Quick hits (part I)

1) Farhad Manjoo on ending net neutrality:

Because net neutrality shelters start-ups — which can’t easily pay for fast-line access — from internet giants that can pay, the rules are just about the last bulwark against the complete corporate takeover of much of online life. When the rules go, the internet will still work, but it will look like and feel like something else altogether — a network in which business development deals, rather than innovation, determine what you experience, a network that feels much more like cable TV than the technological Wild West that gave you Napster and Netflix.

If this sounds alarmist, consider that the state of digital competition is already pretty sorry. As I’ve argued regularly, much of the tech industry is at risk of getting swallowed by giants. Today’s internet is lousy with gatekeepers, tollbooths and monopolists.

2) The reasonable case for ending net neutrality.

3) Epigenetics for the win:

For the study, scientists at the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute followed about 100 infants over four years. They asked parents of five-week-old babies to keep a journal of their child’s behavior — things like crying, sleeping, and feeding. They also asked parents to keep track of how long and how often they gave care to their child that involved physical contact, according to a press release.

When the children were about four and a half years old, the scientists swabbed the inside of their cheeks to take a DNA sample, and then checked to see if there were any differences between children who were touched often as infants and those who were touched less often.

4) One tiny but telling piece of the tax abomination is taking away the tax break for teachers who purchase their own school supplies.  And at the same time the richest 1% gets 62% of the benefit.  Unreal.

5) Great conversation with Stephanie Coontz on our current #metoo moment.

6) $1800 to get ears pierced at the hospital.  Oh, yeah, only in America.

7) Jesse Singal is right, companies should more often ignore on-line mobs.

8) Fred Kaplan on Tom Cotton to the CIA:

First, Cotton is an ideologue to an extent beyond any CIA director except possibly William Casey during the Reagan administration. Since his election to the House in 2012, and then to the Senate two years later, Cotton has taken outspoken stances far to the right on every issue domestic and foreign

The upshot is that the CIA, which is supposed to be an independent source of intelligence as far removed as possible from political pressures, should not be led by a partisan firebrand. Yet strict loyalty is precisely what Trump wants from a CIA director—and from his entire inner circle.

9) How BoredPanda has managed to thrive while upworthy, etc., have disappeared.

10) Really good piece on five ways to fix the use of statistics in science and social science research.

11) Intriguing idea on how to address inequality:

The solution is simpler than it seems. There’s a tried and tested way, within the system we have now, of giving everyone a share in the investment returns now hoarded by the wealthy. It’s called a social wealth fund, a pool of investment assets in some ways like the giant index or mutual funds already popular with retirement savings accounts or pension funds, but one owned collectively by society as a whole. One that paid dividends not to the few, or even just to the shrinking middle class lucky enough to have their savings invested, but to everyone…

Here’s how it could work. The federal government would create and run a new investment fund, and issue every adult citizen one share of ownership. The fund would gradually come to own a substantial and diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds and real estate. The investment return that the fund generates would be paid out to each citizen in the form of a universal basic dividend, and the shares would be nontransferable to preserve the institution’s egalitarian purpose.

The net result of such a system would be to gradually transform private wealth, which is very unevenly distributed, into public wealth that every person in society owns an equal part of. If, over time, the social wealth fund came to own one-third of the country’s wealth, that would allow it to distribute an annual dividend equivalent to about a third of the total returns on invested capital each year, which represents about a tenth of net national income. In 2016, based on the latest available census population figures, that would have meant around $6,400 paid to all adults or $8,000 paid to every person between the ages of 18 and 64.

12) First-person account from an admiral of how the opioid epidemic claimed his college-age son.

13) Now that they’ve got their deficit-busting tax bill, of course Republicans want to cut programs that help middle-class people.

14) “Lonely deaths” in aging Japan.

15) In addition to the utter absurdity of the content, the process by which Republicans passed their tax bill is an absolute embarrassment.  It’s an insult to banana republics to call this banana republic stuff.

The tax plan very nearly failed on a procedural vote Thursday, before leadership corralled its wayward members back into line. Over the past 24 hours, they have cut deals that would redirect half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, without so much as a single public hearing or one expert testimony.

16) Charles Blow:

That’s right: Not satisfied with his implicit (though obvious) endorsement of white supremacy here in America, Trump has now explicitly endorsed white supremacy in another country.

These are not mistakes. These are not coincidences. This is not mere bungling. These are revelations of the soul. This is who Trump is and who he has always been. This is who he was before he entered politics, and who he remains.

The Trump Doctrine is White Supremacy. Yes, he is also diplomatically inept, overwhelmed by avarice, thoroughly corrupt and a pathological liar, but it is to white supremacy and to hostility for everyone not white that he always returns.

When the political vise tightens on him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

When his tongue gets loose within him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

Anyone who doesn’t see this is choosing not to. [emphasis mine] They are clueless as an act of convenience, willfully blind and intentionally ignorant. Or conversely, they not only see it, but cheer it.

Either way, the people who elected Trump and those who continue to support him are to blame for what they have inflicted on this country.

17) Why a healthy dose of guilt is good for kids.  I need to step up my game.

18) Mike Pesca with the best take I’ve yet heard on the NYT nazi-next-door article.

19) Trump’s impact on the middle east:

In short, it appears that Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted and that Iran is now a strong and capable state capable of staring down its enemies.

20) An Op-Ed asks, “does religion make people moral?”  I think we all know the answer– hell no.  Okay, maybe sometimes, but the Roy Moore’s of the world are a plenty big counter-example:

My humble answer is: It depends. Religion can work in two fundamentally different ways: It can be a source of self-education, or it can be a source of self-glorification. Self-education can make people more moral, while self-glorification can make them considerably less moral.

Religion can be a source of self-education, because religious texts often have moral teachings with which people can question and instruct themselves. The Quran, just like the Bible, has such pearls of wisdom. It tells believers to “uphold justice” “even against yourselves or your parents and relatives.” It praises “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind.” It counsels: “Repel evil with what is better so your enemy will become a bosom friend.” A person who follows such virtuous teachings will likely develop a moral character, just as a person who follows similar teachings in the Bible will.

But trying to nurture moral virtues is one thing; assuming that you are already moral and virtuous simply because you identify with a particular religion is another. The latter turns religion into a tool for self-glorification. A religion’s adherents assume themselves to be moral by default, and so they never bother to question themselves. At the same time, they look down on other people as misguided souls, if not wicked infidels. [emphasis mine]

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Apparently, not only does Portugal provide a nice lesson in drug legalization it also provides an object lesson in what happens when you don’t have net neutrality.

2) Farhad Manjoo says it’s time for twitter to radically re-think its rules to make the service better and get rid off all the trolls, Russian bots, etc.:

It ought to consider a radical, top-to-bottom change like this: Instead of awarding blue checks to people who achieve some arbitrary level of real-world renown, the company should issue badges of status or of shame based on signals about how people actually use, or abuse, Twitter. In other words, Twitter should begin to think of itself, and its users, as a community, and it should look to the community for determining the rights of people on the platform.

Is someone making a positive contribution to the service, for example by posting well-liked content and engaging in meaningful conversations? Is an account repeatedly spreading misinformation? Is it promoting or participating in online mobs, especially mobs directed at people with fewer followers? Did it just sign up two days ago? Is it acting more like a bot than a human? Are most of its tweets anti-Semitic memes? Can the account be validated with other markers of online reputation — a Facebook account or a LinkedIn profile, for instance? And on and on.

Twitter should not just embrace such reputational guidelines, it should make them transparent and meaningful. If you’re new to Twitter, or if you’ve repeatedly flouted its community rules, your rights on the platform would be circumscribed.

3) I gotta say, these four “well-being workouts” sound pretty good to me.  Already onto the gratitude thing.  And totally used the “respond constructively” when talking with my wife today.  Really going to work on that one.

4) SACS, the organization that accredits colleges and universities in the Southeast (including my own), has shown itself to be almost as much of a joke as the NCAA, when it comes to the fake classes at UNC scandal.  I honestly waste countless hours every year due to NC State jumping through hoops for SACS (my job to jump through the hoops for the PS department).  I’m so bringing up this article next time accreditation comes up at our college meeting.

5) I really need to read this book by a Political Scientist on the origins of human civilization (or, at least, DJC needs to read it and let me know if I need to).

James Scott

I’d say two things. The first is that once we had sedentary agriculture, we then had investment in land and therefore property that could be taxed. We then had the basis for inherited property and thus the basis for passing wealth from one generation to another.

Now, all that matters because it led to these embedded inequalities that were enforced by the state protection of property. This wasn’t true for hunter and gatherer societies, which regarded all property as common property to which everyone in the tribe had equal access. So the early agricultural societies created the basis for systematic class distinctions that could be perpetuated between generations, and that’s how you get the kinds of massive hierarchies and inequalities we see today.

6) The war we have on the poor is one of the most disgusting aspects of modern America.  Now, we’re even making it harder for poor people to vote.  Ugh.

7) Pretty much every single survey of actual economists finds almost perfect consensus that the Republican tax cut plan is bad for the economy.  Not that they care.

8) Tim Wu on how the courts will need to save net neutrality.

9) Derek Thompson on the Republican war on college, “For the cost of cutting corporate income taxes, the U.S. could provide universal pre-K and make tuition free at public colleges for nonaffluent students.”

10) Really enjoyed this essay on the “politicization of junk” (though, I quite like Papa John’s pizza and it’s sweet sauce and chewy crust):

By Monday, after Keurig’s executives had seen the plastic bits of their machines strewn across social media, the company’s C.E.O. circulated a memo to employees, which was leaked to the Washington Post, in which he wrote that “the decision to publicly communicate our programming decision via our Twitter account . . . gave the appearance of ‘taking sides’ in an emotionally charged debate.” In other words, someone at Keurig had messed up by telling the world that the company felt some concern about running ads between segments in which a TV host appeared to be coming to the defense of an alleged sexual predator.

You could smell the brand fear in the statement, that special tang that a company gives off as it watches some evocative skirmish in the culture war dice up its demographic and carve off a portion of its customer base. Yet, with this statement, in which Keurig seemed to lament its temporary display of empathy and humanity, the company executed what has lately become a common corporate double blunder: enraging a very vocal handful of social-media users on one end of the political spectrum; then, mistaking that cohort for a larger subsection of its customers, rushing to placate the extremists, and, in so doing, alienating a group far larger than the one it initially offended.

Before Keurig, it was the pizza company Papa John’s that, by its own doing, managed a version of the identity-politics double screwup. The company’s founder and C.E.O., John Schnatter, attempting to justify a bad quarterly earnings report, blamed decreased Papa John’s sales on the poor ratings performance of the N.F.L., with which it advertises, specifically criticizing the league commissioner for allowing the player protests during the national anthem to continue…

Trump, meanwhile, that brazen purveyor of American crapola—of mail-order steaks and lousy wine and bullshit diplomas—has recognized this as well, managing the Presidency as an extension of the Trump brand, in which all attention is good attention, and rallying his supporters to demonstrate their affection for him by patronizing certain companies, and their disdain for his detractors by boycotting Starbucks, or boycotting Nordstrom, or boycotting the N.F.L. In his Keurig video, Snoop Bailey is selling something, too. Before he busts up his coffeemaker, he touts the qualities of the golf club he’s using, and then later instructs his viewers to buy a competing brand of coffee, one that’s owned by military veterans. What looks at first like a strange act of suburban rage is really just another commercial.

11) This article on trying to take on the problem of sexual harassment is really good.  It is hindered by the fact that the French see Anglo culture as too prudish.  They are right.  Alas, that has led them to be wrong about sexual harassment.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting take on how to parent our kids— a lot more gender neutrally– to prevent our boys (mostly) from becoming sexist pigs.  Whatever my mom did certainly worked and I’d like to think I’m carrying that on another generation.

2) That said, when you start getting into posts saying that nobody should have to hug anybody because it’s all about consent and bodily autonomy, you are going too far.  Wanting all my kids (boys or girl) to hug their grandparents when they visit does not make me a sexist pig.

3) There’s just sooooo  much everything that Russia revelations that would have dominated weeks of news in a different presidency hardly get any notice.  Drum on the latest:

Russians were behind the email hacks. They were behind the social media agitprop. They were behind the attempts to compromise polling places. There’s really not any doubt about this anymore.

Did Donald Trump collude with the Russians? Did Wikileaks know they were acting as a Russian pawn? Did the Russian hacks do enough damage to steal the election from Hillary Clinton? Nobody knows. It’s possible we’ll never know. But we do know that Russian officials were behind all this, and that their goal was to weaponize a personal grudge and ensure that Clinton never became president of the United States. This should outrage you even if you support Trump. The fact that an awful lot of Republicans don’t seem to care is a grim harbinger of a decadent political system on the precipice of decline and collapse.

4) Nice to see that the regional University accrediting body (SACS) is now paying attention to the fact that UNC said its totally illegitimate classes were legit to escape NCAA sanctions.

5) The gruesome world of 19th century surgery.  Not for the faint of heart.

6) This David Roberts piece is the scenario that really scares me, “What if Mueller proves his case and it doesn’t matter?”

7) Of course Trump’s EPA is ignoring its own scientists in favor of industry shills.

8) What ICE is doing is not good for our criminal justice system.

9) This is one of those social science findings you just want to like so much that it really makes me wonder how true it is.  Would love to see some replication in a variety of realms.  Short version– being a loser (at least when playing video games) makes men far more likely to lash out at women in sexist ways.

10) Let’s stick with the social science deserving of extra skepticism because it confirms my priors.  I really like this one because I think Just World bias is a huge and under-appreciated factor in political beliefs:

It is commonly assumed that political attitudes are driven by self-interest and that poor people heavily favor policies aimed at redistributing wealth. This assumption fails to explain the popularity of economic conservatism and the degree of support for the capitalist system. Such outcomes are typically explained by the suggestion that most poor people believe they will become rich one day. In a representative sample of low-income Americans, we observed that less than one-fourth were optimistic about their economic prospects. Those respondents who believed that they would become rich one day were no more likely to endorse the legitimacy of the system and no more supportive of conservative ideology or the Republican Party, compared to those who did not believe they would become rich. From a system justification perspective, we propose that people are motivated to defend the social systems on which they depend, and this confers a psychological advantage to conservative ideology. Providing ideological support for the status quo serves epistemic motives to reduce uncertainty, existential motives to reduce threat, and relational motives to share reality with members of mainstream society. We summarize evidence from the United States, Argentina, Lebanon, and other countries bearing on these propositions—including a survey administered shortly before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election—and discuss political implications of system justification motivation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

11) Of course Republicans are approving conservative bloggers with no courtroom experience as Federal judges.

12) The Virginia exit polls.  Lots of goodies in here.

13) Seth Masket on the rural white “no shows” in Virginia.

14) I liked the way David Brooks described the divide in Virginia:

One way to capture the emerging divide is by using the British writer David Goodhart’s distinction between Somewheres and Anywheres.

Somewheres are rooted in their towns and have “ascribed” identities — Virginia farmer, West Virginia coal miner, Pennsylvania steelworker. Anywheres are at home in the global economy. They derive their identity from portable traits, like education or job skills, and are more likely to move to areas of opportunity.

Somewheres value staying put; they feel uncomfortable with many aspects of cultural and economic change, like mass immigration. Anywheres make educational attainment the gold standard of status and are cheerleaders for restless change…

These days, only a tiny percentage of Northern Virginia workers are government employees. Instead, the region is defined by the two big drivers of Anywhere culture: highly educated information age workers and fiercely energetic immigrants. In Bailey’s Crossroads, there are Korean grocery stores near Persian, Indian and Salvadoran restaurants. The Dulles office corridor is a hub of the global economy.

Trump’s party is not at home on this ground and can’t play on it. Trumpians just want to wall it off. “DC should annex NOVA and return the governance of Virginia to Virginians!” Jerry Fallwell Jr. tweeted, referring to Northern Virginia, after the election results.

Populism has made the Republicans a rural party and given the Democrats everything else. In Virginia, Democrats won by a landslide among anybody who grew up in the age of globalization. Among voters 18-29, they won by an astounding 69 to 30 percent. Among voters 30-44, they won by 61 percent to 37 percent.

We could be seeing the creation of a new Democratic heartland, exurbia, and this alignment could hang around for a while. The stain Trump leaves on the G.O.P. will take some time to wash away. But this is bigger than Trump; it’s an alignment caused by the fundamental reality of the populist movement.

15) The Republican tax bill, “House Republican: my donors told me to pass the tax bill ‘or don’t ever call me again’: Chris Collins is saying the quiet part loud.”

16) Of course the tax plan is a huge giveaway to the rich that raises taxes on many middle-income Americans.

17) Michelle Goldberg’s election anniversary column was really good:

A secular Turkish journalist told me, her voice sad and weary, that while people might at first pour into the streets to oppose Trump, eventually the protests would probably die out as a sense of stunned emergency gave way to the slog of sustained opposition. The Russian dissident writer Masha Gessen warned that there’s no way, with a leader who lays siege to the fabric of reality, to fully hold on to a sense of what’s normal. “You drift, and you get warped,” she told me.

They were both right. The country has changed in the past year, and many of us have grown numb after unrelenting shocks. What now passes for ordinary would have once been inconceivable. The government is under the control of an erratic racist who engages in nuclear brinkmanship on Twitter. He is dismantling the State Department, defending the hollowing out of the diplomatic corps by saying, on Fox News, “I’m the only one that matters.”

He publicly pressures the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. He’s called for reporters to be jailed, and his administration demanded that a sportscaster who criticized him be fired. Official government statements promote his hotels. You can’t protest it all; you’d never do anything else. After the election, many liberals pledged not to “normalize” Trump. But one lesson of this year is that we don’t get to decide what normal looks like.

18) David Simon’s “The Deuce” is no “The Wire” but it did grow on me a lot.  Perhaps, because like the greatest TV show ever, it is ultimately about capitalism.

19) Ezra Klein takes a look at the political science research on partisanship versus ideology (partisanship wins):

In theory, ideology comes first and party comes second. We decide whether we’re for single-payer health care, or same-sex marriage, or abortion restriction, and then we choose the party that most closely fits our ideas. You’re a liberal and so you become a Democrat; you’re a conservative and so you become a Republican.

The truth, it seems, is closer to the reverse: We choose our party for a variety of reasons — chief among them being the preferences of our family members, core groups, and community — and then we sign on to their platforms. In this telling, write Kinder and Kalmoe, “ideological identification is primarily an effect, not a cause, of a person’s political views.”

This theory makes a prediction: If party identification is stronger than ideological identification, then as parties change their ideological identities, their loyalists will change with them, rather than abandoning them. And that’s a lot closer to what we see…

Trump’s ideological heterodoxies were a key reason pundits assumed he would eventually be wiped out in the Republican primaries. Many believed Republicanism was conservatism, and so a non-conservative could never win over Republican voters. But party trumps ideology. Republicanism is Republicanism, and for most voters, it is based more on group attachments and resentments than it is on ideology. These were the voters Trump understood and political elites didn’t, and he understood them because he is one of them: His group allegiances were tribal even as his ideology was flexible.

Trump was far better than Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz at expressing his distaste for Democrats, for immigrants, for Black Lives Matter protesters, for condescending cosmopolitans, for President Obama. That Rubio and Bush and Cruz were better at expressing their fealty to conservative ideology didn’t much matter. Henry Adams once wrote that “politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds,” and Trump was masterful at organizing those hatreds.

Are you secretly racist?

Maybe.  But don’t come to any conclusions based on the super-popular Implicit Association Test.  The IAT is super-cool.  I’ve done a bunch of these myself (try it here) and I really like how my friend, Alex Theodoridis applied it to partisanship, but Jesse Singal’s terrific article makes clear that its utility for understanding racism has been waaaaaay over-sold.  This is a long piece, but if you are interested in social science (or, specifically, the idea of implicit racism), it’s really a pretty fascinating case on how an idea really took over the field, gained huge real-word practical relevance, and only recently has been shown to be deeply suspect.

I was intrigued by reading about all the people that were traumatized in learning they were implicitly racist.  I don’t remember my exact results, but I know what I consciously think, I know my political views, and I know how I treat people, so I was never bothered by the fat that my brain might more rapidly respond to Black people connected to negative words than white people connected to negative words.

And, good news, I figured since this is from back in January, somebody must have done a pretty decent short version.  German Lopez at Vox!  And I missed it.  Anyway, definitely check out the Vox version.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Holy shoot, I had read that hundreds of women had accused Hollywood director, James Toback, of sexual harassment/assault.  But the details?  Damn!!

2) Is Trumpian race-baiting a winner for the GOP in Virginia?  Hopefully not.

3) Should your spouse be your best friend?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

It’s this feeling of security, Dr. Levine says, that leads us to describe our spouses as “friends.” But that language is not quite right, he says. First, couples still need what he calls “maintenance sex,” because it re-establishes physical closeness and renews attachment.

Second, the term “friendship” is “an underwhelming representation of what’s going on,” he said. “What people basically mean is, ‘I’m in a secure relationship. Being close to my partner is very rewarding. I trust them. They’re there for me in such a profound way that it allows me to have courage to create, to explore, to imagine.’”

Dr. Levine summarizes this feeling with the (somewhat awkward) acronym Carrp; your partner is consistent, available, responsive, reliable and predictable. But don’t we already have a word, “spouse,” that fits this description? I said. Why are we suddenly using the expression “best friend,” when that doesn’t seem to fit at all?

“Because not every spouse provides that,” he said, “and we’re indicating we don’t take it for granted. What we should probably be saying is ‘secure spouse.’”

There’s yet another problem with calling your husband or wife your best friend. The words mean totally different things.

Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader are founders of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., and the authors of “Tell Me No Lies.” They’ve also been married for more than 30 years. Dr. Pearson said there’s a critical difference between a best friend and a spouse. “One of the criteria for a best friend is you feel unconditionally accepted,” he said. “Do I care if my buddy Mark is messy in the kitchen, leaves his bathroom a shambles and doesn’t pay his income taxes?”

But with a spouse, he said, you can’t avoid these topics.

4) Interesting workplace research women’s lack of promotion stems from bias, not patterns of workplace actions and interactions.

5) When Republicans answer a poll that Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya do they really believe it or are they just giving a partisan answer?  Adam Berinksy’s latest research suggests the former:

Large numbers of Americans endorse political rumors on surveys. But do they truly believe what they say? In this paper, I assess the extent to which subscription to political rumors represents genuine beliefs as opposed to expressive responses—rumor endorsements designed to express opposition to politicians and policies rather than genuine belief in false information. I ran several experiments, each designed to reduce expressive responding on two topics: among Republicans on the question of whether Barack Obama is a Muslim and among Democrats on whether members of the federal government had advance knowledge about 9/11. The null results of all experiments lead to the same conclusion: the incidence of expressive responding is very small, though somewhat larger for Democrats than Republicans. These results suggest that survey responses serve as a window into the underlying beliefs and true preferences of the mass public.

6) I’d never even heard of the super-opiate, Carfentanil, but wow!

7) This Alexandra Petri satire is awesome, “I’d love to be able to look my grandkids in the eye, but if I do I’ll be primaried from the right.”

8) Of course American cannot afford to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Drum:

This is a good time to remind everyone that Republicans just passed a budget that contained instructions for a net $1.5 trillion tax cut that will mostly benefit corporations and the rich. But $8 billion in net spending increases to provide medical care for kids? Sorry. Can’t be done. Gotta watch the deficit, you understand.

Or maybe they could fund CHIP and settle for a $1.492 trillion tax cut? That’s out of the question, of course.

At times like this I wish I were a religious man. At least then I’d feel some sense that eventually these meanspirited bastards would pay for their sins.

9) Paul Waldman’s headline on the Steele dossier is about right, “GOP spin about the new ‘Steele Dossier’ story is disingenuous nonsense.”

10) Nice point-counterpoint in Vox on the 1st amendment on campus.

11) Nikole Hannah-Jones on how housing segregation is the key to structural racism:

What’s important to understand is that segregation is not about test scores; it’s about denying full citizenship to a caste of children who have not, for one day in this country, been given full and equal access to the same educational resources as white children. So it’s not really about closing the test score gap. Segregation is about separating black children from white children, and therefore separating black children from the same resources as white children. I think we have to talk about it in these terms.

What people also don’t want to acknowledge is that schools are segregated because white people want them that way. It’s not simply a matter of zip codes or housing segregation or class; it’s because most white Americans do not wish to enroll their children in schools with large numbers of black kids. And it doesn’t matter if they live in the North or the South, or if they’re liberal or conservative.

We won’t fix this problem until we really wrestle with that fact…

Segregation in housing is the way you can accomplish segregation in every aspect of life. Housing segregation means that certain jobs are located in certain communities, that certain grocery stores are located in certain communities; it determines where parks are located, if streets are repaired, if toxic dump sites are built nearby. Segregation accomplishes so many other inequalities because you effectively contain a population to a geographic area and suddenly all the other civil rights law don’t matter.

We don’t have to discriminate if we’re living in totally segregated neighborhoods; all the work is already done. If you look at the history of civil rights legislation, it’s the Fair Housing laws that get passed last — and barely so. Dr. King had to get assassinated in order for it to get passed, and that was because it was considered the Northern civil rights bill. It was civil rights made personal; it was determining who would live next door to you and therefore who would be able to share the resources that you received. The same is true of school desegregation.

12) Really enjoyed this Dana Milbank column apologizing for being ignorant, but complicit, in the sexual harassment of Leon Wieseltier.

13) Of course the first FBI crime report from the Trump administration is missing a ton of important data.  Ugh.

14) This is absolutely true from Catherine Rampell, “Republicans are propping up scammers and cheaters.”

Republicans claim to believe no company is too big to fail. The almighty market must be allowed to work its magic, and firms with defective business models should face the consequences.

Yet over the course of this year, President Trump and Congress have worked to prop up lots of defective firms. By which I mean: Companies whose business models are contingent on scamming customers, shortchanging workers and suckling the government teat.

Just this week, the Senate limited consumers’ ability to fight back against financial firms that have cheated them. Which is of course an implicit subsidy to firms whose profits depend on cheating…

Congress, with Trump’s expected signature, nullified the rule this week, effectively shielding banks from facing consequences for large-scale bad behavior.

That rule just dealt with mandatory arbitration clauses in certain financial contracts. Congress and the administration have delayed or dismantled other regulations curbing forced arbitration in disputes involving  nursing homes for-profit schools and sexual harassment claims against government contractors…

In the long run, none of these actions are good for consumers, workers or the healthy functioning of markets. They merely reward firms that can’t hack it under 21st-century economic forces and 21st-century laws.

15) This is a damn, sad immigration story in Trump’s America.  A Yale student writes, “I Accidentally Turned My Dad In to Immigration Services.”

16) This Slate article on the debunking of Amy Cuddy and power posing does a nice exploration of the gender angle.

17) Latest evidence suggests that the DEA wrongfully killed a family in Honduras five years ago.  And then, of course, lied about it.  Hooray for the War on Drugs!

18) Yuval Harari on how to respond to the AI revolution.

Everything is partisanship

Really, really liked this Tom Edsall post which summarized a lot of really good work that’s been done by political scientists on partisanship lately.  A lot of it is about the importance of partisanship as a social identity, something I know just a little about.  A lot of great scholars have carried forward and done great work on this idea that I just scratched the surface of way back in my dissertation days.  The short version is that partisanship overwhelms pretty much everything in American politics these days.  Forget issues.  Forget ideology.  Just raw attachment to a political party (and, in the case of Trump, it’s leader). Anyway, Edsall and company:

In fact, as the political scientists Leonie Huddy, Lilliana Mason and Lene Aarøe argue in an article in American Political Science Review, the most powerful form of partisanship is not principled, ideological commitment to conservative or liberal policies, but “expressive partisanship,” which is more of a gut commitment: [emphases mine]

A subjective sense of belonging to a group that is internalized to varying degrees, resulting in individual differences in identity strength, a desire to positively distinguish the group from others, and the development of ingroup bias. Moreover, once identified with a group or, in this instance, a political party, members are motivated to protect and advance the party’s status and electoral dominance as a way to maintain their party’s positive distinctiveness.

Traditionally, political scientists have measured partisanship by asking voters the following questions: “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?” Those who say Republican or Democrat are then asked “Would you call yourself a strong Republican/Democrat or a not very strong Republican/Democrat?” Independents are asked “Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican or Democratic Party?” Respondents are then ranked on a seven point scale from strong Democrat to strong Republican.

Political scientists measure expressive partisanship by looking at responses to more subjective questions, including “How important is being a Democrat or Republican to you?”, “How well does the term Democrat or Republican describe you?” and “When talking about Democrats or Republicans, how often do you use ‘we’ instead of ‘they’?” …

[Short plug for my own work in getting the ball rolling on the above]

It turns out, according to Huddy, Mason and Aarøe, that those who are strong partisans on the basis of emotional and expressive links to their parties feel angrier

when threatened with electoral loss and more positive when reassured of victory. In contrast, those who hold a strong and ideologically consistent position on issues are no more aroused emotionally than others by party threats or reassurances…

Three other political scientists — Shanto Iyengar, Gaurav Sood and Yphtach Lelkes — reached a similar conclusion in a 2012 paper, “Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization.”

They argue that instead of treating polarization in the general electorate as a conflict over competing policies, the better measure is “affective polarization,” which is their term for the way voters “not only increasingly dislike the opposing party,” but are also willing to “impute negative traits to the rank-and-file of the out-party.”…

In a 2017 paper, “All in the Eye of the Beholder: Asymmetry in Ideological Accountability,” Iyengar and Sood provide further insight into how so many Republicans found their way to voting for Trump.

They demonstrate that partisan voters’ approval of their party’s leaders “bears little relationship with their ideological extremity.” Because of this, candidates like Trump “enjoy considerable leeway to stake out positions at odds with the preferences of their supporters.” …

The growing strength of the kind of partisanship that is widespread today — whether you call it visceral, expressive, affective or tribal — undermines the workings of democratic governance. Not only are Republicans willing to support Trump, but both Democrats and Republicans are inclined to demonize the leadership of the opposing party…

Along similar lines, Theodoridis and Stephen Goggin, a political scientist at San Diego State, asked 1609 voters whether two unnamed senators were Democrats or Republicans. One of the two was described as the subject of a story headlined “Senator Wins Anti-Corruption Award,” the other as the subject of a story headlined “Senator Admits to Lying.” Democrats consistently labeled the anti-corruption senator a Democrat and the liar a Republican, while Republicans took the opposite view.

Perhaps most importantly, hyperpolarization is a powerful disincentive to compromise. How can you make concessions to your mortal enemies? To even start negotiations can be viewed, in this context, as surrender.

Short version– in American politics today, partisanship is pretty much everything.  And, that’s not so good.

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.

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