Quick hits (part I)

1) Of course researchers should house monkeys in shared cages.  To do otherwise with any social animal is just cruel.  I wish there weren’t primates in research at all, but since there are, it is nice to see it moving in this direction.

2) Let’s stick with the animal theme here.  Ed Yong on how domestication ruined dogs‘ pack instincts.

“The idea is that we’ve changed their psychology to make them into super-cooperative beings,” says Marshall-Pescini. But that’s only true for their relationships with us. By domesticating dogs (or rather, providing the conditions for them to domesticate themselves), humans ruined the pack instinct that makes wolves some of the most gregarious and cooperative hunters on four legs. “They adapted to the niche we provided for them and it changed their sociality,” Marshall-Pescini says…

Around 80 percent of dogs, in fact, are free-ranging, and their behavior shows just how different they are to wolves. They’re mostly solitary, scavenging alone on human garbage. When they do form packs, these groups are usually small and loose-knit. They might hunt together, but they mostly congregate to defend their territory. By contrast, wolves live in extremely tight-knit family groups. They rely on their pack-mates to bring down large prey, and they work together to rear each other’s pups. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack, as Rudyard Kipling’s poem goes.  [And a slogan frequently seen on NC State t-shirts]

3) It was not that hard for the Vikings to deforest Iceland a thousand years ago.  It’s damn hard for modern day Icelanders do grow trees.  Leaving the country a wet desert.

4) Some researchers got the gender coding exactly backwards in their study meaning their interesting and unusual finding was flat-out wrong and exactly the opposite.

5) Damn, what is it with on-line social justice warriors and YA fiction?!  Ugh.  And, shame, shame, shame on Kirkus for giving in.

6a) A damn fine response to John Roberts “Sociological gobbledegook” pronouncement.  Honestly, Roberts is an intellectual embarrassment with statements like that.

“I don’t put much stock in the claim that the Supreme Court is afraid of adjudicating partisan gerrymanders because it’s afraid of math,” Daniel Hemel, who teaches law at the University of Chicago, told me. “[Roberts] is very smart and so are the judges who would be adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims — I’m sure he and they could wrap their minds around the math. The ‘gobbledygook’ argument seems to be masking whatever his real objection might be.”

But if the chief justice hides his true objections behind a feigned inability to grok the math, well, that’s a problem math can’t solve.

6b) And an Election Law Blog post on the same matter.

7) And John Pfaff makes a solid argument that the Court could really benefit from official fact-checkers.

8) Conor Friedersdorf raises some really good points about universities and micro-aggressions.

9) Chait on the pending Republican tax cuts:

The last time Republicans had control of government, they explained that cutting taxes would not get in the way of fiscal responsibility. Not only would tax cuts produce faster growth, they argued, they would also force Congress to restrain spending. Their strategy utterly failed. Not only did the tax cuts fail to produce higher growth, they also failed to encourage spending restraint….

And so there they are, back to the exact same policy they tried in 2001: Pass a huge tax cut and hope somehow it leads to cutting spending. That this policy is now being carried out by the same people who rose to power by denouncing the failure of the exact same policy last time tells you everything you need to know about the state of economic policy thought in the Republican Party now.

10) I love this, “Want to raise an empowered girl? Then let her be funny.”  I do.  Also, my wife is really, really funny, but you have to know her pretty well first before you learn that.

Today we encourage our daughters to be ambitious and athletic, opinionated and outspoken. We want them focused on STEM and outfitted in T-shirts that read, “Who runs the world? Girls.”

But what if raising truly empowered girls also means raising funny ones? What if we teach our daughters that humor is their turf — just as much as any boy’s?

“One of the things that happens to girls is that they are encroached upon by the world,” says Lisa Damour, a psychologist and author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood.” “And one of the things that humor can do is . . . help girls stand up for themselves in ways that people don’t retaliate for.”

11) Speaking of my funny wife, I was telling her about the ACES scale earlier this week.  Came home and opened up the NYT, and first thing I saw was this story about childhood trauma impacting an troubled man’s adult life.

12) How prosecutors are banding together to hinder criminal justice reform.  All the more reason we need to reform prosecutors offices.

13) You really should read the Washington Post story on how opiate distributors worked to undermine DEA enforcement.

14) The (college) kids are alright.  Or, at least they are slightly more accepting of free speech of young adults not in college:

15) Sometimes I just have to call out George Will for being so pathetic.  Seriously, the man sure as hell does not deserve column inches anymore.  Here he is on abortion:

Pro-abortion absolutists — meaning those completely content with the post-1973 regime of essentially unrestricted abortion-on-demand at any point in pregnancy — are disproportionately Democrats who, they say, constitute the Party of Science. They are aghast that the Department of Health and Human Services now refers to protecting people at “every stage of life, beginning at conception.” This, however, is elementary biology, not abstruse theology: Something living begins then — this is why it is called conception. And absent a natural malfunction or intentional intervention (abortion), conception results in a human birth…

The court decided that the right to abortion becomes a trifle less than absolute — in practice, not discernibly less — when the fetus reaches viability, meaning the ability to survive outside the womb. The court stipulated that viability arrived at 24 to 28 weeks.

For the record, that’s a blatantly dishonest reading of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the matter (especially post-Casey) and a blatantly dishonest reading of liberal public opinion on the matter.

16) Yes, the White House seriously did release a graphic that says free trade causes wife-beating, among other social ills.  Dana Milbank:

On a page titled “socioeconomic costs of a weakened manufacturing base,” Navarro’s document lists, among other things: “higher abortion rate,” “lower fertility rate,” “increased spousal abuse,” “lower marriage rate,” “higher divorce rate,” “higher crime,” “rising mortality rate” and “increased drug/opioid use.”

Now, it’s true that job loss can lead to social ills, but the Trump White House officials involved in such social-science “research” made some enormous leaps of logic — that the social ills are caused specifically by the loss of manufacturing jobs and by nothing else, and that the job losses are caused by free trade rather than, say, productivity, technology or the failure of government policies. To use the technical, social-scientific lingo, Navarro “pulled this one out of his butt.”…

There is something charming and elegant about the White House’s sophistry, both in Sessions’s backlog calculation and in the free-trade=spousal-abuse logic. Essentially, Navarro identified two occurrences that may or may not be related and, without furnishing any evidence, proclaimed a correlation.

By that same logic, it would be fair to argue that the growth of free trade is also responsible for Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women, the rise of fidget spinners and the noxious habit of dabbing.

But why stop at free trade? Let’s apply the White House’s logic — identifying two things that correlate and capriciously declaring causation — to President Trump and his actions.

Using the White House method, we can conclude that Trump’s election has caused: a surge in inflammatory bowel disease and erectile dysfunction and, at the same time, record-high levels of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

17) Loved  this New Yorker article arguing that Civilization actually pre-dated agriculture.  And for the importance of fire in the matter.  My favorite part?  My 11-year old son read his first New Yorker article.

18) This NYT magazine feature on the replication crisis in Psychology and how the “revolution” came for Amy “power pose” Cuddy was great reading.  Had a great discussion about this with my colleagues.

Advertisements

Quick hits (part II)

1) Why does majority opinion keep losing on guns?  Because America is increasingly a non-majoritarian democracy.  EJ Dionne:

But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, “One Nation After Trump,” the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.

Our fellow citizens overwhelmingly reject the idea that we should do nothing and let the killings continue. Majorities in both parties favor universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and measures to prevent the mentally ill and those on no-fly lists from buying guns.

Yet nothing happens.

The non-majoritarian nature of our institutions was brought home in 2013. After the Sandy Hook slaughter, the Senate voted 54 to 46 in favor of a background-checks amendment crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Those 54 votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, which the GOP regularly abused during the Obama years. Worse, since most large-state senators voted for Manchin-Toomey, the 54 “yes” votes came from lawmakers representing 63 percent of the population. Their will was foiled by those who speak for just 37 percent of us.

2) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick to my stomach as I did reading this Atlantic article on the horrible, horrible death at a Penn State fraternity.  I don’t deny there’s real benefits from fraternities, but my personal reading of their reality is that the costs substantially outweigh the benefits.

3) Nice NYT article on the growth of quality podcasts for kids.  My daughter loves “Wow in the World” like nobody’s business.

4) I love Chris Molanphy’s explorations of Rock/Pop music history on The Gist.  His Slate article was my favorite take on Tom Petty.

5) Love this Upshot piece on how marriage became increasingly class-based:

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults ages 18 to 55 are married, according to a research brief published from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.

In 1990, more than half of adults were married, with much less difference based on class and education: 51 percent of poor adults, 57 percent of working-class adults and 65 percent of middle- and upper-class adults were married.

A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material.

“Women don’t want to take a risk on somebody who’s not going to be able to provide anything,” said Sharon Sassler, a sociologist at Cornell who published “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships” with Amanda Jayne Miller last month.

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring…

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

College graduates are more likely to plot their lives methodically — vetting people they date until they’re sure they want to move in with them, and using birth control to delay childbirth until their careers are underway.

Less educated people are more likely to move in with boyfriends or girlfriends in a matter of months, and to get pregnant at a younger age and before marriage. This can make financial and family stability harder to achieve later on.

6) Clear evidence that government workers– even librarians– racially discriminate based on whether a name sounds Black or White.

7) I hate that even a Supreme Court justice can be just a plain old partisan hack.  Hard to see how Alito is anything but in his approach to the Wisconsin gerrymandering case.  Same goes for Roberts in his absurdly anti-intllectual reference to “sociological gobbledygook.”  Actually, it’s called math.

8) Amazing how low the bar is for Trump on speeches.  CNN couldn’t get enough of Trump being not horrible on Las Vegas.  David Frum, however, was not impressed.

9) Is there any hypocrisy as base as that from “pro-life” politicians:

There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.”

10) I did enjoy Ta-Nahesi Coates’ big anti-Trump essay and Coates almost always makes me think.  But, he really does have a bad habit of making everythingWilliams about race.  Some nice pushback from Thomas Chatterton .

11) Loved Thomas Friedman on the Las Vegas shooter:

If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted “Allahu akbar” before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS … If only we had a picture of him posing with a Quran in one hand and his semiautomatic rifle in another …

If all of that had happened, no one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies.

No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11. Then Donald Trump would be tweeting every hour “I told you so,” as he does minutes after every terror attack in Europe, precisely to immediately politicize them. Then there would be immediate calls for a commission of inquiry to see what new laws we need to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Then we’d be “weighing all options” against the country of origin.

But what happens when the country of origin is us?

What happens when the killer was only a disturbed American armed to the teeth with military-style weapons that he bought legally or acquired easily because of us and our crazy lax gun laws?

Then we know what happens: The president and the Republican Party go into overdrive to ensure that nothing happens. Then they insist — unlike with every ISIS-related terror attack — that the event must not be “politicized” by asking anyone, particularly themselves, to look in the mirror and rethink their opposition to common-sense gun laws.

12) Few political authors are purchased by both sides of the political spectrum (in cool graphical form).

13) So, this is a real thing.

14) Came across this “do you have a generous marriage” quiz.  I only came out average.  I honestly suspect, though, that people are too likely to give themselves “always.” The response categories seem like bad social science to me.  Such as, “How often do you express respect or admiration to your partner?”  I think I’m pretty good at telling my wife I appreciate her, but “always”?!

15) Florida has a chance to undo it’s incredibly punitive and racism felon disenfranchisement:

This particular historical evil began after the Civil War, when white-supremacist legislatures were resisting efforts to treat blacks as fellow humans with equal rights and dignity.

Though attempts to block the 14th Amendment failed, and though the Reconstruction Act of 1867 forced Florida to add an article to its state constitution granting suffrage to all men, creative racists kept many blacks from the ballot box with educational requirements and a lifetime voting ban for convicted felons, knowing blacks had been and would be abused by the criminal-justice system.

16) Love this Kurt Andersen piece on the delusional anti-government fantasies of the gun nuts (and, alas, how our political system has given into them):

Let me put a finer point on what I’m saying. Very, very few of the guns in America are used for hunting. Americans who own guns today keep arsenals in a way people did not 40 years ago. It seems plain to me that that’s because they—not all, but many—have given themselves over to fantasies.

The way I did as a child and still do when I shoot, they imagine they’re militiamen, pioneers, Wild West cowboys, soldiers, characters they’ve watched all their lives in movies and on TV, heroes and antiheroes played by Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson and the Rock, like Davy Crockett or Butch or Sundance or Rambo or Neo (or Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor). They’re like children playing with lightsabers, except they believe they’re prepared to fight off real-life aliens (from the Middle East, from Mexico) and storm troopers, and their state-of-the-art weapons actually wound and kill. Why did gangsters and wannabe gangsters start holding and firing their handguns sideways, parallel to the ground, even though that compromises their aim and control? Because it looks cool, and it began looking cool after filmmakers started directing actors to do it, originally in the ’60s, constantly by the ’90s. (It also made it easier to frame the gun and the actor’s face in the same tight shot.) Why are Americans buying semi-automatic AR-15s and rifles like it more than any other style, 1.5 million each year? Because holding and shooting one makes them feel cooler, more like commandos. For the same reason, half the states now require no license for people to carry their guns openly in public places. It’s the same reason, really, that a third of the vehicles sold in America are pickups and four-wheel-drive Walter Mitty–mobiles, even though three-quarters of four-wheel-drive off-road vehicles never go off road. It’s even the reason blue jeans became the American uniform after the 1960s. We are actors in a 24/7 tableau vivant, schlubs playing the parts of heroic tough guys…

But beyond the prospect of protecting oneself against random attacks—and by the way, among the million-plus Americans interviewed in 10 years of Crime Victimization Surveys, exactly one sexual assault victim used a gun in self-defense—several outlandish scenarios and pure fantasies drive the politics of gun control. One newer fantasy has it that in the face of an attack by jihadi terrorists, armed random civilians will save the day. Another is the fantasy that patriots will be obliged to become terrorist rebels, like Americans did in 1776 and 1861, this time to defend liberty against the U.S. government before it fully reveals itself as a tyrannical fascist-socialist-globalist regime and tries to confiscate every private gun.

17) The Buzzfeed piece with much buzz about how Breitbart quite purposely tried to make racists and neo-nazis mainstream.

18) Brooks get this right about guns– they are part of our identity politics:

Four in 10 American households own guns. As Hahrie Han, a political science professor, noted in The Times Wednesday, there are more gun clubs and gun shops in this country than McDonald’s. For many people, the gun is a way to protect against crime. But it is also an identity marker. It stands for freedom, self-reliance and the ability to control your own destiny. Gun rights are about living in a country where families are tough enough and responsible enough to stand up for themselves in a dangerous world.

(Of course, this is also largely fantasy, as Andersen points out)

 

19) How computers turned gerrymandering into a science.

20) Is Maggie Haberman’s coverage of Trump changing the news culture of the NYT?

21) This Radley Balko piece is just so depressing.  Poorly trained police shoot an unarmed person in a no-knock drug raid, but, of course, it’s not actually their fault:

In a morning drug raid. As one of the officers took a battering ram to the door, Jesus Ferreira was sleeping on the couch. Ferreira wasn’t a suspect. He happened to be visiting. Within seconds, one officer shot him, claiming that Ferriera was “moving toward him” and had something in his hand. Ferreira suffered significant injuries, and doctors later had to remove his spleen.

No one disputes that Ferreira was unarmed. But the police claim he had a video-game controller in his hand, which the officer who shot him mistook for a gun. Ferreira and his lawyers say that he was sleeping at the time of the raid, that he raised his hands when the police entered and that they put the controller in his hand after the fact to retroactively justify the shooting.

Ferriera sued. The result of that lawsuit demonstrates yet again just how difficult it is for even completely innocent people shot by police to get any sort of justice…

One other thing: McAvoy notes in his ruling that the city argues that these raids are extremely volatile, and therefore officers should be granted a great deal of leeway when making mistakes such as shooting innocent people. The city is right. These raids are extremely volatile. But the police themselves  created that volatility. They didn’t have to go in with a SWAT team early in the morning. They chose to. And despite the fact that the police have the advantage of both training and of being the party that is aware of what’s happening, the police are given extraordinary leeway to make mistakes during these raids. The people on the receiving end of the raids are not. This case again is a perfect example. In the heat of the moment, the cop who shot Ferreira shot an innocent, unarmed man. He did this despite his training, and despite the fact that he knew what was happening as it was happening. The city of Binghamton argued in court that Ferreira bore the ultimate responsibility for his own injuries. Because he rose up and moved toward the officers with a video-game controller as the raid went down, he had no one to blame but himself. The cop who shot Ferreira can make mistakes that end lives. Ferreira was expected to react perfectly — to wake up, immediately realize that the armed men breaking into the home were police and immediately know how to surrender in a manner that could in no possible way be interpreted as a threat. [emphasis mine]

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice NYT feature on how Amazon is integrating its human and robot workers.

2) Really nice, thoughtful, Garrett Epps piece on religious freedom vs LGBT rights.

3) Some other countries starting to fine parents who don’t vaccinate their kids.  Hell, yeah.

4) You know I love the Post, but this piece on “alternate nostril breathing” is literally one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in there (and that includes Marc Thiessen columns):

Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure. It can clear toxins and respiratory systems — shodhana translates to purification and nadi to channels, so the intent of the practice is to cleanse different systems of the mind and body.

5) Love this from Mark Joseph Stern— Supreme Court justices predict the future all the time, but they are really bad at it.

6) Maybe don’t let your kid start tackle football before age 12.

7) Hell, yes, police need better training to deal with people with autism.  Thing is, though, they need much better training to deal with people with basic human weaknesses and flaws.  Far too much training on weapons and not nearly enough on conflict de-escalation, etc.

8) Why today’s teens are less about sex, drug, and rock ‘n roll (okay, at least the first two):

 

When 17-year-old Quattro Musser hangs out with friends, they don’t drink beer or cruise around in cars with their dates. Rather, they stick to G-rated activities such as rock-climbing or talking about books.

They are in good company, according to a new study showing that teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade…

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to really be responsible till your late 20s,’ well then the brain will respond accordingly,” he said.

Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.

If the delay is to make room for creative exploration and forming better social and emotional connections, it is a good thing, he said. But “if it’s fear-based, obviously that’s a concern.”

Among teenagers now, “there is a feeling you’re getting of, ‘Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. . .Why don’t I stay with my friends and away from anything that has heavy consequences, like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases?'”

Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” she said. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.'”

With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance.

“They’re absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them.”

9) Title IX is awesome when used appropriately.  Laura Kipnis shows how you take a good thing way too far.

10) This feature on Rod Blagojevich in prison was so fascinating.

11) Loved Drum on Trump’s tweets yesterday, “Trump Triples Down on White Racial Grievance Mongering.”

12) Re-thinking Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, especially as it applies to humans.

13) I don’t doubt that, in some cases, attempts at gender equity in Silicon Valley may have gone too far, but few things strike me as more pathetic as the new breed of men out there who are convinced women are out to get them and there’s some sort of witch hunt going on.

14) Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann on how Trump is forcing others to step up and save our democracy:

But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him…

A broad and powerful movement has arisen to defeat Trump and Trumpism. Its success will be a triumph worthy of celebration.

But this is not just an end in itself. It is also an essential first step toward a new politics. It will be a politics that takes seriously the need to solve the problems Trump has exposed. It will nurture our dedication to the raucous but ultimately unifying project of democratic self-government. For it is our shared commitment to republican institutions and democratic values that makes us one nation.

15) So loved this article on the science of hurricanes and why this season has been so bad:

Hurricanes exist to cool the tropics. The vast majority of sunlight beats down in the 23 degrees north and south of the equator. Without something to disperse the energy toward the poles, Earth’s climate would become unbalanced, quickly.

These planetary heat engines sprout from relatively weak clusters of thunderstorms — waves of low pressure from the coast of Africa — and fester in the warm waters of the Atlantic. They feed on tropical moisture and the sun’s intense energy and, eventually, if they get large enough, will start to spin thanks to Earth’s top-like motion.

16) Can teaching Civics save democracy?  I doubt it.  Also, where are the school systems that don’t?

17) Should you buy Tom Brady’s new exercise book?  Only if you don’t believe in science:

The problem with this notion is that exercise science has never heard of muscle pliability.

“It’s balderdash,” says Stuart Phillips, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an expert in muscle physiology.

In scientific terms, he says, muscles that are soft tend to be muscles that are sick. “When folks do little or nothing, as, for instance, during bed rest, then their muscles get very soft,” he says.

Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have not conducted or published clinical trials of muscle pliability. Neither has anyone else. On the huge PubMed online database of published science, I found only one experiment that contains the words pliability and muscles, and it concerned the efficacy of different embalming techniques.

The book’s sections on diet and nutrition similarly lack supporting evidence, although not common sense.

18) Thomas Mills on Confederate monuments in NC:

Yesterday, the Republicans leaders of the legislature told the State Historical Commission to deny Governor Roy Cooper’s request to move Confederate monuments from the grounds of the state Capitol to the Bentonville Battlefield. Their request makes two things clear: The law they passed was meant to protect the monuments, not establish an orderly process for removal like the GOP claimed, and, second, they want to make this fight about race to drive out their base. [emphases mine]

Senator Phil Berger called Cooper’s request political theater, but it’s Berger who using the stage to advance his cause. He could have let the Historical Commission debate the matter and issue an opinion. Instead, he let the press and his base know that he’s standing up for the statues because he wants the argument to play out in the 2018 elections.

Midterm elections usually hurt the party in the White House and Republicans need something to drive their base to the polls. The fight over hundred-year-old monuments is just what they’re looking for. Native rural white Southerners who make up a large portion of the GOP base want the statues to stay. Younger people, especially African-Americans, want them gone. It’s a wedge issue and dog whistle that would make Jesse Helms proud…

Berger claims he wants to prevent the state from trying to “rewrite history” but that’s exactly what the current monuments were intended to do–and did so successfully for almost a century. If Berger’s sincere, he should also urge the current monuments be put into historical context and recognize that they were originally erected at a time when any opposition to them was being suppressed through violence and intimidation.

But Berger’s not going to do that. He’s letting his base know that he’s with them and hoping for a fight that inflames passions. And like gerrymandering and his voter suppression law, he’s letting African-Americans know that their opinions and history really don’t matter much.

Berger and the Republican leadership’s sense of history is really quite good. They understand that race is still a potent and driving force in Southern politics. Today, they’re cynically exploiting it for political gain and betting dividing North Carolina is better than uniting it.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting interview with Judge Richard Posner, who, better-late-than-never, recognizes that our justice system is not exactly fair to poor people.

2) So, we’re actually having an interesting debate on whether we need to have reporters out there standing in 150mph winds during a hurricane.

3) The guy who invented the stupid password rules (one uppercase, one special character, etc.) totally regrets it.  What we really need– long, easy to remember passwords.  Thisisareallylongpassword is way better than Ttg9!yt6.

4) Enjoyed this explanation on all the stuff that went right to keep Irma from being an epic catastrophe.

5) Also, we need to do a better job communicating to the public what hurricane forecasts really mean.

6) Equifax and the whole credit reporting industry is so evil and so insulated.  Farhad Manjoo is right that they should not get away with it (they will).  I also love Drum’s simple solution:

The time for small-bore proposals is over. It’s time to make the credit agencies—and others—pay for their flagrantly careless behavior. When they allow someone to steal your identity, they’re the ones who should pay the price, not you.

7) Pretty good satirical video of helping with homework that I love, because Toto’s Africa.

 

 

8) Olympic-sized events rarely work out for the host city.

9) Love this Vox appreciation of the humor in “Bojack Horseman.”  So, dark, yet so much brilliant comedy.

10) David Roberts on how the mainstream media turned HRC’s “gaffes” into scandals based on pretty much nothing is terrific:

If you put these two together — an intensely hostile and dishonest conservative movement combing every word and act for anything that can be distorted, plus a mainstream press endlessly credulous toward each new faux scandal — and then add, in 2015, an intensely hostile and only moderately more informed Bernie Sanders coalition feeding in their own faux scandals from the left, you have, to put it mildly, a inclement information environment for Clinton.

So sure, it makes sense, in isolation, to say that she shouldn’t have bungled that sentence about coal workers. She shouldn’t have used that email server her husband had in the basement. She shouldn’t have given speeches to banks. All of that is true enough.

But note that when mainstream critics talk about these things, it’s never the things themselves that are the problem. It’s always the optics: “how it sounded” or “how it looked.” If you unpack that a little — “she should have known how it would look” — here’s what it means: She should have known that anything she does or says that can be spun to look bad will be spun to look bad, and the MSM will pass along the spin uncritically, so she shouldn’t have done or said anything that can be spun to look bad.

11) The Amish use smartphones?!

12) I’ve never actually seen discrimination against politically conservative professors in my 17 years as a tenure-track professor.  The problem Arthur Brooks overlooks, is massive selection bias.

13) I’ve been meaning to do a post on single-payer, but for now, Drum reminds us that hospitals (and hospital systems) are the costs villain in American medicine, not insurance companies.  I actually feel like the understanding of this fact is something that separates those who understand health care policy from those that think they understand health care policy.

This is the not-so-hidden story of exploding medical costs. We’ve become so accustomed to hating on insurers that we hardly notice that hospital consolidation is a much bigger villain. When a big insurer has a local monopoly, it can usually negotiate lower prices from hospitals because the hospitals have nowhere else to go. But when there are lots of insurers and only one or two local hospitals, it’s the hospitals that have the upper hand. They can charge high prices because the insurers have no choice except to do business with them. As hospital systems get steadily larger and rope in more and more physicians, their effective competition decreases and they have the ability to demand ever higher prices.

Insurance companies are hardly innocent bystanders in the health care system, but if you want to really target the drivers of higher costs, look to the source: the actual providers of medical services. That means doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers. That’s where the real money is.

14) My kind of Christian.  John Pavlovitz on Jemelle Hill.

The White House joined in the caucasian outrage, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaring that Hill’s comments constituted a “fireable offense.” Maybe it’s me, but if calling the President a white supremacist is a fireable offense—then him actually being one sure as heck should be.

This is the heart of the hypocrisy on display here, and the reason Hill isn’t wrong, even if you disagree with her conclusions or her methods.

You don’t get to hire Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and Jeff Sessions—and simultaneously mount a high horse of righteous indignation at the suggestion that you’re probably a bigot.

You don’t get to spend a lifetime exemplifying the absolute insulation from accountability that is white privilege—and get to play the victim card when a black woman asks why that is.

15) Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has based ruling on sex offenders on junk science.  Rulings based on junk science are still rife through our criminal justice system.

16) From prison to a PhD program at NYU.  But not Harvard.

17) Great article on sexism and politics in Germany and the fascinating historical role of Communist progressivism on gender under East Germany.

18) Some interesting new political science research.  More asymmetry!

Recent studies indicate that the wealthy receive more representation from their members of Congress, though this relationship may be more pronounced in Republican compared to Democratic districts. However, drawbacks in existing survey data hamper efforts to delineate the relationship between income and representation with precision, especially at the highest income levels. In this paper we use new data to explore the relationship between wealth, the party identity of elected officials, and representation in greater depth. We develop several alternative models of the relationship between income and representation, and compare them with models employed in previous empirical research. We test each of these models, using two different data sets containing large numbers of wealthy individuals and very granular measures of income. Our results suggest that individuals with Democratic congressional representatives experience a fundamentally different type of representation than do individuals with Republican representatives. Individuals with Democratic representatives encounter a mode of representation best described as “populist,” in which the relationship between income and representation is flat (if not negative). However, individuals with Republican representatives experience an “oligarchic” mode of representation, in which wealthy individuals receive much more representation than those lower on the economic ladder.

19a) So, remember Drutman on the doom-loop.  Chait says just blame Republicans.  And he makes a damn good point.

Whether or not the Times was correct to use this research, and whether or not it treated Clinton fairly overall, is not the point. What matters is that Democratic politicians need to please a news media that is open to contrary facts and willing — and arguably eager — to hold them accountable. The mainstream media have have its liberal biases, but it also misses the other way — see the Times’ disastrously wrong report, a week before the election, that the FBI saw no links between the Trump campaign and Russia and no intention by Russia to help Trump. One cannot imagine Fox News publishing an equivalently wrong story against the Republican Party’s interests — its errors all run in the same direction.

Whatever interest liberals may have in finding congenial media, they don’t dismiss the mainstream media out of hand in the way conservatives have been trained over decades to do. When the conservative news media criticizes Republicans, it is almost always to play the role of ideological enforcer, attacking them for their lack of fervor. One party has a media ecosystem that serves as a guardrail, and the other has one that serves only as an accelerant.

19b) Drum, largely agrees, but argues the Republican Party is not the root of the problem:

There’s much more at the link, where Chait describes the asymmetry between the parties well. I don’t disagree with a word he says. However, I want to stress one small qualification. America is a democracy, and parties survive only if they gain popular support. Over the past couple of decades, we liberals have marveled at the steadily increasing lunacy of the Republican Party, confidently predicting at every turn that eventually the fever has to break. But it hasn’t. Republicans have won the presidency at the same rate as usual. They have won the House. They have won the Senate. They control state governments. They control county governments. There are still a few blue enclaves like California where Democrats truly control things, but not many. Generally speaking, the only thing Democrats truly control in America is its big cities. Urban mayors are almost uniformly Democratic.

In other words, the problem is not the Republican Party. The problem is that lots of people vote for the Republican Party. The lunacy will stop when that does. [emphasis mine]

20) Lastly, here’s your must-read of the week (from Politico!) on how increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is making our plants less healthy.  Seriously.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat?

What Loladze found is that scientists simply didn’t know. It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) This Vox interview with social-psychologist extraordinaire, Paul Slovic, on “psychic numbing” is terrific.  Read all of it:

Paul Slovic

I’ve been doing research on risk for close to 60 years now. [In the 1970s] I was struck withDaniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work on prospect theory. It had something called a value function in it, which indicated how people value things as the amounts increased. Changes at small levels had a big impact, and then as the magnitudes got larger, it took more and more of a difference to be noticeable.

The difference between, say, $0 and $100 feels greater than the difference between $100 and $200. If you’re talking about $5,800 or $5,900 — [both] seem the same, even though it’s still $100 difference.

I talked with Tversky about that, and [wondered] if that applied to lives. We both figured it would — and that this is really a pretty scary kind of thing.

It means that there is no constant value for a human life, that the value of a single life diminishes against the backdrop of a larger tragedy.

Brian Resnick

Is this what you call psychic numbing? The larger number of people, the more apathy.

Paul Slovic

Yes. And the opposite side of that is something we call the singularity effect, which is an individual life is very valued. We all go to great lengths to protect a single individual or to rescue someone in distress, but then as the numbers increase, we don’t respond proportionally to that.

People care about individuals. We see it over and over again: There’s a child who needs an operation, his parents can’t afford to pay for this operation, and there’s a story in the newspaper. An outpouring of money donations and support is often tremendous. We do care a lot about individuals. We don’t scale that up, even when we’re capable.

2) For Trump’s EPA head, it’s neverclimate change. the right time to talk about

3) The purpose of sleep?  To forget:

A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.

In 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

4) Among other things, I’m a bit of a hurricane science nerd.  Thus, this Nate Cohn piece on how to follow and understand hurricane science (and apply it to Irma) is one of my favorite Upshot pieces ever.

5) Adult marijuana use is rising; teen marijuana use is falling.  That sounds fine to me– especially if the adult use is displacing alcohol use.

Public health experts tend to worry more about adolescent than adult drug use because adolescent brains are still developing. Teen drug use is linked to a host of health problems later in life, including addiction, criminal behavior and cognitive deficits.

The marijuana trend defies the warnings of those who oppose its legalization, who have long predicted that loosening restrictions on marijuana would “send the wrong message” to teens and increase teen drug use.

6) A new front in GMO wars?  GMO moths being used to control agricultural pests.  As you might expect, sounds good to me.

7) Interesting take about why China does not do more about North Korea:

Flash forward to 2003, when China, at the behest of the United States, set up the six-party talks to try to deal with North Korea after it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This move, too, had a key domestic component: to show China’s people how important China — and thus the Chinese Communist Party — had become. The idea, according to exiled Chinese writer Chang Ping, was not actually to solve the problem, but to maintain a situation in which as China “secretly aids the kidnappers, as middleman, it also helps negotiate the ransom.”

Why does China continue to aid “the kidnappers”? For one, despite the increased criticism of North Korea permitted in the state-run press, a significant faction within the Communist Party continues to believe that China’s support of North Korea chips away at American strength and prestige. Undermining the United States within China and around Asia remains a central goal of the party, which sees itself as embattled by what it calls “hostile Western forces” — in other words, the United States.

Second and possibly even more important, Chinese Communist officials have to be concerned about the ramifications inside China of a more aggressive stance on North Korea. If Beijing steps in and installs a more malleable leader to replace Kim, who is to say North Koreans would not revolt and turn their country into an Iraq or, perhaps even worse, a democracy?

8) Went to a birdwatching class with Sarah to come back and unintentionally come across this Wirecutter article on the best binoculars.  Apparently, there’s been a revolution in low-cost optical technology making good binoculars way more affordable.  I paid about $200 for a pair around 12 years ago, but if this article is right, I’d be much better off with a new set of $150 binoculars.

9) Blatant sexual harassment in the Texas Tech Biology department?  A-Ok.  “Big” Steve Saideman used to always tell me of pretty horrendous tales in the TTU PS department before I arrived.

10) How Donald Trump’s FCC may ruin the internet.

11) This NYT “How to be a modern parent” guide seems to have a lot of useful information.

12) I’ve been loving the “Manhunt: Unabomber” show on Discovery.  I half remembered the basic details, but this is really fascinating and really entertaining television.

13) Pretty cool moving images of cargo ships avoiding hurricane Irma.

14) Dispiriting, but I think accurate, take on the horrendous Equifax breach:

In the end, the truth of the Equifax breach—who was affected, and how, and what the company will do to help, and what the terms of such assistance entail—might not be the most important lesson from this incident. More than anything, it suggests that a corner has been turned in corporate consumer data responsibility. Like severe weather, breaches have become so frequent and severe that they can begin receding from prominence. No matter their grievous effects, Equifax’s response suggests that fatalism might replace responsibility, planning, and foresight. This is just what happens now.

15) David Graham on Trump’s shrinking, but absurdly passionate, base.

16) Got to love this (since deleted) FB post from a Republican mayoral candidate in Charlotte, NC, “REPUBLICAN & SMART, WHITE, TRADITIONAL.”

17) I missed this David Hopkins post from last December about the massive generation gap and it’s potential long-term consequences.  It’s good.

18) Open tab for too long– the changing racial gaps at universities throughout the U.S.  Lots of fascinating graphics.  For example, Duke went from 80% white the year I started (1990) to 52% white now (mostly from dramatic increase in the Asian population).

19) Very relevant at this time of horrific hurricanes– why people value their pets over other humans.

20) Interesting essay on the ambivalence of the obscenely wealthy.

21) Trying to get to the bottom of all the counterfeit solar eclipse glasses.

22) Trump lawyer refers to himself and chief of staff John Kelly as “the adults in the room.”  As Dan Drezner regularly puts it, “I’ll believe that Trump is growing into the presidency when his staff stops talking about him like a toddler.”

23) Loved Derek Thompson’s take on Hollywood’s bad summer:

To explain the bad news, movie executives are trying out fresh excuses (blame … Rotten Tomatoes?), while journalists are rehashing familiar criticisms (people are bored with sequels!).

Both of these explanations are wrong. The subtler truth is that the domestic movie market is in a slow, decades-long structural decline. To lasso millions of busy and distracted people into movie theaters, the major studios are spending more money on fewer films. This has led, predictably, to spiky returns—huge hits, huge flops, and less in between. As a result, entire quarters can hinge on the success of one or two movies. Rather than react hysterically to every single bad month or weekend, it’s more useful to consider the bigger picture…

What really happened this summer? It might be as simple as bad timing. The box-office champion of 2016, Finding Dory, came out in July, so its revenue fully counted toward the summer box office. But the biggest film of 2017 so far, the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, came out in March. If Finding Dory is subtracted from 2016’s summer box office—or if Beauty and the Beast is added to the 2017 summer box office—there is very little difference between the summers of 2016 and 2017. Once again, this is predictable: Entire seasons hinging on the success of one or two blockbusters is exactly what one should expect from the franchise-blockbuster strategy currently en vogue in Hollywood.

And what about that strategy? Variety is the latest to claim that people are “tired” of sequels and reboots. The claim is either vapid or wrong. First, “sequels” is not a movie, and no first date has ever said, “Would you like to see a reboot with me this weekend?” Audiences aren’t tired of sequels. They’re indifferent toward bad films. The entire concept of video entertainment that extends or updates a familiar character or story is not invalidated by the ostensible failure of one Transformers movie. In fact, episodic video entertainment that recycles or develops characters and stories across many, many hours is the definition of a television show. And nobody seems to be making the argument that audiences have had it with TV.

Second, to the extent that one can make any hard claims about the economic value of sequels as a business strategy, it’s awfully difficult to quantitatively prove that audiences don’t want to see them. The seven highest-grossing films of 2017—Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, Logan, and The Fate of the Furious—are all sequels, reboots, and franchise extensions. In a year when The Lego Batman Movie out-earned a historic indie hit like Get Out, it’s hard to argue that American audiences are desperate for entirely original stories.

As I’ve written, the problem for Hollywood isn’t that audiences are ignoring sequels, adaptations, and reboots. The problem is that audiences are ignoring everything else. [emphasis mine]

24) Everybody is talking about Ta-Nahesi Coates‘ “The first white president.”  Sounds great– I’ll be reading it when I get my hardcopy Atlantic in the mail.

25) This Lee Drutman essay on the “doom loop” in American politics is fabulous.  You really, really should read it:

f polarization were simply a matter of parties negotiating on behalf of competing economic interest groups and allocating federal dollars, it follows that there are deals to be made (and plenty of earmarks!). Under such a politics, political leaders of both parties can trade roads and bridges over whisky cocktails at after-hours parties. Different sides might offer different perspectives, creating contrasts for voters. But at the end of the day, everyone understands that there are no permanent winners or losers — just temporary electoral swings. This is normal “interest-group politics,” in the jargon of political scientists.

When division involves purity and impurity, when it devolves into a pure contest between “us” and “them” — then there is no bargaining, because there are no negotiable principles, just team loyalties. “We” are good and pure, while “they” are evil and corrupt. And, of course, you cannot compromise with evil and corrupt. The preferred cocktails of such a politics are of the Molotov variety, and the roads and bridges are not to be traded, but to be burned.

This is doom-loop partisanship, because it contains many reinforcing dynamics that can quickly spiral out of control.

American politics has been transitioning from interest-group politics to doom-loop politics for decades, and we are now deep into a crisis.

Quick hits (part I)

1) An infant’s cry is a hugely powerful signal not just for humans, but many other mammals.

2) In our zeal to convict based on DNA evidence, we’ve taken a great tool and pushed it to the point where we are railroading innocent people (like with so much else of the criminal justice system.  Ugh.

For three decades, forensic DNA evidence has been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, incriminating or exonerating suspects. Matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has proved extremely persuasive with judges and juries.

But not all DNA evidence is equal. Sometimes it’s clear: blood or semen identifies a single person. If it’s just a few skin cells left on an object, or if it contains more than one person’s genetic material, it can be more ambiguous. In such situations, labs used to report that the results were inconclusive, or the defendant could not be excluded from the mix.

New types of DNA analysis have been introduced in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures, spawning an industry of testing tools, chemical kits and software. As analysis has become more complex, the techniques and results are coming under fire nationwide.

In the past three years, flaws in DNA methods have temporarily shut down testing in public crime labs in Austin, Tex., and Washington. Lab analysts “make it seem like it’s a completely objective process,” said Bicka Barlow, a lawyer in California with a master’s degree in genetics and molecular biology. “But I’m 100 percent convinced that there are many people who are incarcerated who were convicted with DNA evidence who are innocent.”

3) Dave Leonhardt on the rich getting richer.  It’s a policy choice.

4) Trump giving us “the best people.”  USDA chief scientist, not actually a scientist.  Just a racist.

5) Just another day in American criminal justice.  Headline and subhead, “ICE Wrongly Imprisoned an American Citizen for 1,273 Days. Judges Say He’s Owed $0.
An ICE agent sent through—and his supervisors approved—mistaken paperwork ‘proving’ Davino Watson wasn’t a citizen. And no one’s been held to account for the catastrophic screw-up.”

A not so fun fact about what Donald Rumsfeld once called “known unknowns”: ICE doesn’t know or won’t say how many American citizens have been arrested and imprisoned by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It’s illegal for ICE to imprison Americans, but so long as its agents don’t believe you are one, the burden is on you to prove it—without being entitled to a lawyer, since most deportation hearings are civil proceedings.

An NPR analysis this year found 693 citizens have been held in local jails on federal detainer requests since 2007 and 818 more have been imprisoned directly by ICE.

Even that’s just a fraction of the 3,600 American citizens a 2011 Berkeley study found were detained by ICE under the “secure communities” program started by President Bush, dramatically expanded and later suspended by President Obama, and now revived by President Trump, who’s threatening to withhold federal funds from localities that don’t sign up. Basically, the program crosschecks local and state fingerprints against federal immigration and criminal records, so that the feds can pick up “illegal immigrants” straight from jails or prisons when their term is up.

6) Really interesting political survey of wealthy Silicon Valley types.  Basically, they are very liberal except for hating regulation.  Farhad Manjoo with a nice summary.

7) North Carolina pastor and Robert E. Lee descendant rejected by his parishioners due to his support for Black Lives Matter.

8) Damn that motivated reasoning is strong stuff.  From some new research:

Ever-growing empirical evidence documents a gender bias against women and their research—and favoring men—in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Our research examined how receptive the scientific and public communities are to experimental evidence demonstrating this gender bias, which may contribute to women’s underrepresentation within STEM. Results from our three experiments, using general-public and university faculty samples, demonstrated that men evaluate the quality of research unveiling this bias as less meritorious than do women. These findings may inform and fuel self-correction efforts within STEM to reduce gender bias, bolster objectivity and diversity in STEM workforces, and enhance discovery, education, and achievement.

9) Really interesting article about the ketogenic diet (super high in fat; zero carb).  We looked into this for Alex’s epilepsy way back when, but fortunately never had to go down that road.

10) Love this– “no, your ancestors didn’t come here legally.”

Prior to 1875’s Page Act and 1882’s Chinese Exclusion Act, there were no national immigration laws. None. There were laws related to naturalization and citizenship, to how vessels reported their passengers, to banning the slave trade. Once New York’s Castle Garden Immigration Station opened in 1855, arrivals there reported names and origins before entering the U.S. But for all pre-1875 immigrants, no laws applied to their arrival. They weren’t legal or illegal; they were just immigrants. [emphasis mine]

11) Totally with Drum on this one– racism is not the explanation for everything Republicans do.  And to make everything we don’t like be about racism is to diminish the actual impact of racism (also, a reminder that I’ve never been a fan of Amanda Marcotte).

12) Coolest animated gif (soft-g, damnit!) ever?  What increasing hurricane winds do.

13) Max Boot has about had it with Trump’s America.

14) Damn– Lindy West on Ivanka is so good:

Ivanka Trump, first daughter, strode into Washington back in January with big promises: She was passionate about helping “working women,” she said, and she was going to close the gender wage gap even if it killed her.

Well, not if it killed her, not literally, but even if it mildly inconvenienced her, she was on it 110 percent, for the women. Well, not if it mildly inconvenienced her, she’s very busy, but definitely if there was a wage transparency policy already in place, she would not openly and glowingly support overturning it.

Well, unless her dad wanted to overturn it because doing so satisfied two of his top 10 vindictive fixations (constraining women’s independence and destroying the legacy of America’s first black president), but Ms. Trump would absolutely offer a better replacement solution, such as saying the words “child care credit” and “female entrepreneurs” repeatedly near a camera while wearing a blush-pink toggle coat. That, ladies, is the Ivanka Guarantee. Enjoy your money!

Ms. Trump’s self-professed commitment to corporate gender parity (about as milquetoast as feminism gets, but in Trump’s America, radicalism is relative) was trotted out incessantly during the campaign, especially as an antidote to her father’s self-professed commitment to nonconsensually sticking his hands on women’s genitals…

You’d think that a passionate anti-wage-gap crusader like Ms. Trump would relish a broad, ever-expanding data set illuminating her pet issue so that she could go after it with laser focus, but no. She is even more devoted than that. She hates the gender wage gap so much, she can’t even stand to know anything about it. Some heroes wear capelets.

15) Florida’s lessons learned from Hurricane Andrew.  And looks like these lessons will be put to the test.

16) This is pretty cool– how Apple is making Siri sound more human.

17) We’ve got a shortage of bus drivers in Wake County.  For some reason, the Kingswood Orange route consistently bears the brunt of it.  So far this year, my daughter’s bus typically does not leave the school until 45 minutes after school is actually over.  Ugh.  At least, the county just hit upon the solution to a labor shortage– raise wages.  Hmmm, maybe somebody should have thought of that sooner.

18) Chait on Trump, the American oligarchy, and regulatory capture.  It’s really horrible and depressing, but just so buried under the avalanche of wrongness that is the Trump presidency.

 

Some of the most astonishing regulatory capture is under way at the Department of Education. The appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provoked frenzied opposition, on the basis of her lack of experience and ideological fascination with vouchers. But the focus on DeVos’s beliefs about primary education was always misplaced, for the simple reason that primary education is financed overwhelmingly at the state and local level, so DeVos could not ruin public schools even if she tried.

Where DeVos has had a massive impact is in higher education. The federal government has much higher leverage over post-secondary education due to its involvement with student loans. These loans have often subsidized for-profit colleges, which lure customers using federally backed student loans, and furnish them with substandard or useless education. The Obama administration began cracking down on the for-profit industry in a variety of ways: imposing standards and conditions for its loans, rather than spraying them out indiscriminately to whichever college could vacuum them up. DeVos has turned her department over to the for-profit college industry, which has used its power to protect its own rackets.

19) Really enjoyed this essay on the growth of plot-driven TV comedy and how it shapes the nature of shows.  A lot of good points about Veep.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the delay.  Very busy, very fun weekend.

1) More Arpaio Mark Joseph Stern on Arpaio and Trump’s white nationalism:

Considering the president’s praise of Arpaio, and promise to consider a pardon for the ex-sheriff, Monday’s overdue, undercooked rebuke of racial animus registers as even more risibly insincere. During his 24-year tenure as sheriff, Arpaio proudly strove to implement white nationalism through a brutal assault on Maricopa County’s Latino population. His barbaric tactics included extreme racial profiling and sadistic punishments that involved the torture, humiliation, and degradation of Latino inmates. Courts repeatedly found that Arpaio violated the United States Constitution, but the sheriff often ignored their efforts to rein him in. There are few more potent symbols of mainstream white nationalism than Arpaio. Taken together with Tuesday’s unhinged press conference, Trump’s praise of Arpaio proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the president has made common cause with white nationalists.

2) I enjoyed this local column, “The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is.”

3) Pete Wehner on Trump, our “child-king.”

4) Sessions and the resurgence of civil asset forfeiture.  Not much worse than this.  Except maybe pardoning racists who show contempt for the Constitution.

5) A $1 price increase in a pack of cigarettes leads to a 20% increase in quitting.  Clearly, time to raise cigarette prices even more.

6) Really enjoyed this piece on the downside of using modern technology (Powerschool, in our case), to keep constant check on your kids’ grades.  I went through a phase with this, but it just wasn’t worth it and my son needed (needs?!) to learn to take responsibility for his own grades.

7) Margaret Talbot on Arpaio:

But Trump probably also likes Arpaio because the former sheriff represents in miniature what the President would like to be more maximally—a successful American authoritarian. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Fox News, Trump called Arpaio “an outstanding sheriff” and “a great American patriot.” It’s worth considering what it takes, in Trump’s view, to deserve such tributes. Arpaio, who served as the sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, from 1993 until he was voted out of office, in 2016, has a long-standing reputation for flouting civil rights, particularly those of Latinos.

In 2011, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Divisionfound that Arpaio’s sheriff’s department engaged in egregious racial profiling in its traffic stops and discrimination in its jailing practices. In Maricopa County, Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than “similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” and about a fifth of traffic stops, most of which involved Latino drivers, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable seizures. Sheriff’s department officers punished Latino inmates who had difficulty understanding orders in English by locking down their pods, putting them in solitary confinement, and refusing to replace their soiled sheets and clothes. The investigation found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.”

Arpaio, throughout his tenure, specialized in meting out theatrical punishments both petty and cruel.

8) Latest research suggests that it is healthier to frontload your calories earlier in the day.  Of course, not long ago I read research that suggested breakfast had no special value relative to other meals.  When I have been dieting and calorie counting, I actually found one of the easiest ways to cut calories was to downsize breakfast.  Sated in the morning with a greek yogurt and no hungrier by lunchtime than with a larger cereal and fruit breakfast.

9) Interesting essay on how our modern culture has basically ruined mindfulness.  A lot of good points, but our modern culture kind of ruins everything, but the basic mindfulness stuff– if correctly understood– still works and still has (modest) empirical support behind it.  I’ve been doing it for almost exactly one year and love it with no plans to stop.  But I’m under no illusions that it has transformed my life and is the secret to everything.  I think Dan Harris’ modest idea of 10% Happier is about right (I think I’m at about 12-13%).

10) Now, this is a fascinating prospect, “Pacific Islanders Appear to Be Carrying The DNA of an Unknown Human Species.”  Somehow, just learned about this November 2016 news.

11) Love this NPR story on how snobbery ruined (took the spice out of) European cooking.  This just rings so true.

Back in the Middle Ages, spices were really expensive, which meant that only the upper class could afford them. But things started to change as Europeans began colonizing parts of India and the Americas.

“Spices begin to pour into Europe,” explains Krishnendu Ray, an associate professor of food studies at New York University. “What used to be expensive and exclusive became common.”

Serving richly spiced stews was no longer a status symbol for Europe’s wealthiest families — even the middle classes could afford to spice up their grub. “So the elite recoiled from the increasing popularity of spices,” Ray says. “They moved on to an aesthetic theory of taste. Rather than infusing food with spice, they said things should taste like themselves. Meat should taste like meat, and anything you add only serves to intensify the existing flavors.”

12) As James Fallows puts it, “The Republican Party Is Enabling an Increasingly Dangerous Demagogue.”  Why yes, yes they are.

13) NPR on the Bernie Sanders voters who voted for Trump.

14) Vox did a whole big article on what a great song Despacito is.  Actually, it’s not.  The tune just really isn’t all that catchy (and I love a catchy tune as much as the next guy).  Drum agrees.

15) John Warner says we already know how to teach writing.

I think I[3] can generate a list of statements regarding the teaching of writing that the vast majority of those in the rhetoric-composition and writing instruction field will agree with:

  1. The more reading and writing we do, the better.
  2. Writing is best taught as a recursive process which includes (but isn’t necessarily limited to) pre-writing, drafting, revision and editing.[4]
  3. Writing should engage with the rhetorical situation: message, audience, purpose and genre.
  4. Reflection and metacognition are key ingredients to developing as a writer.
  5. Isolated exercises in grammar and mechanics that don’t engage with the students’ own writing are not helpful.
  6. Sentence diagramming is not an important skill for good writing.
  7. Peer response and collaboration are useful tools in helping developing writers
  8. Writers write best when engaging with subjects they are both interested in and knowledgeable about

16) Terrific Alec MacGillis Pro Publica article on HUD under Ben Carson.  Short version: it’s not good.

17) I really don’t think people should actually lose their jobs for making fairly innocuous “dongle” jokes.  Of course, this whole damn think spiraled way out of control.  Enough with on-line public shaming.

18) Of course Trump supporters know that it is white Christians in America who are the real victims of discrimination.

19) Ezra with an interesting interview of a DLC guy that is all for ideological flexibility in exchange for actually winning elections.  Count me in for that.

20) Even recent crazy events always seem so long ago in the world of Trump.  Charles Pierce’s blistering take on Trump supporters in the wake of his Arizona speech:

Before we get to the other stuff, and there was lots of other stuff, I’d like to address myself to those people represented by the parenthetical notation (Applause) in the above transcript, those people who waited for hours in 105-degree heat so that they could have the G-spot of their irrationality properly stroked for them. You’re all suckers. You’re dim and you’re ignorant and you can’t even feel yourself sliding toward something that will surprise even you with its fundamental ugliness, something that everybody who can see past the veil of their emotions can see as plain as a church by daylight, to borrow a phrase from that Willie Shakespeare fella. The problem, of course, is that you, in your pathetic desire to be loved by a guy who wouldn’t have 15 seconds for you on the street, are dragging the rest of us toward that end, too…

A guy basically went mad, right there on the stage in front of you, and you cheered and booed right on cue because you’re sheep and because he directed his insanity at all the scapegoats that your favorite radio and TV personalities have been creating for you over the past three decades. Especially, I guess, people like me who practice the craft of journalism in a country that honors that craft in its most essential founding documents. The President of the United States came right up to the edge of inciting you to riot and you rode along with him. You’re on his team, by god…

I have no more patience, and I had very little to start with. I don’t care why you’re anxious. I don’t care for anybody’s interpretation of why you voted for this abomination of a politician, and why you cheer him now, because any explanation not rooted in the nastier bits of basic human spleen is worthless. I don’t want any politicians who seek to appeal to the more benign manifestations of your condition because there’s no way to separate those from all the rest of the hate and fear and stupidity. (And, for my colleagues in the Vance-Arnade-Zito school of Trump Whispering, here’s a hint: They hate you, too.) I don’t care why you sat out in a roasting pan since 5 a.m. Tuesday morning to whistle and cheer and stomp your feet for a scared, dangerous little man who tells you that your every bloody fantasy about your enemies is the height of patriotism. You are now the declared adversaries of what I do for a living, and your idol is a danger to the country and so are you. Own it. Deal with it. And, for the love of god, and for the sake of the rest of us who live in this country, do better at being citizens.

Damn!  And right-on!

%d bloggers like this: