even feel like you’re at work!”

– – –

“You’re a sanitation worker, huh? I hated my garbage collectors when I was growing up. One of them once yelled at me when I stood directly in front of their truck and kept it from completing its appointed rounds, and ever since then I’ve just loathed all of them, everywhere.”

14) Nate Cohn takes a look at how well the polls fared in 2018.  Some pretty interesting conclusions:

It was a good year for polls. This time, they got the basic story of the election right: a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. And on average, the final polls were closer to the results than any election in a decade. Best of all, the polls were relatively unbiased, meaning that one party didn’t systematically overperform or underperform its final poll results.

But while the big picture is much better than in 2016, when the polls systematically underestimated Donald J. Trump in the battleground states, some details are eerily similar. The geographic distribution of polling error was much like in 2016, even though the average poll wasn’t particularly biased at all…

Even though the polls were pretty accurate in the aggregate, there were points during election night — as the Republicans beat the polls in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee and Ohio — that briefly felt like 2016 all over again.

The geographic distribution was similar; so was the party that did better than expected. Less significant, but still notable, is that the polls underestimated Democrats in several states where they also underestimated Democrats in 2016, like California, New York and Nevada.

15) I like this take on over-thinking identity politics in the Democrats’ 2020 choice:

Enter CNN’s latest power ranking. Kamala Harris has been deemed “the new Democratic front-runner.” Why? As a “nonwhite woman, Harris looks like the Democratic Party base these days.” The list is full of hot takes that dangerously revolve around identity and not much else. Golden boy Beto O’Rourke, arguably the most exciting figure in the Democratic Party, is ranked a lowly 10th, because he’s “a man running in a party becoming dominated by women.” Julián Castro is ranked seventh, in part because of “the rising influence of Hispanic voters within the Democratic coalition.” Joe Biden “is a white male.” Sorry, Joe! Elizabeth Warren is “a woman in a party that was nominating women at a record pace in 2018.” And Mike Bloomberg’s biggest vulnerability seems to be that he’s “a white guy from N.Y.C.”—not the more glaring political handicap that he’s Mike Bloomberg and it’s the year 2018.

Make no mistake: thanks to Trump, the issue of race matters more in political campaigns than at any time since the 60s. This is especially true among younger voters who are coming of age when cultural combat feels like the dominant vocabulary of our time. Race also matters in a Democratic primary. A Democrat cannot win the nomination without establishing a durable connection with African-American voters, as Bernie Sanderslearned painfully in 2016. Race is an inescapable riptide as we look ahead to the presidential race. But as the term “identity” creeps more and more into our elite political conversation, the complexities of race and gender risk being sanded down into glib pundit-speak, power ranking-style, with little correlation to real-world behavior. People might have a tendency to vote according to their identity in general elections, but the idea that blacks vote for blacks and whites for whites and women for women cannot possibly be mapped onto a Democratic primary that will be historic in its size, diversity, and unpredictability. Moreover, it’s an idea that ignores how voters actually behaved at the polls just more than one week ago.

The Republican Brand: Sexism

Of the early political science and data-driven takes on the midterms, this is my favorite.  Brian Shaffner follows up his great work on racism and sexism in the 2016 elections with some really interesting data from 2018.  The key finding– just how much sexism has become the Republican brand.  Read the whole post.  But:

In the final graphic, we can see one reason why that support dropped in 2018. Unlike in 2016, the House vote in 2018 was strongly associated with attitudes on sexism. Specifically, in 2018, voters with the least sexist attitudes were about 15 points less likely to vote for the Republican House candidate compared to voters with the most sexist attitudes. And based on the graphic, this appears to have produced a penalty for Republican House candidates. [emphases mine] Only among the most sexist voters do we find similar support for Republican House candidates as we did in 2016. As voters became more likely to reject sexist statements, they became significantly less likely to vote for the Republican in 2018 relative to the 2016 levels of support among voters with those same views on sexism.


Thus, the data here suggest that after two years as president, Trump’s sexism has begun to become part of the Republican Party’s branding for GOP House candidates. As such, in 2018 it became yet another identity-based line of division between Republican and Democratic voters. But, importantly, it also appears to be a branding problem for the Republican Party. Specifically, the evidence here suggests that Republican House candidates did not gain votes among sexist voters, but they lost support among those with less sexist attitudes. This is a pattern that helps to explain the dramatic increase in Democratic voting among college-educated women in 2018. It’s a natural reaction not only to how Republican lawmakers have increasingly embraced Trump’s sexist rhetoric since 2016 (most notably on display during the divisive debate over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh), but also due to the successful mobilization of women’s rights groups during the past two years. As a result, Republicans appear to have paid a price for their party’s sexism in 2018 and the consequences for them may persist well beyond this election.

I’ve seen some commentary along the lines of, once Trump is gone, things will just revert to how they were pre-Trump.  No, they won’t.  This is Trump’s party now– Republican officeholders have made that clear.  This genie is not going back in the bottle.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait on GOP and the crazy bomber dude:

The left certainly has illiberal, paranoid modes of thought. The difference is that the left-wing version resides outside the boundaries of two-party politics, because the Democratic Party is fundamentally liberal not radical. Coulter’s examples of “liberal” violence inadvertently bear this out: the Haymarket Square bombers were anarchists, and the Unabomber developed an idiosyncratic hatred of technology that did not connect to other nodes of left-wing politics. The street-fighting cult antifa lies outside of, and is primarily hostile to, Democratic politics. Left-wing violence from the 1960s likewise came out of radical groups who viewed the Democratic Party with contempt.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has followed a course that has made its rhetoric amenable to extremism. Republican radicalism enabled the rise of a conspiratorial authoritarian president, and that president has expanded the bounds of the party’s following farther out to the fringe. It is getting harder and harder to distinguish the “normal” elements of conservatism from the “kook” parts. That some of those kooks would resort to violence is not an accident but a statistical likelihood. Trump’s party is a petri dish for diseased minds.

2) As a candy lover, I loved this cool NYT magazine candy feature.  And I had no idea that Japan loves Kit-Kat’s so much (me, too).

3) Jennifer Finney Boylan on the stupidity of judging as “calling balls and strikes” (something pretty much only conservative judges argue):

There was a lot of talk during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing about the proper role of a judge, comparing his or her ideal approach with that of an umpire. It was Chief Justice John Roberts, in fact, who — during his own hearing in 2005 — most famously used the metaphor. “Umpires don’t make the rules,” he said. “They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

A few years later, during Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she agreed with much of what Chief Justice Roberts had said. But she also noted that the metaphor might suggest to some people that law is a kind of robotic enterprise, that “everything is clear cut, and there’s no judgment in the process. And I do think that that’s not right, and that it’s especially not right at the Supreme Court level, where the hardest cases go.”

Judges, like umpires, have to decide what kind of philosophers they will be: empiricists, realists, pragmatists — or something else entirely.

If you “call them the way you see them,” you’re accepting that your role is to incorporate your own wisdom and research into the making of decisions — because “the way you see them” is influenced by your own experience of being human.

If you believe “they ain’t nothing until I call ’em!” you’re not just a pragmatist — you’re an activist, or so conservative legal scholars would have you believe.

And if you “call them the way they are,” you’re suggesting that the law exists independent of human experience — that the business of judging should be like the job of a robot. The realist’s world is a black-and-white one, with no shades of gray.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the world of grays that often presents the greatest challenge for conservatives; they don’t like it when things fall outside the bright lines originally imagined by our 18th-century founders — men whom, we should note, agreed that African-Americans should count as only three-fifths of a human and that the right to vote should be reserved for white men who owned land.

But the passage of time ensures that a changing world surely contains shades of gray. Most of the cases coming before the Supreme Court call not for the application of black-and-white rules but for an understanding of the complexity of human experience.

4) US Fertility rates are way down in just the past decade.  That’s not good (below the 2.1 replacement level is a problem).  And there’s a variety of theories as to why.

5) I’ve beenn waiting and waiting for Terry Gross to get on the Bojack Horseman train and finally interview it’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.  Finally

6) And the Guardian with a relatively spoiler-free review of the terrific 5th season I just finished watching.

7) Great Jack Shafer column on the need to stop giving attention to everything Trump says:

The rule that everything the president says is newsworthy was established in those days when presidents 1) were less omnipresent that Trump 2) were more circumspect in what they said and 3) in which there was no cable news. [emphases mine] Nobody ever claimed that the president had a right to massive mindshare every time he opened his mouth, but that’s where we’ve landed. When Trump denounced kneeling NFL players—over whom he has no control—the press made a big deal out of it. When he claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners“ have joined the migrant caravans, we elevated it. When he described well-reported news stories as “fake news,” we gave it big play. But why? The press long ago established that Trump lies with such frequency that it might be easier to count the number of true statements he’s made than false ones.

Like winter rain in Seattle, Trump’s lies, his incessant name-calling, and his baseless rabble-rousing have become so common they merit almost no recognition as “news.” I’m not suggesting that the press ignore Trump when he refers to the “Democrat mob” or makes off-the-cuff threats to impose new tariffs. Reporters should still record his remarks for analysis. But they should abandon the default news-sense setting that dictates that any Trumpian riff deserves top-news treatment. As I brainstormed this idea with my editor, I suggested that newspapers could run columns (buried inside the front section) titled “Shit Trump Says” that would list Trump’s arbitrary policy pitches and verbal berserking. My editor said, no, that would only encourage him to fill the column with the sort of vituperation that would make it destination reading.

For once, my editor was right. The threshold for what constitutes news from Trump’s mouth should be reset. Unless his statements are true or his proposals have some chance of advancing, Trump’s loose talk belongs in concise and dismissive stories in the middle pages of the newspaper where we can skim them and move on. The press corps’ new motto should read: “Just because the president said it doesn’t mean it’s news.” Put the president’s boombox on mute.

8) Really interesting Jay Rosen piece on the defensiveness of the NYT.

9) I didn’t know that they made clothes from plastic bottles until last week when I got some new pants with an “I’m made from plastic bottles label.”  And then Vox has something on it the same time.

10) Some good PS research from Gregory Martin and Steven Webster on geographic sorting:

Political preferences in the United States are highly correlated with population density, at national, state, and metropolitan-area scales. Using new data from voter registration records, we assess the extent to which this pattern can be explained by geographic mobility. We find that the revealed preferences of voters who move from one residence to another correlate with partisan affiliation, though voters appear to be sorting on non-political neighborhood attributes that covary with partisan preferences rather than explicitly seeking politically congruent neighbors. But, critically, we demonstrate through a simulation study that the estimated partisan bias in moving choices is on the order of five times too small to sustain the current geographic polarization of preferences. We conclude that location must have some influence on political preference, rather than the other way around, and provide evidence in support of this theory.

11) Not quite sure what to make of this Post piece on Northerners who love the confederate flag.

12) OMG this ad in Arkansas is unreal.  I played in class this week and one kid literally just dropped his jaw and kept his mouth agape in shock for the whole ad.  I then got to show them this jaw-dropping NC ad from 12 years ago that was basically from the same guy.

13) I take probiotics every day because Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG has actually shown some efficacy in real double-blind trials.  But its probably not doing as much as I hope.  The proven benefits of probiotics are pretty limited.  Aaron Carroll:

Given all of this, what are the benefits? The most obvious use of probiotics would be in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, given that they are focused on gut health. There have been many studies in this domain, so many that early this year the journal Nutrition published a systematic review of systematic reviews on the subject.

The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 reviewshowed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.

Those somewhat promising results — for very specific uses of very specific strains of bacteria in very specific instances — are just about all the “positive” results you can find.

Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrheaThree reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.

14) So, this seems so wrong that it can still happen.  NYT: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: Women in strenuous jobs lost their pregnancies after employers denied their requests for light duty, even ignoring doctors’ notes, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

15) I have to confess, I did not read all of the NYT’s big story on Trump’s massive life-long tax fraud.  But this Fresh Air interview with the authors was great and so worth a lesson.  Rather than focusing on the tax fraud, the real story is about just what an incredible con man Trump is and how he has been conning pretty much everybody (notably of late, credulous Republican voters) about his wealth for pretty much his whole adult life.

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