Quick hits (part II)

0) Happy Birthday to me (46th).

1) Chait on Trump’s absurd comb-over and what it says about him.  And some nice mocking from Comedy Central.

It was the worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life. And it may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss. But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short. He sees his succession of wives as visual testament to his own status. He selects his Cabinet on the basis of their looking the part. He conscripts the military as a prop to bathe himself in an aura of presidential grandeur.

Trump’s absurd hair is of a piece with his lifelong attempt to market himself as a brilliant deal-maker and stable genius. So yes, it is okay to laugh when the ruse is exposed.

2) More on motherhood and the gender wage gap via the Upshot:

Two studies of college-educated women in the United States found that they made almost as much as men until ages 26 to 33, when many women have children. By age 45, they made 55 percent as much as men.

In Sweden, a recent study found, female executives are half as likely as men to be chief executives, and one-third less likely to be high earners — even when they were more qualified for these jobs than men. Most of the difference was explained by women who were working shorter hours and taking time off work in the five years after their first child was born.

As any parent knows, children come with a host of time-consuming responsibilities. Someone has to do the work. In most opposite-sex couples, that someone is the mother.

There are different explanations for this, researchers say. Women may have intrinsic preferences to do more of this work, or couples could decide it’s most efficient to divide the labor this way. It could also be that social norms about traditional gender roles influence men and women to behave this way.

3) And I’ve got to admit to being guilty by giving my daughter totally gendered toys, i.e., My Little Pony, Barbie, etc.  Of course, this is what she asks for (for which we can presumably blame peer influence and all those commercials on Nickelodeon), but, yeah, I probably should try harder to counter-act this.

4) As if we needed more evidence that many on-line degree programs are a joke (I can personally attest that NCSU’s LPS program is not), an on-line student at Southern New Hampshire University failed an assignment in which the instructor argued, quite persistently, that Australia was a continent, but not a country.

5) Just a friendly reminder that the US Constitution largely does not apply in important ways within 100 miles of the US border.  And, yes, this encompasses most of the country’s population.

6) More evidence on getting the human microbiome off on the right foot via vaginal birth and breastfeeding:

Many studies have strongly suggested that the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the human body influence our current and future health and may account for the rising incidence of several serious medical conditions now plaguing Americans, young and old.

The research indicates that cesarean deliveries and limited breast-feeding can distort the population of microorganisms in a baby’s gut and may explain the unchecked rise of worrisome health problems in children and adults, including asthma, allergies, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes and obesity. These conditions, among others, are more likely to occur when an infant’s gut has been inadequately populated by health-promoting bacteria…

For example, a Danish study of two million children born between 1977 and 2012 found that those born by cesarean delivery were significantly more likely than those born vaginally to develop asthma, systemic connective tissue disorders, juvenile arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, immune deficiencies and leukemia.

7) Really interesting NYT piece on what teenagers are learning from porn.  Short version– it’s not good.  Had a great discussion about this with my NCSU students.  Probably also need a discussion about it with my boys.

8) Love this from Dylan Matthews.  Sure, John Kelly may be a relative grown-up in the White House.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t nonetheless represent much of the worst of Trumpism.

 I would go further, though, and say that Kelly, personally, has become an unacceptable symbol of the worst tendencies of this White House. When he was appointed, he was greeted with widespread bipartisan praise, as a “grown-up” capable of bringing order to an anarchic administration. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Kelly was “in a position where he can stabilize this White House.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called him “one of the strongest and most natural leaders I’ve ever known.”

But from his time as secretary of homeland security, when he aggressively stepped up immigration raids, including ones sweeping up non-criminals whom immigration enforcement agents weren’t even targeting, Kelly has aligned himself with the hardline anti-immigrant wing of the Trump administration. Not coincidentally, he has also repeatedly expressed extreme disrespect for Americans who are not white.

It was not a coincidence that both Rep. Wilson and Myeshia Johnson, the war widow for whom she advocated, are black women. It was not a coincidence that Kelly praised Gen. Lee, who fought to prevent the expansion of rights (including the right to not be owned as chattel) to black Americans. It was not a coincidence that he describes unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as children, a group that’s disproportionately Latino, as lazy.

Nor is it a coincidence, now, that Kelly appears to have repeatedly disregarded women and instead protected their abusers. He chose Rob Porter over the three women who accused him, and a Marine officer who admitted to harassing a female subordinate over that subordinate — who was also a fellow Marine, and much more worthy of Kelly’s loyalty, camaraderie, and brotherhood.

The Trump administration recoils from accusations that it does not care about nonwhite Americans or women. Instead of getting defensive, this time it should try to prove its critics wrong by ejecting a man who has exemplified those tendencies, who has repeatedly disrespected black and Latino Americans and shown no concern for the physical safety of women. The absolute least it can do is force John Kelly to resign.

9) Could really do without all the hyperbolic language in Rebecca Shulman’s Slate article on how German parenting is simply better.  That said, I’m inclined to agree that German parenting is simpler better (largely, because they give their kids far more freedom and independence).  Personally, especially love encouraging kids to play with fire.  Hey, I do that!  Must be my German heritage coming through :-).

10) Really enjoyed this NYT feature on the existing border wall with Mexico.

11) Whoa!  Where has all the sex gone?

American adults, on average, are having sex about nine fewer times per year in the 2010s compared to adults in the late 1990s, according to a team of scholars led by the psychologist Jean Twenge. That’s a 14 percent decline in sexual frequency. Likewise, the share of adults who reported having sex “not at all” in the past year rose from 18 percent in the late 1990s to 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the General Social Survey…

Similar trends are apparent among younger men and women. In the early 2000s, about 73 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 had sex at least twice a month. That fell to 66 percent in the period from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the GSS.

Other 18- to 30-year-olds aren’t doing it at all. From 2002 to 2004, 12 percent of them reported having no sex in the preceding year. A decade later, during the two years from 2014 to 2016, that number rose to 18 percent.

Sex is also down among teenagers. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in the share of high school students who said they ever had sex: from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Sexual activity among teenagers fell the most between 2013 and 2015, about the same time that sex took a real dip among 18- to 30-year-old adults…

What’s driving this sexual counter-revolution? It’s too early to offer definitive answers, but a few hypotheses seem especially plausible.

First, while they are not socially conservative, the members of the millennial (born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) and iGen (born since the mid-1990s) generations are more cautious on average than earlier generations, and hence more inclined to focus on the emotional and physical risks of sex, rather than its joys. Raised by helicopter parents, these young adults take fewer risks. As a group, they drink less, drive less, and they also hit the sheets less. Today’s young adults have gotten the message—think MTV’s 16 and Pregnant—that sex and pregnancy can be a threat to them and their future. Tyrone, a 20-year-old man, put it this way to Twenge for her book, iGen: His generation is having less sex “because of fear of pregnancy and disease.” He added, “There’s a bunch of commercials and television shows and stuff trying to teach you a lesson.”

12) Yes, Americans should totally do more babysitting for each other!

13) Jordan Weissman on how the GOP’s deficits are terrible for our politics:

Forget the GOP’s obvious hypocrisy on spending—ever since the Bush era, it’s been clear that elected conservatives do not really care about deficits, except insofar as they make a handy club for whacking Democrats. Instead, worry about the lessons Republicans might draw from this experience. During Obama’s presidency, the GOP’s mania for spending cuts—and its ability to wring budget concessions out of the president—was an anchor on the economy at a critical moment when millions were suffering from the aftermath of a financial catastrophe. Yet, the party suffered precisely zero political consequences. Instead, they’re in power in part because of the slow, post-crises economy at the end stages of a recovery that could help them hold onto Congress in 2018. Moreover, its clear that nobody actually expects them to make good on their rhetoric about fiscal prudence. They’ve abandoned it pretty much without punishment. Pushing austerity during a downturn and priming the pump when the economy is near full health might turn out to be an incredibly canny political strategy, even if it may have been unplanned. If there ever comes another time when sabotaging the economy might work to Republicans’ advantage, they have every incentive to do it again. [emphasis mine]

14) So, I’m going to be reviewing some students for scholarships soon and it really got me thinking about what sorts of character traits a reviewer might want to see.  I thought to myself “intellectual humility.”  Turns out, that is a thing.  It also led me to this nice Tom Friedman column on how to get a job at google:

And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” It is why research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” said Bock.

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ ” You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.

That’s good stuff.  That said, it seems to be hard enough to find in 40-somethings.  I wonder how much you find in high-achieving young adults.

15) Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the sea turns 20.  One of the very best albums ever.

16) Michael Lewis on Trump and Bannon.  So, so much goodness:

Bannon has a favorite line: If I had to choose who will run the country, 100 Goldman Sachs partners or the first 100 people who walk into a Trump rally, I’d choose the people at the Trump rally. I have my own version of this line: If I had to choose a president, Donald Trump or anyone else I’ve ever known, I’d choose anyone else I’ve ever known. Among the revelations of Wolff’s book was just how many of the people in and around Trump’s White House feel more or less as I do…

He just thinks I’m missing the point. “What was needed was a blunt force instrument, and Trump was a blunt force instrument,” he says. Trump may be a barbarian. He may be in many senses stupid. But in Bannon’s view, Trump has several truly peculiar strengths. The first is his stamina. “I give a talk to a room with 50 people and I’m drained afterward,” Bannon says. “This guy got up five and six times a day in front of 10,000 people, day in and day out. He’s 70! Hillary Clinton couldn’t do that. She could do one.” The public events were not trivial occasions, in Bannon’s view. They whipped up the emotion that got Trump elected: anger. “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” he says. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.”

The ability to tap anger in others was another of Trump’s gifts, and made him, uniquely in the field of Republican candidates, suited to what Bannon saw as the task at hand: Trump was himself angry. The deepest parts of him are angry and dark, Bannon told Wolff. Exactly what Trump has to be angry about was unclear. He’s had all of life’s advantages. Yet he acts like a man who has been cheated once too often, and is justifiably outraged. What Bannon loved was the way Trump sounded when he was angry. He’d gone to the best schools, but he had somehow emerged from them with the grammar and diction of an uneducated person. “The vernacular,” Bannon called Trump’s odd way of putting things. Other angry people, some of whom actually had been cheated by life, thrilled to its sound.

 

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Farhad Manjoo on the legal marijuana economy:

That growth is driven, start-ups in the industry say, by a simple idea: The humble hand-rolled joint was holding marijuana back.

By breaking marijuana free from smoking and its paraphernalia, new delivery methods — especially portable vapes — are transforming the image and utility of cannabis, and helping it grab a mainstream audience. In the booming new market, the drug of lazy stoners is being rebranded by start-ups as the “wellness” drug of tomorrow. It’s a cure-all for an anxious, tech-addled society — a salve for every ailment, a balm for every mood, ibuprofen meets a glass of red wine cut with Prozac and a hint of Deepak Chopra, all delivered to your door.

2) Really interesting article about how little we still understand about colic.  Other than that it’s hell for new parents.  (Those were the days, 18 years ago).

3) Robots that use algorithms to shake cherry trees and the future of robots in agriculture.

4) I find the Mormon debate on whether the religion actually forbids all caffeinated drinks or just coffee and tea really fascinating.  I first learned about this from a Diet-Coke-loving LDS friend back in graduate school.

4) Tyler Cowen on how police unions work to undermine the rule of law.  Really pretty disgusting stuff:

Earlier I wrote about how police unions around the country give to every officer dozens of “get out of jail” cards to give to friends, family, politicians, lawyers, judges and other connected people. The cards let police on the street know that the subject is to be given “professional courtesy” and they can be used to get out of speeding tickets and other infractions. Today, drawing on the Police Union Contracting Project, I discuss how union contracts and Law Officer “Bill of Rights” give police legal privileges that regular people don’t get.

In 50 cities and 13 states, for example, union contracts “restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.” In Virginia police officers have a right to at least a five-day delay before being interrogated. In Louisiana police officers have up to 30 days during which no questioning is allowed and they cannot be questioned for sustained periods of time or without breaks. In some cities, police officers can only be interrogated during work hours. Regular people do not get these privileges.

The key to a good interrogation is that the suspect doesn’t know what the interrogator knows so the suspect can be caught in a lie which unravels their story. Thus, the Florida Police Bill of Rights is stunning in what it allows police officers:

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer.

By knowing what the interrogators know, the suspect can craft a story that fits the known facts–and the time privilege gives them the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, how do you think complainants feel knowing that the police officer they are complaining about “must be informed of the names of all complainants.” I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous. Would you come forward?

How effective would criminal interrogations be if the following rules held for ordinary citizens?

5) CRISPR is definitely an awesome technology, but getting it to the point where it can cure genetic diseases in humans is no simple task.

6) Loved this two-minute Pew video on how random sampling works.  This will definitely be shown in future Intro classes.

7) Yglesias on how Trump isn’t really the president (or, as he admits on twitter, a very, very weak one):

The two big Republican policy pushes of 2018 — the failed drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the successful push to enact a large corporate tax cut — were led primarily by Congress rather than by the executive branch. That’s natural given Trump’s hazy level of interest in policy detail and the intense interest of the GOP caucus in these matters.

What’s become clear over the past few weeks as immigration has taken center stage, however, is that even in a process that is very much driven by the executive branch, it’s notdriven by Donald Trump. Trump has stronger feelings about immigration and a stronger political profile on it than either Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. But he simply lacks the disposition and intellectual capacity to do the job of president of the United States as it’s conventionally defined. He doesn’t have a handle on the contours of the NAFTA negotiations, the state of the economy, or even “his own” immigration policy.

He seems unaware of both the origins of the current standoff and the main subjects of disagreement between the parties. He’s the one who installed the team of anti-immigration hardliners — Chief of Staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and senior adviser Stephen Miller — who appear to be actually driving the process, so he’s responsible for what’s going on. But he’s not actually doing the work and, indeed, seems to have much less familiarity with his own policies and negotiating stances than a typical journalist or member of Congress.

8) Nice interview with Bill Kristol (or “woke Bill Kristol” as liberal twitter likes to refer to him).

9) No fixing gerrymandering is hardly a panacea that would solve our political ills, but it is still very much worth doing.  Harry Enten pretty much admits as much while making the strong case that gerrymandering is as much a symptom than a cause.  This chart is really something else:

10) Interesting take on how McGahn’s refusal to fire Trump is the Republican establishment striking back:

Imagine trying to return to Jones Day—or some equivalent firm—after firing Robert Mueller. In the words of Norm Eisen, President Obama’s former ethics czar, who has tussled with McGahn for many years, “He didn’t want that personal baggage. What’s he going to do for a living, go live in a frat house with Steve Bannon and Dr. Price and Sean Spicer and people that can’t get a job?”

McGahn may have genuinely believed firing Mueller was wrong. But people don’t always do the right thing because a small, still voice tells them to. Sometimes it’s the loud, collective voice of their community threatening them with excommunication.

It’s worth remembering that Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who both resigned rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, were both deeply ensconced in the Washington establishments of their day. Richardson had already served as secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and under secretary of Defense. Ruckelshaus had been the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Both men’s careers in government preceded the Nixon administration. By contrast, the third in command in Nixon’s Justice Department, Robert Bork, was more of an outsider. He had spent his career outside Washington, in academia, and reportedly fired Cox, in significant measure, because of his deep belief in the constitutionality of executive power.

It’s become commonplace to note that many establishment Republican politicians privately consider Trump unfit to be president but won’t challenge him publicly because he enjoys the support of their constituents. For McGahn, the calculation is different: The members of the Washington Republican establishment are his constituents. And they’ll be around long after Donald Trump is gone.

11) Why we forget most of what we read.  So true!!  I also find it interesting how much more I forget about what my son David and I read together, than he forgets.  That said, he’s horrible at remembering author’s names.

The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.

Sana says that often when we read, there’s a false “feeling of fluency.” The information is flowing in, we’re understanding it, it seems like it is smoothly collating itself into a binder to be slotted onto the shelves of our brains. “But it actually doesn’t stick unless you put effort into it and concentrate and engage in certain strategies that will help you remember.”

12) Of course North Carolina’s inexperienced, 34-year old, new Superintendent of Public Instruction who earns $127,000/year thinks $35,000 is a great starting salary for NC teachers.

13) Unfortunately, nobody wants your used clothes anymore.  Or, at least the market for them in developing countries has largely collapsed.

14) Alas, it’s basically impossible to create a test for intoxication due to marijuana:

You see, different people handle marijuana differently. It depends on your genetics, for one. And how often you consume cannabis, because if you take it enough, you can develop a tolerance to it. A dose of cannabis that may knock amateurs on their butts could have zero effect on seasoned users—patients who use marijuana consistently to treat pain, for instance.

The issue is that THC—what’s thought to be the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana—interacts with the human body in a fundamentally different way than alcohol. “Alcohol is a water-loving, hydrophilic compound,” says Huestis. “Whereas THC is a very fat-loving compound. It’s a hydrophobic compound. It goes and stays in the tissues.” The molecule can linger for up to a month, while alcohol clears out right quick.

 But while THC may hang around in tissues, it starts diminishing in the blood quickly—really quickly. “It’s 74 percent in the first 30 minutes, and 90 percent by 1.4 hours,” says Huestis. “And the reason that’s important is because in the US, the average time to get blood drawn [after arrest] is between 1.4 and 4 hours.” By the time you get to the station to get your blood taken, there may not be much THC left to find. (THC tends to linger longer in the brain because it’s fatty in there. That’s why the effects of marijuana can last longer than THC is detectable in breath or blood.)
15) Finally got around to reading Daniel Engber’s classic contrarian Slate take on the evidence for the backfire effect– the idea that exposure to information contrary to your beliefs makes those beliefs stronger.  Turns out, maybe not so much.  Good stuff.  And props to Brendan Nyhan for following the data instead of digging his heels in, like so many social scientists.

16) He links this pretty cool research, which I had not seen yet:

The conservative asymmetry of elite polarization represents a significant puzzle. We argue that politicians can maintain systematic misperceptions of constituency opinion that may contribute to breakdowns in dyadic representation. We demonstrate this argument with original surveys of 3,765 politicians’ perceptions of constituency opinion on nine issues. In 2012 and 2014, state legislative politicians from both parties dramatically overestimated their constituents’ support for conservative policies on these issues, a pattern consistent across methods, districts, and states. Republicans drive much of this overestimation. [emphasis mine] Exploiting responses from politicians in the same district, we confirm these partisan differences within individual districts. Further evidence suggests that this overestimation may arise due to biases in who contacts politicians, as in recent years Republican citizens have been especially likely to contact legislators, especially fellow Republicans. Our findings suggest a novel force can operate in elections and in legislatures: politicians can systematically misperceive what their constituents want.

17) So, I read about the “Butter chicken lady” in the New Yorker.  And my wife ordered her Instant Pot cookbook.  Damn, was that fortuitous.  Great butter chicken and so easy for Indian food.

18) I think both of my regular JP readers will enjoy this story on how craft beer is a great American economic success story.

19) Seth Masket on efforts to reshape the Democratic primary process:

Superdelegates are people who become national convention delegates not through primaries or caucuses but rather by virtue of their current role within the party. They are generally Democratic governors, members of Congress, and elected DNC members. Unlike those delegates picked through state primaries and caucuses, their votes are not automatically pledged; they can vote for whomever they want. The role of superdelegate was created in 1984 as a way for the party’s leaders to re-assert some control over the nomination process at a time when rank-and-file party voters were seen as too powerful.

Under the new reforms, elected DNC members would still get to be convention delegates, but their vote would be pledged to whichever candidate won their state’s primary or caucus. This would have the effect of reducing the number of unpledged votes by roughly 60 percent. (Superdelegates made up about 16 percent of delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.)…

Now, who benefits from these changes? From what I’ve been able to gather, these proposals are a compromise position for Commission members—Sanders people wanted a good deal more to change, while the Clinton folks were fairly content with the way things had previously been run. But these changes undoubtedly tilt party nomination procedures away from insider-favored candidates like Clinton and more toward outsider-favored candidates like Sanders. That is, they erode some of the advantages that Clinton had going into 2016 (the backing of superdelegates, big advantages among registered party voters, etc.) and make it easier for someone without a lot of support within the formal party to win a lot of delegates.

We shouldn’t overstate this impact, of course. The biggest advantage Clinton had—the enthusiastic backing of the vast majority of party leaders, donors, organizers, etc., long before any voting occurred, scaring off many strong Democratic opponents—would not have been affected by these reforms. An insider-favored candidate could still draw on such advantages in future races.

Nonetheless, the Democratic Party is conceding that its “establishment” has had too much power in recent elections. The next Democratic presidential nominee will not necessarily be Bernie Sanders, but whoever it is will have had to navigate a system that Sanders and his supporters, to a large extent, designed. And it will probably be someone whose campaign bears a stronger resemblance to Sanders’ than to Clinton’s.

As many political scientists pointed out discussing this on Facebook, the lesson from President Trump is not that parties should make it easier for outsiders to capture the nomination.

20) On the pretty heinous efforts of NC Republicans to remake the NC court system because those pesky judges don’t see everything their way.

21) Apparently now that you can learn anything about anybody on the internet, the on-line dating world lives largely in the world of first-name only.  Really like somebody?  Then it’s last name time.  Damn am I glad I just met my wife in our college dorm.

22) So, technology allows you to put one person’s face pretty effectively on somebody else’s body in a fake porn movie (or fake anything), but, disturbingly, this is a very grey area of the law where you don’t have much protection.

23) Totally loved this Atlantic story on the rise of German board games.  Think I’ll celebrate it by playing Ticket to Ride this weekend.

 

Just how open to experience am I anyway?

So, 538 did a nice piece pointing out that most on-line personality tests are complete bunk.  And, yes, the beloved Myers-Briggs (I’m an ESTJ) has basically failed as meaningful social science (Malcolm Gladwell, in fact, did a takedown a long time ago).   Anyway, as 538 points out, when it comes to personality assessment these days, it’s all about “The Big Five.”

The most popular — used by the vast majority of scientists who study personality — is called the Big Five, a system that organizes personality around five broad clusters of traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience.

You aren’t asked about hypothetical situations. You aren’t asked about which words you like best. You aren’t given five images of different sunsets and asked to pick which one best reveals your inner soul.

Those clusters were not randomly chosen. Instead, the categories stem from research that began in the 1920s and ‘30s, when researchers first theorized that you might be able to figure out the anatomy of a personality by studying the words we used to describe what people are like. But it wasn’t until the 1970s and ‘80s that scientists finally had enough computing power to test their hunches. Researchers took thousands of surveys about the words people used to describe themselves and others, applied factor analysis, and came up with five big themes the traits clustered around, according to Christopher Soto, a psychology professor at Colby College. (Some researchers use a similarly derived model that adds a sixth trait: honesty-humility.)…

That result is a bit different from the results you get with most online personality tests, which tend to group people by type — you’re a Hufflepuff, or a Charlotte, or an ISFJ. This is one of the big problems with pop culture ideas of personality, from a scientific standpoint. They try to fit us all into a set of immutable types. “That’s why we don’t like Myers-Briggs,” Vazire said. “We shouldn’t be talking about types of people.” That’s because, like most things with humans, personality traits fall on a bell curve and most of us will be near the middle of that distribution. When you try to categorize people by type, you end up with a lot of people who are placed in boxes that seem far apart, but whose distribution of personality is actually pretty close to each other. “Types create more artificial boundaries, where most people are really close to the boundary line,” Vazire said. “That’s the nature of human difference.” [emphasis mine]

Anyway, I’ve taken a number of on-line versions of the test.  I can say with high confidence that I am extremely low in neuroticism (of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you knew that already).  My scores range from 1st-3rd percentile in that.  I’m also consistently over 90th percentile in extraversion.  Here’s my scores from one test:

And, no matter how you slice it, I’m agreeable, though the nature of how much tends to vary.  Like a good liberal, I’m on the lower side in conscientiousness, but I get a fair amount of variation on this one.  Liberals also tend to score higher on “openness to experience” and I usually do, but I find this aspect of the theory literally confounding as it seems to smush together quite different personality dimensions where I am high on some and low on the others.  Thus, it depends on which dimensions the particular test most draws from.  Here’s the one-sentence summary from wikipedia:

Openness involves six facets, or dimensions, including active imagination (fantasy), aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity

So, here’s the thing.  I don’t consider myself creative or having much of an imagination.  As anybody who knows me can tell you, I am super-low in preference for variety (yes, I often have pizza for lunch every week day).  I’d say I appreciate art more than average (aesthetic sensitivity) and I’m pretty good with attentiveness to my inner feelings.  Most notably, I’m off the chart in intellectual curiosity.  If the test focuses on that, I am Mr Openness to Experience.  In contrast, if there are more questions on preference for variety and imagination, not so much.  So, although this test, unlike most other personality tests, has been well-validated, I’m not so sold on this openness dimension.

While I’m at it, I also tend to get way more variation in conscientiousness, on which I’m not entirely sold either.  “A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior.”  Again, I like to think I am fairly self-disciplined and not particularly spontaneous and very much dependable.  But I sure as hell am not organized.

Anyway, it is pretty interesting stuff.  And I do think I can be confident in my very low neuroticism and high extroversion.  Please take a test or two and share your thoughts.

New Year’s Day Quick Hits

Well, I guess I’m back from real-life and blog vacation.  Here goes…

1) Who knows whether Trump made nasty, racist comments about Haitians.  The point is that it is utterly believable, despite White House denials, in a way that it would not be believable from any president in 100 years.

2) Another nice defense of the TV episode from Alan Sepinwall.  I agree heartily.  I enjoyed Stranger Things 2 significantly more than the original, and I think a series of coherent episodes is part of the reason why.

3) I was oddly intrigued by this Washington Post story about a traffic nightmare surrounding a Wendy’s in a triangle in Washington, DC.

4) A call for a new Christian “right to life movement.”  Nice, but honestly, pretty disingenuous.  It’s pretty clear that many Christians are far more interested in condemning the sexual behavior of others than in living the radical ethic of service to others, especially the poor and oppressed, that Jesus so clearly called for:

What Christians need is a new right-to-life movement, one in which we agree to disagree about contentious issues of sexuality and focus instead on what we share, on what we allbelieve. Jesus had nothing to say about birth control or abortion or homosexuality. He did have quite a lot to say about the poor and the vulnerable, and maybe that’s a good place to start.

Surely Christians across the political spectrum believe we’re called to feed the hungry, heal the sick, protect the weak and welcome the stranger. If we can agree on that much, and if we can keep our shrieking differences from wrecking the quiet conviction of shared belief, we could create a culture of life that has a chance of transcending the sex wars. I find myself hoping for a day when conservative Christian voters can elect conservative representatives for whom feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and welcoming refugees aren’t political issues at all.

5) This Orthodox Jewish family’s response to a person marrying outside their faith is pretty much a case study in how religion goes wrong.

6) Matthew Glassman uses the classic political science of Richard Neustadt to explain how Trump is a “dangerously weak” president.

As Neustadt would undoubtedly note, there’s now an amateur in the White House. And through the framework he developed, Trump has had a disastrous first year. His professional reputation is awful. Major figures from his own party routinely criticize his impulsive rhetoric and chaotic management, belittle his intelligence, mock his political ideas, and bemoan his lack of policy knowledge. The White House issues talking points, and high-ranking Republicans simply ignore them. Multiple Republican-led congressional committees are investigating his administration on topics ranging from ethics violations to foreign electoral collusion.

Similarly, the president’s public prestige, measured by approval ratings, is among the worst in the polling age. He entered office with record-low approval, 45 percent, and it has steadily declined into the 30s. No other president has had an approval lower than 49 percent in December of his first year; the average is 63 percent. Such numbers sap Trump’s power to leverage popularity into persuasion. They also depress party loyalists concerned about 2018 and embolden potential primary challengers for 2020.

Some of this presidential weakness is an unavoidable byproduct of a bitter campaign and an election victory in which he lost the popular vote. But Trump has also failed to heed Neustadt’s strategic advice. He’s made simple errors that have damaged his professional reputation and public prestige — and ultimately his power.

7) Watched many movies over my vacation.  Honestly, “The Boss Baby” was one of my favorites.

8) I think DJC (and perhaps others) would be interested in these new books about woolly mammoths.

9) Drum’s sad, but true, headline, “Nursing Homes Violate the Rules a Lot. Trump’s Answer: Get Rid of the Rules.”

10) Somehow missed this back in April, “Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong.”

And how is one to move up from the lower group to the higher one? Education is key, Temin writes, but notes that this means plotting, starting in early childhood, a successful path to, and through, college. That’s a 16-year (or longer) plan that, as Temin compellingly observes, can be easily upended. For minorities especially, this means contending with the racially fraught trends Temin identifies earlier in his book, such as mass incarceration and institutional disinvestment in students, for example. Many cities, which house a disproportionate portion of the black (and increasingly, Latino) population, lack adequate funding for schools. And decrepit infrastructure and lackluster public transit can make it difficult for residents to get out of their communities to places with better educational or work opportunities. Temin argues that these impediments exist by design.

11) This is really good.  Who won the culture war?  Corporate America (with a giant assist from culturally-resentful Republicans):

The contemporary geographic coalitions of the parties primarily reflect the nation’s roiling cultural conflicts, but the representatives chosen via today’s electoral map are equally polarized over economic policies — and it is pocketbook issues, not social matters, that dominate the business of Congress. Increasingly unfettered by a declining bloc of dissident party moderates from the Northeast and Pacific Coast, ascendant red-state Republicans have prioritized an ambitious conservative economic agenda encompassing regulatory rollbacks, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and substantial cuts to federal taxes — like the tax bill passed last week — and entitlement programs. Departures from this small-government approach, such as the No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D programs enacted during the George W. Bush presidency, have fallen out of fashion among post-Tea Party Republican leaders increasingly devoted to the pursuit of ideological purity.

12) Max Boot’s essay, “2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege” is fantastic.  Read it!

13) While people were obsessed with Betsy DeVos and K-12, her real potential damage all along was higher education.  One of her passions is making it easier for for-profit Higher Ed to defraud their students.  Seriously.

14) Republican Senator Pat Toomey has been very influential with his tax cuts for rich are always good theology (evidence, of course, strongly suggests otherwise).  Though, I’m unconvinced that his colleagues really needed all that much convincing.

15) Is the problem with the US “the Donald Trump in all of us”?  Not in me, damnit.  Good essay, though, from James Traub:

Perhaps in a democracy the distinctive feature of decadence is not debauchery but terminal self-absorption— the loss of the capacity for collective action, the belief in common purpose, even the acceptance of a common form of reasoning. We listen to necromancers who prophesy great things while they lead us into disaster. We sneer at the idea of a “public” and hold our fellow citizens in contempt. We think anyone who doesn’t pursue self-interest is a fool.

We cannot blame everything on Donald Trump, much though we might want to. In the decadent stage of the Roman Empire, or of Louis XVI’s France, or the dying days of the Habsburg Empire so brilliantly captured in Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, decadence seeped downward from the rulers to the ruled. But in a democracy, the process operates reciprocally. A decadent elite licenses degraded behavior, and a debased public chooses its worst leaders. Then our Nero panders to our worst attributes — and we reward him for doing so.

16) Of course Jeff Sessions wants to put more poor people in jail for being poor.

17) German Lopez on why we should have minimum prices for alcohol.

18) Yglesias on the political lessons of 2017– resistance works:

The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act guarantees that the Trump administration will not go down in history as a Carter-esque figure with no policy achievements. And between the large tax cut, the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, and the filling of many lower court vacancies that Mitch McConnell deliberately held open during Barack Obama’s final two years in office, conservative activists can feel that they legitimately got their 30 pieces of silver for lining up behind Trump.

But fundamentally, this is policymaking on easy mode.

Trump has signed fewer bills than any of his recent predecessors, and has gotten nothing at all done that requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. That’s despite the numerous Democratic senators holding down seats in red states who might be persuaded to back a nominally bipartisan bill.

The Affordable Care Act has not been repealed, nor has the Obama administration’s financial regulation overhaul. The Clean Air Act remains on the books, and the Supreme Court decision ruling that the EPA is obligated to regulate greenhouse gas emissions remains the law.

Last winter, the door appeared to be open to Paul Ryan’s vision for comprehensive disemboweling of programs that support low-income Americans, and though Trump’s budget requests indicate that he shares this vision, he’s yet to make any headway in implementing it.

19) Global cities grow in prosperity as smaller cities are being left out.

20) The challenge of two approaches to school desegregation in Dallas.  How much effort should be made to draw in richer white kids?

21) Forget self-confidence, self-compassion is the key.  Though, I wonder if I have an over-abundance of self -compassion.

We live in a culture that reveres self-confidence and self-assuredness, but as it turns out, there may be a better approach to success and personal development: self-compassion. While self-confidence makes you feel better about your abilities, it can also lead you to vastly overestimate those abilities.

Self-compassion, on the other hand, encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, allowing you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view. Both have merits, but many experts believe that self-compassion includes the advantages of self-confidence without the drawbacks.

22) And to wrap things up, the way to keep your New Year’s resolutions is not willpower, but gratitude and compassion:

What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves. Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity and tobacco and alcohol use.

If using willpower causes stress, using these emotions actually heals: They slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. By making us value the future more, they ease the way to patience and perseverance.

On that note… I am truly grateful you find my blog worth reading and engaging with the ideas I share here.  And, if you have somehow deluded yourself into thinking Trump is a good president, I have compassion for you :-).  Genuinely wishing the best to all my readers in 2018.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Farhad Manjoo on ending net neutrality:

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

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

2) The reasonable case for ending net neutrality.

3) Epigenetics for the win:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) Fred Kaplan on Tom Cotton to the CIA:

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

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

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

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

11) Intriguing idea on how to address inequality:

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

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

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

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

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

14) “Lonely deaths” in aging Japan.

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

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

16) Charles Blow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19) Trump’s impact on the middle east:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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