Quick hits (part II)

1) Like this on how Netflix owes its business model of original programming to Stephen Bochco.  Damn, did I love NYPD Blue.  RIP Bobby Simone.

2) Yes, Sinclair broadcasting does have an impact:

Critics have claimed that Sinclair — a company with close ties to the Trump administration and conservative politicians — is pushing its stations away from local coverage and toward a partisan brand of political reporting on national politics.

In new research, we find evidence that that appears to be the case. Stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market.

3) So, apparently the new thing for Climate Change deniers is to claim that things really aren’t so bad for polar bears.  Pathetic and bizarre.

4) I don’t usually agree with Megan McArdle, but she’s usually thoughtful.  Honestly, though, it’s pretty funny to see somebody who should so know better still be suckered by Paul Ryan.

5) Talk about out of touch.  This Chronicle of Higher Ed piece complaining that professor salary increases were barely enough to make up for inflation.  Uhhhh, yeah, poor, poor college professors.

A rise in the cost of living chipped away at salary gains by full-time faculty members in the 2017-18 academic year, according to new survey data published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors.

Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year. But that salary increase was cut by nearly two-thirds, to 1.1 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The average salary ranged widely, depending on rank: Full professors earned $104,820, associate professors made $81,274, and assistant professors took in $70,791. The average pay for lecturers was about $57,000 while, for instructors, it was $59,400.

6) So, yeah, learning styles are a total myth:

Either way, “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.

Husmann thinks the students had fallen into certain study habits, which, once formed, were too hard to break. Students seemed to be interested in their learning styles, but not enough to actually change their studying behavior based on them. And even if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered.

“I think as a purely reflective exercise, just to get you thinking about your study habits, [vark] might have a benefit,” Husmann said. “But the way we’ve been categorizing these learning styles doesn’t seem to hold up.”

Another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.

7) I’ve got a student doing a really cool independent study on artificial intelligence (he’s a computer science major, PS minor, if I remember correctly).  He just read some interesting stuff on AI and our criminal justice system.  Reminded me of this disturbing Pro Publica report I think I have failed to share here about how algorithms used to predict future criminality are basically biased against Blacks.

8) Phil Klay is the author of one of my favorite books ever.  Such a great writer and so thoughtful on military issues.  His essay in the NYT about how soldiers and civilians think about each other, and should think about each other, is terrific.  Read it.

Such disdain for those who haven’t served and yet dare to have opinions about military matters is nothing new for Mr. Kelly. In a 2010 speech after the death of his son, Mr. Kelly improbably claimed that we were winning in Afghanistan, but that “you wouldn’t know it because successes go unreported” by members of the “‘know it all’ chattering class” who “always seem to know better, but have never themselves been in the arena.” And he argued that to oppose the war, which our current secretary of defense last year testified to Congress we were not winning, meant “slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

This is a common attitude among a significant faction of veterans. As one former member of the Special Forces put it in a social media post responding to the liberal outcry over the deaths in Niger, “We did what we did so that you can be free to naïvely judge us, complain about the manner in which we kept you safe” and “just all around live your worthless sponge lives.” His commentary, which was liked and shared thousands of times, is just a more embittered form of the sentiment I indulged in as a young lieutenant in Iraq…

Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited by this patriotic correctness. Yet, if I have authority to speak about our military policy it’s because I’m a citizen responsible for participating in self-governance, not because I belonged to a warrior caste.

If what I say deserves to be taken seriously, it’s because I’ve taken the time out of my worthless sponge life as a concerned American civilian to form a worthy opinion. Which means that although it is my patriotic duty to afford men like John Kelly respect for his service, and for the grief he has endured as the father of a son who died for our country, that is not where my responsibility as a citizen ends. [emphasis mine]

9) Almost nobody wants to admit it, but to a substantial degree, sex offender registries are pointless and counter-productive.  Lenore Skenazy on how they are also filled up with kids.

What is the most common age at which people land on the registry? Most folks I put the question to think it’s about 39. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”

10) A mom of a child with autism talks about the incredible life-line that Facebook provides for her in connecting with other similar parents.  When Alex was first diagnosed with his rare disease, an on-line community (though a list-serve, this was prior to social media) was an absolute lifesaver for me.

11) Compared to women, men are over-confident in their science ability.  If I’m not mistaken, men are over-confident in pretty much everything.

12) Loved going to Duke basketball games way back in my day, but never spent any time camping out at K-ville.  I’ve never spent a night in a tent and I don’t ever plan to.  Certainly not in winter with a cozy dorm room nearby.  My junior year I got in line the morning of the game and got in to see it that evening.  Apparently, the system now has tents plus a “walk-up line” that actually lasts for days.  The whole thing has also, apparently, devolved not only into drunken bacchanalia, but mass chaos.  Not pretty.

13) More reason to love Pope Francis.  He actually believes Catholics should focus on humans not just before birth, but after they are born.  Atheist, Drum, with the papal post (and Drum’s emphases):

The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

14) Interesting from Gallup, though, to see the slide in Catholic Mass attendance:

20180408_ChurchAttendance@2x (002)

15) At this point, we’ve basically reached the limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball.

16) The NYT article on how teenagers become “allergic” to their parents was really good.  I only did to a very modest degree.  And my oldest son, basically not at all.

Growing up involves becoming separate from our parents. This project often begins in early adolescence with an abrupt and powerful urge to distinguish oneself from the adults at home. It’s no small task for teenagers to detach from those who have superintended nearly every aspect of their lives so far.

As teenagers begin to disentangle from their folks, they inevitably sort a parent’s every behavior and predilection into one of two categories: those they reject, and those they intend to adopt. Unfortunately for the peace of the household, each of these categories creates its own problem for teenagers intent on establishing their individuality.

You may think nothing of wearing dated athletic shoes, but if your teenager doesn’t agree with your choice of footwear he may, at least for a while, find it unbearable. Why should it matter to him what’s on your feet? Because his identity is still interwoven with yours; until he’s had time to establish his own look, your style can cramp his.

Given this, you’d think that teenagers wouldn’t be allergic to the proclivities they share with their parents. But they are, precisely because the interests are mutual.

17) And speaking of my teenager, he’s also a trendsetter as, “Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges.”  Presumably, if he were more “allergic” to us, he’d be more inclined to go away.  I’m not at all allergic to the thousands I’ll save over the next couple years before he transfers to a four-year university (hopefully, NC State).

18) Among certain crustaceans, those with the largest penises go extinct the fastest.

19) This is pretty disturbing.  Increasingly, among dog “rescue” organizations, dogs are increasingly purchased at auctions from puppy mills!  Whoa, that ain’t right.  We’ve had three rescues and all three were definitely found as strays.  (Or were provided to us by very good liars).

20) I never did read 1491, but damn did I love Charles Mann’s 1493.  One of my favorite non-fiction books ever.  He’s got an absolutely terrific piece in a recent Atlantic (read it!), based on his new book, that looks at two competing visions of how we can manage to feed 10 billion humans (as we’ll need to before all that long).

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) A little dated now (that happens fast these days), but I liked Jack Shafer’s take on Kevin Williamson and the Atlantic.

That Goldberg invested in a feral conservative like Williamson spoke well for the Atlantic. The last thing the magazine needed was another house-broken righty like David Frum who would speak nicely to its largely liberal and centrist readers. But as it turned out, Goldberg’s tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate somebody of Williamson’s swagger. The writer’s proximate undoing was a tweet and then the discovery of a podcast in which he proposed hanging as the proper punishment for women who have abortions—a perfect example of a writer going too far. In the internal email announcing the departure, Goldberg justified the dismissal by writing that Williamson’s “callous and violent” comments run “contrary to the Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace,” and hinting that Williamson may have misrepresented the offending tweet as a momentary lapse rather than a deeply held belief.

Without relitigating Williamson’s abortion views—which I don’t share—let’s agree that if he hadn’t been sent packing for his less–than-modern views on abortion, his critics would have griped about something else in his archives to engineer his removal. Let’s be real here: Kevin Williamson wasn’t sent packing for expressing strong language on abortion but for being Kevin Williamson. The very things that made him so appealing to Goldberg were destined to lead to his exit.

The loser here isn’t Williamson. Like other excellent writers who’ve gotten the ax, he’ll find a new job soon enough—and now he’s become the right’s latest free-speech martyr. The real losers are Atlantic writers and Atlantic readers—writers because they’ll become faint-hearted about their work (who wants to be the next Williamson?) and readers because the magazine will be less eager to challenge them.

2) Separate (by gender) and unequal in the Marine Corps.

3) Speaking of the Marines, I loved Eat the Apple by Matt Young.

4) My Jordan Peterson quasi-obsession has abated for the moment, but I came across again the Current Affairs article that first introduced to him.

5) The decline of local news is bad for democracy.  Hell, yeah, it is.

6) Nice article in Wired looking at the decline in teen driving by the numbers.  My 18-year-old is certainly indicative of this decline. “71% of high school seniors have a driver’s license—the lowest percentage in decades.”

7) Oh man this cartoon is awesome:

8) Nicholas Kristoff on “how to win an argument about guns.”  How sweet that he thinks you can win arguments with facts and reason.

9) NYT with 5 interesting case studies of plants and animals confused by climate change.

10) I was telling a new friend at last week’s PS conference about my undergrad’s honor’s research (which he presented in a poster at the conference) and she told me about this very similar research.  When it comes to a political campaigns, Southern accents are a decided disadvantage.  (And more on my student’s research in a later post).

For the study, the researchers had 757 participants from Alabama and Connecticut listen to a 1-minute campaign speech from a fictitious political candidate. The speech was either read by a male candidate with a Southern accent, a male candidate with a neutral accent, a female candidate with a Southern accent, or a female candidate with a neutral accent. But in all four cases the content of the speech was the same.

The candidate with a Southern accent was viewed as less trustworthy, less honest, less intelligent, and less competent. Participants also assumed the candidate was more conservative and rated them as less likeable when he or she had a Southern accent.

“The Southern accent can be a detriment to political candidates,” Cooper told PsyPost. “Surprisingly, the negative attributes associated with the Southern accent exist even among Southerners themselves. These accents also come with political assumptions about ideology and issue stances, which candidates should keep in mind when trying to communicate their agendas.”

11) Weather in NC has finally March turned for the better this Spring.  But I’ve been somewhat unhealthily obsessed with just how unusually cold March and early April have been.  Turns out in Raleigh was 6.5 degrees colder than February.  That’s nuts!

12) Enjoyed this Sean Illing interview with Robert Sutton on how to deal with what I like to refer to as very-unpleasant-self-centered persons:

Sean Illing

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the book, which is about how to deal with assholes. So tell me, what’s your best asshole neutralization strategy?

Robert Sutton

First, it depends on how much power you have. And second, on how much time you’ve got. Those are the two questions that you have to answer before you can decide what to do. Assuming that you don’t have Dirty Harry power or you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire people you don’t like, I think you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

To begin with, you’ve got to build your case. You’ve also got to build a coalition. One of my mottos is that you have to know your assholes. We already talked about temporary versus certified assholes, but another distinction that’s really important is that some people, and you mentioned this at the outset, some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well.

In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line. This is simple persuasive work. But if it’s somebody who is one of those Machiavellian assholes who is treating you like shit because they believe that’s how to get ahead, in that case you’ve got to get the hell out of there if you can.

13) Under a remotely normal presidency, EPA director Scott Pruitt’s fabulously corrupt behavior would be a much bigger story.  Drain the swamp?!  How about make it 6 feet deeper and throw in a broken sewer pipe feeding into it.

14) Yglesias on Paul Ryan, “House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics.”

15) Action/thriller movies for grown-ups are such an endangered species now.  At least a few still managed to get made.  Looking forward to seeing Beirut.

16) Really enjoyed Thomas Frank’s book on success and luck.  Here’s his short version of how to reduce inequality in a nice Wonkblog compilation of expert takes (oddly, none of them advocate cutting taxes on the wealth):

Two of the biggest problems now confronting the nation are runaway growth in income inequality and crumbling infrastructure. That the best ways to address these problems are mutually reinforcing should therefore come as welcome news.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would cost more than $4.5 trillion to bring our existing stock of infrastructure into serviceable condition by 2025. Given the incentives that engineers face, this may be an overstatement. But no one doubts that the task would be enormously expensive. Raising taxes on the nation’s top earners is the only feasible way to pay for it. That step alone would reduce the skewness of the nation’s post-tax income distribution.

But it would also reduce inequality by boosting the incomes of those further down the income ladder. As previous expansions of infrastructure investment — such as the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and the Interstate Highway System initiative of the 1950s — have taught us, many useful tasks can be done by properly supervised unskilled workers. Infrastructure projects couldn’t employ all unskilled workers, but increased demand for such workers in some sectors invariably creates labor shortages and more rapid wage growth in others.

Top earners have historically resisted tax hikes, in the apparent belief that higher rates would make it harder to buy things they want. But that view is a garden variety cognitive error. Top earners, who already have everything they might reasonably be said to need, are like others in their desire to buy additional things that seem special. But “special” is a relative concept. A nice house is one that is nicer than most other houses. A high-performance car is one that performs better than most other cars, and so on. To get such things, we must outbid others who also want them. Successful bidding depends almost entirely on relative purchasing power. And because tax increases don’t affect relative purchasing power, they have no effect on our ability to buy special things.

Consider the following thought-experiment: Rich car enthusiasts in World A, which has low taxes, can afford to buy $300,000 Ferraris but must drive them on roads riddled with foot-deep potholes. Their counterparts in World B, which has higher taxes, can afford only $150,000 Porsches, which they drive on roads maintained to a high standard. In which of these worlds would rich motorists be happier?

17) Great piece from Vox’s Brian Resnick on “9 essential lessons from psychology to understand the Trump era.”  Lots of great political psychology here.

18) I’ll always be a Duke basketball fan.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like what they’ve become in the one-and-done era.  Loved this piece on the very real downsides for the players involved.

19) This is really, really interesting for those of us who grew up on John Hughes movies.  Molly Ringwald looks back through the #metoo lens.

20) Love this– in a great prank, Georgia high school somehow gets “What’s New Pussycat” stuck on the PA system in a loop for 45 minutes.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Science-based advice on how to up your selfie game.

2) Really enjoyed this account of Sweden’s gender-neutral pre-schools from some American friends who are over there for the year.

3) I love window seats on planes because… you’re flying!  Turns out, it also minimized your likelihood of getting sick from a fellow passenger.

3) Chait on replacing McMaster with Bolton:

The foreign policy apparatus really has been engaged in an unprecedented campaign of leaking, the only possible motivation for which is its white-knuckled terror of a president who clearly lacks the mental capacity to handle the awesome power he has gained.

Every account of Trump’s decision to replace H.R. McMaster with John Bolton reinforces this narrative. Trump’s main problem with McMaster was that his briefings were not dumbed-down to a low enough level. McMaster “is an intensely focused intellectual whose detailed briefings, by all accounts, drove the president crazy,” reports Politico. “Trump took to mocking him openly in the Oval Office, asking other White House aides why McMaster was so serious.”

The Post has previously reported that Trump had registered a somewhat similar complaint with his now-fired secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. (“The president has long clashed with Tillerson, who he believes is too ‘establishment’ in his thinking.”) One might think “establishment” would be a positive association for a job like secretary of State. It makes sense to want somebody who’s lax and easygoing to handle jobs like, say, arranging hotel-room dates with porn stars you meet on the golf course, but “establishment” would convey the proper set of attributes for a job involving complex international diplomacy.

But Trump seems to find normal foreign policy boring, and craves the kind of narrative drama found in the manufactured cartoon moralism found on Fox News, where evil abounds, and the only question is whether it will be faced down by tough guys or by sniveling wimps.

Bolton was constantly appearing on Trump’s television screen delivering thrilling vows to take on evildoers. Meanwhile, McMaster was in his office every day giving boring lectures.

4) The hardest course in the Humanities?  Damn, and I thought my undergrad classes at Duke were demanding.

5) Michele Goldberg’s take on the conservative columnist controversy.

6) Ralph Peters’ first-person take on why he left Fox:

My error was waiting so long to walk away. The chance to speak to millions of Americans is seductive, and, with the infinite human capacity for self-delusion, I rationalized that I could make a difference by remaining at Fox and speaking honestly.

I was wrong.

As early as the fall of 2016, and especially as doubts mounted about the new Trump administration’s national security vulnerabilities, I increasingly was blocked from speaking on the issues about which I could offer real expertise: Russian affairs and our intelligence community. I did not hide my views at Fox and, as word spread that I would not unswervingly support President Trump and, worse, that I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security, I was excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.

I was the one person on the Fox payroll who, trained in Russian studies and the Russian language, had been face to face with Russian intelligence officers in the Kremlin and in far-flung provinces. I have traveled widely in and written extensively about the region. Yet I could only rarely and briefly comment on the paramount security question of our time: whether Putin and his security services ensnared the man who would become our president. Trump’s behavior patterns and evident weaknesses (financial entanglements, lack of self-control and sense of sexual entitlement) would have made him an ideal blackmail target — and the Russian security apparatus plays a long game.

7) Could science really make infertility a thing of the past?  Maybe and here’s how.

8) Spent some time in Duplin County, NC recently learning about responses to the opioid epidemic.  I learned that it is a huge hog-producing area.  I had no idea.  Pretty disturbing Rolling Stone story on how China is basically treating NC as the developing world:

Today, Smithfield sends more than a quarter of its pork abroad, especially to China, which received nearly 300,000 tons in 2016. Part of what made the company such an attractive target is that it’s about 50 percent cheaper to raise hogs in North Carolina than in China. This is due to less-expensive pig-feed prices and larger farms, but it’s also because of loose business and environmental regulations, especially in red states, which have made the U.S. an increasingly attractive place for foreign companies to offshore costly and harmful business practices. [emphases mine]

America’s top hog-producing county is Duplin County, North Carolina, where future hams outnumber humans about 30 to 1. In this rural expanse of sandy fields and loblolly pines, about 2 million pigs are warehoused in hundreds of football-field-size metal barns – about 2,450 pigs per square mile. All those pigs produce a tremendous amount of waste. A mature hog, whose only activity is to eat, excretes about 14 pounds of manure a day, which means Duplin’s hogs generate about 15,700 tons of waste daily – twice as much poop as the human population of the city of New York, according to Food and Water Watch.

Behind each barn, millions of gallons of liquid hog waste are kept in colossal open-air lagoons – essentially pits dug into the clay, many without a concrete or plastic liner. To prevent overflowing, farms spray it out as fertilizer on crops, which can create a mist that drifts onto nearby homes and into their inhabitants’ lungs, causing all manner of respiratory and health problems. The waste can also leak through the clay pits into the water table, or flood the whole region, as happened in 1996 and 1998 when hurricanes inundated the area. Eastern North Carolina is packed with more than 9 million pigs; the state’s top five hog-producing counties alone produce 15.5 million tons of manure annually. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that 160,000 people living in the region may be harmed by pig waste. And those victims are disproportionately minorities, according to studies conducted by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, says, “What’s happening in eastern North Carolina is that poor people are literally getting shit on.”

Globalization has allowed rich countries like America to outsource polluting industrial processes to poorer nations. But as China becomes increasingly wealthy and assertive, says Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, “it is outsourcing a dirty industry to the United States so they don’t have to bear its pollution and they can just send the finished product back home.” More than just America’s environment and human health is at stake. “Low-paying jobs, like hog slaughtering and breeding, will remain in places like Duplin County, but the higher-paid executive and marketing jobs will be lost,” says Usha Haley, a professor at West Virginia University who has studied the Chinese takeover of American agricultural assets for a decade. “China will not care about the health of people living beside the hog farms. China will act in its own self-interest to leave the pollution here, but take the valuable clean pork back to China.”

9) Great Christopher Frederico thread on the conservative columnist issue:

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this from  Parkland student who tried to be nice to the Nikolas Cruz:

This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors…

This is not to say that children should reject their more socially awkward or isolated peers — not at all. As a former peer counselor and current teacher’s assistant, I strongly believe in and have seen the benefits of reaching out to those who need kindness most.

But students should not be expected to cure the ills of our genuinely troubled classmates, or even our friends, because we first and foremost go to school to learn. The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.

It is not the obligation of children to befriend classmates who have demonstrated aggressive, unpredictable or violent tendencies. It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need, even if it is extremely specialized attention that canno4) t be provided at the same institution.

2) Apparently, human ability to metabolize caffeine comes in three genetic variants.  Pretty sure I’m a fast metabolizer.

3) Excellent Wired story on modern technology and the ever-changing boundaries of when a preemie can survive and what the implications may be.

4) Of course, Trump’s talk of executing drug dealers is Trump at his worst.

5) Speaking of the worst.  It’s pretty clear that there aren’t many worse humans than new National Security Adviser, John Bolton.  No wonder Trump likes him.  This NYT article nicely lays out what a pathetic human being he is.

6) When I first saw this NYT headline, I thought it was a metaphor, “A People in Limbo: Many Living Entirely on the Water.” It’s not (okay, it is, but also reality).  A totally amazing must-read/must-see visual essay.

7) The University of Virginia women’s basketball coach has had to give up her job so that she can actually adopt her Senagalese-born adoptive daughter.  And the hold-up is not Senegal, but US immigration authorities.  Shame on them.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it could not discuss Boyle’s case because of privacy laws, but officials said the agency aims to process cases efficiently and “considers the welfare of the child to be paramount.”

“We are committed to acting in the best interests of the children and families while upholding the integrity of our country’s immigration system,” spokeswoman Joanne Ferreira said in an email.

Apparently, they decided the “paramount” welfare of the child in this case involves leaving the home she knows in America to live in Senegal indefinitely?  Or somehow adopting African children will undermine the “integrity” of our immigration system?  Ugh.

8) And, hey, speaking of the U.S. Government doing wrong… how about telling teachers they get grants for paying for their education if they work in high-need areas, but then turning those grants into multi-thousand dollar loans due to inconsequential paperwork issues.  What is wrong with people?!

9) The whole NFL cheerleader thing annoys me as it is just clearly the idea that there should be female “eye-candy” at football games.   And then these ridiculous rules they place on the cheerleaders like they are some model of 19th century Victorian virtue.  Like the New Orleans Saints’ cheerleader who was fired for posting a photo of herself in a one-piece swimsuit on a friends-only Instagram account.  Please!  (The photos are so tame).

10) I was quite intrigued with this latest finding on education, marriage, and turnout.  This is something I’ll be sharing with my classes for some time to come:

A large literature finds a positive relationship between marriage and turnout. However, previous research has ignored the characteristics of the partner. This paper contributes by studying how a partner’s education level is associated with individual turnout. The data cover the US for a time period of more than 40 years, as well as 24 European countries over a time period of 12 years. Including the partner’s education level in a model of who votes shows that the partner effect on voting may have been misinterpreted in the previous literature. The relationship between having a partner and turnout is not as general as it is often assumed. Instead of a small positive effect for a large proportion of the population (married people), there is a substantively larger association between turnout and a small proportion of the population, namely, the less-educated individuals who have a highly educated partner. [emphasis mine]

11) Good argument on how we need to re-think tenure decisions in academia.  And, yeah, more good evidence that we really shouldn’t be using student evaluations as currently constituted.  I do really like the idea of re-thinking these based on some of the more innovative student survey approaches in K-12.

12) Ezra Klein’s lengthy take on the history of “the science” of race and IQ was really, really good.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Great Wired article on the inherent difficulties in self-driving cars and testing the technology:

Dozens of companies are developing autonomous driving technology in the United States. They all rely on human safety drivers as backups. The odd thing about that reliance is that it belies one of the key reasons so many people are working on this technology. We are good drivers when we’re vigilant. But we’re terrible at being vigilant. We get distracted and tired. We drink and do drugs. We kill 40,000 people on US roads every year and more than a million worldwide. Self-driving cars are supposed to fix that. But if we can’t be trusted to watch the road when we’re actually driving, how did anyone think we’d be good at it when the robot’s doing nearly all the work?

2) I’ve become quasi-obsessed with what seems to be the great new intellectual charlatan of our age, Jordan Peterson.  Loved this NY Review of Books take:

Such evidently eternal truths are not on offer anymore at a modern university; Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited. But Peterson, armed with his “maps of meaning” (the title of his previous book), has only contempt for his fellow academics who tend to emphasize the socially constructed and provisional nature of our perceptions. As with Jung, he presents some idiosyncratic quasi-religious opinions as empirical science, frequently appealing to evolutionary psychology to support his ancient wisdom.

Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations…

Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by Peterson’s loathing for “social justice warriors” and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds (“Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.”

In all respects, Peterson’s ancient wisdom is unmistakably modern. The “tradition” he promotes stretches no further back than the late nineteenth century, when there first emerged a sinister correlation between intellectual exhortations to toughen up and strongmen politics.

3) As I was hearing about many lives being saved by Narcan (nalaxone) this weekend, I couldn’t help think about this study (that suggested it actually led to increased opioid use through moral hazard) that was a pretty much classic example of how to lie with statistics.

4) Chait on all the “but liberals should be attacking important problems rather than giving right-wingers ammunition on the illiberalism on campus issue”

Many columns have made the case that too many columns have made the case against political correctness on campus. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If people have intense feelings about the number of columns devoted to discussing free speech on campus, they should express them. The heart wants what the heart wants.

But complaints about the quantity of a discussion tend to devolve into non sequiturs. Many of the anti-anti-PC-niks, while conceding that it’s wrong to shout down speakers or close down newspapers, use the moral power of some other issue to make their case. Because we have too many anti-PC columns, they insist, we have too few columns on some worthier subject. “This is not to say that counter-protests and free speech debates aren’t important and don’t deserve our attention,” argues McClennen. “But it is stunning to note the public apathy toward the systematic defunding of higher ed — a move that affects all families regardless of political beliefs.” Uyehara complains bitterly that “The Free Speech Grifters” — her term for critics of illiberalism on campus — “were silent when Maya Wiley, the Social Justice SVP at the New School, made news for the humanity she showed toward Sam Nunberg during his six-hour media meltdown over an FBI subpoena.”

As a matter of fact, I was not silent about Maya Wiley’s extraordinary gesture toward Sam Nunberg. But imagine that Uyehara was factually correct, and I had failed to discuss that episode. What does one have to do with the other? If the real problem with anti-PC columns is that they ignore more important issues off campus, then doesn’t that criticism apply with equal force to anti-anti-PC columns?

The anti-anti-PC columns propose numerous psychological theories to explain the perverse motivation of the moderate liberals and (generally) anti-Trump conservatives who talk too much about the campus left. We have supposedly given aid and comfort to the far right, which has deftly exploited the excesses of the campus left.

My response is that the right is attempting to discredit liberalism by attaching it to the illiberal left, and the proper response, both morally and politically, is to separate the two. It’s obvious to me why conservatives want everybody who’s alienated by the callout culture to self-identify as a conservative. It’s less obvious to me why liberals should also want that. [emphasis mine]

5) Dave Leonhardt on how education should be an easy winning political issue.

6) The evidence for gender bias in student evaluations of college teaching is ever more clear.  Good case that we should therefore not use them in employment/tenure decisions.  Given the alternative of an entirely non-empirical way to assess teaching (still susceptible to gender bias), I suggest we put a lot more thought into finding the right way to do this.

7) The funding for K-12 education in Oklahoma is just a joke (many systems have moved to 4-day weeks to make the budgetary ends meet).  Yet, how many frustrated Oklahomans will actually reject the Republican party that has brought them this low-taxes-at-all costs educational disgrace?

8) Looks like human culture as we know it may have began well earlier than we thought:

When Rick Potts started digging at Olorgesailie, the now-dry basin of an ancient Kenyan lake, he figured that it would take three years to find everything there was to find. That was in 1985, and Potts is now leading his fourth decade of excavation. It’s a good thing he stayed. In recent years, his team has uncovered a series of unexpected finds, which suggest that human behavior and culture became incredibly sophisticated well before anyone suspected—almost at the very dawn of our species, Homo sapiens.

The team found obsidian tools that came from sources dozens of miles away—a sign of long-distance trade networks. They found lumps of black and red rock that had been processed to create pigments—a sign of symbolic thought and representation. They found carefully crafted stone tools that are indicative of the period known as the Middle Stone Age; that period was thought to have started around 280,000 years ago, but the Olorgesailie tools are between 305,000 and 320,000 years old.

Collectively, these finds speak to one of the most important questions in human evolution: When did anatomically modern people, with big brains and bipedal stances, become behaviorally modern, with symbolic art, advanced tools, and a culture that built on itself? Scientists used to believe that the latter milestone arrived well after the former, when our species migrated into Europe between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, and went through a “creative explosion” that produced the evocative cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet. But this conspicuously Eurocentric idea has been overturned by a wealth of evidence showing a much earlier origin for modern human behavior—in Africa, the continent of our birth.

The new discoveries at Olorgesailie push things back even further. They suggest that many of our most important qualities—long-term planning, long-distance exploration, large social networks, symbolic representation, and innovative technology—were already in place 20,000 to 40,000 years earlier than believed. That coincides with the age of the earliest known human fossils, recently found elsewhere in Africa. “What we’re seeing in Olorgesailie is right at the root of Homo sapiens,” Potts says. “It seems that this package of cognitive and social behaviors were there from the outset.”

Quick hits (part I)

Sorry to be late again.  I was on a fact-finding mission (sort of) to Wilmington, NC about the Opioid crisis.  Here’s a “bindle” of heroin (that’s paper it’s wrapped) I actually held in my hands.  It’s a bad photo because I had to make sure none of the evidence-identifying info was in it.

Anyway, on to it, then…

1) There was a lot of scientifically illiterate coverage of astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA this is a nice article on the reality (and some nice explanations of how DNA change actually works):

What the nasa study found was that some of Scott’s genes changed their expression while he was in space, and 7 percent of those genes didn’t return to their preflight states months after he came back. If 7 percent of Scott’s genetic code changed, as some of the stories suggested, he’d come back an entirely different species.

The misinterpretation of the study’s results spread like wildfire this week, across publications like CNN, USA Today, TimePeople, and HuffPost. Even Scott Kelly himself was fooled. “What? My DNA changed by 7 percent! Who knew? I just learned about it in this article,” he tweeted earlier this week, linking to a Newsweekarticle.“This could be good news! I no longer have to call @ShuttleCDRKelly my identical twin brother anymore.”

2) This teenager got an Op-Ed in the NYT about not joining the gun walk-outs.  Well-written, but teaching firearm safety ain’t going to stop school shootings.

3) Yeah, of course the DNC email hack was actually done by a Russian Intelligence Officer.

4) Interesting and disturbing research on terrorism and sex stereotypes:

How does the threat of terrorism affect evaluations of female (vs. male) political leaders, and do these effects vary by the politician’s partisanship? Using two national surveys, we document a propensity for the U.S. public to prefer male Republican leadership the most in times of security threat, and female Democratic leadership the least. We theorize a causal process by which terrorist threat influences the effect of stereotypes on candidate evaluations conditional on politician partisanship. We test this framework with an original experiment:a nationally representative sample was presented with a mock election that varied the threat context and the gender and partisanship of the candidates. We find that masculine stereotypes have a negative influence on both male and female Democratic candidates in good times (thus reaffirming the primacy of party stereotypes), but only on the female Democratic candidate when terror threat is primed. Republican candidates—both male and female—are unaffected by masculine stereotypes, regardless of the threat environment.

5) This is a great interview that hits at basically everything you need to know about food and nutrition and takes on many misconceptions.  That said, it really all comes down to Michael Pollan’s aphorism… Eat (minimally-processed) food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

6) Meanwhile, a great story about how The Joy of Cooking took on some very misleading food science research.

7) This Onion headline is so me, “Accidentally Closing Browser Window With 23 Tabs Open Presents Rare Chance At New Life.”  Except in my case, I’m desperate to recover all the open tabs.

8) More really interesting PS research in the latest PRQ.  And why, sadly, it’s not enough to even ask women to run for office more (which we do need to do more than ever):

Gender differences in who gets recruited by political party elites contribute to women’s underrepresentation on the ballot, but recent evidence suggests that even when women are recruited to the same extent as men, they are still less likely to be interested in seeking office. Why do men and women respond differently to invitations to seek office? We hypothesize that women view party recruitment as a weaker signal of informal support than men do. We use a survey experiment on a sample of 3,640 elected municipal officeholders—themselves prospective recruits for higher office—to test this. We find that female respondents generally believe party leaders will provide female recruits less strategic and financial support than male recruits. In other words, even when elites recruit women, women are skeptical that party leaders will use their political and social capital on their behalf. This difference may account for many women’s lukewarm responses to recruitment.  [emphasis mine]

9) Really liked this from a widow friend, “‘Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell The Grieving.”

10) Drum on Facebook:

In a sense, though, I don’t blame either Facebook or Zuckerberg for any of this. As a country, we’ve made it crystal clear that we don’t care about personal privacy. We mock European privacy directives. We ignore the dozens of companies that do exactly the same thing as Facebook but have lower profiles. We allow credit reporting companies to collect anything they want with no oversight at all when they screw up and wreck someone’s life. On a personal level, we’re routinely willing to turn over every detail of our lives in return for a $1 iTunes coupon.

If we don’t like the idea of Facebook making our personal lives an open book to anyone, we can do something about it. The way to do that is to elect “politicians” who will write “laws” that regulate it. But Republicans don’t like regulations in general, and Democrats are queasy about regulating Silicon Valley since they get lots of money from there. As it happens, this is not one of my personal hot buttons,² but I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats could make some real inroads among older voters if they took a strong stand on this.

11) I still love March Madness but college basketball sure ain’t the same in the one-and-done era.  That said, the rule is terrific for the NBA and they have basically no incentive to get rid of it.  Short version: the signal to noise ratio of quality players coming straight of high school is not good.  That same signal to noise ratio after a single year of college is way better.  Why would the NBA give that up. There’s been no Kwame Brown’s since the one-and-done rule.  Here, Adam Silver basically admits as much after politically claiming it’s not actually working for the NBA:

In a press conference before the 2017 NBA Finals, Silver said the eligibility rule was “not working for anyone.”

“We think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play at an elite level before they come into the NBA,” Silver said. [emphasis mine] “On the other hand, I think the question for the league is in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger?”

That said, I’ve heard plenty of argument for the baseball model, but never for the hockey model.  I like it.

12) Loved this in the Atlantic on why guilt is good for your kids:

And guilt, by prompting us to think more deeply about our goodness, can encourage humans to atone for errors and fix relationships. Guilt, in other words, can help hold a cooperative species together. It is a kind of social glue.

Viewed in this light, guilt is an opportunity. Work by Tina Malti, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, suggests that guilt may compensate for an emotional deficiency. In a number of studies, Malti and others have shown that guilt and sympathy (and its close cousin empathy) may represent different pathways to cooperation and sharing. Some kids who are low in sympathy may make up for that shortfall by experiencing more guilt, which can rein in their nastier impulses. And vice versa: High sympathy can substitute for low guilt…

Proper guilting connects the dots between your child’s actions and an outcome—without suggesting anything is wrong or bad about her—and focuses on how best to repair the harm she’s caused. In one fell swoop it inspires both guilt and empathy, or what Martin Hoffman, an emeritus professor at NYU known for his extensive work on empathy, has termed “empathy-based guilt.” Indeed, you may already be guilting your child (in a healthy way!) without realizing it. As in: “Look, your brother is crying because you just threw his Beanie Boo in the toilet.” Hopefully, the kid is moved to atone for her behavior, and a parent might help her think through how to do that.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Thanks to EMG for this NatGeo story on fraternal twins where one appears white and the other black (because, honestly, race is entirely a social-cultural construct of which skin tone is just one of many factors):

Historically, when humans have drawn lines of identity—separating Us from Them—they’ve often relied on skin color as a proxy for race. But the 21st-century understanding of human genetics tells us that the whole idea of race is a human invention.

Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

2) Found this New Yorker article on facial feminization surgery for trans-women pretty fascinating.  Obviously, pretty curious for Nicole’s thoughts on the topic.

3) Why “white Evangelicals abandoned their principles for Trump?”  I’d say because they were only pretending these were there principles when convenient and because PID> religion.

4) Presidential historian Robert Dallek on Trump’s White House:

It’s deadly to a presidency to be surrounded by sycophants who are going to be emphasizing the need to stroke the president’s ego, to make him feel as if he’s always right and ingenious. There are no easy decisions to be made in the White House; everything is difficult and complex and consequential. If ever there was a need for honesty and hard truths, it’s in the White House.

Someone once said that history is argument without end, but so is politics and policymaking. But Trump is someone who is so thin-skinned and who thrives on the need for approval and adulation that it’s got to be hard to maintain an intellectually honest climate around him…

I think you have to go all the way back to Warren G. Harding in 1921 to find a president as unqualified to hold the office as Trump is. Harding was not a very bright guy, and even though he had been lieutenant governor of Ohio and became a senator, he was terribly shallow and unimpressive. He got elected, in part, because he looked like a president and because there was a lot of discontent at the time. But he had no idea what he was doing, and yet he was convinced that he did.

Trump is a reasonable heir to someone like Harding because Trump is uninformed, doesn’t read, doesn’t seem to have much intellectual curiosity, and seems to trust his instincts more than anything else. Like Harding, he thinks he can solve everything by himself, and that’s not a good way to keep the best and smartest team around him.

It also means we’re likely to get people in high-level positions who are insufficiently qualified and who don’t have much experience, but because they make Trump happy or comfortable, they’re able to survive and thrive. That, unfortunately, is where we are today.

5) Love the UMBC coach’s openness about his family’s struggles with his son’s mental illness (OCD).  We need to do so much more as a society to destigmatize mental illness.

6) Peter Beinart on the rise of right-wing foreign policy:

It’s useful to see Pompeo as part of a cadre of influential, foreign policy-oriented, Republican politicians that includes Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. All four were elected to Congress with support from the Tea Party, a movement that depicted moderate Republicans —as Goldwater once depicted Eisenhower and Nixon—as complicit with the welfare state. Pompeo has particularly close ties to the Tea Party’s most important funders, the Koch Brothers.
On foreign policy, the American right has historically oscillated between isolationism and crusading interventionism. The Koch Brothers and Rand Paul lean toward isolationism. Rubio and Cotton lean toward crusading interventionism. What they all share is self-righteousness. The United States is pure; its adversaries are wicked. Thus, America must either shun other nations or dominate them. What it cannot do is recognize that even its adversaries have reasonable fears and legitimate interests, which America should try to accommodate.Because America is pure and its enemies are evil, accommodating them is immoral. Like Goldwater and William F. Buckley, who saw compromise with communist regimes as appeasement, Pompeo has called the Iran deal “surrender” and insisted that the United States make “no concessions” in any talks with North Korea.

7) It’s still somewhat of a mystery of what causes canker sores.  I used to suffer from them quite often until about 15 or so years ago when I started using Listerine twice a day and they became a rarity for me ever since.8) How our collective use of mapping apps could make traffic worse:

In the pre-mobile-app days, drivers’ selfishness was limited by their knowledge of the road network. In those conditions, both simulation and real-world experience showed that most people stuck to the freeways and arterial roads. Sure, there were always people who knew the crazy, back-road route, but the bulk of people just stuck to the routes that transportation planners had designated as the preferred way to get from A to B.Now, however, a new information layer is destroying the nudging infrastructure that traffic planners built into cities. Commuters armed with mobile mapping apps, route-following Lyft and Uber drivers, and software-optimized truckers can all act with a more perfect selfishness.

In some happy universe, this would lead to socially optimal outcomes, too. But a new body of research at the University of California’s Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that the reality is far more complicated. In some scenarios, traffic-beating apps might work for an individual, but make congestion worse overall. And autonomous vehicles, touted as an answer to traffic-y streets, could deepen the problem.“This problem has been vastly overlooked,” Alexandre Bayen, the director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, told me. “It is just the beginning of something that is gonna be much worse.”

9) Honestly, this summary of social science research on gun owners comes across a little too much like crack for liberals to me, e.g.,

These are men who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears. They tend to be less educated. For the most part, they don’t appear to be religious—and, suggests one study, faith seems to reduce their attachment to guns. In fact, stockpiling guns seems to be a symptom of a much deeper crisis in meaning and purpose in their lives. Taken together, these studies describe a population that is struggling to find a new story—one in which they are once again the heroes.

I don’t doubt some of the very real correlations, but I think there’s a little much cultural judgment being read into this.  I also found, “Why Gun Culture Is So Strong in Rural America” pretty interesting, but problematic in it’s own ways.

To understand why many conservatives in rural America believe this, you must start with first principles, because the argument ultimately isn’t about guns; it runs even deeper than the Second Amendment. At a 2015 campaign event during the Iowa caucuses, J. C. Watts, the former congressman from Oklahoma, spoke about perspectives on original sin. It helps illuminate the differences in worldview between many conservatives and liberals. Mr. Watts said Democrats think people were born basically good, so when good people did bad things, something in society (in this case, guns) needed to be controlled. Republicans think the fault lies with the person — the perpetrator of the evil. Bad choices result in bad things being done, in part because the perpetrator lacks the moral guidance the Christian faith provides.

The reaction to mass shootings highlights this difference. Liberals blame the guns and want to debate gun control. For conservatives, the blame lies with the shooter, not the gun.

To my conservative friends, it’s a matter of liberty and personal responsibility. Even after a horrific event like the school shooting in Florida, where 17 people were killed, more gun control would be compromising those first principles. For them, compromising those principles would be even more horrific and detrimental to society than any shooting. What my conservative friends see is not gun control, but rather control, period.

Yeah, I get it, understand the rural gun owners.  But, I also understand that they are in complete denial of the overwhelming evidence of the relationship between our lax gun policies and our homicide and mass shooting rates.

10) I’ve been pretty curious of the research about Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly after reading Endurance.  This is a nice piece on DNA changes and how it is a lot more complicated than typically reported.

MARK AND SCOTT ARE NOT IDENTICAL

Another somewhat alarming-sounding finding is that Scott Kelly’s DNA “no longer matches that of his identical twin.”

For anyone familiar with genetics, this is possibly the most obvious statement one could make. We humans accumulate random mutations throughout our genomes as we age, and the chances that Mark and Scott’s genetic sequences were randomly modified in exactly the same way are astronomically small. In reality, their DNA hasn’t been identical for most of their lives.

That’s just at the most basic sequence level. All sorts of chemical modifications to DNA can dramatically affect where and how genes are expressed, and those markings—termed epigenetic—are malleable. Genomes add and erase those markings all the time, and they’re not the same between identical twins, either.

Throw in a heaping pile of spaceflight, where exposure to higher levels of radiation necessarily mutates DNA more quickly, and the truly surprising result would be seeing no difference between Mark’s and Scott’s genetic sequences. The fact that they differ, and that Scott’s mutation rate is apparently a bit higher than Mark’s, is totally expected.

“No twin pairs are ever completely identical, and we all do accrue random mutations all the time,” Bailey says. “No doubt, Scott did or does have different or more mutations than Mark—and anyone else not being in space for a year—due to radiation exposure alone.”

11) Love this, “Want to stop climate change?  Educate girls and give them birth control.”

12) Only a Humanities professor would write an impassioned defense of the Humanities titled, “There is no case for the Humanities.”

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