Quick hits (part II)

1) Dana Goldstein reviews a new book on the for-profit college scam.

2) Costs/benefit-wise, guns in the home–especially due to dramatically heightened suicide risk– fail miserably.

3) Love a good, negative review, like the one of the new book Convergence arguing that everything is all coming together:

Watson’s apparent mastery of the ingredients and recipes of all the sciences might stagger a general reader used to the works of mortals. What will stagger the knowledgeable is the confidence with which he presents nonsense.

4) When it comes to analyzing college basketball, I love Ken Pomeroy.  Slate This article on how the metrics the NCAA uses grossly discriminate against mid-major teams is really good.

5) Sticking with college sports… all the TV money flowing in for football and basketball means that coaches of even the lowliest sports teams now well out-earn full professors.

6) Liberals are turning to MSNBC in droves.  I’d prefer the NYT, but I’ll take political engagement with cable news channels with no political engagement.

7) How intellectual humility can make you a better person.  I think the constant rejection of trying to get articles published probably serves academics well in this regard.

8) Impossible Foods Impossible Burger is about to massively scale up.  I sure do hope this is the  beginning of the end of meat.

9) Democrats are divided on how to approach Gorsuch.  Here’s an idea– it’s Merrick Garland’s seat.

10) A looming future of antibiotic resistance?  Maybe.  But I’m actually an optimist on what scientists will be able to accomplish on this.

11) Kevin Drum is right that fiscal conservatives should love national healthcare.  The problem is, more than they like saving money, they hate giving government benefits to people they think do not deserve them.  Drum  with the key reason national health care saves money:

It’s ironic, but it turns out that central governments are a lot better at keeping a lid on health care costs than the private sector. The reason is taxes. National health care is paid for out of tax revenue, and the public pressure to keep taxes low is so strong that it universally translates into strong government pressure to keep health care costs low. By contrast, the private sector is so splintered that no corporation has the leverage to demand significantly lower costs. Besides, if health care costs go up, corporations can make up for it by keeping cash salaries low. This is part of the reason that median incomes have grown so slowly over the past 15 years. Corporations simply don’t care enough about high health care costs to really do anything about it.

12) Why do comedians laugh at their own jokes?

13) Chait with a great piece on Ryan, Trump, health care, and taxes:

Liberals have been warning for years that the “alternative” Republican plan that could actually pass Congress was a mirage. There was no plan that could be both acceptable to conservative anti-government ideology and to the broader public. The dilemma Republicans find themselves in now — a plan that subsidizes too little coverage to be acceptable to vulnerable members, and too much coverage for the party’s right wing — has always been unavoidable. Whoever had to write the first version of the Republican health-care bill that would have to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and pass both chambers was given a task with impossible parameters. Ryan is being turned into the fall guy for eight years of lies that the entire Republican party, himself included, told the country and itself.

However, Ryan does appear to be the mastermind behind the legislative sequence Trump has agreed to. The plan is rooted in Ryan’s obsessive quest to pass a huge tax cut for the rich that will be permanent. That strategy requires a series of difficult steps, which — if carried out correctly at every turn — will ultimately culminate in a massive tax cut that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office as revenue-neutral after ten years, and thus avoid the arcane budgetary requirement that caused the Bush tax cuts to expire automatically after a decade. This intricate calculation, based on complying with the Senate’s budget rules, is the linchpin of the entire Republican legislative strategy.

 

14) Sometimes it really takes just a little bit of money to get a college student over the finishing line.  Good to see that some colleges realize what a good investment this is.

15) Unlike the rest of Europe, anti-immigrant, right-wing parties are making little headway in Spain.  Read the NPR story to find out why.

16) A student recently shared this with me– I missed it last year.  How Denmark treats their prisoners well and it is a win for everybody:

Still, the value of Denmark’s example to a reform-minded public lies not in replicating its particular strategies or techniques but in adopting its broader ethos — one that grants prisoners dignity and allows room for error.

This is a lesson that the United States needs to learn. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, yet we have little to show for either the money invested or the lives lost to this system. U.S. prisoners wear anonymous facility garb, eat mass produced food in assembly cafeteria lines, and spend hours on end in tiny, bleak cement cells. As President Obama noted this past week, as many as 100,000 prisoners across the United States are housed in solitary confinement. Hundreds of these prisoners are released directly to the streets every year, often with dangerous consequences: two went on shooting rampages upon release in 2013…

Officials say a zero tolerance policy is the only way to ensure safety in a facility full of felons. But in reality, such policies do little. Prisoners use drugs, escape and recidivate. In spite of invasive search routines for prisoners and visitors alike, prisons across the United States report problems with contraband from drugs to cellphones to prison-made knives. Even though U.S. prisoners are not permitted to have knives or prepare their own food for safety reasons, in 2011 the Supreme Court found that one California prisoner died unnecessarily every week — lives lost not to violence, but to medical negligence. And when a prisoner escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York in June 2015, more than 60 prisoners complained of a backlash of abusive beatings. Danish prison officials say that their prisoners act out less because they are treated humanely; they, too, are allowed to make mistakes. [emphasis mine]

17) Should have had this last week.  No, smartphones are not luxury items.  Giving up your Iphone does not exactly save you enough to buy health insurance.  Only out-of-touch Republican legislators seem to think so.

18) Dahlia Lithwick on how Trump’s own words were a key in knocking down travel ban 2.o.

19) William Ayers on political conflict on campus:

20) Speaking of which, NC State students not particularly big fans of free speech:

21) Last, and certainly not least, the latest research strongly suggests that Voter ID laws do not reduce turnout.  If you are a liberal, you were probably too ready to believe the earlier research that they do.  To be clear, I still strongly oppose Voter ID laws because they are a solution to a problem that does not exist and do disproportionately impact minorities and young people.  Just because they are not as effective at demobilization as their Republican sponsors hoped, does not make them okay.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This Andrew Sullivan essay on intersectionality as religion is a definite must-read (in response to recent Charles Murray incident):

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

2) And Frank Bruni with his take on the “dangerous safety of college.”

3) Speaking of colleges… the ongoing fiasco and horrid waste of NJ taxpayer dollars that is Rutgers athletics.

4) As mentioned, I’m reading SapiensAustralians, where I learned that one of the unsolved mysteries in the study of prehistoric humans is how they managed to get to Australia around 50,000 years ago.  The latest on what scientists are learning about the original .

5) Speaking of humans…there really seems to be an increasing problem with male sperm.  And that’s a problem for all humans.  Mine have done their part, but I worry about my sons.

6) I’m not usually a big fan of the liberal rants, but this one against rural, white, conservatives is really, really good:

Here are the honest truths that rural Christian white Americans don’t want to accept; until they accept these truths, nothing is going to change:

  • Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
  • Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and food prices would soar.
  • Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. The almost exclusively white business owners are responsible, because they care more about their shareholders (who are also mostly white) than about American workers.
  • No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
  • Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white god they want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, have a gay pastor or accept gays for membership.
  • Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their lives either, especially women they complain about being teenage single mothers.
  • Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard-earned tax dollars” any more than many of their fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy or outsourcing overseas belong to all races.
  • They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to farm subsidies, crop insurance and commodities protections, they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
  • They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • They complain about globalization, yet line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple products. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engines were made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radios made in Korea, and computer parts made in Malaysia.
  • They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
  • When jobs dry up for whatever reason, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in failing towns.
  • They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers,” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare checks every month.

And plenty more good ones in that list.

7) LeVar Ball— most insane sports dad ever?  I’m thinking so.

8) I saw “Into the Woods” at my son’s high school last night.   First time seeing it.  The kids were terrific– fabulous performance.  As for the musical itself, I’ve concluded that it’s hugely over-rated.  I agree with both these takes.

9) I love the Oxford comma.  Always use it.  It matters.

10) Helpful reminder: “learning styles” are a fiction.

11) Chuck Todd makes a ludicrous argument that big data led to polarization.  Seth Masket shoots him down.  Classic post hoc ergo propter hoc.

12) The British wiretap thing.  Seriously, just step back for a minute and think about how insane it is that somebody like Trump is a president!  The man is a toddler.

13) Are teenagers using smartphones instead of drugs?!  Maybe.  But see #11.

14) Just so we’re clear.  Steve King is a disgusting, deplorable human being.  And he’s mainstream in today’s Republican party.

15) Using artificial intelligence to prevent suicide.

16) For-profit colleges suck. They are basically a scam on poor people.  And taxpayers.  Oh, and, of course, they are making headway with the Trump administration.

17) North Carolina’s loss (HB2) is South Carolina’s gain.  Ugh.

18) Why does Trump hate cities?  Because they show that liberalism (and ethnic diversity) works.

19) Love the headline for this take on Trump’s budget, “Trump’s Budget Expands the G.O.P.’s War on Math.”

20) On how the internet is saving culture because people are willing to pay for good content (agree, says this subscriber to Netflix, HBO, NYT, etc.)

21) Since I’m just queuing this up anyway, and one of quick hits two biggest fans (DJC) is already up and 6:00, I’m moving the queue time up in his honor.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, we should admit that integrating large numbers of refugees may be hard and complicated.

2) When the headline says it all, “G.O.P. Repeal Bill Would Cut Funding for Poor and Taxes on Rich.”

3) The kids are alright.  Or, at least committing way less crime than they used to.

4) Cutting the IRS means good news for wealthy tax cheaters.  Hooray!

5) Seth Masket with the case for Democratic recklessness.

6) George Will just amuses me– bringing up the fact that liberals in the early 20th century supported eugenics to damn current liberals.  Yeah, yeah, and lots of Southern Democrats used to be racists.

7) Oh, man have I loved our super-warm winter and early spring, but there are potentially serious ecological costs:

These kinds of mismatches can upset complex relationships between animals and their environment. In the Arctic, some grasses bloom a month before normal, depriving hibernating animals of a crucial early-spring food source. Snowshoe hares turn white during the winter, and then brown during the summer, so that they can be better camouflaged against the ground. But now that snow is melting earlier in the year, many are still wearing their white coats in the spring mud—making them especially easy for predators to pick off.

These kind of seasonal mismatches are best documented in the Arctic, but researchers are increasingly finding them elsewhere.

8) Trump’s bizarre virtual conversation with Fox & Friends.

9) Marines are generally seen as holding themselves to an especially high-standard of honor.  Thus, this disgusting and pervasive sexual harassment of female Marines is especially problematic.

10) Fascinating story of an adoption gone wrong.  This situations are always so difficult.  And a college friend of mine, now law professor (Kevin Maillard) weighs in.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on the sketchy logic of Trump’s new travel ban.

12) Last wee I listened to an utterly fascinating interview of Yuval Harari by Ezra Klein and started reading Sapiens.  So good.  Here’s Harari on AI and the future of humans.

13) Time Inc. is cutting back on the magazine business.  Can’t blame them.  There was a long time when I had weekly subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly.  But that was a long time ago.

14) Read this amazing essay by a dying woman about trying to find a good partner for her soon-to-be-widowed husband.  Heartbreaking.  And then I realized it was by one of my very favorite children’s book authors– the brilliant Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  So sad.  (If you have kids in the picture book, give Yes Day and Uni the Unicorn a try).

15) Frank Bruni defends Trump against the food snobs.

16) Kristoff on the reality of Planned Parenthood.  Defunding it is just so, so stupid.

This is health care at its best, preventing diseases and averting teenage pregnancies, all while saving public money. Yet clinics like these across America are in peril because of myopic Washington politics…

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about the government paying for abortions. That’s already mostly banned. This is about paying for birth control and cancer screenings when the provider has some connection, even a remote one, to abortions…

Pence and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, I think, well-intentioned politicians driven by a revulsion for abortion. But the truth is that these clinics do more to reduce abortion rates than any army of anti-abortion demonstrators.

17) Washing your produce is probably a waste of time.  I’ll stick with it anyway.

18) Republicans in control of Congress = easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes.  That’s good– right?

19) Making up data about your cancer research is a problem.  Unless you bring in millions in grant money to your university.

20) The hallways of my department are too quiet, too.

21) I love birds.  I love pantones.  Thus, I reallyarticle loved this about the role of bird coloration in the evolution of pantone.

22) I was waiting in the dentist office this week when I randomly came across this article on twitter about how it really makes no sense to divorce oral health from the rest of human medicine.

23) This NYT feature on the shame of Baylor sports (coddling sex offenders to achieve victories) is really good.

Quick hits (part II)

1) A little harsh, but I pretty much agree with this take on McCain:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

Ever since his longtime aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter wholly invented McCain’s “maverick” persona from whole cloth in the late 1990s, the sum total of McCain’s record of brave or maverick-y actions consists of “giving good quote to reporters.” That’s it…

Most of the political press is amnesiac and sycophantic enough to fall for it again, but it is obvious at this point in his long career that Senator John McCain is not going to “fight” Trump. He’s going to say various anti-Trump things, on TV and to reporters, while never using his very real power as a senior Republican senator to interrupt the implementation of Trump’s, and his party’s, eschatological agenda.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trumps-exchange-on-asset-forfeiture-is-quite-discomfiting.html

2) This video about how we perceive magenta is so cool.  Seriously, just watch it.

3) Does seem reasonable to me that dairy producers want the nut milk producers to not call their product “milk.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I like my soy milk, but really wonder what all those other nut “milks” do with all the protein.

4) I enjoyed this take on the problematic nature of “win probability” stats in the NFL.

5) I was quite intrigued by this little bit in a piece about the decline of Rock music:

What happened in 1991? Between 1958 and 1990, Billboard had constructed its Hot 100, the list of the country’s most popular songs, with an honor system. They surveyed DJs and record store owners, whose testimonies were often influenced by the music labels. If the labels wanted to push AC/DC, they pushed AC/DC. If they changed their mind and wanted to push the next rock release, AC/DC would fall down the charts and the new band would take their place.

But in 1991, Billboard changed its chart methodology to measure point-of-sales record data and directly monitor radio air play. As I wrote in a 2014 article in The Atlantic, this had a direct impact on the sort of music that made its way to the charts and stayed there. The classic rock and hair-band genre withered in the 1990s while hip hop and country soared up the charts. In the next 25 years, hip hop, country, and pop music have carried on a sonic menage à trois, mixing genres promiscuously to produce the music that currently dominates the charts. There is hip-hop-inflected-pop (Justin Bieber), country-pop (Lady Gaga), and country-rap (Florida Georgia Line and Nelly).

6) The new America’s Cup yachts are pretty insane.  I was actually all into these races during the 80’s when they became a big deal once other countries started to win them.

7) Love Danielle Kurtzleben’s take on “fake news” as “fake language.”

Now, Trump casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that “any negative polls are fake news.” And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.

The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.

8) Raising lawmaker pay (abysmally low in NC) is not going to get us a bunch of former Walmart clerks in the legislature, but it surely would diversify our pool of candidates.

9) Sure, it’s five years old, but seems pretty timely to repeat the clear finding that cutting top marginal tax rates decidedly does not increase economic growth.

“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

10) Really enjoyed this on Ole Miss’s liberal agitator.

11) Jonathan Bernstein on Republicans fiddling while the White House burns:

I know I sound like a broken record, but the way out of the worst of this is obvious: Congressional Republicans need to use their leverage to insist the president hire a real chief of staff to clean house  — including removing Bannon — and run the administration properly. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any hint of it so far. Instead of floating names such as Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels or Lamar Alexander, some Republicans are apparently trying to rally around Priebus, who may not be as objectionable as Bannon but doesn’t have the capacity to get the administration on track. If the Russia scandal is, as NBC’s First Read said today, “arguably the biggest scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra,” then the solution is the same as it was then: Investigate the scandal to be sure, but meanwhile get a steady hand in the White House to make up for the president’s shortcomings.

If Republicans don’t demand a new version of Howard Baker (who fixed what was broken in the Ronald Reagan White House back then), they’ll only have themselves to blame for the next scandal, and the next one, and the one after that. Which, at this rate, might not even get us to Memorial Day.

12) I get that Republicans are more interested in power and partisanship than, you know, stable democracy, but given all we know, it seems that at bare minimum they should require the release of Trump’s tax returns, rather than blocking it.

13) A good take on polling questions and Republican support for action in response to the Bowling Green massacre.

What the question did ask about was whether respondents agreed that a fake event ― presented as a factual event ―  justifies a policy that many Trump supporters already support. Of course many supporters were going to agree with that statement, even if they weren’t aware that the Bowling Green massacre was fiction.

Not knowing about the issue doesn’t make people stupid, either. The pace of news in the last few weeks has been extremely fast. People with nonpolitical lives can’t be expected to keep up.

There’s considerable research on how average people answer poll questions when they might not really know what the question refers to. Some will admit that they don’t know the answer ― as 20 percent of the whole sample and 23 percent of Trump supporters did in this case. But many will think they should have an answer, and say the first thing that comes to mind. This is part of why polling on specific policies is difficult ― people often haven’t given issues a lot of thought, but when prompted, they will make up an opinion.

Research also shows that when you ask people to agree or disagree with something, they are more likely to agree if they don’t have a solid opinion. This is called “acquiescence bias,” and it’s why many pollsters shy away from yes/no or agree/disagree types of questions.

14) On the pervasive sex bias of students in undergraduate Biology classes.

15) Adam Gopnik on the need to take Trump’s threat to democracy seriously:

The trouble with these views, and what makes them cheery but false at best—or sinister or opportunistic at worst—is that they are deliberately blind to both the real nature of the man and the real nature of the threats he makes and the lies he tells. Many autocratic governments have built this road or won that war or engineered a realist foreign policy. They remain authoritarian and, therefore, fatally arbitrary. In a democracy, our procedures are our principles. Every tyrant does nice things for someone. You cannot be a friend to democracy while violating its norms—and when we say, “He violates democratic norms,” we undermine our own point, because “norm” is such a, well, normal word. In truth, what he violates by his statements are not mere norms but democratic principles so widely shared and so deeply important that “bedrock value” is closer to the mark than “democratic norm.”

16) Joseph Stiglitz with a long and thorough explanation of why inequality is bad for the economy.

17) Bill Gates on why it’s time to tax robots.  Seriously.

18) Donald Trump is really good at using the Availability Heuristic for political gain.

19) Glenn Greenwald on the illegal, yet appropriate, leaks:

Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.

This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

20) Nate Silver’s election post-mortems have been really good.  I really liked this one about the limits of the Clinton ground game.  Maybe ground games just don’t matter as much as we thought.

There are several major problems with the idea that Clinton’s Electoral College tactics cost her the election. For one thing, winning Wisconsin and Michigan — states that Clinton is rightly accused of ignoring — would not have sufficed to win her the Electoral College. She’d also have needed Pennsylvania, Florida or another state where she campaigned extensively. For another, Clinton spent almost twice as much money as Trump on her campaign in total. So even if she devoted a smaller share of her budget to a particular state or a particular activity, it may nonetheless have amounted to more resources overall (5 percent of a $969 million budget is more than 8 percent of a $531 million one).

But most importantly, the changes in the vote from 2012 to 2016 are much better explained by demographics than by where the campaigns spent their time and money. [emphasis mine]

I gotta say, just more reason to believe that when it comes to understanding elections, it’s really not too far from demographics über alles.

21) Very good piece on how cognitive biases pervasively impact the practice of medicine.

 

 

 

http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/bias-in-the-er

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Lynn Vavreck, “you are married to your party.”

2) Tom Edsall explores Trump’s populism:

Those who do not experience the benefits of prosperity, Inglehart and Norris write, can see “others” — “an influx of foreigners,” for example, as the culprit causing their predicament:

Insecurity encourages an authoritarian xenophobic reaction in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms.

According to the two authors,

The proximate cause of the populist vote is anxiety that pervasive cultural changes and an influx of foreigners are eroding the cultural norms one knew since childhood. The main common theme of populist authoritarian parties on both sides of the Atlantic is a reaction against immigration and cultural change. Economic factors such as income and unemployment rates are surprisingly weak predictors of the populist vote.

In support of this argument, the authors point to 2016 exit poll data showing that Hillary Clinton won voters who said the economy was the most important issue by 11 points, 52-41, while Trump carried those who said immigration was the most important issue facing the country by nearly two to one, 64-33.

In addition to immigration, issues related to race play a central role.

3) Mental health and gun rights is far more complicated than on first glance (and why I held off posting upon the news, because I figured it was).

4) NC sport fan alert: we are about to be so screwed by HB2 for the next 5 years.

5) Drum with a pessimistic view of AI and the future of employment.  I think he’s probably right.

6) The tech behind the Super Bowl half-time drones.

7) NYT, “In One Facebook Post, Three Misleading Statements by President Trump About His Immigration Order.”  Of course, “misleading” is putting it mildly.

8) Tom Price is just the worst.  Great Leonhardt column on the matter:

Each year, a publication called Medscape creates a portrait of the medical profession. It surveys thousands of doctors about their job satisfaction, salaries and the like and breaks down the results by specialty, allowing for comparisons between, say, dermatologists and oncologists.

As I read the most recent survey, I was struck by the answers from orthopedic surgeons. They are the highest-paid doctors, with an average salary of $443,000 in 2015 — which, coincidentally, was almost the exact cutoff for the famed top 1 percent of the income distribution.

Yet many orthopedists are not happy with their pay. Only 44 percent feel “fairly compensated,” a smaller share than in almost every other specialty. A lot of orthopedists aren’t even happy being doctors. Just 49 percent say they would go into medicine if they had to make the decision again, compared with 64 percent of all doctors.

I know that many orthopedists have a very different view: They take pride in helping patients and feel fortunate to enjoy comfortable lives. But despite those doctors, it’s clear that orthopedics suffers from a professional culture that does not live up to medicine’s highest ideals. Too many orthopedists are rich and think it’s an injustice that they’re not richer.

This culture helped shape Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon and Georgia congressman who is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services…

Yet he hasn’t been content to make money in the standard ways. He has also pushed, and crossed, ethical boundaries. Again and again, Price has mingled his power as a congressman with his desire to make money.

9) Yes, we are having the wrong arguments about GMO’s (but the author interviewed here is a little too willing to be agnostic on the science):

By focusing so much on GMOs, you’re not paying attention to species loss or the decline in aquifers or soil depletion or greenhouse gasses or all the other problems tied up on industrial food production. And I’m sympathetic to that argument. I think GMOs have gotten a lot of attention because they elicit a visceral fear from people, but really we have a lot of other agricultural problems that predate GMOs. If you think about factory farming or fossil fuels or toxic chemicals or soil loss — those things all existed before GMOs, and GMOs just scaled them up.

10) Life under “alternative facts,” e.g., the Soviet Union.

11) Damn, when even war criminal and torture apologist John Yoo says you are abusing executive power, that’s really something.

12) Trump sort of takes on Texas state legislator who opposes the policy horror that is civil asset forfeiture.  I think Drum’s take is spot-on.

This demonstrates the problem with Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style.1 My guess is that he has no idea what civil asset forfeiture is and has no real opinion about it. If, say, Trump had been in a meeting with a few senators, and Bob Goodlatte had remarked that “police can seize your money even if you weren’t convicted of a crime,” Trump probably would have reflexively answered, “Can you believe that?” Instead, a sheriff said it was a bad thing related to Mexicans, so Trump automatically agreed with him. That means it’s now official Trump administration policy.

Sad. But then again, Jeff Sessions is a huge fan of civil asset forfeiture and all the corrupt incentives it creates, so he probably would have gotten Trump on board one way or another. It’s yet another big win for the working class.

13) I love this– science determines what makes a good dancer:

…very specific patterns may make some people appear to be better dancers than others. That’s the conclusion of a study published on Thursday in Scientific Reports, in which researchers asked 200 people to rate 39 female dancers. A few features stood out as contributing to higher-quality dance: big hip swings, and the right and left limbs moving independently of one another (which the researchers describe as asymmetric arm and thigh movements).

14) A fair amount of public policy comes down to different organized interests fighting each other.  Who gets to do basic laser eye surgery in NC is a great example.

15) Don’t worry about skynet, worry about the AI coming for your middle class job.

16) School integration works.  We should be doing more, not less.

17) The right very much has it’s own political correctness.  Great take from Conor Friedersdorf.

Trump has yet to name right-wing extremism.

He said nothing about the attack in Quebec City. His press secretary, who did mention that attack, suggested that it showed the need for recent security measures taken by the Trump administration, though those measures were targeted narrowly and exclusively at stopping foreign threats from seven majority-Muslim countries. It was as if the press secretary could only conceive of Islamist terrorism.

That is the politically correct posture under Trump…

The White House’s behavior doesn’t make much sense if it prizes common sense over political correctness. But it makes perfect sense if a White House staffer wanted to maintain plausible deniability while catering to the sensibilities of the alt-right, a community where diminishing the relative suffering of Jews in the Holocaust is politically correct––transgressing against Holocaust norms gives them a special thrill. Or even if the original omission was inadvertent, but the White House didn’t want to offend those sensibilities by changing the statement.

18) Amy Davidson on the total Trumpism of Sessions.

19) It may not be “extreme vetting,” but we already have a very good, very thorough vetting system in place for refugees.  This is important as the right is very much suggesting otherwise.  It is 100% foolproof?  Nope.  Also cannot guarantee you computer or phone battery won’t catch on fire right now.

20) Good read from the Marshall Project: exonerated… then deported.

21) Happy 45th birthday to me.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting take on whether Trump is a weak or strong leader.

2) Incredibly, preposterously, prosecutors are still defending the anti-science of bite mark evidence.  If it were up to me, that would be automatic grounds for disbarment.

Consiglio’s two main arguments are the same arguments Mourges used and that the state deploys in nearly every bite mark case. The first is pretty straightforward, and noted above. To date, no court in the country has ruled bite mark evidence inadmissible. That this is such a strong argument in the courts demonstrates about as emphatically as anything just how ill-equipped the courts are when it comes to assessing science. The fact that no court has yet to rule against “scientific evidence” that nearly every scientist in the country agrees isn’t scientific at all is a damning indictment of the courts and their inability to self-correct. Instead, it’s used as an argument to let yet more unscientific evidence into more cases — and it’s an argument that has yet to be defeated.

Under Frye, for expert testimony to be admissible, it must be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. Here’s the question at issue: When it comes to bite mark evidence, what is the relevant scientific community? For prosecutors such as Mourges and Consiglio, it is other bite mark analysts. That is, the relevant community of “scientists” whose opinion judges should consider when evaluating the scientific validity of bite mark analysis should be people who already believe that bite mark analysis is scientific. You almost have to admire the brazenness of this argument. It’s like saying that if a judge is evaluating the scientific merit of palm readers, he should only consider the opinions of other palm readers. And yet so far, the argument has worked every time it has been tried.

Ross’s attorneys argue that the “relevant scientific community” should include actual scientists — that is, people who actually abide by the principles of scientific inquiry. Most bite mark analysts don’t operate under double blind conditions. There’s very little peer review. (Indeed, when analysts review one another’s work, there is often disagreement. This is why bite mark cases often feature two or more analysts giving the jury opinions that are diametrically opposed.)

Understandably, Consiglio doesn’t want the judge to consider the opinions of real scientists. So in his brief defending the scientific validity of bite mark analysis, he attacks science itself.

3) Actually, totally makes sense that Putin would be funding the anti-fracking campaign in the U.S.

4) Car dealers don’t actually know anything about the advanced safety features in modern cars.

5) In Trumpworld, 5-year olds can be dangerous terrorists.

6) A study shows that father-child reading leads to improvements in learning and behavior.  Well, damn, in that case, my kids should behave a helluva lot better than they do.

7) More states figuring out that it’s stupid to deny a drivers license for a totally unrelated drug conviction.

8) The right way to say “I’m sorry.”  I’ll save you the time as I’m pretty sure I’ve got this figured out: actually mean it.

9) There’s lots of examples of the amazing inhumanity of the travel ban (allow me to again call out the “Christians” who love Trump), but this one is particularly poignant.

10) Forget safety (okay, don’t really forget safety), but it’s surprising to me that youth football is just now figuring out to use smaller teams.  Today’s youth soccer is so much better than my day due to smaller-sided games for younger players.

11) The logistics and technology behind all those phone calls to members of Congress (if only they’d listen on DeVos!).

12) I have at least one thing in common with Trump— we both use propecia.  This headline at HuffPo is a nice reminder of why I’m not a fan of HuffPo (though, they do have some good writers, e.g., Cohn), “Trump Takes Propecia, A Hair-Loss Drug Associated With Mental Confusion, Impotence.”  (For the record, side effects are incredibly minimal).

13) A profile of the White House’s other Steven, the equally disturbing (and Duke grad!) Stephen Miller.

14) Yes, the Berkeley students who protested professional asshole, Milo Yiannopoulos, with violence were stupid, stupid, stupid.  Yes, Yiannopoulos is abominable, but violence?!  Also, this:

That strikes me as a strong argument. Universities should establish rules for how they treat speakers that student organizations invite. And they should not alter those rules depending on the ideas those speakers espouse, even if their ideas are hateful.  (And yes, I’d apply that not merely to Milo but to a neo-Nazi like Richard Spencer). At Berkeley, the rules say that student organizations get to host their speakers at the Student Union for free. If Berkeley changes that because Yiannopoulos is a misogynist, what happens if a Palestinian group invites a speaker that conservatives call anti-Semitic? …

Of course, Berkeley students also have the right to protest Yiannopoulos. But the university has an obligation to ensure that their right to protest does not prevent the College Republicans from hearing their invited guest. Is the university obligated to spend extra money, which it would not expend for a normal speaker, because Yiannopoulos’s speech requires extra security? I’m not sure. But in any case, Berkeley did not spend extra money. It required the College Republicans to come up with funds for additional security themselves; an anonymous patron contributed $6,000 to help them…

But the argument for letting Yiannopoulos speak is more than tactical. It’s a matter of principle. Conservative students have the right to bring obnoxious bigots to speak on campus and other students have a right to protest. But universities should not let the protesters shut them down. That was hard for many leftists to accept even before Trump’s election. Now that an obnoxious bigot occupies the White House, it’s even harder. But Trump’s presidency is, in part, a test of whether ordinary Americans can avoid sinking to his level, whether a citizenry can respect the principles that its leaders do not. What happened to Milo Yiannopoulos this week is part of that test. It’s important that progressives at Berkeley, and around the country, do not fail.

15) Not in the video clip, but pleased to see my “alternative facts” quote made the write-up of this story.

16) Trump has a grand strategy— it’s just a horrible one.

17) Stephen Walt on Trump’s foreign policy:

you’re a Trump supporter, you might be feeling pretty good about the new administration’s first steps. You may have hailed the Muslim ban (and let’s be honest, that’s what it is) as a long-overdue step to protect Americans from dangerous foreigners. (It’s not, of course, but never mind.) Perhaps you also think the chorus of criticism from lawyers, the media, academics, corporate leaders, foreign governments, and former government officials — including many prominent Republicans — is just welcome evidence that Trump is on the right track. You might well view his first two weeks as clear signs a new sheriff is in town and putting the whole world on notice. You may even see his end-runs around the interagency process, his decision to replace top defense and intelligence officials on the National Security Council with alt-right advisor Stephen Bannon as steps designed to protect the “America First” policies that you voted for in November and that he reaffirmed on Inauguration Day.

With all due respect, you would be wrong.

In fact, if you are a loyal Trump supporter, and especially someone who embraced him because you thought he would deliver a smarter, more self-interested, more restrained, and above all more successful foreign policy than his predecessors, you should be disappointed and deeply worried. Why? Because in just two weeks he has squandered a genuine opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad in ways that would have been hard to imagine a few months ago.

18) Apparently this ad from 2010 was banned.  Regardless, I’d never seen it before and it is pretty damn hilarious.

19) Ransomware is going big and that’s not good for anybody.

20) Good take from David Roberts, “Trump isn’t an evil genius.  And that’s not what matters anyway.”

Most Kremlinology isn’t very useful. My theory is that authoritarian demagogues are more alike than they are different. Most of them are narcissists. They are, at root, fearful, paranoid, and tribal, which drives the macho posturing and obsession with loyalty. They have a kind of animal cunning for how to manipulate people, dominate, and accrue power.

But for the most part they aren’t evil geniuses. (One of Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s recurring themes about Putin is what a “grey, ordinary man” he is.) Indeed, evil geniuses are pretty rare — or, to put it more precisely, narcissistic, paranoid tribalists are rarely geniuses, because genius requires a certain detached perspective, an ability to step outside oneself, which is precisely what narcissists lack.

What authoritarian regimes do is blunder forward, grasping and grabbing power whenever and wherever they can, building secretive inner circles, surrounding themselves with supplicant state media, demonizing dissenting voices, and punishing enemies. They do this not because of some 12-dimensional chess analysis of the political landscape, but because that’s what narcissism and zero-sum thinking does. They are more like animals driven by instinct than chess masters driven by strategy, though of course there’s a range (with Trump being on the far blinded-by-narcissism end).

21) Former Bush appointee, Elliot Cohen:

Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations…

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse ,[emphasis mine] as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

22) David Brooks lets loose on the cowardly Republicans enabling Trump:

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done.

But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

Yep.  That said, I think Brooks, an economic conservative and moderate social traditionalist, is in great denial about how much the rank-and-file GOP is an ethnic nationalist party.

23) Chait with the case for optimism.

24) It actually is quite possible that in addition to clearly suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Trump could be a genuine psychopath (most are not serial killers).  As Yglesias points out, he is profoundly lacking in empathy.

25) John Cassidy also with a positive take on the growing Trump resistance.

26) It’s not perfect, but I love that Ken Pomeroy has come up with a metric for assessing college basketball referee quality.

Quick hits (part II)

I’ve been spending too much time reading about refugee stuff to pick out good quotes, so a largely quote-free version of quick hits:

1) Benjamin Wittes on the Trump and the completely inappropriate approach to the CIA.

2) And this is insane.  Bannon on National Security Council.  Chairman of Joint Chiefs off?!  WTF?!!

3) Duke fan or not, this essay from current interim coach Jeff Capel on his father (also a long-time coach) and ALS is terrific.

4) Older siblings typically out-perform the younger on average.  Interesting mix of theories as to why.  (And if you are reading this David Greene, let it incentive you to keep up with other older siblings).

5) When I first saw Trump had declared a “Day of Patriotic Devotion” I thought it was the Onion or something.  WTF??  It’s like North Korea.

6) Bill McKibben on the many, many more bad days to come for the environment.  In fairness to Trump, most Republicans seem to hate the environment.

7) Thought this was a really interesting finding that the ACT Science Reading  sections literally make the ACT a worse predictor of college grades than just relying upon math and English.  Sorry, David Greene, you still have to take the whole thing.  (In case you were wondering, my firstborn does regularly read my blog now– I’m going to have to be more careful with some things).

8) Smart guy, good guy, and friend from grad school, David Kimball, with a nice piece on actually effective and meaningful voter reforms instead of Voter ID.

9) Love this Political Science Call to Action from Jennifer Victor.  So going to live by this:

So how do we maintain our credibility as a scientific discipline while engaging in the public sphere in a way that shows normative judgment? I have some advice:

A political scientist’s guide to responsible public action:

  • When you observe or learn about proposals or actions that represent threats to democratic institutions or that violate the Constitution, point it out in public.
  • Write, speak, and post in a variety of venues in a way that uses the research and literature in our field to demonstrate the consequences of proposals that threaten basic institutions.
  • Be specific and matter-of-fact about how actions or proposals may weaken or violate basic American values and democratic norms.
  • Focus on the agreed upon values of American democracy (e.g., civil liberties, civil rights, due process, respect for the rule of law) rather than on partisan or ideological components of actions and proposals.
  • Engage with the media, public, and one another, on these matters; seek venues that provide broad exposure rather than speaking to a disciplinary audience, as is typical.
  • Focus on evidence-based and theoretically rigorous findings that shed light on, or provide appropriate context to, current events.

By being objective and scientific, we remain neutral, while showing how actions and proposals violate or threaten basic democratic institutions. Articulating and elucidating the public on these points is not only consistent with our academic mission; it is our responsibility.

10) Larry Summers says it’s time for business leaders to wake up about Trump.  Hell, yeah!  That said, we know that partisanship is stronger than religion.  It’s probably also stronger than the profit motive.

11) Jamelle Bouie, “OK, Now Can We Start Taking Donald Trump Literally?”

12) Here’s why you should call, not email your legislators.  For real.

13) Of course Trump’s tough-guy talk on torture risks lives.  I cannot believe we have to go through this again!  Ugh, the combined stupid and evil!!

14) John Cassidy on Republican politicians sticking with Trump (tax cuts for rich people!!)

15) Wilbur Ross and government by the ultra-wealthy.

16) Speed reading is great— so long as you are not interested in understanding what you read.  Interesting discussion of the cognitive science behind why it doesn’t really work.  And how to read faster (read more).

17) David Brooks on the politics of cowardice.

18) These nice little HuffPo graphic seems well-sourced, so I’m going with it.  I’m really waiting for the armed toddler crackdown.

19) Emma Green asks, “Will the Pro-Life Movement Split With Trump on Issues Other Than Abortion?”  Ummmm, no.  The Pro-Life movement is largely conservative Christians, and we’ve seen they put the Republican party ahead of the actual teachings of Jesus most anytime.

20) Must read from a Reagan speechwriter on Trump and Holocaust remembrance day.

21) Benjamin Wittes on the refugee executive order, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.”

 

%d bloggers like this: