Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this from Chait, “he Most Unrealistic Promise Democrats Are Making Is to Restore Bipartisanship.”

The Obama presidency was an eight-year experiment in the possibility of obtaining Republican support for major initiatives. It is impossible to imagine a more conclusive result. Despite having jacked up the deficit during the entirety of the presidencies both before and after Obama’s, Republicans spent the entire time insisting on massive fiscal austerity despite facing objectively the most favorable conditions for stimulus spending since World War II. Obama’s offer to support John McCain’s cap-and-trade plan and Mitt Romney’s health-care plan drew almost zero Democratic and zero Republican votes, respectively. Republicans wouldn’t even accept a deal to trim Medicare spending in return for tax reform.

McConnell publicly stated his logic at the time: putting the bipartisan imprimatur on Obama’s policies would make the policies popular. More than mere strategy was at work. By waging partisan war against any of Obama’s initiatives, Republicans helped persuade their voters that his ideas — even those with a solid moderate Republican pedigree — were dangerous socialism. And the more fearful Republican voters became, the harder it was for Republicans to negotiate anything with Obama. Republicans were afraideven to be seen talking to the president. At times, when negotiations could not be avoided for bills whose passage was required to avert disaster, Obama would let Biden close the deal just to create the appearance that he hadn’t been part of it…

Democrats are going to have to choose between making real changes that can help their constituents and keeping a supermajority requirement in the Senate. There is no more cruelly unrealistic promise than the magical thinking being peddled by the Democratic party’s self-styled realists.

I’ve been a fan of Cory Booker for his honest talk on criminal justice issues.  But, I will say, his totally unrealistic take on bipartisanship has definitely lowered my opinion of him.

2) Good interview on how parents buy college admissions:

Is there anything you think your book got wrong or understated?

I think the general themes were right on point, and I don’t think it’s because I was so brilliant. I think it’s because this was a system that was hidden in plain view and was in front of your nose if only you looked, and also because it was so offensive to most people’s idea of what America is about. The fundamental ethos of America is equal opportunity and upward mobility and everybody gets a chance. The people who perform the best are supposed to rise to the top, and college education is supposed to be the driving force in upward mobility. So the idea that the wealthy can perpetuate their own privileged status through college admissions, that it’s not an equal gateway for everybody but a way to perpetuate American aristocracy, is a real affront to people. And that’s the resonance a case like this has.

3) Looking forward to reading Frans de Waal’s book on animal emotions:

Of course, we recognize ourselves in such stories. This is why they are powerful: They evoke our empathy, perhaps our most cherished emotional ability (one that we share with animals, as anyone who has lived with a dog well knows). But, to our detriment, researchers who study animal behavior have been methodically warned against exploring empathy as a means of understanding. Too many illuminating observations have gone unpublished because suggesting that humans share traits with other animals invites accusations of anthropomorphism.

To avoid such charges, researchers have invented a glossary of contorted terms: Animals don’t have friends but “favorite affiliation partners”; chimps don’t laugh when tickled, but make “vocalized panting” sounds.

This isn’t just silly; it’s dangerous. Instead of worrying about anthropomorphizing animals, we should fear making a far worse mistake, what de Waal calls “anthropodenial.” When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, “it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species,” he writes. An understanding of evolution demands that we recognize continuity across life-forms. And even more important, achieving realistic and compassionate relationships with the rest of the animate world requires that we honor these connections, which extend far and deep.

4) Top takeaways from Trump’s absurd budget:

4. The biggest losers: Under Trump’s budget proposal, 10 major departments and agencies would see their budgets slashed by 10 percent (or more) in the next year alone: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trump administration likes to refer to a 5 percent cut in nondefense spending, but some agencies get far bigger chops than others. The EPA and Corps of Engineers would lose almost a third of their current funding.

5) The revolution will be fought over fabric softener (demand #3).

6) Interesting stuff from James Fallows on the 737 Max.

7) Chait on the fundamental lie of conservative populism:

The populist promises that set Trump apart during both the primary and the general election have simply failed to materialize. Trump’s budget, which proposes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that he had famously pledged to oppose, is the latest evidence that he has simply defaulted to traditional movement conservatism.

Conservative populism has followed the same course in the United Kingdom and the United States. Right-wing politicians attached expansive promises to retrograde cultural panic to gain power, and once given a chance to follow through, have managed to deliver only the latter. These movements justified themselves as an authentic rebellion against the experts. The experts warned the promises were impossible. It turns out they knew what they were talking about.

8) Good stuff from Brian Schaffner and Samantha Luks:

The public’s party-driven misinformation and misperceptions about politics has drawn a great deal of attention from scholars over the past decade. While much of this research assumes that the misinformation documented by survey researchers is an accurate reflection of what individuals truly believe, other scholars have suggested that individuals intentionally and knowingly provide misinformation to survey researchers as a way of showing support for their political side. To date, it has been difficult to adjudicate between these two contrasting explanations for misperceptions. However, in this note, we provide such a test. We take advantage of a controversy regarding the relative sizes of crowds at the presidential inaugurations of Donald Trump in 2017 and Barack Obama in 2009 to ask a question where the answer is so clear and obvious to the respondents that nobody providing an honest response should answer incorrectly. Yet, at the same time, the question taps into a salient political controversy that provides incentives for Trump supporters to engage in expressive responding. We find clear evidence of expressive responding; moreover, this behavior is especially prevalent among partisans with higher levels of political interest. Our findings provide support for the notion that at least some of the misinformation reported in surveys is the result of partisan cheerleading rather than genuinely held misperceptions.

9) Ed Yong, “A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses.”

10) The latest YA twitter mob could not be more karmically perfect or happen to a more-deserving target:

What Jackson’s case really demonstrates is just how narrow and untenable the rules for writing Y.A. literature are. In a tweet last May, Jackson himself more or less articulated them: “Stories about the civil rights movement should be written by black people. Stories of suffrage should be written by women. Ergo, stories about boys during life-changing times, like the AIDS epidemic, should be written by gay men. Why is this so hard to get?”

In a live Q. and A. for an online children’s literature conference in January, Jackson explained that he was at one point tempted to write tangentially about immigration,but his Latino friends talked him out of it: He’d be encroaching on their turf, poaching their spot on the shelves.

11) OMG Thom Tillis is the absolute worst.  There are important constitutional principles at stake.  Until Donald Trump convinces him otherwise.  This is beyond embarrassing:

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis voted Thursday to support President Donald Trump’s Poor Thom Tillis. For a few shining days the Republican senator from North Carolina had a backbone. Then, in one crumbling moment Thursday afternoon, it went away…

The why, according to North Carolina’s junior senator, was that he’s heard “serious discussion” about changing the National Emergency Act so no “future left-wing president” can do what he was voting to allow the current right-wing president to do. The prospect of a change in the law was the fig leaf with which Tillis tried to cover his capitulation.

In a whopper worthy of the president himself, Tillis said he did not change his position out of concern that a vote against Trump would bring on a primary challenge when he stands for re-election in 2020.

Fear of the president’s disapproval and the wrath of his base clearly caused Tillis’ humiliating flip-flop. After his op-ed, North Carolina Republicans let him know that not being in lockstep with Trump left him out of step with them.

So, it’s okay to ignore Constitutional principles as long as you make it harder for a future “left wing president” to ignore the Constitution.  Riiiiiight.

12) With white Democrats ever-more secular, more candidates are ignoring the “and God bless America” platitudes.  This Christian says “hooray” because boy do I hate that crap.

While white progressives once described religion as something that brought Americans together, they’re now more likely to describe it as something that drives them apart.

It’s not hard to understand why. For starters, the percentage of white Democrats who express no religious affiliation has skyrocketed. According to unpublished data tabulated for me last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 8 percent of white Democrats expressed no religious affiliation in 1990. By 2016, the figure was 33 percent. In 1990, white self-described liberals were 39 points more likely to describe themselves as Protestant than as religiously unaffiliated. By 2016, religiously unaffiliated beat Protestant by nine points.

Secular Democrats haven’t only grown more numerous. They’ve also become some of the party’s most motivated activists. As The Atlantic’s Emma Green has noted, a PRRI poll taken last August and September found that Democrats who shun organized religion were more than twice as likely to have attended a political rally in the previous year than Democrats who identify with a religious group. Today’s Democratic candidates cannot simply assert, as Obama did in 2004, that “we worship an awesome God in the blue states,” because so many active Democrats do not.

The other reason liberal candidates more often describe religion as a source of division is the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Before Donald Trump, Republican religious discourse was more ecumenical.

13) Paul Waldman on white identity politics and the future of the Republican Party:

It’s no accident that the members of Congress who have these folks so worried are a Latina and a Muslim woman, because what is coming to define a good portion of the Republican Party is a sense that white people are not just losing something today but are under the threat of cultural, political and even physical annihilation.

In its extreme form, it’s defined as “white genocide,” a term common among white supremacists who believe that the white race is literally in danger of being wiped out. In a less extreme form, it manifests in people being increasingly drawn to white identity politics.

We have to be clear what we mean when we say that. In her upcoming book, “White Identity Politics,” political scientist Ashley Jardina clarifies that the term should be understood to refer not just to straightforward racism but to something more particular. White identity politics is about whiteness becoming an organizing political factor, a group identity that leads people to seek certain things and favor certain policies because of how they will affect white people.

he presidency of Barack Obama had a great deal to do with the current white identity politics, and in hindsight we might see it as inevitable that a racist demagogue would emerge to exploit the backlash Obama produced. That’s why Ta-Nehisi Coates referred to Trump as “the first white president,” arguing that his 2016 campaign should be understood as an assertion that whites had to retake power and restore (as they saw it) their rightful place atop the hierarchy.

What motivates it isn’t just hostility to minorities but fear that whites will be overrun, oppressed and eventually eliminated, and the solution is in turn to banish minorities from wherever white people are feeling this threat, whether it’s the United States, Europe or New Zealand…

Many Republicans would protest that their party affiliation is based not on racial fears of extinction but on things such as support for small government and tax cuts, or opposition to abortion rights and marriage equality. And they aren’t lying. But it’s also undeniable that with Trump in charge — and with the party having given itself over to him so completely, at least for now — white identity politics now defines the GOP. But what will they do as it drags them down? [emphasis mine]

15) Never heard of “curling parents” before.  Enjoyed this in Chronicle of Higher Ed.

‘Curling’ Parents

People used to talk about helicopter parents, said Jump, the college counselor. These days, he said, the term is “curling parents,” a reference to the Olympic sport. Parenting, in other words, is no longer about hovering over one’s children. It’s about sweeping problems out of their way.

The desire to insulate children from problems also emerged in Calarco’s research. She interviewed a mother who said, “I just don’t want my kids to suffer.” That’s a nearly universal sentiment. But in this particular example, Calarco said, it was the mother’s explanation for why she would run her children’s homework to school if they forgot it at home.

If that’s your definition of suffering, then not getting into your top-choice college is a real hardship.

16) Leonhardt is right, “The Admissions Scandal Is Really a Sports Scandal.”

The researchers were given access to anonymous admissions records at 19 elite colleges and then analyzed how admissions offices treated different groups of students. Low-income students, for example, were no more likely to be admitted than otherwise similar students with virtually identical academic records. So-called legacy students — those whose parents attended the same schools — received substantial boosts. So did underrepresented minorities.

But the biggest boost went to recruited athletes: An athlete was about 30 percentage points more likely to be admitted than a nonathlete with the same academic record…

If the accusations are true, they’re outrageous. But they also highlight a larger problem that has somehow become acceptable: A scam like this could exist only because competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process.

The situation is different for other extracurricular activities. Great musicians are more likely to be admitted to a college than similar students who don’t play an instrument — as is only fair, because musicians deserve credit for their accomplishments. But the musicians don’t generally receive a 30-percentage-point boost on their admissions chances. Stage managers for the high school theater don’t, either. Nor do student body presidents, debaters, yearbook editors or robotics competitors.

Athletes do. Their extracurricular activities are not treated merely as an important part of a college application, but as a defining part. [emphasis mine]

17) OMG this is crazy!  Sort-of-identical twins. 75% genetically related and boy girl.  Whoa.

One boy. One girl.

Sharing a single placenta.

“It doesn’t add up,” Dr. Fisk recalled thinking.

As it turned out, the twins were neither fraternal nor identical. They fell into a third rare category known as semi-identical or sesquizygotic twins. Although it would take several years to prove, he was looking at the first set of semi-identical twins to be identified during pregnancy, according to a paper published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

18) I used to really enjoy Frances Scott on the local news.  Horrible to read how an artificial hip replacement that should have never happened (there was already evidence that the replacements causes metal poisoning) basically ruined her life.  Ugh.

19) Apollo 11 is amazing!  Go see it on a big screen if you can.

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The cost of parenting

Loved this in the Atlantic a couple weeks ago.  There’s so much disputed social science on the effect of parenthood and happiness, but I really like this take, nicely summed up in the sub-head: “Having children makes people happier—if they can afford it.”

For several decades, the work of happiness researchers has consistently pointed to an unintuitive conclusion: Having children doesn’t tend to make people happier, and might even make them less happy.

“That never made any sense [to me],” says David Blanchflower, an economist at Dartmouth College. If having kids makes people less happy, why do so many people do it? Why would people have more than one child after the supposed misery brought by their first? And most puzzlingly of all, why would evolution produce a disincentive to procreate?

Blanchflower has long sought to resolve this mismatch between research and human behavior, and he recently made some headway. In a new workingpaper, he and his co-author, Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics, detailed the importance of a single factor: parents’ financial strain. Subtract the stress of struggling to pay bills from the equation, and the presence of children tends to bring parents happiness.

“It’s not that children make you unhappy,” Blanchflower told me. “It’s the fact that they bring lots of expenses and difficulties. You have to buy the milk and the diapers. And that financial pressure gets muddled up with this.”… [emphasis mine]

The paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, points to some other variables that are linked to parents’ unhappiness: Children under the age of 10 appear to bring their parents more happiness than do children a few years over 10. Single parents are, on average, less happy than coupled parents. (And other research indicates that mothers are less happy than fathers.)

So what types of parents, once finances are accounted for, tend to be happiest? “It’s a little hard to answer, but I think the answer is simply, people who are under 45 who are married or living with a partner with young kids,” Blanchflower said…

That said, having children can be unpleasant for reasons apart from the financial crunch. As the journalist Jennifer Senior explained in her 2014 book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, today’s parents are living out the consequences of a number of societal trends that have developed over decades.

For one, most parents now tend to be (or at least strive to be) more hands-on than others were in the past. On top of being time-consuming and stressful, this project of engaging with a child’s every utterance and overseeing their every minute of playtime can sometimes be, well, boring—or at least, a lot less satisfying than getting absorbed in a meaningful or mentally stimulating task at work. Another possibility: Because today’s parents tend to have children later in life than those in past generations, they experience the freedoms of being 20-something, only to have them stolen by a small, shrieking being with many demands.

As noted, this is still a working paper, and it is based solely on EU data (and one can imagine some cultural differences related to parenting in America), but it does tell an interesting story.  Well, my kids are mostly well over 10 and still bringing me so much joy, almost surely more than ever.  Now that the youngest is 8, parenthood is almost never boring (which it really can be with young kids; though, obviously the exasperation levels go up).  Presumably, there’s a really negative hit from adolescence in a lot of families.  So far, so good with us.   Anyway, interesting stuff.

(Real) quick hits

1) I’m a big fan of the the big 5 personality inventory.  538 with a nice explanation and a nice version of the quiz.  I still get frustrated by “openness to experience” being a single concepts as in some aspects I am very open to experience and I love culture and learning new things, but this is also the guy who would happily eat pizza for lunch five days a week (and often does).

2) Krugman on Elizabeth Warren’s smart plan for universal child care.  I don’t know if Warren would make the best president, but I’m pretty damn confident she has the best policy ideas.

For millions of Americans with children, life is a constant, desperate balancing act. They must work during the day, either because they’re single parents or because decades of wage stagnation mean that both parents must take jobs to make ends meet. Yet quality child care is unavailable or unaffordable.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Other wealthy countries either have national child care systems or subsidize care to put it in everyone’s reach. It doesn’t even cost all that much. While other advanced countries spend, on average, about three times as much as we do helping families — so much for our vaunted “family values” — it’s still a relatively small part of their budgets. In particular, taking care of children is much cheaper than providing health care and retirement income to seniors, which even America does.

Furthermore, caring for children doesn’t just help them grow up to be productive adults. It also has immediate economic benefits, making it easier for parents to stay in the work force…

For the Warren proposal is the kind of initiative that, if enacted, would change millions of lives for the better, yet could actually happen in the near future.

Among other things, unlike purist visions of replacing private health insurance with “Medicare for all,” providing child care wouldn’t require imposing big new taxes on the middle class. The sums of money involved are small enough that new taxes on great wealth and high incomes, which are desirable on other grounds, could easily raise sufficient revenue.

The logic of the Warren plan is fairly simple (although some commentators are trying to make it sound complex). Child care would be regulated to ensure that basic quality was maintained and subsidized to make it affordable. The size of the subsidy would depend on parents’ incomes: lower-income parents would get free care, higher-income parents would have to pay something, but nobody would have to pay more than 7 percent of income.

Warren’s advisers put the budget cost at $70 billion a year, or around one-third of one percent of G.D.P. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s not that much for something that could transform so many lives…

The bottom line is that Warren’s proposal is impressive: It’s workable, affordable, and would do a huge amount of good.

And while this isn’t a horse-race column — I’m not arguing that Warren necessarily will or even should be the Democratic presidential nominee — the field needs more policy ideas like this: medium-size, medium-priced proposals that could deliver major benefits without requiring a political miracle.

3) Really nice Post piece on just went down with even all the Republicans finally admitting we need a new election for NC-9.

4) I was a little disheartened that my son’s middle school health teacher is actually teaching health myths.  In this case, the eight glasses of water a day myth.  Aaron Carroll took it apart back in 2015.

5) Really enjoyed reading John McWhorter on Smollet and victimhood culture:

6) Just in case you didn’t hear the story of the high school that gave out cheerleading awards like the “big boobie award.”  Just ugh.

7) The thinking-man’s libertarian, Will Wilkinson, with a nice piece, “Don’t Abolish Billionaires:
Abolish bad policy instead.”

The empirical record is quite clear about the general form of national political economy that produces the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, freest and longest lives. There’s no pithy name for it, so we’ll have to settle for “liberal-democratic welfare-state capitalism.” There’s a “social democratic” version, which is what you get in countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. And there’s a “neoliberal” (usually English-speaking) version, which is what you get in countries like Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

You may prefer one version over the other, but they’re not all that different. And in comparative terms, they’re all insanely great. The typical citizen of these countries is as well-off as human beings have ever been. These places are the historical pinnacle of policy success.

But guess what? There are billionaires in all of them. Egalitarian Sweden, an object of ardent progressive adoration, has more billionaires per capita than the United States.

8) Ah damn was that Dutch historian taking down Tucker Carlson so awesome.

9) Terrific unanimous Supreme Court decision last week on excessive fines and policing for profit:

The Supreme Court struck an extraordinary blow for criminal justice reform on Wednesday, placing real limitations on policing for profitacross the country. Its unanimous decision for the first time prohibits all 50 states from imposing excessive fines, including the seizure of property, on people accused or convicted of a crime. Rarely does the court hand down a ruling of such constitutional magnitude—and seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals. The landmark decision represents a broad agreement on the Supreme Court that law enforcement’s legalized thefthas gone too far.

10) A nice explanation of how California’s lawsuit against Trump’s emergency is perfectly written to appeal to conservative Justices.  All we need is a modicum of intellectual honesty (I’m actually optimistic on that matter) and we’re good:

This lawsuit joins a series of others that have already been filed by watchdog groups. While they all argue that there is no actual emergency at the southern border, that is not the gravamen of their complaint. Instead of asking the courts to second-guess Trump’s intent, these challengers ask them to decide whether Trump had authority to act in the first place.

The answer, they assert, is no. The Presentment Clause is straightforward: For a bill to become law, it must pass both houses of Congress, then be presented to the president for approval. Yet Congress never passed a bill authorizing and funding the border wall Trump now demands. It never presented such legislation to the president for his signature. This is the stuff of Civics 101. Whatever powers the National Emergencies Act may grant to the president, a federal statute cannot override the Constitution. The executive cannot use funds Congress did not appropriate. He cannot amend statutes himself to create money for pet projects. Trump asked Congress for a large sum of money to construct a border wall; Congress resoundingly and provably said no. The National Emergencies Act does not give him leeway to contravene Congress’ commands.

These problems ought to be catnip for SCOTUS’ conservative justices—particularly Justice Neil Gorsuch. In his very first dissent on the Supreme Court, Gorsuch extolled the virtues of this pristine constitutional system. “If a statute needs repair,” he wrote, “there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation.” Gorsuch continued:

To be sure, the demands of bicameralism and presentment are real and the process can be protracted. But the difficulty of making new laws isn’t some bug in the constitutional design: it’s the point of the design, the better to preserve liberty.

A year later, in his rightly celebrated opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, Gorsuch hammered this same point home again. “Under the Constitution,” he wrote, “the adoption of new laws restricting liberty is supposed to be a hard business, the product of an open and public debate among a large and diverse number of elected representatives.” The courts abdicate their responsibility when they ignore the Constitution’s “division of duties” between the branches of government. These “structural worries” form the bedrock of American constitutional governance, whose ultimate goal is to safeguard “ordered liberty.” These new challenges demonstrate that Trump is circumventing these “structural worries” and harming “ordered liberty” in the process.

11) Sorry, but have no sympathy for Americans who betrayed their country to join the brutal, murderous cult that is ISIS and now want to come home and have all be forgiven.

12) There’s a u-curve for the amount of free time that brings you the most happiness.  Honestly, I suspect that I’d be good with more free time than lots of people, “How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have? Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.”

13) Not at all surprising to anyone paying attention and not blinded by right-wing Christian ideology, “Meta-Analysis Over Almost 20 Years Has Declared Its Verdict on Abstinence-Only Sex Ed.”  It doesn’t work.

14) Since the opioid crisis is particularly bad in New Hampshire a lot of people are pushing back against legalizing marijuana.  Because smoking pot leads to opioid addiction.  Oh wait.

15) Loved this story on the new, small tyrannosaurs discovered (by a NC State professor!!):

But at just 170 pounds and six feet long from nose to tail, this new human-size dinosaur was muchsmaller than its more famous relative. Growth rings in the bones, much like those in a tree trunk, showed that the individual was at least seven years old and nearly mature. “It’s certainly not a very young individual of a very large species,” Zanno says. Instead, it was an adult—just a small one.

Zanno named it Moros, after the embodiment of impending doom in Greek mythology. It’s a rather dramatic name for such a diminutive dinosaur, but it’s apt considering the creature’s age. Moros lived 96 million years ago, preceding Tyrannosaurus by a good 30 million years. It was a miniature harbinger of the bone-crunching tyrants to come—impending doom, indeed. And its age and size offer important clues about one of the most dramatic plot twists in the dinosaur story.

During the late Jurassic period, at a time when Asia and North America were connected to each other, the first tyrannosaurs evolved in the former continent before crossing over into the latter. At first they were just one of many groups of small-bodied hunters, all skulking subordinately in the shadow of far bigger predators, such as the allosaurs, a family of toothy, two-legged dinosaurs with dangerous claws. But at some point during the Cretaceous period, the allosaurs died out. The tyrannosaurs quickly usurped them, evolving into apex predators that ruled unchallenged in the northern continents until an asteroid strike (perhaps in combination with volcanic activity) ended their reign.

That switch from allosaurs to tyrannosaurs “was a defining event in dinosaur evolution, but we still don’t know very much about it,” says Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh. “We’re not really sure exactly when it happened, if it happened quickly or was more of a prolonged battle, or if it happened across the northern continents all at once.” …

So what the hell happened to the Allosaurs anyway?!

How Democratic primary voters are pushing the party off a left cliff

Ummmm, they’re not.  So much goodness in this latest Thomas Edsall column (I mean, seriously, all he does every week is get some of the smartest political scientists studying American politics to talk about how their research pertains to contemporary politics– so cool!).  And I particularly liked this part:

I asked Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts who is one of the directors of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, whether Democratic primary voters are pushing presidential candidates to take stands on issues further to the left than the general electorate would accept.

Contrary to the view of many political analysts, Schaffner countered with data suggesting that this is not the case.

“I actually don’t think Democratic primary voters are substantially more liberal than Democrats more broadly,” he wrote, adding that many of the party’s new policy initiatives are, in fact, “favored by a majority of those who voted in 2016.” [emphases mine]

He cited the following results from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study survey.

Who favored granting legal status to immigrants? Democratic primary voters: 79 percent support; Democrats in general: 77 percent support; all voters: 55 percent support.

Who would require minimum amounts of renewable energy? Democratic primary voters: 85 percent support; Democrats in general: 80 percent support; all voters: 61 percent support.

Ban assault rifles? Democratic primary voters: 91 percent support; Democrats in general: 84 percent support; all voters: 64 percent.

Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders? Democratic primary voters: 84 percent support; Democrats in general: 78 percent support; all voters: 67 percent.

How about raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour? Democratic primary voters: 92 percent support; Democrats in general: 90 percent support; all voters: 65 percent.

Along similar lines, four political scientists, John Sides and Christopher Warshaw of George Washington University, and Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch of UCLA, write in a March 2018 paper, “On the Representativeness of Primary Electorates” that “primary voters are frequently characterized as an ideologically extreme subset of their party, and thus partially responsible for increasing party polarization in government.” On the contrary, they find “that primary voters are similar to rank and file voters in their party” and thus “the composition of primary electorates does not exert a polarizing effect above what might arise from voters in the party as a whole.”

Jacobson of UCSD strongly agreed, arguing that Democrats’ intense dislike of Trump will make them willing to forgive a candidate who fails to adopt all their favored policies if the candidate looks like a winner:

Most Democrats will have as their prime goal — far more important than positions taken by the candidates — making sure Trump does not have a second term.

Who you gonna believe– a bunch of political scientists using empirical data or all the pundits who just know the Democrats are going way too far left.

Image result for off a cliff

Will the world run out of people?

No.

But, this was a fascinating interview about how the standard UN predictions for population may be much too high.  And largely because they completely fail to account for one of the key drivers in fertility rates: women’s education.  Very interesting stuff here:

 By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren’t the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations.

But what if they’re wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed?

That’s the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. “In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline,” they write. “Once that decline begins, it will never end.”…

DB: So, the UN forecasting model inputs three things: fertility rates, migration rates, and death rates. It doesn’t take into account the expansion of education for females or the speed of urbanization (which are in some ways linked). The UN says they’re already baked into the numbers. But when I went and interviewed [the demographer] Wolfgang Lutz in Vienna, which was one of the first things we did, he walked me through his projections, and I walked out of the room gobsmacked. All he was doing was adding one new variable to the forecast: the level of improvement in female education. And he comes up with a much lower number for global population in 2100, somewhere between 8 billion and 9 billion.

JI: Lutz has this saying that the most important reproductive organ for human beings is your mind. That if you change how someone thinks about reproduction, you change everything. Based on his analysis, the single biggest effect on fertility is the education of women. The UN has a grim view of Africa. It doesn’t predict much change in terms of fertility over the first quarter of the century. But large parts of African are urbanizing at two times the rate of the global average. If you go to Kenya today, women have the same elementary education levels as men. As many girls as boys are sitting for graduation exams. So we’re not prepared to predict that Africa will stagnate in rural poverty for the rest of the century.

DB: And that’s just one cultural variable. So you can say that the old models always worked in the past, but what if the past is not prologue? What if we’re moving into a different cultural moment? What if it’s accelerating? And what if that cultural moment really is about the personal decisions women make about their lives?

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Good Atlantic article on the difficulty in actually achieving “potty parity” in building codes and public restroom design.  Of course, as long as they keep building restrooms with urinals right on top of each other with no or tiny dividers, I really question the judgement of the designers.

2) Seth Masket on what lessons the media should learn from 2016:

3) Really enjoyed Yglesias take/explanation of Elizabeth Warren’s pre-political book on family life and economics:

A glimpse of the electable Warren

Perhaps more than anyone else in the Democratic field, Warren’s prospects are haunted by worries about electability, whether framed in gendered terms around “likability” or in more data-driven terms that her 2018 reelection performance was a lot worse than you’d expect from a blue-state senator running in a Democratic wave year.

But while Two-Income Trap does not exactly reflect Warren’s current, much more ambitious, post–financial crisis policy agenda, it does outline a version of Warren that could be more broadly electorally appealing than her current national perception. The Warren of Two-Income Trap is fiercely progressive in championing the public interest over the bank lobby and her determination to clean up the political system, but is also attentive to the ways that poorly designed social programs can have perverse consequences.

And she’s very much not a dogmatic partisan or a member of any kind of establishment — sharply critical of the Republicans who pushed for the banks’ preferred bankruptcy law, but also savage in her attacks on prominent Democrats, including Biden and Hillary Clinton, who helped them do it.

Perhaps most importantly, Two-Income Trap Warren is offering a pitch for a progressive economic agenda that is squarely framed to appeal to people with moderate-to-conservative instincts on some social issues.

Democrats often seem to implicitly cast the “white working class” as composed exclusively of men who wear hard hats and work in factories while “women” are all ambitious professionals trying to balance family obligations with the drive to make partner or shatter glass ceilings in the C-suite. Two-Income Trap, by contrast, speaks to the questions recently raised by Tucker Carlson as to whether unfettered capitalism is undermining the traditional family.

Warren’s core argument in the book is that shifts in family life over the past couple of generations have not been all for the good, and that the explosion of economic inequality that’s accompanied them is part of the reason. Both the ideas she espouses in the book around bank regulation and the ideas she’s only later come to embrace fundamentally connect to this same theme that the kind of stable families conducive to child-rearing that conservatives idealize fundamentally require a different organization of the American economy.

It’s a framing of the relationship between the economy and family life that, while broadly compatible with the existing progressive policy agenda, is nonetheless pretty strikingly different. It has drawn praise from pundits who lean right on social issues but more to the center on economics. If Warren could translate that praise into actual electoral support from similarly inclined voters, it would give her a clear path to general election victory, which, in turn, seems to be the biggest doubt primary voters have about her.

4) Nobody watched the show “You” on Lifetime.  Then it began streaming on Netflix and became super popular.

5) Robin Givhan on the MAGA hat:

But the Make America Great Again hat is not a statement of policy. It’s a declaration of identity.

The MAGA hat. The acronym reads like a guttural cry. An angry roar. MAA-GAA! It calls out to a time — back in some sepia-tinged period — when America was greater than it is now, which for a lot of Americans means a time when this country still had a lot of work to do before it was even tolerant of — let alone welcoming to — them and their kind. Some see an era of single-income families, picket fences and unlocked doors. Others see little more than the heartbreak of redliningwalkers and beards, and the “problem that has no name.”

The past was not greater; it was simply the past. It’s only the soft-focus, judicious edit that looks so perfect and sweet.

In the beginning, the MAGA hat had multiple meanings and nuance. It could reasonably be argued that it was about foreign policy or tax cuts, social conservatism, the working class or a celebration of small-town life. But the definition has evolved. The rosy nostalgia has turned specious and rank. There’s nothing banal or benign about the hat, no matter its wearer’s intent. It was weaponized by the punch-throwing Trump rallygoers, the Charlottesville white supremacists, Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Kanye West and proponents of the wall, the wall, the wall.

6) I’m probably not going to be reading Jon Haidt’s book because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of it from his great interview with Ezra.  And this piece is a really nice summary (thanks, Nicole).  I do think he pushes some of his points too far (and most of academia is not elite liberal arts colleges), but I think he’s got some really important thoughts:

This is a book about three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

While many propositions are untrue, in order to be classified as a Great Untruth, an idea must meet three criteria:

  1. It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  2. It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  3. It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

We will show how these three Great Untruths—and the policies and political movements that draw on them—are causing problems for young people, universities, and, more generally, liberal democracies. To name just a few of these problems: Teen anxiety, depression, and suicide rates have risen sharply in the last few years. The culture on many college campuses has become more ideologically uniform, compromising the ability of scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers. Extremists have proliferated on the far right and the far left, provoking one another to ever deeper levels of hatred. Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture”; anyone can be publicly shamed for saying something well-intentioned that someone else interprets uncharitably. New-media platforms and outlets allow citizens to retreat into self-confirmatory bubbles, where their worst fears about the evils of the other side can be confirmed and amplified by extremists and cyber trolls intent on sowing discord and division…

To repeat, we are not saying that the problems facing students, and young people more generally, are minor or “all in their heads.” We are saying that what people choose to do in their heads will determine how those real problems affect them. Our argument is ultimately pragmatic, not moralistic: Whatever your identity, background, or political ideology, you will be happier, healthier, stronger, and more likely to succeed in pursuing your own goals if you do the opposite of what Misoponos advised. That means seeking out challenges (rather than eliminating or avoiding everything that “feels unsafe”), freeing yourself from cognitive distortions(rather than always trusting your initial feelings), and taking a generous view of other people, and looking for nuance (rather than assuming the worst about people within a simplistic us-versus-them morality).

7) It’s just over a year old, but Scott Alexander on the very minimal placebo effect was really interesting.

8) Yeah, it is crazy that somehow we don’t have seamless on-line micropayments by now.  As a lover of good journalism, in particular, this is a real shame.

9) Interesting technical/empirical exploration to conclude that women are better at free throws than men.

10) Tim Herrera on why you should share your salary.  Seems like such a taboo, so, not here.  But, for the record, as a public employee, it is public record.

11) Pacific Standard on the research on home cooking of my friend and NCSU Sociology professor, Sarah Bowen.

12) Wired, “Pesticides are harming bees in literally every way possible.”

13) Okay, I know it’s bad, but this dramatically warmer winter in Raleigh by 2050 (and many other US cities) sounds kind of pleasant.

14) Chait on the total economic failure of Trump’s tax cuts:

Not only was the Republican assumption that zero revenue would be lost too optimistic, and not only was the more modest “dynamic” model that presumed just a trillion-dollar revenue loss too optimistic, but the “static” revenue model was also too optimistic. The tax cuts are losing more than forecasters predicted even when they assumed it would do nothing to encourage growth.

And as for that spike in corporate investment last year? Alexander Arnonsuggests the entire thing was caused by higher oil prices. As oil prices go up, energy firms invest more money in sucking it out of the ground. “The response to the rise in oil prices,” he writes, “explains the entire increase in the growth rate of investment in 2018.”

Obviously the Trump tax cuts have had an effect. They have bequeathed a gigantic windfall benefit to business owners (as well as the heirs to large fortunes, who will have to pay even lower taxes on the largest inheritances). The Trump tax cuts are of a piece with the endemic corruption that has tied the party’s political class to its buffoonish president. He has made his partners richer, at least temporarily. But by the public-facing standards set out for it, as opposed to the private venal reasons, the Trump tax cuts have failed as miserably as everything else.

15) Never thought the Large Hadron Collider would be a failure.  But that’s essentially the case argues a physicist:

I used to be a particle physicist. For my Ph.D. thesis, I did L.H.C. predictions, and while I have stopped working in the field, I still believe that slamming particles into one another is the most promising route to understanding what matter is made of and how it holds together. But $10 billion is a hefty price tag. And I’m not sure it’s worth it.

In 2012, experiments at the L.H.C. confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson — a prediction that dates back to the 1960s — and it remains the only discovery made at the L.H.C. Particle physicists are quick to emphasize that they have learned other things: For example, they now have better knowledge about the structure of the proton, and they’ve seen new (albeit unstable) composite particles. But let’s be honest: It’s disappointing…

To date, particle physicists have no reliable prediction that there should be anything new to find until about 15 orders of magnitude above the currently accessible energies. And the only reliable prediction they had for the L.H.C. was that of the Higgs boson. Unfortunately, particle physicists have not been very forthcoming with this information. Last year, Nigel Lockyer, the director of Fermilab, told the BBC, “From a simple calculation of the Higgs’ mass, there has to be new science.” This “simple calculation” is what predicted that the L.H.C. should already have seen new science…

But big science experiments are investments in our future. Decisions about what to fund should be based on facts, not on shiny advertising. For this, we need to know when a prediction is just a guess. And if particle physicists have only guesses, maybe we should wait until they have better reasons for why a larger collider might find something new.

It is correct that some technological developments, like strong magnets, benefit from these particle colliders and that particle physics positively contributes to scientific education in general. These are worthy investments, but if that’s what you want to spend money on, you don’t also need to dig a tunnel.

Why are women more skeptical of genetically modified foods?

Are you thinking it’s because they are moms?  If so, wrong.  Anyway, if you read this blog, you know I have an interest in GM foods.  And you definitely know I have an interest in public opinion and parenthood.  And, yes, I did bring it all together in a recent research article (along with always-awesome-co-author Laurel Elder and new awesome co-author Mary-Kate Lizotte).  Here’s the abstract:

Ever since genetically modified (GM) foods were introduced into the food supply in the 1990s they have provoked debate and concern. The number of GM foods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and offered on supermarket shelves has steadily grown at the same time that public wariness about the safety of GM foods has increased. Studies within the scientific literature show a strikingly large gender gap in attitudes towards GM foods with women consistently more skeptical than men. However, there have been few efforts to understand the determinants of the gender gap on GM foods within the political science literature. This study employs a 2014 Pew Research Center survey on science issues to test several possible explanations for the gender gap in attitudes towards GM foods rooted in the different life experiences of women and men. The results show that while being a parent predicts more skeptical views about genetically modified foods overall it does not explain the gender gap in attitudes. In contrast, knowledge about science and having confidence in science do play a significant role in mediating the gender gap. By exploring the robust and pervasive gender gap on the issue of GM foods, this study sheds light on the fundamentally different ways men and women approach political issues.

And here’s a fun Q&A on the topic with my awesome NCSU news services friend, Matt Shipman,

The Abstract: What made you and your collaborators decide to dig into the gender gap on GM foods?

Steve Greene: I’ve always found the issue of GM foods particularly interesting, due to my scholarly interest in public opinion and personal interest in science. In most matters of GM foods, there’s a clear disjunction between what the science tells us (they are generally safe), and what the public at large actually believes (they are not safe). GM foods is just one of many issues with a gender gap, but since Laurel Elder and I have long been studying how parenthood shapes political attitudes, we thought it was an interesting case to see whether motherhood, in particular, could explain women’s greater skepticism towards GM foods.

TA: So how big is the gender gap?

Greene: As gender gaps go, this really is quite a big one. Where about 49 percent of the men in the Pew data agreed that GM food was “generally safe” only 30 percent of women agreed with that. On related questions about checking labels for GM ingredients and on scientists understanding risks of GM foods, there were also sizable gaps.

TA: I’ve heard people say that maternal protectiveness and concern are responsible for women’s skepticism regarding GM foods. Did the data bear that out?

Greene: One of the fun things about our research on public opinion and gender gaps, and on parenthood, is that ordinary people understand and have very clear hypotheses as to what might explain various gaps between men and women or mothers and fathers. Most of the people I talked to in the early stages of research expressed this very idea. Similarly, a study of GM food attitudes in Europe hypothesized this as well, though without directly testing it.

What we found, though, is that, yes, parenthood is really important for explaining more skeptical attitudes towards GM foods. But that applies just as much to men as to women. In short, moms are skeptical, but so are dads, so this did not explain the gender gap at all.

TA: So, what is responsible for the gender gap?

Greene: General orientations toward science and knowledge of science are largely responsible for the gender gap…

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