Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox’s Julia Belluz on Trump’s absurd anti birth control argument, “The Trump administration’s case against birth control is a stunning distortion of science:

As to why the White House is ignoring the evidence, we have some clues. One of the architects behind the new birth control rules is reportedly Matthew Bowman, a lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy (and anti-choice) group. Another top Trump adviser on health care is Katy Talento, an anti-abortionist who has claimed that side effects of hormonal birth include cancer and miscarriages. Trump put Teresa Manning, another anti-abortion lawyer who once said giving people easy access to the morning-after pill was “medically irresponsible” and “anti-family,” in charge of Title X, HHS’s federal family planning program. Trump’s positions on abortion have been wishy-washy, but it’s well known that Vice President Mike Pence has been crusading against reproductive rights for years.

2) The NYT’s [post-Trump] Republican’s guide to Presidential etiquette is terrific.

3) “Christian” women gather on the National Mall to criticize feminism.  And they’re pathetic:

For Linda Shebesta of Burleson, Tex., it was a day to pray alongside the family members of three generations who traveled to Washington with her. “We believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation. The enemy is trying to take it in another direction, not Christianity,” she said. She saw lots of proof of Satan at work during the Obama administration, especially the Supreme Court’s ruling authorizing same-sex marriage nationwide, she said. She’s relieved to see the Trump administration undoing many of Obama’s policies.

“We believe God put Donald Trump in,” Shebesta said.

Damn, God must have one hell of a sense of humor.

4) And the Onion nails it again, “EPA To Drop ‘E,’ ‘P’ From Name.”

5) Very nice TPM piece on how Russian propaganda exploits America’s prejudices.

6) Drum on Trump’s attempt to destroy the healthcare marketplace.  This is not hyperbole:

We’ve never before had a president who used millions of the poor and sick as pawns like this. It’s just plain evil.

7) Apparently, rather than relying on common sense, many in Silicon Valley are over-reacting to sexual harassment in the workplace in ways that are also harmful to women.

8) Sad story of an escaped Circus tiger.  I love the amazing exploits of humans in the circus.  I hate that the circus engages in horrible animal abuse while they are at it.

9) Why is Oklahoma’s female incarceration rate so high?  Because they are disturbingly, inhumanely, punitive about drug crimes.

10) Interesting to see how American sports fandom has changed over the past 5 years.  Yeah, professional soccer!

11) Interesting column on how the mistreatment of returning Vietnam Veterans is almost completely false and very persistent myth.

12) Seth Masket on the silliness of blaming Democrats for Harvey Weinstein’s behavior:

Harvey Weinstein’s support for Democrats, however, is highly unusual as political scandal material. His reprehensible and likely criminal alleged behavior has only become widely known in the past few weeks — nearly a year after the 2016 presidential election. To be sure, quite a few people in the entertainment industry seem to have known about the behavior he’s accused of for years to one extent or another. But it strains credulity to suggest that Clinton and Obama (whose teenage daughter interned for Weinstein last summer) knew the extent of Weinstein’s predatory tendencies in the past.

In sum, Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats are being blamed for having taken money in the past from someone who has recently been widely accused of being a sexual predator. It is akin to holding fans of the 1970s Buffalo Bills and the 1978 film Capricorn One accountable for O.J. Simpson’s behavior in 1994.

This sort of scandal coverage may be useful in the long run by promoting a discussion about the obligations candidates have to their donors and about the campaign finance system in general. But the idea that a recipient is somehow culpable for the later-disclosed criminal activity of a donor seems rather thin gruel.

13) Love Drum on the rage of rural voters:

The two big explanations for the rise of this rural anger (and the rise of Trump) revolve around economics and race. The modern economy has screwed these folks over and they’re tired of it. Or: they’re badly threatened by the growth of the nonwhite population. Which is it? Almost certainly both, and in any case it doesn’t matter much: both of these things are likely to get worse from their point of view. The nonwhite population share is obviously going to keep growing, and the economy of the future is only going to become ever more tilted toward the highly educated. If working-class whites really are enraged by either or both of these things, they’re only going to get more enraged as time goes by.

That’s especially true if they keep voting for Republicans, who will actively make these things worse while skillfully laying off the blame on “elites” and “Hollywood liberals.” Keeping the rage machine going is their ticket to political power.

How do we prick this bubble? Obama tried to give them cheap health care, and it enraged them. He passed stricter regulation on the Wall Street financiers who brought us the Great Recession, and they didn’t care. He fought to reduce their payroll taxes and fund infrastructure to help the economy get back on track, and they sneered that it was just a lot of wasted money that ballooned the national debt.

14) Tom Ricks with a great personal essay on the importance of a good editor.

15) Dana Milbank: the Bible according to Trump.  Good stuff.

16) Loved this post from Dan Kennedy on journalists’ obsessive needs for “both sides!” when it comes to the political parties.  No, it’s not both sides:

Washington Post columnist Dan Balz, who epitomizes establishment thinking as David Broder once did, went out of his way to balance the Democrats’ “leftward movement” with the Republicans’ “rightward shift” and warned that Democrats “must find a way to harness the movement into a political vision that is attractive to voters beyond the Democratic base.”

The problem is that no reasonable comparison can be made between the two parties’ ideological shifts. Long before the age of Trump, the Republicans established themselves as the party of no. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was impeached because of a personal scandal that would have — should have — remained a secret but that was revealed through a partisan Republican investigation. The filibuster became routine under Republican rule, making it impossible to conduct the business of the Senate. The Republicans refuse to talk about gun control or climate change. The party hit bottom by refusing even to consider Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee — a deeply transgressive breach of longstanding norms on the part of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. And all of this was before the race-baiting, white-supremacist-coddling Donald Trump became president…

The institutional desire for evenhandedness, though, is so deeply ingrained that journalists struggle to move beyond it. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen has called this the “production of innocence,” meaning that the press reflexively adopts equivalence between the two major parties as its default position even when the facts scream out against balance. “The conceit is that you can report and comment on politics truthfully while always and forever splitting the difference between the two sides so as to advertise your own status as perpetually non-aligned,” Rosen wrote. “What if that is not even possible? What if you have to risk the appearance of being partisan in order to describe accurately what is going on in a hyper-partisan situation?”

On a related note, so excited to be bringing Jay Rosen to NCSU in 10 days.

 

17) Digging around in SlateStarCodex the other day and really liked this post about adult developmental milestones.  Of course, I particularly liked it because I think I (and any decent social scientist, and many others, of course), have all of these.  And, because I think these are super-important.

Here are some other mental operations which seem to me to rise to the level of developmental milestones:

1. Ability to distinguish “the things my brain tells me” from “reality” – maybe this is better phrased as “not immediately trusting my system 1 judgments”. This is a big part of cognitive therapy – building the understanding that just because your brain makes assessments like “I will definitely fail at this” or “I’m the worst person in the world” doesn’t mean that you have to believe them. As Ozy points out, this one can be easier for people with serious psychiatric problems who have a lot of experience with their brain’s snap assessments being really off, as opposed to everyone else who has to piece the insight together from a bunch of subtle failures.

2. Ability to model other people as having really different mind-designs from theirs; for example, the person who thinks that someone with depression is just “being lazy” or needs to “snap out of it”. This is one of the most important factors in determining whether I get along with somebody – people who don’t have this insight tend not to respect boundaries/preferences very much simply because they can’t believe they exist, and to simultaneously get angry when other people violate their supposedly-obvious-and-universal boundaries and preferences.

3. Ability to think probabilistically and tolerate uncertainty. My thoughts on this were mostly inspired by another of David Chapman’s posts, which I’m starting to think might not be a coincidence.

4. Understanding the idea of trade-offs; things like “the higher the threshold value of this medical test, the more likely we’ll catch real cases but also the more likely we’ll get false positives” or “the lower the burden of proof for people accused of crimes, the more likely we’ll get real criminals but also the more likely we’ll encourage false accusations”. When I hear people discuss these cases in real life, they’re almost never able to maintain this tension and almost always collapse it to their preferred plan having no downside.

18) Finally saw Blade Runner 2049Vox a few days ago.  Loved the visuals, the general story, and the themes.  That said, a good example of more is less.  This would have been a much better 2 hour movie than the 2:45 it was.  Also, I was really disappointed in the score as I so love Vangelis’ score for the original and here the composers seemed to want to make up for lack of melody with loudness.  Appreciated Alyssa Wilkonson’s review for also pointing out these flaws.

 

 

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Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

Yet nothing happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11) Loved Thomas Friedman on the Las Vegas shooter:

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

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

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

But what happens when the country of origin is us?

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

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

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

13) So, this is a real thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

19) How computers turned gerrymandering into a science.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Ross Douthat’s lacerating take on Hugh Hefner.

2) Love Megan McArdle’s take on universities using graduate schools as a cash cow:

We should, however, be concerned because the cost is spreading. Having finally reached the limits of American parents to bear ever-increasing bills for undergraduate tuition, struggling colleges are now turning to graduate programs to fund their operations. Indeed, schools often encourage graduate students’ naïve faith, painting a rosy picture of future employment prospects that is, to say the very least, highly selective. 3

It’s bad enough that schools do this; it’s worse still that the American taxpayer is helping them. For it is hard not to suspect that the proliferation of master’s degrees programs has less to do with exploding employer demand for advanced degrees in Jewish studies or public history, and more to do with the availability of student loans to fund those degrees. The government caps the amount that undergraduates can borrow, but offers graduate students considerably more rope with which to hang themselves.

3) Of course Republicans don’t want you to see a report with inconvenient findings on corporate taxation.

4) Why the recent Supreme Court case is the perfect one for overturning the scourge that is gerrymandering.

5) Joe Nocera on the FBI and NCAA College basketball, “The FBI Is Doing the NCAA’s Dirty Work: Charges of corruption and bribery in college basketball are about amateurism rules, not laws.”

6) Brian Resnick on fake news and the illusory truth effect:

But each time a reader encounters one of these stories on Facebook, Google, or really anywhere, it makes a subtle impression. Each time, the story grows more familiar. And that familiarity casts the illusion of truth.

Recent and historical work in psychology shows mere exposure to fake news makes it spread. To understand why — and the extent to which false stories seep into our brains — we need to understand the psychology of the illusory truth effect…

The illusory truth effect has been studied for decades — the first citations date back to the 1970s. Typically, experimenters in these studies ask participants to rate a series of trivia statements as true or false. Hours, weeks, or even months later, the experimenters bring the participants back again for a quiz.

On that second visit, some of the statements are new and some are repeats. And it’s here that the effect shows itself: Participants are reliably more likely to rate statements they’ve seen before as being true — regardless of whether they are.

When you’re hearing something for the second or third time, your brain becomes faster to respond to it. “And your brain misattributes that fluency as a signal for it being true,” says Lisa Fazio, a psychologist who studies learning and memory at Vanderbilt University. The more you hear something, the more “you’ll have this gut-level feeling that maybe it’s true.”

Most of the time, this mental heuristic — a thinking shortcut — helps us. We don’t need to rack our brains every time we hear “the Earth is round” to decide if it’s true or not. Most of the things we hear repeated over and over again are, indeed, true. But falsehoods can hijack this mental tic as well.

7) That whole IRS Tea Party scandal, we now know (and had clues back then), was not actually a scandal.  The reporters and editors involved should be embarrassed:

The issue might have become part of what Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan has called the “scandal attention cycle” — the rapid surge of attention as reporters race to cover an issue followed by a similar decline as the news media loses interest. “The problem is that it often takes time for the full set of facts to come out,” Nyhan has written. “By that time, the story is old news and the more complex or ambiguous details that often emerge are buried or ignored.”

Indeed, the original claims by Republicans were widely reported “without much investigation,” said DeWayne Wickham, dean of the journalism school at Morgan State University and a former columnist for USA Today.

News organizations, Wickham said, “do too much repeating and not enough reporting. As a result, journalists often use the work of other journalists as the primary source of the news they report. In the case of the IRS story, this problem was compounded by an obsession that a lot news organizations have with proving they are balanced in their coverage of the warring between the political right and left.”

8) And Paul Waldman on what this tells us about Republican corruption.

9) Really nice Dahlia Lithwick piece on Supreme Court jurisprudence on gun control and the current ambiguity.

10) Michael Shermer, “Guns Aren’t a Bulwark Against Tyranny. The Rule of Law Is.”

Gun-rights advocates also make the grandiose claim that gun ownership is a deterrent against tyrannical governments. Indeed, the wording of the Second Amendment makes this point explicitly: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That may have made sense in the 1770s, when breech-loading flintlock muskets were the primary weapons tyrants used to conquer other peoples and subdue their own citizens who could, in turn, equalize the power equation by arming themselves with equivalent firepower. But that is no longer true…

If you think stock piling firearms from the local Guns and Guitars store, where the Las Vegas shooter purchased some of his many weapons, and dressing up in camouflage and body armor is going to protect you from an American military capable of delivering tanks and armored vehicles full Navy SEALs to your door, you’re delusional…

A civil society based on the rule of law with a professional military to protect its citizens from external threats; a police force to protect civilians from internal dangers; a criminal justice system to peacefully settle disputes between the state and its citizenry; and a civil court system to enable individuals to resolve conflicts nonviolently — these institutions have been the primary drivers in the dramatic decline of violence over the past several centuries, not an increasingly well-armed public. [emphasis mine]

11) Thomas Edsall with a deep dive on how changing attitudes towards immigration in the Midwest did in Hillary.

12) Nice Upshot graphic (and article) on what gun control policies experts think are effective and have public support.

13) This “why we never talk about ‘Black on Black crime'” essay is terrific.

An academic economy fueled by unrealistic optimism

Really enjoyed this Noah Smith column on the excess of woefully underpaid adjunct instructors in academia.  And why are there so many woefully underpaid adjuncts?  Because far too many PhD’s are willing to work for horrible wages (hey, supply and demand!) in the totally unrealistic hope that they will go from being an adjunct to a full time tenure-track faculty member.  Plenty of faculty members scramble for a year or two after PhD (though, in my experience, the long-term successful ones typically do so in full-time non-tenure track positions), but if its much more than that, clearly time to think about putting one’s intellect and education into a different line of work.  Of course, that’s hard, because being a tenured professor is the the greatest job in the world, but even without it, most people will still be plenty happy.  Anyway, Smith’s take:

Why would a highly educated, skilled worker in a rich country such as the U.S. condemn herself to a life in the poorhouse? Surely, someone with the intellectual firepower to teach college students could get a job in digital-media marketing, or as a paralegal, or in any of the other middle-class occupations available to educated, hard-working Americans.

One answer is that adjuncts are making such sacrifices for the chance to pursue the academic dream. That would put academia in roughly the same class of occupations as acting and professional sports, where large numbers of unsuccessful lower-level aspirants struggle for years in the hopes of landing a coveted chance at a glamorous, high-status position.

But how many adjuncts really achieve that moonshot? I couldn’t find data on the likelihood of making that leap, but anecdotally it’s said to be unusual. And there are certainly several huge barriers in place. The first is simply long odds — with the number of tenure-track positions barely growing and adjunct numbers exploding, the chance of going from the latter to the former keeps getting worse. Second, tenure-track jobs often the result of publishing research — unlike grad students, adjuncts often hold other jobs and don’t have a lot of extra time to work on papers. Third, in order to interview for tenure-track jobs, adjuncts typically have to pay their own travel costs and conference-registration fees (unlike other candidates). And fourth, there’s the chance that a long career as an adjunct simply makes a candidate look less promising, even before age discrimination is taken into account.

There are other reasons to be a poor adjunct, of course. Some people undoubtedly love teaching college kids, and are willing to endure poverty in order to do it. Others are retired and need something to do. But it’s possible that many adjuncts are desperately chasing an academic illusion that, realistically, they will never catch. Overoptimism is one of the most consistent findings in the psychology literature on behavioral biases…

The only solution is for fewer people to go into the non-tenure-track college lecturing profession. Lower the supply of overoptimistic quasi-academics willing to endure relentless poverty to cling to the fading light of the university fantasy, and the wages of adjuncts should rise. [emphasis mine]

Gender roles

Really interesting Pew survey on Americans’ views of gender roles and marriage.  Some key charts:

Not much commentary to add, but the persistence in attitudes regarding financial support is very telling.

Quick hits (part II)

1) On President Obama crying after leaving Malia at college. That’ll be me someday.

2) Aaron Blake on Trump’s absurd Puerto Rico tweets yesterday:

Anybody who is surprised at this from a president who attacked a former prisoner of war for being a prisoner of war, criticized a Gold Star family and made fun of a reporter’s physical disability has a short memory. This is who Trump is. He doesn’t accept criticism and move on; he brings a bazooka to a knife fight — even when those wielding the knife are trying to save lives.

But it’s also hugely counterproductive. In three tweets, Trump has moved a simmering, somewhat-negative story for his administration to the front burner. He decided to attack a sympathetic character and turn this into a partisan political debate. Cruz is pleading for help by saying, “We are dying.” Trump essentially told her to stop complaining. He’s also arguing that somebody who is in charge of saving lives is somehow more interested in politics. That’s a stunning charge…

Trump may succeed in getting his base to fight back against the narrative that the Puerto Rico recovery isn’t going well. And perhaps this will all result in the same political stalemate we’ve seen on so many Trump-related controversies, with 35 percent to 40 percent of the country standing by Trump, and most of the rest being outraged.

But that’s not really the point. Most controversies are temporary and blow over. Puerto Rico is a legacy issue for Trump — something that, like Hurricane Katrina, could color views of him for years or decades to come.

3) I had vaguely heard of this “four tendencies” framework and a friend said that it really helped her understand her child.  I’m very much a questioner.  Curious about your thoughts on this and its validity.

4) Great Ezra Klein piece on the broken Senate.  This is going to my Intro and Public Policy classes.

The root issue here is that the Senate’s legislative process has been upended by the abusive use of the filibuster, and neither party has been willing or able to address it. The result is the US Senate is moving towards a process where major bills are protected from filibusters, but the cost of that protection is those bills are distorted by a nonsensical process where the goal is surviving parliamentary challenge, not writing the best policy. The possible costs here are immense: a future in which most significant legislation is drafted poorly and the country is left to suffer the consequences.

“Reconciliation was designed for minor budgetary adjustments, not major policy proposals,” said Alan Frumin, a former Senate parliamentarian.

Neither party likes this state of affairs. Neither party meant to create this state of affairs. And it’s time both parties had the courage to come together and address it.

5) Catherine Rampell on the “ridiculous” GOP tax plan.

6) Drum points out that the vast majority of economists think the GOP is a joke on taxes.

7) Pornhub, yes Pornhub, taking major steps to help users with visual impairments.

8) German Lopez, “A massive review of the evidence shows letting people out of prison doesn’t increase crime.”

9) Cory Booker knows that to end mass incarceration, we have to address it at the state level.  John Pfaff on why that’s such a hard problem:

But any federal law aimed at reducing state incarceration rates must confront the fact that criminal justice costs and benefits are scattered across agencies at every level of government. Decarceration will create winners and losers, and the losers are going to fight to keep prisons full. Any federal action that is blind to these realities will fail.

10) There is no free speech crisis on campus.

More interesting than the flaws in the poll’s execution is the buried lede: the poll failed. Look behind the absurd headlines and the poll demonstrates the opposite conclusion. College students are much more open to free speech than the general public. If it’s “chilling” that 20% of college students misunderstand free speech, what word should we use to describe the quarter of the American public and almost half of Republicans who support censoring unfavorable media outlets. Also from this poll, the college students who identified as Democrats were more open to free speech than their Republican peers. And perhaps the most important lesson from these poll results: a carefully constructed poll can get a small minority of respondents to endorse almost anything.

There is no public space in America more open to diverse opinions than our college campuses. What we are seeing there is not a crisis of tolerance, but a stark collapse in support for the Party of Donald Trump among the cream of a rising generation.

11) Republicans are pushing tax cuts, not tax reform, as Ryan Lizza explains.  I sure wish the media understood the difference.

Instead of doing the hard work of crafting a revenue-neutral tax reform, which requires taking on powerful political constituencies and working with Democrats, Republicans will fall back on arguing that the economic effects of the tax legislation will be so powerful that it will pay for itself with growth.

12) As Paul Waldman puts it, “the media needs a tax tutorial.”

To appreciate how the press is allowing the GOP to deceive the public, you first have to understand the fundamental argument Republicans are making. Their central justification for the tax cuts is that while it looks like they’re a big giveaway to the elite, in fact they are sprinkled with a magical pixie dust that not only spreads their benefits to everyone, but enables us to cut $1.5 trillion in taxes over the next 10 years without costing the government a cent. In fact, not only won’t the deficit go up, it will go down!

This argument is, in a word, false. Untrue, bogus, fallacious, fraudulent, phony. Yet again and again, reporters allow it to go unchallenged…

Which is why, every single time a Republican makes the claim that cutting taxes will create jobs and increase growth, the journalist doing the interview has an obligation — not an option, but an obligation — to say, “Hold on a minute. According to all the evidence we have, what you just said is false. Can you tell me what evidence you have for that claim?”

That’s not combative or hostile or biased, it’s basic journalism. It’s making sure that important political figures don’t throw up a fog of misleading justifications for what they’d trying to do. We may not be able to stop them from trying to deceive the public. But we don’t have to make it easy.

13) Don’t ever get stung by a tarantula hawk (wasp).  If you do, “just lie down and start screaming.”

14) Nice Brett Stephens column on the dying art of disagreement.

15) Why we cannot destroy hurricanes with bombs (or anything else).

16) How do public employees in NC get a $50,000 raise?  Political connections, of course, from those Republican stewards of taxpayer dollars.

17) Kind of crazy how Richard Rorty predicted Trump about 20 years ago.

Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

18) How technology has changed news photography.

19) Trump’s attempts to the contrary, Americans actually understand what the NFL protests are about.

20) Can American basketball teams build better players by following the model of European soccer?

 

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m loving all the Wirecutter stories in my FB feed these days.  I’m especially intrigued by the idea of a carry-on carry-on bag.

2) Frum (back in February) makes a case for what effective anti-Trump protest should look like:

It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era.

The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.

You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.

Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day. Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner––like these protesters at LAX, in video posted by The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf. Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.

3) Stan Greenberg’s take on why Clinton lost.

4) Garrett Epps‘, “America’s Red and Blue Judges: Justice Neil Gorsuch exemplifies how the Supreme Court has become fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics.”

5) Chait on how Trump bungled the politics of the NFL:

These comments had two swift effects, each disastrous for the president. First, it turned the question away from the style of the protest to the right to conduct it. The national anthem is a potent symbol of patriotism, but so is the First Amendment to the Constitution. “No, I don’t agree with [Trump], said University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh Saturday, “That’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Even pro-Trump coaches and owners began to issue statements attacking the president. “I’m pissed off,” said Rex Ryan. “I supported Donald Trump. [These comments] are appalling to me … I never signed up for that.”

Second, it turned the pregame drama into an anti-Trump protest. The pregame kneel has now become a spectacle of resistance, with dramatic gestures of white players joining black ones to oppose the crude attacks from the great orange bigot. Fans who might have complained before about politics being inserted into football — as if the bloated displays of military might attached to the NFL were not a form of politics — could no longer miss that Trump was now more likely than anybody else to politicize the game.

6) Eric Reid’s NYT Op-Ed on why he kneels is awesome and eloquent.  Puts the haters to shame.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

7) John Pavlovitz, “White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee.”

8) Literally the one non-dessert food all the Greene’s will eat?  Pancakes.  The science behind what makes them so good.

9) Not at all surprising to learn, “Obesity surgery may work by remaking your gut microbiome.”

10) Every single cognitive bias in one infographic.

11) Didn’t realize that so many website started pushing video as a way to increase ad revenue.  That said, I’m surprised that this CJR story did not mention that for your typical informative story, video is just a way, way less efficient way to consume information.

12) The saddest part on so many Republicans and their racial resentment is how oblivious they are to it.  This is the Republican candidate for mayor of Raleigh.  Looks like he changed the settings on the original post, but here’s the screenshot:

13) Tom Price is just an amazing sleazeball.  Good riddance!  Nice NYT editorial on what he represents in Trump’s view of public service.

14) James Hamblin of ongoing Republican efforts to sabotage ACA.

15) Jay Bilas on the NCAA after the FBI investigation:

In the movie “Jurassic Park,” actor Jeff Goldblum’s character had a memorable line — “Life finds a way.” In my view, the same goes for money. In college sports, money will find a way. Money will always find a way, because the NCAA and its member institutions are addicted to money and will continue to chase it. That seems beyond reasonable dispute…

The NCAA could act as The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club if it wished. The Masters does not allow commercialization of its product beyond its comfort level and has rules for its media partners. Augusta National could make far more money off that property if it wished, but it finds other things more important. Not the NCAA. If your decisions reveal your priorities, the NCAA’s first priority is money.

16) A remarkably candid admission from a Freedom Caucus stalwart that deficits only matter when Democrats are president.

17) The latest research finds that “broken windows” policing may actually lead to more crime.

18) Drum makes the case for bringing pork barrel spending back to Congress:

It’s not hard to guess why. Party leaders are the ones responsible for wrangling enough votes to pass big, complicated bills. To do that, they need to be willing to pressure members for votes any way they can. Offering a wavering member a freeway on-ramp or a senior center in her district may not be the most important bit of leverage they have, but sometimes it’s enough to get the final few votes they need to cross the finish line. Is this unseemly? Maybe, but former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle thinks the earmark system was a net positive anyway: “It wasn’t pretty,” he admitted in 2014, “but it worked.”

Here’s another dirty secret: Earmarks don’t actually cost anything. Overall spending levels are set by Congress in appropriations bills, and bureau­cratic formulas decide how much money goes to each state. Earmarks merely redirect some of that spending; they don’t add to it.

19) Latest thorough research suggests that campaigning of all sorts has virtually no impact in persuading voters of whom to vote for.  That said, there still is evidence for its effects on turnout.

20) Why yes, we should “get the keg out of the frat house.”

Alcohol is the wellspring of most fraternity vice, and evidence shows that reducing drinking at chapters makes them safer — and not just for fraternity brothers. According to the National Institute of Justice, women who frequent frat parties are more likely to become victims of “incapacitated sexual assault.” Many fraternity brothers and alumni maintain that fraternities shouldn’t be blamed for excessive drinking — that it is just a part of college life — but the numbers tell a different story.

Study after study has shown that fraternity men are the heaviest drinkers on campus. According to Harvard public-health research, considered the most definitive, 86 percent of men living in chapter houses binge on alcohol, twice the level of those who live elsewhere. A University of Maine survey found that three-quarters of fraternity members report they’ve been hazed, including being forced to drink into unconsciousness.

(That said, let’s not ignore selection bias in these statistics).

21) Peter Beinart on how Republicans are not apparently totally okay with Roy Moore’s blatant anti-Muslim prejudice.

22) And Chait on the GOP surrender:

Moore has openly defied legal authority in service of his belief that his theology overrides the authority of the United States government. This ought to disqualify Moore for service in public office, the most minimal qualification for which is a profession of respect for the rule of law. And yet, rather than declaring Moore unfit to serve, Republicans have endorsed his candidacy. Their stated qualms are limited to the concern that he might fail to vote for their tax-cut plan.

“He’s going to be for tax reform, I think,” Ohio senator Rob Portman of Ohio tells Politico. “Who won? I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes,” adds Nevada senator Dean Heller. If America slides into authoritarianism, the history of the Republican Party’s complicity could be titled, “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes.” [emphasis mine]

23) Interesting feature on how Darrell Hammond lost his SNL Trump impression to Alec Baldwin.

24) Lee Drutman on our era of super-competitive national elections and non-competitive state elections is great.  Here’s a key chart:

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