Quick hits (part II)

1) This whole Donald Trump book report thing is what the internet was made for.  So good.

2) Really good Zack Beauchamp piece on how Russia has been able to so successfully manipulate our media through Wikileaks:

When you hand over stolen information that’s damaging to Hillary Clinton to a radical transparency group that detests Hillary Clinton (because of her relatively hawkish foreign policy), the result is eminently predictable: That information will be published online for the entire world to see.

At that point, journalists really don’t have any option but to cover the disclosures.

Journalists can’t just ignore information that’s in the public interest because the source might be shady. If it’s important, true, and valuable for the public to know, then journalists really should be covering it. That’s why the New York Times, which resisted publishing information from hacked Sony emails in 2014, ended up covering them once they were made public.

“Is it possible to dismiss the fact that these emails have such tremendous news value? Absolutely not,” Lonnie Isabel, a senior lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, says of the recent Clinton disclosure. “A lot of the decisions that are made for us in the digital age are made simply by disclosure.”

3) How John Podesta (and Colin Powell were hacked).  Never, never, never click a link in an email unless you are 100% sure it is legit.

4) That was really, really dumb (on many levels) for Hillary Clinton to promise not to add a dime to the debt.

5) Dahlia Lithwick on McCain and the Supreme Court:

It seems to me that what’s causing all the melting messages here is the unforeseen consequence of a decades-long campaign by the GOP to make the composition of the court the only important issue for voters. Whether it was a way to rally opposition to Roe v. Wade, or a means of mobilizing gun rights voters, it’s useful to push the idea that the only thing that matters in a presidential contest is the court. The problem with that argument is that in its purest form it leads precisely to where we are today: Trump’s repeated claims that no matter how odious he may be as a candidate, you’ll vote for him anyhow because otherwise Hillary judges will destroy America.

For some people, that’s a convincing enough argument. Unfortunately for Trump, though, it’s been roundly rejected by anyone who believes that the rule of law is more important than the composition of the court. On the same day Grassley and McCain were ripping the mask off Garland obstruction as blood sport, a list of the most respected constitutional originalist scholars published a devastating attack on Donald Trump, regardless of whom he may name to the court.

6) Evan Osnos on what a Trump loss does to the Republican Party.

7) Frustrating political battle with the Carbon Tax in Washington State.

8) The actual reality of late-term abortion.  Shockingly, it’s not at all what Donald Trump describes.

9) How Republicans have made very fertile ground for Trump’s claim of election “rigging.”

Over the past few years, Republicans in many states took an opportunity — enabled by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling — to pass a series of new restrictions on voting. Critics said the restrictions disproportionately hurt minority voters. But Republican backers, at least in public, have pointed to a single issue to defend the measures: voter fraud.

A previous report by the US Department of Justice captured the sentiment among many Republicans: Rep. Sue Burmeister, a lead sponsor of Georgia’s voter restriction law, told the Justice Department that “if there are fewer black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. [Burmeister] said that when black voters in her black precincts are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls.” Other Republicans, such as North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Iowa Rep. Steve King, have similarly warned about the dangers of voter fraud.

Trump isn’t even the first Republican presidential candidate to raise concerns about voter fraud. Back in 2008, many Republicans, with the support of conservative media outlets like Fox News, pushed concerns that ACORN — a community organization that focused in part on registering African-American voters — was engaging in mass-scale election fraud. At the time, Republican nominee John McCain warned that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

10) And, speaking of which, voter fraud reality– with skittles!

11) Chait on the 2000 Florida recount and Trump.

12) County-by-county maps of 2012 and what they can tell us about 2016.

13) Yglesias on the “silent majority” for Hillary Clinton.

14) It’s more than fine to be an “anti-helicopter” parent.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it.

15) Maria Konnikova on how practice doesn’t make perfect.  Honestly, I find it amazing that there are still serious people out there arguing that genetics doesn’t matter in these things.  Time to plug The Sports Gene again.

16) NYT on how the Trump and Clinton Foundations are different (mostly, the Clinton Foundation money mostly goes to helping needy people).

17) Really enjoyed Ron Brownstein on the changing electoral college map:

That new geographic pattern is rooted in the race’s defining demographic trends. In the six major national polls released just before last week’s first presidential debate, Trump led among white voters without a college education by resounding margins of 20 to 32 percentage points. But he confronted deficits of 40-50 points among non-white voters, and was facing more resistance than any previous Republican nominee in the history of modern polling among college-educated whites: five of the six surveys showed him trailing among them by margins of two-to-eleven percentage points (while he managed only to run even in the sixth.) The race is on track to produce the widest gap ever between the preferences of college-and non-college whites, while Trump may reach record lows among voters of color…

While the Sunbelt states are growing steadily more diverse, the Rustbelt states are remaining predominantly white, and aging at that: as I wrote earlier this year, the non-partisan States of Change project has projected that from 2008 to 2016 the minority share of eligible voters will rise by more in each of the Sunbelt swing states than in any of the Rustbelt battlegrounds. And data from both the Census Bureau and the exit polls show that whites without a college-education represent a larger share of the vote in almost all of the Rustbelt states than any of the Sunbelt states. Indeed, one key reason Pennsylvania is stronger for Clinton than Ohio is that college-educated whites represent a larger share of the vote there, especially in the exit poll data.

18) And, speaking of demographic trends, not at all surprising that Asian-Americans of all kinds are pretty united against Trump (as the Republican Party is ever more the White People’s Party).


19) I have little doubt that blinding prosecutors to the race of the person charged would lead to more fair outcomes.

20) Great Krugman column on Hillary Clinton:

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

21) And last, read this terrific Alec MacGillis piece on how people are increasingly sorting themselves out geographically and politically.  It makes it really hard for Democrats:

More recently, a confluence of several trends has conspired to make the sorting disadvantageous for Democrats on an even broader scale — increasing the party’s difficulties in House races while also affecting Senate elections and, potentially, future races for the presidency.

First, geographic mobility in the United States has become very class-dependent. Once upon a time, lower-income people were willing to pull up stakes and move to places with greater opportunity — think of the people who fled the Dust Bowl for California in the 1930s, or those who took the “Hillbilly Highway” out of Appalachia to work in Midwestern factories, or Southern blacks on the Great Migration. In recent decades, though, internal migration has slowed sharply, and the people who are most likely to move for better opportunities are the highly educated.

Second, higher levels of education are increasingly correlated with voting Democratic. This has been most starkly on display in the 2016 election, as polls suggest that Donald J. Trump may be the first Republican in 60 years to not win a majority of white voters with college degrees, even as he holds his own among white voters without degrees. But the trend of increasing Democratic identification among college graduates, and increasing Republican identification among non-graduates, was underway before Mr. Trump arrived on the scene. Today, Democrats hold a 12-point edge in party identification among those with a college degree or more. In 2004, the parties were even on that score.

Quick hits

1) Kaepernick’s girlfriend is Muslim.  Official embarrassment to Congress, Rep. Steve King, thinks that must mean he supports ISIS.

2) James Hamblin on Clinton’s pneumonia.  I love the headline and subhead, “Hillary Clinton Attended a 9/11 Memorial Service Despite Illness: Some see this as weakness.”

Pneumonia would explain both the coughing and fatigue. In contrast to the classically severe bacterial pneumonias that are a common cause of death in older and chronically ill people, a relatively mild “walking pneumonia”—usually caused by an atypical microorganism like Mycoplasma—tends to leave a person feeling well enough to walk around despite fighting a significant infection. Patients often don’t take adequate time to rest and recover, but try to operate while coughing and feeling fatigued.

The condition is common and treatable, and as a cause of Clinton’s symptoms—even for those who have no trust in the candidate’s physician—this is simply a much more likely diagnosis than anything more serious. And having pneumonia, especially of the variety where a person is so high-functioning, does not raise concern over her ability to execute the duties of the office. Presidents can and have served well with much more serious conditions (coronary artery disease,paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome, Addison’s disease, and, of course, various bullet wounds).

Rather, Clinton was told to rest and take it easy, but instead made a point of going to a 9/11 memorial service.

3) NYT feature on just what Trump supporters in rural Kentucky are thinking.

4) Yes, many obese people should  try a low-carb diet before going with bariatric surgery, but if it was just as simple as following a diet, would they be so obese?

5) Speaking of which… how the sugar industry successfully (and disastrously for American’s health) shifted the blame to fat.

6) This essay on the “Falling Man” photo of 9/11 is fabulous.  Seriously, just read it:

The resistance to the image—to the images—started early, started immediately, started on the ground. A mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: “Maybe they’re just birds, honey.” Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chasing a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, “Don’t you have any human decency?” before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo—the only images from which Americans were proud to avert their eyes. All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network’s news bureau, calls “agonized discussions” with the “standards guy,” it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all…

But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

7) Fairfield, CT spends $16,000 per student per year and way outperforms Bridgeport and it’s $14,000.  But I’m sure if you switched those numbers, little would change.  Yes, Bridgeport may need more funding, but this is ultimately a story about the impact concentrated poverty has on school systems.

8) Krugman on Trump’s Putinophilia:

There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.

Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.

When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!

9) Apparently, the giant island of garbage in the Pacific is pretty much a myth.  Whoa!  Not that we don’t have a huge problem with ocean pollution.

10) This XKCD on global warming is so, so good.  Take a look.

11) It’s a shame that the NYT’s Public Editor just doesn’t get the problems with false equivalence.  Chait eviscerates her.

12) Now NC is losing NCAA tournament basketball games (and NCAA soccer championships right here in Cary!) due to HB2.  And all the GOP can offer up is the most absurd comments.

13) Another example of our party asymmetry.  Democratic governors just never are half this crazy, “Kentucky Gov Predicts, Calls for Bloodshed If Hillary Wins.”

14) So guilty of this common mistake of basing my spending/time decisions based on percentages instead of absolute dollars.

15) David Frum with the case against college diversity officers:

Today’s New York Times offers one modest illustration. Over the past 18 months, the Times reports, 90 American colleges and universities have hired “chief diversity officers.” These administrators were hired in response to the wave of racial incidents that convulsed campuses like the University of Missouri over the past year. They are bulking up an already thriving industry. In March 2016, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education held its 10th annual conference in San Francisco. Attendance set a new record: 370. The association publishes a journal. It bestows awards of excellence.

As diversity officers proliferate, entire learned specialties plunge into hiring depressions. In the most recent academic years, job postings for historians declined by 8 percent, the third decline in a row. Cumulatively, new hirings of historians have dropped 45 percent since 2011-2012.

I anticipate the response: This only represents a tiny fraction of the growth among administrators! Diversity is important! Graduation rates among black university students have improved in recent years. Surely all these chief diversity officers are accomplishing something?

Yet the closest studies of disadvantaged-student performance discover that what such students need most is more intensive teaching and mentoring. As my colleague Emily DeRuy has reported, young people from impoverished backgrounds live in “relationship poverty”: “Research, which involved surveys of thousands of young people and in-person interviews with more than 100, suggests that if a web of supportive relationships surrounds these students, the chances that they will leave school shrink dramatically.” But that’s not only expensive—it also requires extraordinarily hard work, with uncertain chances of success. Even more relevantly: The students at risk are not all or even mostly “diverse,” as diversity is conventionally understood in the United States in 2016. If J.D. Vance’s marvelous Hillbilly Elegy pounds any one idea into the heads of America’s university presidents, that idea should be it.

But maybe the university presidents already know it. “Diversity” is an easier problem to manage than “disadvantage.”

16) Blaise Pascal figured out back in the 17th century the social-science-validated approach for how to change minds.

17) Conor Friedersdorf explains how Trump exploited charity for personal gain.  Of course, since this is just Trump being Trump, nobody seems to care.  Imagine if Romney or McCain or Clinton had done these things.

18) James Surowiecki on the huge, anti-reform, problem of police unions:

On August 26th, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the national anthem, as a protest against police brutality. Since then, he’s been attacked by just about everyone—politicians, coaches, players, talk-radio hosts, veterans’ groups. But the harshest criticism has come from Bay Area police unions. The head of the San Francisco police association lambasted his “naïveté” and “total lack of sensitivity,” and called on the 49ers to “denounce” the gesture. The Santa Clara police union said that its members, many of whom provide security at 49ers games, might refuse to go to work if no action was taken against Kaepernick. A work stoppage to punish a player for expressing his opinion may seem extreme. But in the world of police unions it’s business as usual. Indeed, most of them were formed as a reaction against public demands in the nineteen-sixties and seventies for more civilian oversight of the police. Recently, even as the use of excessive force against minorities has caused outcry and urgent calls for reform, police unions have resisted attempts to change the status quo, attacking their critics as enablers of crime.

Police unions emerged later than many other public-service unions, but they’ve made up for lost time. Thanks to the bargains they’ve struck on wages and benefits, police officers are among the best-paid civil servants. More important, they’ve been extraordinarily effective in establishing control over working conditions. All unions seek to insure that their members have due-process rights and aren’t subject to arbitrary discipline, but police unions have defined working conditions in the broadest possible terms. This position has made it hard to investigate misconduct claims, and to get rid of officers who break the rules. A study of collective bargaining by big-city police unions, published this summer by the reform group Campaign Zero, found that agreements routinely guarantee that officers aren’t interrogated immediately after use-of-force incidents and often insure that disciplinary records are purged after three to five years.

19) House Freedom Caucus looking to impeach the IRS Commissioner because they hate taxes that much.  Shameful.

20) Apparently Chromebooks are about to transform laptop design.

21) A full deconstruction of the hilariously absurd NC GOP response to the NCAA.

22) Ginning up false fears of voter fraud in Wisconsin.

23) Andrew Rosenthal on the deplorableness of Trump’s deplorables.  And the photo KE cannot resist:

Damon Winter/The New York Times

24) So, how much do parents really matter anyway?  Lessons from around the world.

Friedman: Is there one particularly brilliant parenting technique you came across in the course of your research?

Sarah: In South Asia—I’ve worked a lot in Nepal, and also in India—I’m very impressed by two particular parenting behaviors. One is that parents are very physically affectionate. Fathers as well as mothers, and close relatives are too. And that is combined with totally clear expectations on the part of the parents: You know, “I love you—and this is what we expect of you.”

Well, I’ve at least got one of the two, down🙂.

25) Really good Toobin piece on Kaepernick and a famous Supreme Court case on free speech:

More important, even amid the patriotic displays associated with the mobilization for war, the degradations of Nazi Germany had impressed themselves upon the American conscience. The result of the case flipped the result to a six-to-three victory for the family, and Jackson’s opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette stands as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of expression ever formulated by a Supreme Court Justice—and, not incidentally, a useful message for the N.F.L.

The core idea in Jackson’s opinion is that freedom demands that those in power allow others to think for themselves. In nearly every line, Jackson’s opinion is haunted by the struggle on the battlefield against, in his phrase, “our present totalitarian enemies.” “Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good, as well as by evil, men,” Jackson wrote. “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.” Such melodramatic phrasing may feel more appropriate for the worldwide crisis of that era than for the present one, but the message of tolerance also resonates on the less fraught setting of a football gridiron.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Birth control for wild horses.

2) Oh, man, I love this formulation on the rules of adjectives in English.

3) Harry Enten with 13 tips for reading election polls like a pro.  Can’t go wrong with the first two:

  1. Beware of polls tagged “bombshells” or “stunners.” Any poll described thusly is likely to be an outlier, and outlier polls are usually wrong. Remember those American Research Group polls that had Republican John Kasich climbing rapidly in primary after primary? They were pretty much all wrong; stunners usually are. That said, sometimes they’re right, such as the Des Moines Register poll that projected a large Joni Ernst victory in the 2014 Iowa Senate race, when other polls showed a tighter race. So don’t dismiss outliers, either.
  2. Instead, take an average. I don’t just say this because it’s what we do at FiveThirtyEight. I say it because aggregating polls, especially in general elections, is the method that leads to the most accurate projection of the eventual result most often. Put simply, it’s the best measure of the state of the race.

4) I so love that 538 has a wedding gift spending guide.  In the future, I’m consulting this and aiming for median.

5) For some reason, Tom Wolfe has decided to take on Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky.  And, no, he doesn’t actually have any idea of what he’s doing.  I love his novels, but, wow.

6) Hillary Clinton with a wide-ranging proposal to improve mental health treatment in America.  Everybody agrees this is desperately needed.  But nobody actually seems to care.

7) Apparently, I’m far from alone in still loving printed books.  And at that moment, totally loving The Nix.

8) Are there secret Trump voters out there?  Anecdotally, at least, there are.

9) The lawsuit that could destroy North Carolina beaches as we know them.  Even Pat McCrory has the good sense to be on the right side of this one.  But the right-leaning NC thinktank, Civitas, is fighting to ruin them in the name of private property rights.

10) What if Obama had reached out to white voters as Trump has done with Black voters:

11) Hooray for science and appropriate government regulation and the new ban on anti-bacterial soaps.  We’ve been trying to avoid them for years, but it is actually hard if you prefer liquid soap.

12) I was so happy that Hermine did not make any serious effort to strand me in Philadelphia.  That said, meteorologically what’s going on is pretty rare and fascinating.

13) Unconscious racial bias in hiring.

14) Court costs trap poor, non-white, juvenile offenders.  Sadly, not in the least bit surprised.


15) Online polls and live-interview polls have been telling different stories as of late.

16) Andrew Gelman with a nice piece noting that yes, 1964 and 72 were landslides with unpopular candidates, but the state of the economy was also a huge factor in those margins.  We just don’t have a landslide economy in 2016.

17) This LA Times story of a suburban parent vendetta involving planted drugs, affairs, spouses testifying against each other, etc., is utterly fascinating.  I forget what on-line person told me I simply had to read it, but I’m glad they did.  Now I’ll do the same for you.

18) Watched “Last of the Mohicans” with David yesterday.  He enjoyed it, but was surprised that it’s one of my favorites.  I told him, I’m normally not that big on melodrama, but beautifully-shot Chimney Rock, NC, one of my favorite of all movies scores (easily my favorite not from John Williams), and Daniel Day-Lewis with “I will find you” to Madeleine Stowe, and I’m all in.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Ed Kilgore’s headline gets it, “Media False Equivalence Is Trump’s Best Friend in the Debate Over Racism.”

2) Both Drum and ThinkProgress deconstruct a horrible AP story about “conspiracy theories” in both campaigns.  Of course, the reality is that Trump’s campaign is rife with them and Hillary doesn’t need any conspiracy theories– Trump’s reality is plenty.   But, damn, the AP is horrible lately.

3) Philip Bump on the lack of notable Republicans defending Trump on race.

4) Bill Ayers recently reposted a post of his on the false equivalence between racism and being accused of racism.

5) Harry Enten on how Gary Johnson is decidedly not fading in the polls.

Why is Johnson’s support proving more durable than past third-party candidates’? The most obvious answer is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular for major party presidential nominees; if third-party voters eventually settled on a major party nominee in past campaigns for fear of “wasting their vote,” they may be less willing to settle this year. (Of course, Johnson’s support may simply fade later than past third-party candidates.)

6) On the inadequacy of criminal law for dealing with bureaucratic malfeasance.

7) Aarron Carroll on how Epipen pricing represents so much of what’s wrong with American health care.

8) Very interesting interview with Uwe Reinhardt on why he thinks the health care exchanges are doomed.  Why?  We’re not really all that serious about the mandate.

9) Aarron Carroll again on simple rules for healthy eating.  Nothing surprising, but nicely laid out.

10) I did not know about “legacy” board games.  Sounds pretty cool.  Going to have to give this a try one of these days.  For now, love playing “Seven Wonders” any chance I get.  Somehow my son, David, is just unstoppable at that game.  Only managed to beat him once.

11) NYT Editorial on the not ransom to Iran.

12) I did enjoy the “moron’s case for Hillary Clinton”

OK, listen up. Nobody cares about emails that show Bono wanted State Department assistance to stream his music from the International Space Station. You should thank Almighty God and Jedi Jebus he failed. So far all we have seen is a public official in extraordinary circumstances who should have known better demonstrate “extreme carelessness” to which I believe she has owned up to sufficiently and which, by the way, no wrongdoing was ever uncovered even after a year-long investigation by the FBI for the love of God. We all know that trustworthiness is important in a President. But if absolutely no slack is given at all, and I mean none, if this is how we treat people who make public service their life and profession, then you will always get “crooks” as politicians because who in their right mind would want the job? It’s like being a firefighter. When there’s a fire everybody runs out. You run in. It’s a maniac’s job but it has to be done so let’s have the best do it and not get wrapped up in what amounts to paperwork. That’s all this really is. Paperwork. You would rather stay at home or vote for someone George Orwell or Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t have dreamed up over emails? Then you’re even dumber than you look…

I know, I know. Damn it all! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just forget all of that pesky accomplishment stuff of hers and remember that what really matters is the thrill of waiting for indictments which makes for great television? That way we could finally “lock her up” and enough with these stupid women who think they can run a country. Well, enough out of YOU, you moron. This isn’t the lesser of two evils. This is a choice between one great and qualified candidate for the nation’s highest office who you really should be excited about and a dolt with a bad toupee who if you were honest with yourself you wouldn’t trust to manage a Dairy Queen much less the Oval Office.

13) Parents pushing  back against too much homework.  And pretty much any homework more than a few minutes a day in elementary school just isn’t worth it.

14) High school teacher on teaching Donald Trump:

Thus, while I am always careful about how and when to show my biases, I’m not worried about appearing biased if my stance is against bigotry and in defense of moral reason and the scholarly use of evidence, logic, and research. Just as the notions of media neutrality collapse under threats to democracy, so too do notions of teacher neutrality. We can’t be silent. And I’m confident we won’t be.

15) University of Chicago is drawing plenty of attention for it’s letter against intellectual “safe spaces” on campus.  You will be not surprised to know I’m with them on this.

16) Greg Koger on the Clinton Foundation emails:

Washington, DC, is suffering a severe shortage of smelling salts this morning as newsbroke suggesting a correlation between financial contributions and gaining access to a political figure. In this case, the contributions were to the Clinton Foundation and the politician is Hillary Clinton, so this is being cast as a violation of the norms of our nation’s capital.

If only there were prior political science research testing whether contributors were more likely to gain access to political figures…

Actually, there has been a mountain of evidence that this is common practice, as you can see in my all-too-brief list of citations. The most recent of these works is a field experiment in which an interest group solicited meetings with congressional offices and revealed to some of these offices that potential donors would be at the meeting.

The “potential donors” were more likely to be scheduled for meetings and were more likely to meet with members of Congress or top staffers than average citizens making the same request (summaries herehere, and here).

Of course, the link between money and access is no surprise to the seasoned Washingtonian. It plays out over breakfast, lunch, cocktails, and dinner at restaurantsand venues across town, and at sad callcenters where telemarketers wonder why they ever ran for Congress. And the other major presidential candidate is an avowed participant in the pay-to-say-hi game. What’s really shocking is the feigned shock.

17) Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday argues that this summer’s hits and misses demonstrate that studios still need to pay attention to good directing, story, etc.  Well, hopefully that’s true.

18) So, actually binged “Stranger Things” in about a week.  Not great, but how would I not like a series with 12-year old protagonists who play D&D set in 1983 and involving supernatural thrills.  Not sure I would have stuck with it, but worked great at 1.4-1.6x speed.  The enjoyment was all plot (not so much dialogue and character), so keeping the plot moving really helped.


Parenting and risk

This explanation of some new research and interview with the authors is so, so good.  I so love the experiment they did, so I’m going to paste the whole summary:

To get at this question experimentally, Thomas and her collaborators created a series of vignettes in which a parent left a child unattended for some period of time, and participants indicated the risk of harm to the child during that period. For example, in one vignette, a 10-month-old was left alone for 15 minutes, asleep in the car in a cool, underground parking garage. In another vignette, an 8-year-old was left for an hour at a Starbucks, one block away from her parent’s location.

To experimentally manipulate participants’ moral attitude toward the parent, the experimenters varied the reason the child was left unattended across a set of six experiments with over 1,300 online participants. In some cases, the child was left alone unintentionally (for example, in one case, a mother is hit by a car and knocked unconscious after buckling her child into her car seat, thereby leaving the child unattended in the car seat). In other cases, the child was left unattended so the parent could go to work, do some volunteering, relax or meet a lover.

Not surprisingly, the parent’s reason for leaving a child unattended affected participants’ judgments of whether the parent had done something immoral: Ratings were over 3 on a 10-point scale even when the child was left unattended unintentionally, but they skyrocketed to nearly 8 when the parent left to meet a lover. Ratings for the other cases fell in between.

The more surprising result was that perceptions of risk followed precisely the same pattern. Although the details of the cases were otherwise the same — that is, the age of the child, the duration and location of the unattended period, and so on — participants thought children were in significantly greater danger when the parent left to meet a lover than when the child was left alone unintentionally. The ratings for the other cases, once again, fell in between. In other words, participants’ factual judgments of how much danger the child was in while the parent was away varied according to the extent of their moral outrage concerning the parent’s reason for leaving.  [bold is mine; italics in original]

Additional analyses suggested that it was indeed participants’ judgment of the parent’s immorality that drove up their assessments of risk. The authors sum up their findings like this: “People don’t only think that leaving children alone is dangerous and therefore immoral. They also think it is immoral and therefore dangerous.”

Whoa.  Take a second and think about that.  Also, a great interview with the authors:

Barbara: I guess what I would like people to start thinking about is how this new legal standard of paranoid parenting enshrines a kind of class privilege. Besides the fact that it is irrational, the idea that you must watch your child every single second until they turn 18 is deeply classist. It’s not something you can even aim for unless you have a whole lot of money, and probably not a lot of children. For parents who are working, who have more than one child, who need to get something else done during the day — to say nothing of single parents — that model of parenting is absurd. If you think about Debra Harrell’s situation, she’s raising a child while working a minimum-wage job. Suddenly, we as a society have decided (without any rational basis) that she is negligent for allowing her 9-year-old to play in a public park. This is very, very disturbing to me. It is basically criminalizing poverty and single parenthood.

Kyle: I think these findings have clear policy implications. At the moment, we are simply relying on the intuitions of neighbors, police officers, DAs, judges, etc., to decide what constitutes negligence or endangerment, and we’ve shown that those intuitions are systematically influenced by their moral approval or disapproval of the parent’s conduct. Of course we should not allow parents to leave children in situations that are objectively dangerous, but unless there is clear evidence that something poses a significant risk, it should be parents who decide whether and when their child is mature enough to walk to school, wait in the car, to be home alone, etc. Right now, in many situations, if a social worker or police officer thinks the child is in danger, they can intervene and take the child, arrest the parents, etc. But what our data suggest is that when people think they are judging danger to a child, much of what they are actually doing is imposing a moral judgment on the child’s parents. The relevant “danger” should be legally defined in terms of actual, immediate, demonstrable risk, rather than left up to the unexamined intuitions of bystanders, social workers, police officers or other individuals who may think something must be dangerous when it is actually quite safe. For example, eight times more children are killed in parking lots than in parked cars. But when a parent with a child in tow runs into the grocery store for a few minutes, he or she has to choose between allowing the child to wait in the car, which is safer but might get her arrested or jailed and/or her child taken away — and the more dangerous option of bringing the child with her because this is socially approved.

What do you think developmental psychology can contribute to the debate over free-range parenting?

Ashley: I think that developmental psychologists need to start talking about the costsof never allowing children to take a risk. People seem to make this calculation where they say: “Well, even though the chances of anything bad happening are small, there’s no harm in keeping an eye on the kids.” I think what developmental psychologists can say is: That’s mistaken — there is real harm in keeping an eye on the kids, if you’re keeping an eye on them every minute of every day. You know, psychologists study this thing called “self-efficacy” — it refers to a person’s confidence in their own ability to handle whatever comes up and succeed in a variety of situations, and it’s really important. But if kids are never allowed to take any risks or have any independence at all, they can’t develop self-efficacy. They can’t become adults who are ready to deal with problems and navigate the world.

Great stuff!  And lots more about changing cultural norms, the role of legal liability, etc.  And, okay, one like more clip because I expect I’m going to be using this particular analogy for years to come:

Here’s an analogy: Imagine that parents suddenly have a phobia that their children are going to fall down and hit their heads and die while walking, running, climbing or playing sports. When such an injury or death happens anywhere in the country, it is covered 24/7 by the media; shows such as CSI: Head Injury Unit and Law and Order: Running and Falling Down draw big audiences. Some parents decide that just to be on the safe side, they’re going to require their kid to stay in a wheelchair all the time. Gradually this practice becomes so widespread that it becomes standard, and schools and camps start requiring all children to be in wheelchairs at all times for safety reasons. Eventually, it becomes so unusual to see a child not in a wheelchair that people start calling the police when they see a child walking around, and parents are charged with criminal negligence for allowing their child to take such risks.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking that eliminating the risk of these injuries does not justify the sacrifice of kids’ mobility and independence and healthy development. We understand that kids need to walk and run and climb and jump and play in order to grow up healthy and strong, even though all of those activities involve some physical risk. Developmental psychologists need to do a better job of explaining to policymakers and parents that healthy psychological development, just like healthy physical development, involves some amount of risk.

Now, I don’t expect us to go back to how things were during my childhood when my mom let 4-year old me wander around my neighborhood unattended, but it is clear the pendulum has gone to far and hopefully research like this can help us nudge it back– at least a little bit– in the right direction.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The unhinged unskewed polls types are back.  Harry Enten explains what’s so wrong with this approach.  I also really like this chart that shows the PID breakdown of the electorate in recent elections:


2) This tweetstorm on how to best attack Donald Trump seems really, really good.  Short version: use ordinary people.  Like Khizr Khan.

3) Yes, there’s sexism in Olympics coverage, but it’s really not as bad as some are making it out to be.

4) John Cassidy on the contradictions of Trump’s economic speech:

In the speech that Trump delivered at the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, all three of these giveaways to the rich featured prominently, as did deregulation—another issue that is of interest primarily to the donor class. “My campaign is about reaching out to everyone as Americans,” Trump said. But the details of his speech confirmed that he had caved in to the regressive, anti-tax G.O.P. orthodoxy that is defined and policed by groups such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Club for Growth.

Consequently, the contradictions attending Trump’s economic platform are more glaring than ever. He goes into the last months of the election campaign as a political schizophrenic. On immigration and trade, he is a pitchfork-wielding Pat Buchanan Republican; on taxes and regulation, he is a dark-suited Paul Ryan Republican.

5) A couple of foreign policy experts argue that Hillary Clinton as president would not be near the foreign policy hawk that John F. is so sure she will be.

6) Loved this Vox feature on the optimal height for various Olympic sports.

7) We don’t even have hardly any trials any more.  This is not good for actual justice.  In large part, because the “trial tax” is a huge problem.  That needs to change.

8) John Oliver on the problem with cutbacks at newspapers is just completely brilliant.  Watch it!!

9) Jill Greenlee, the other political scientist who studies parenthood and politics had a nice piece on Hillary Clinton, motherhood, and the 2016 election.

10) I’m with Drum (am I ever not?)– please stop whining about the Olympics being on tape delay!

11) At first I was taken aback by Dan Drezner saying Hillary is a worse liar than Trump.  Ahhh, but it’s all in the meaning of worse liar:

Trump fits Frankfurt’s definition of a B.S. artist to a T. And, it should be noted, this also means that he occasionally tells the truth by accident. But the notion put forward by his supporters that Trump is daring to speak hard truths is laughable, since Trump has no clue what is true and what isn’t.

Frankfurt’s distinction between B.S. and lying also helps get at how we should think of Clinton and her seeming inability to completely put her email scandal to rest. The fact-checking sites show that compared to all of the other candidates this cycle, Clinton has been the most truthful. But, like any politician, Clinton hasn’t been completely honest — indeed, PolitiFact gave Clinton a “pants on fire” rating in her Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace that, in an ordinary campaign week, would have caused her all sorts of agita.

All politicians offer up certain amounts of B.S. and lies at various points. Fundamentally truthful politicians will try to avoid outright lies by parsing their words as carefully as possible. Bill Clinton was a fundamentally truthful politician who nonetheless lied at times. He was such a good politician, however, that he could sell his lies with conviction.

Hillary Clinton might be a good leader, but she is not a conventionally great politician. When she has to lie — which, again, is not all that often — she doesn’t look good doing it. In contrast to Trump, she’s painfully aware of her relationship with the truth.

Zakaria is right and Kristof is wrong about Trump. Between Clinton and Trump, Clinton is the bigger and badder liar — but that’s because Clinton cares enough about the truth to know a lie when she tells one.

Trump is a mediocre B.S. artist on a stage that is way too big for his meager abilities.

12) Drew Linzer has put his votamatic into gear.

13) Nice video of Trump disagreeing with every position held by Trump.

14) Male divers as inadvertent porn stars.  Pretty funny.  And safe for work.

15) James Hamblin with enough of the cupping already.

So in terms of role-model behavior, cupping may be more deleterious than a grainy bong photo, because it invites people to distrust science.

16) There’s just something so wrong with the faux patriots who think that Gabby Douglas not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem is a problem.

17) Oh man do I love this data visualization of summer Olympic medals by country over time.

18) And this is an awesome, awesome feature on the dominance of the US women’s gymnastics team.

19) Scientists have discovered that the Greenland shark can live to at least 272 and maybe up to 512 years!  Whoa!  (Thanks for the tip, EMG).

20) I so love Kevin Drum’s gripes about those griping about NBC’s Olympic coverage.

Quick hits part II

1) My little sister got married at Duke Chapel this weekend so I’m a little behind.  One heck of a site for a wedding.  Here’s my dad, two of the boys, and me (and tux, courtesy of DJC!)


2) Excellent piece on why it is so hard to reform police departments (not that we shouldn’t damn well try our best).

3) In a similar vein, race, policing, and legitimacy.  Good and important stuff.

4) How Denmark has this American dream thing figured out.

5) Brendan Nyhan on the pervasive myth of in-person voter fraud:

Strikingly, however, a Marquette Law School poll conducted in Wisconsin just a few weeks later showed that many voters there believed voter impersonation and other kinds of vote fraud were widespread — the likely result of a yearslong campaign by conservative groups to raise concerns about the practice. Thirty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters believe that vote fraud affects a few thousand votes or more each election. One in five believe that this level of fraud exists for each of the three types of fraud that individuals could commit: in-person voter impersonation, submitting absentee ballots in someone else’s name, and voting by people who are not citizens or Wisconsin residents.

6) Greg Sargent with a headline that captures it all, “Republicans nominate dangerously insane person to lead America, then panic when he proves he’s dangerously insane.”

7) The huge supply and demand problem for science PhD’s.

8) EJ Dionne on how the Republican party has lost it’s soul.

9) Should we just leave city rats alone?

10) Go ahead and let your baby cry it out to learn to sleep on its own, because… science.

11) This Dave Wasserman piece on the real (rather than pretend, i.e., “rigged!”) problems with our political system is excellent.   I think he is probably right that, as much as anything, we need to re-think how we do primaries:

How do we escape this insidious cycle of polarization? I have no easy solutions. But it might be time for a national conversation about how we can structurally modernize our system of elections to incentivize bipartisanship instead of fringe behavior. I tend to think redistricting reform is a bit overrated and primary reform is underrated. Left untouched, our politics will reach a breaking point — maybe we’re already there. And ultimately, voters get the government they deserve.

12) I’m not sure I’m ready to eat natto, “a stinky, fermented soybean condiment.”  But I’m for thinking more about healthy food being healthy because of its benefits to our microbiome.

13) Brendan Nyhan on how Trump’s claims of “rigged” elections are harmful and dangerous for any democracy:

Despite the public’s tendencies to blame a loss on fraud, no losing presidential candidate has ever endorsed such a claim. The results of a 2002 academic experiment involving a challenge by a losing candidate suggest that the consequences of a candidate endorsement would be substantial. This effect could be intensified by favorable coverage of voter fraud claims in allied media outlets, where Mr. Trump’s claims are alreadybeingamplified by supporters. Research in Europe shows that high news consumption in polarized media environments widens the gap in the perceived legitimacy of the political system between supporters of winning and losing candidates.

Even if he contests a loss, Mr. Trump will not undermine American democracy by himself. The institutions and norms of the system are strong enough to withstand such a challenge. But questioning the integrity of the electoral system could encourage other losing candidates to challenge their own defeats, creating the risk of a more serious crisis of legitimacy in the future.
14) Read books, live longer.  Sounds great to me!

Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.

They found a similar association among those who read newspapers and periodicals, but it was weaker.

“People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale. “And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”

Given all the controls, I really wonder what is really going on here.  For now, I’ll happily keep reading my books (enjoying The Three Body Problem right now).

15) Life-long Republican Max Boot is so done with the Republican party.

16) How think tanks serve the corporate agenda in Washington DC.

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