Quick hits (part II)

1) Like this on how Netflix owes its business model of original programming to Stephen Bochco.  Damn, did I love NYPD Blue.  RIP Bobby Simone.

2) Yes, Sinclair broadcasting does have an impact:

Critics have claimed that Sinclair — a company with close ties to the Trump administration and conservative politicians — is pushing its stations away from local coverage and toward a partisan brand of political reporting on national politics.

In new research, we find evidence that that appears to be the case. Stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market.

3) So, apparently the new thing for Climate Change deniers is to claim that things really aren’t so bad for polar bears.  Pathetic and bizarre.

4) I don’t usually agree with Megan McArdle, but she’s usually thoughtful.  Honestly, though, it’s pretty funny to see somebody who should so know better still be suckered by Paul Ryan.

5) Talk about out of touch.  This Chronicle of Higher Ed piece complaining that professor salary increases were barely enough to make up for inflation.  Uhhhh, yeah, poor, poor college professors.

A rise in the cost of living chipped away at salary gains by full-time faculty members in the 2017-18 academic year, according to new survey data published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors.

Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year. But that salary increase was cut by nearly two-thirds, to 1.1 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The average salary ranged widely, depending on rank: Full professors earned $104,820, associate professors made $81,274, and assistant professors took in $70,791. The average pay for lecturers was about $57,000 while, for instructors, it was $59,400.

6) So, yeah, learning styles are a total myth:

Either way, “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.

Husmann thinks the students had fallen into certain study habits, which, once formed, were too hard to break. Students seemed to be interested in their learning styles, but not enough to actually change their studying behavior based on them. And even if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered.

“I think as a purely reflective exercise, just to get you thinking about your study habits, [vark] might have a benefit,” Husmann said. “But the way we’ve been categorizing these learning styles doesn’t seem to hold up.”

Another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.

7) I’ve got a student doing a really cool independent study on artificial intelligence (he’s a computer science major, PS minor, if I remember correctly).  He just read some interesting stuff on AI and our criminal justice system.  Reminded me of this disturbing Pro Publica report I think I have failed to share here about how algorithms used to predict future criminality are basically biased against Blacks.

8) Phil Klay is the author of one of my favorite books ever.  Such a great writer and so thoughtful on military issues.  His essay in the NYT about how soldiers and civilians think about each other, and should think about each other, is terrific.  Read it.

Such disdain for those who haven’t served and yet dare to have opinions about military matters is nothing new for Mr. Kelly. In a 2010 speech after the death of his son, Mr. Kelly improbably claimed that we were winning in Afghanistan, but that “you wouldn’t know it because successes go unreported” by members of the “‘know it all’ chattering class” who “always seem to know better, but have never themselves been in the arena.” And he argued that to oppose the war, which our current secretary of defense last year testified to Congress we were not winning, meant “slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

This is a common attitude among a significant faction of veterans. As one former member of the Special Forces put it in a social media post responding to the liberal outcry over the deaths in Niger, “We did what we did so that you can be free to naïvely judge us, complain about the manner in which we kept you safe” and “just all around live your worthless sponge lives.” His commentary, which was liked and shared thousands of times, is just a more embittered form of the sentiment I indulged in as a young lieutenant in Iraq…

Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited by this patriotic correctness. Yet, if I have authority to speak about our military policy it’s because I’m a citizen responsible for participating in self-governance, not because I belonged to a warrior caste.

If what I say deserves to be taken seriously, it’s because I’ve taken the time out of my worthless sponge life as a concerned American civilian to form a worthy opinion. Which means that although it is my patriotic duty to afford men like John Kelly respect for his service, and for the grief he has endured as the father of a son who died for our country, that is not where my responsibility as a citizen ends. [emphasis mine]

9) Almost nobody wants to admit it, but to a substantial degree, sex offender registries are pointless and counter-productive.  Lenore Skenazy on how they are also filled up with kids.

What is the most common age at which people land on the registry? Most folks I put the question to think it’s about 39. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”

10) A mom of a child with autism talks about the incredible life-line that Facebook provides for her in connecting with other similar parents.  When Alex was first diagnosed with his rare disease, an on-line community (though a list-serve, this was prior to social media) was an absolute lifesaver for me.

11) Compared to women, men are over-confident in their science ability.  If I’m not mistaken, men are over-confident in pretty much everything.

12) Loved going to Duke basketball games way back in my day, but never spent any time camping out at K-ville.  I’ve never spent a night in a tent and I don’t ever plan to.  Certainly not in winter with a cozy dorm room nearby.  My junior year I got in line the morning of the game and got in to see it that evening.  Apparently, the system now has tents plus a “walk-up line” that actually lasts for days.  The whole thing has also, apparently, devolved not only into drunken bacchanalia, but mass chaos.  Not pretty.

13) More reason to love Pope Francis.  He actually believes Catholics should focus on humans not just before birth, but after they are born.  Atheist, Drum, with the papal post (and Drum’s emphases):

The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

14) Interesting from Gallup, though, to see the slide in Catholic Mass attendance:

20180408_ChurchAttendance@2x (002)

15) At this point, we’ve basically reached the limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball.

16) The NYT article on how teenagers become “allergic” to their parents was really good.  I only did to a very modest degree.  And my oldest son, basically not at all.

Growing up involves becoming separate from our parents. This project often begins in early adolescence with an abrupt and powerful urge to distinguish oneself from the adults at home. It’s no small task for teenagers to detach from those who have superintended nearly every aspect of their lives so far.

As teenagers begin to disentangle from their folks, they inevitably sort a parent’s every behavior and predilection into one of two categories: those they reject, and those they intend to adopt. Unfortunately for the peace of the household, each of these categories creates its own problem for teenagers intent on establishing their individuality.

You may think nothing of wearing dated athletic shoes, but if your teenager doesn’t agree with your choice of footwear he may, at least for a while, find it unbearable. Why should it matter to him what’s on your feet? Because his identity is still interwoven with yours; until he’s had time to establish his own look, your style can cramp his.

Given this, you’d think that teenagers wouldn’t be allergic to the proclivities they share with their parents. But they are, precisely because the interests are mutual.

17) And speaking of my teenager, he’s also a trendsetter as, “Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges.”  Presumably, if he were more “allergic” to us, he’d be more inclined to go away.  I’m not at all allergic to the thousands I’ll save over the next couple years before he transfers to a four-year university (hopefully, NC State).

18) Among certain crustaceans, those with the largest penises go extinct the fastest.

19) This is pretty disturbing.  Increasingly, among dog “rescue” organizations, dogs are increasingly purchased at auctions from puppy mills!  Whoa, that ain’t right.  We’ve had three rescues and all three were definitely found as strays.  (Or were provided to us by very good liars).

20) I never did read 1491, but damn did I love Charles Mann’s 1493.  One of my favorite non-fiction books ever.  He’s got an absolutely terrific piece in a recent Atlantic (read it!), based on his new book, that looks at two competing visions of how we can manage to feed 10 billion humans (as we’ll need to before all that long).

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) A little dated now (that happens fast these days), but I liked Jack Shafer’s take on Kevin Williamson and the Atlantic.

That Goldberg invested in a feral conservative like Williamson spoke well for the Atlantic. The last thing the magazine needed was another house-broken righty like David Frum who would speak nicely to its largely liberal and centrist readers. But as it turned out, Goldberg’s tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate somebody of Williamson’s swagger. The writer’s proximate undoing was a tweet and then the discovery of a podcast in which he proposed hanging as the proper punishment for women who have abortions—a perfect example of a writer going too far. In the internal email announcing the departure, Goldberg justified the dismissal by writing that Williamson’s “callous and violent” comments run “contrary to the Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace,” and hinting that Williamson may have misrepresented the offending tweet as a momentary lapse rather than a deeply held belief.

Without relitigating Williamson’s abortion views—which I don’t share—let’s agree that if he hadn’t been sent packing for his less–than-modern views on abortion, his critics would have griped about something else in his archives to engineer his removal. Let’s be real here: Kevin Williamson wasn’t sent packing for expressing strong language on abortion but for being Kevin Williamson. The very things that made him so appealing to Goldberg were destined to lead to his exit.

The loser here isn’t Williamson. Like other excellent writers who’ve gotten the ax, he’ll find a new job soon enough—and now he’s become the right’s latest free-speech martyr. The real losers are Atlantic writers and Atlantic readers—writers because they’ll become faint-hearted about their work (who wants to be the next Williamson?) and readers because the magazine will be less eager to challenge them.

2) Separate (by gender) and unequal in the Marine Corps.

3) Speaking of the Marines, I loved Eat the Apple by Matt Young.

4) My Jordan Peterson quasi-obsession has abated for the moment, but I came across again the Current Affairs article that first introduced to him.

5) The decline of local news is bad for democracy.  Hell, yeah, it is.

6) Nice article in Wired looking at the decline in teen driving by the numbers.  My 18-year-old is certainly indicative of this decline. “71% of high school seniors have a driver’s license—the lowest percentage in decades.”

7) Oh man this cartoon is awesome:

8) Nicholas Kristoff on “how to win an argument about guns.”  How sweet that he thinks you can win arguments with facts and reason.

9) NYT with 5 interesting case studies of plants and animals confused by climate change.

10) I was telling a new friend at last week’s PS conference about my undergrad’s honor’s research (which he presented in a poster at the conference) and she told me about this very similar research.  When it comes to a political campaigns, Southern accents are a decided disadvantage.  (And more on my student’s research in a later post).

For the study, the researchers had 757 participants from Alabama and Connecticut listen to a 1-minute campaign speech from a fictitious political candidate. The speech was either read by a male candidate with a Southern accent, a male candidate with a neutral accent, a female candidate with a Southern accent, or a female candidate with a neutral accent. But in all four cases the content of the speech was the same.

The candidate with a Southern accent was viewed as less trustworthy, less honest, less intelligent, and less competent. Participants also assumed the candidate was more conservative and rated them as less likeable when he or she had a Southern accent.

“The Southern accent can be a detriment to political candidates,” Cooper told PsyPost. “Surprisingly, the negative attributes associated with the Southern accent exist even among Southerners themselves. These accents also come with political assumptions about ideology and issue stances, which candidates should keep in mind when trying to communicate their agendas.”

11) Weather in NC has finally March turned for the better this Spring.  But I’ve been somewhat unhealthily obsessed with just how unusually cold March and early April have been.  Turns out in Raleigh was 6.5 degrees colder than February.  That’s nuts!

12) Enjoyed this Sean Illing interview with Robert Sutton on how to deal with what I like to refer to as very-unpleasant-self-centered persons:

Sean Illing

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the book, which is about how to deal with assholes. So tell me, what’s your best asshole neutralization strategy?

Robert Sutton

First, it depends on how much power you have. And second, on how much time you’ve got. Those are the two questions that you have to answer before you can decide what to do. Assuming that you don’t have Dirty Harry power or you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire people you don’t like, I think you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

To begin with, you’ve got to build your case. You’ve also got to build a coalition. One of my mottos is that you have to know your assholes. We already talked about temporary versus certified assholes, but another distinction that’s really important is that some people, and you mentioned this at the outset, some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well.

In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line. This is simple persuasive work. But if it’s somebody who is one of those Machiavellian assholes who is treating you like shit because they believe that’s how to get ahead, in that case you’ve got to get the hell out of there if you can.

13) Under a remotely normal presidency, EPA director Scott Pruitt’s fabulously corrupt behavior would be a much bigger story.  Drain the swamp?!  How about make it 6 feet deeper and throw in a broken sewer pipe feeding into it.

14) Yglesias on Paul Ryan, “House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics.”

15) Action/thriller movies for grown-ups are such an endangered species now.  At least a few still managed to get made.  Looking forward to seeing Beirut.

16) Really enjoyed Thomas Frank’s book on success and luck.  Here’s his short version of how to reduce inequality in a nice Wonkblog compilation of expert takes (oddly, none of them advocate cutting taxes on the wealth):

Two of the biggest problems now confronting the nation are runaway growth in income inequality and crumbling infrastructure. That the best ways to address these problems are mutually reinforcing should therefore come as welcome news.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would cost more than $4.5 trillion to bring our existing stock of infrastructure into serviceable condition by 2025. Given the incentives that engineers face, this may be an overstatement. But no one doubts that the task would be enormously expensive. Raising taxes on the nation’s top earners is the only feasible way to pay for it. That step alone would reduce the skewness of the nation’s post-tax income distribution.

But it would also reduce inequality by boosting the incomes of those further down the income ladder. As previous expansions of infrastructure investment — such as the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and the Interstate Highway System initiative of the 1950s — have taught us, many useful tasks can be done by properly supervised unskilled workers. Infrastructure projects couldn’t employ all unskilled workers, but increased demand for such workers in some sectors invariably creates labor shortages and more rapid wage growth in others.

Top earners have historically resisted tax hikes, in the apparent belief that higher rates would make it harder to buy things they want. But that view is a garden variety cognitive error. Top earners, who already have everything they might reasonably be said to need, are like others in their desire to buy additional things that seem special. But “special” is a relative concept. A nice house is one that is nicer than most other houses. A high-performance car is one that performs better than most other cars, and so on. To get such things, we must outbid others who also want them. Successful bidding depends almost entirely on relative purchasing power. And because tax increases don’t affect relative purchasing power, they have no effect on our ability to buy special things.

Consider the following thought-experiment: Rich car enthusiasts in World A, which has low taxes, can afford to buy $300,000 Ferraris but must drive them on roads riddled with foot-deep potholes. Their counterparts in World B, which has higher taxes, can afford only $150,000 Porsches, which they drive on roads maintained to a high standard. In which of these worlds would rich motorists be happier?

17) Great piece from Vox’s Brian Resnick on “9 essential lessons from psychology to understand the Trump era.”  Lots of great political psychology here.

18) I’ll always be a Duke basketball fan.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like what they’ve become in the one-and-done era.  Loved this piece on the very real downsides for the players involved.

19) This is really, really interesting for those of us who grew up on John Hughes movies.  Molly Ringwald looks back through the #metoo lens.

20) Love this– in a great prank, Georgia high school somehow gets “What’s New Pussycat” stuck on the PA system in a loop for 45 minutes.

Quick hits (part I)

I may be in Chicago for a Political Science conference, but look, you still get your quick hits on time (part II may be late).

1) Jennifer Rubin with an excellent piece on Trump’s actual peril from Mueller.

2) And Matt Glassman with a great twitter thread on the matter.

3) Confessions of a former Sinclair news director.

4) Wow– this Wired piece on disposing of human bodies (dead ones, that is) through chemistry was utterly fascinating.

5) I don’t think privatization of government services should be rejected out of hand, but it is a disaster when it comes to prisons.  You are basically monetizing human suffering and creating a profit motive to treat humans worse.  To wit, this private prison in Mississippi.  Of course, the Trump administration wants to expand their use:

On the witness stand and under pressure, Frank Shaw, the warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, could not guarantee that the prison was capable of performing its most basic function.

Asked if the guards were supposed to keep inmates in their cells, he said, wearily, “They do their best.”

According to evidence and testimony at a federal civil rights trial, far worse things were happening at the prison than inmates strolling around during a lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide watch hanged himself, gang members were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells.

So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion.

The case, which has received little attention beyond the local news media, provides a rare glimpse into the cloistered world of privately operated prisons, at a time when the number of state inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has indicated that it will expand their use

The genesis of the problems at East Mississippi, according to prisoner advocates, is that the state requires private prisons to operate at 10 percent lower cost than state-run facilities. Even at its state-run institutions, Mississippi spends significantly less on prisoners than most states, a fact that state officials once boasted about.

The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center after years of complaints from inmates, seeks to force wholesale changes at the prison.

Testimony has described dangerous conditions, confused lines of oversight and difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified staff.

Security staff at East Mississippi earn even less than the $12-an-hour starting wage made by their public service counterparts, and private prison guards receive only three weeks of training — less than half the training time required of state prison guards.

6) How Jay Wright has built an amazing program at Villanova.  As a Duke fan, I’m horribly jealous.  And so tired of one-and-done’s.

7) Focused deterrence is the way to go for limiting gun crime.  Great explanation in this NYT Op-Ed.

8) Margaret Sullivan is right, “The term ‘fake news’ has lost all meaning. That’s just how Trump wants it.”

9) This is one of my favorite examples ever of how statistics can be mislseading– I’m going to be using it for years.  Why do dogs die at a disproportionate rate on United Airlines?  Because they have been the only company willing to take short-nosed breeds (e.g., boxers, pugs, etc.) that are far more prone to respiratory distress.

10) Love this Wired history of memes.  Including my favorite.

11) And yet another case of a Republican state legislator saying stupid, stupid stuff.  There’s just nothing approaching symmetry here.  NC’s own:

According to a North Carolina legislator, some March For Our Lives speakers also called for a far more nefarious approach. State Rep. Beverly Boswell, a Republican from the coast, suggested on her Facebook page that speakers at the marches expressed violent intentions.

“Many of the speakers at these rallies were calling for gun registration, confiscation, Second Amendment repeal and even the murder of those who would not turn over their guns to the government,” Boswell wrote on her campaign Facebook page.

12) Unsurprisingly to everybody but the regulators who somehow said this would actually help consumers, the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster has been bad for competition and bad for consumers.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this from  Parkland student who tried to be nice to the Nikolas Cruz:

This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors…

This is not to say that children should reject their more socially awkward or isolated peers — not at all. As a former peer counselor and current teacher’s assistant, I strongly believe in and have seen the benefits of reaching out to those who need kindness most.

But students should not be expected to cure the ills of our genuinely troubled classmates, or even our friends, because we first and foremost go to school to learn. The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.

It is not the obligation of children to befriend classmates who have demonstrated aggressive, unpredictable or violent tendencies. It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need, even if it is extremely specialized attention that canno4) t be provided at the same institution.

2) Apparently, human ability to metabolize caffeine comes in three genetic variants.  Pretty sure I’m a fast metabolizer.

3) Excellent Wired story on modern technology and the ever-changing boundaries of when a preemie can survive and what the implications may be.

4) Of course, Trump’s talk of executing drug dealers is Trump at his worst.

5) Speaking of the worst.  It’s pretty clear that there aren’t many worse humans than new National Security Adviser, John Bolton.  No wonder Trump likes him.  This NYT article nicely lays out what a pathetic human being he is.

6) When I first saw this NYT headline, I thought it was a metaphor, “A People in Limbo: Many Living Entirely on the Water.” It’s not (okay, it is, but also reality).  A totally amazing must-read/must-see visual essay.

7) The University of Virginia women’s basketball coach has had to give up her job so that she can actually adopt her Senagalese-born adoptive daughter.  And the hold-up is not Senegal, but US immigration authorities.  Shame on them.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it could not discuss Boyle’s case because of privacy laws, but officials said the agency aims to process cases efficiently and “considers the welfare of the child to be paramount.”

“We are committed to acting in the best interests of the children and families while upholding the integrity of our country’s immigration system,” spokeswoman Joanne Ferreira said in an email.

Apparently, they decided the “paramount” welfare of the child in this case involves leaving the home she knows in America to live in Senegal indefinitely?  Or somehow adopting African children will undermine the “integrity” of our immigration system?  Ugh.

8) And, hey, speaking of the U.S. Government doing wrong… how about telling teachers they get grants for paying for their education if they work in high-need areas, but then turning those grants into multi-thousand dollar loans due to inconsequential paperwork issues.  What is wrong with people?!

9) The whole NFL cheerleader thing annoys me as it is just clearly the idea that there should be female “eye-candy” at football games.   And then these ridiculous rules they place on the cheerleaders like they are some model of 19th century Victorian virtue.  Like the New Orleans Saints’ cheerleader who was fired for posting a photo of herself in a one-piece swimsuit on a friends-only Instagram account.  Please!  (The photos are so tame).

10) I was quite intrigued with this latest finding on education, marriage, and turnout.  This is something I’ll be sharing with my classes for some time to come:

A large literature finds a positive relationship between marriage and turnout. However, previous research has ignored the characteristics of the partner. This paper contributes by studying how a partner’s education level is associated with individual turnout. The data cover the US for a time period of more than 40 years, as well as 24 European countries over a time period of 12 years. Including the partner’s education level in a model of who votes shows that the partner effect on voting may have been misinterpreted in the previous literature. The relationship between having a partner and turnout is not as general as it is often assumed. Instead of a small positive effect for a large proportion of the population (married people), there is a substantively larger association between turnout and a small proportion of the population, namely, the less-educated individuals who have a highly educated partner. [emphasis mine]

11) Good argument on how we need to re-think tenure decisions in academia.  And, yeah, more good evidence that we really shouldn’t be using student evaluations as currently constituted.  I do really like the idea of re-thinking these based on some of the more innovative student survey approaches in K-12.

12) Ezra Klein’s lengthy take on the history of “the science” of race and IQ was really, really good.

Quick hits (part I)

Sorry to be late again.  I was on a fact-finding mission (sort of) to Wilmington, NC about the Opioid crisis.  Here’s a “bindle” of heroin (that’s paper it’s wrapped) I actually held in my hands.  It’s a bad photo because I had to make sure none of the evidence-identifying info was in it.

Anyway, on to it, then…

1) There was a lot of scientifically illiterate coverage of astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA this is a nice article on the reality (and some nice explanations of how DNA change actually works):

What the nasa study found was that some of Scott’s genes changed their expression while he was in space, and 7 percent of those genes didn’t return to their preflight states months after he came back. If 7 percent of Scott’s genetic code changed, as some of the stories suggested, he’d come back an entirely different species.

The misinterpretation of the study’s results spread like wildfire this week, across publications like CNN, USA Today, TimePeople, and HuffPost. Even Scott Kelly himself was fooled. “What? My DNA changed by 7 percent! Who knew? I just learned about it in this article,” he tweeted earlier this week, linking to a Newsweekarticle.“This could be good news! I no longer have to call @ShuttleCDRKelly my identical twin brother anymore.”

2) This teenager got an Op-Ed in the NYT about not joining the gun walk-outs.  Well-written, but teaching firearm safety ain’t going to stop school shootings.

3) Yeah, of course the DNC email hack was actually done by a Russian Intelligence Officer.

4) Interesting and disturbing research on terrorism and sex stereotypes:

How does the threat of terrorism affect evaluations of female (vs. male) political leaders, and do these effects vary by the politician’s partisanship? Using two national surveys, we document a propensity for the U.S. public to prefer male Republican leadership the most in times of security threat, and female Democratic leadership the least. We theorize a causal process by which terrorist threat influences the effect of stereotypes on candidate evaluations conditional on politician partisanship. We test this framework with an original experiment:a nationally representative sample was presented with a mock election that varied the threat context and the gender and partisanship of the candidates. We find that masculine stereotypes have a negative influence on both male and female Democratic candidates in good times (thus reaffirming the primacy of party stereotypes), but only on the female Democratic candidate when terror threat is primed. Republican candidates—both male and female—are unaffected by masculine stereotypes, regardless of the threat environment.

5) This is a great interview that hits at basically everything you need to know about food and nutrition and takes on many misconceptions.  That said, it really all comes down to Michael Pollan’s aphorism… Eat (minimally-processed) food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

6) Meanwhile, a great story about how The Joy of Cooking took on some very misleading food science research.

7) This Onion headline is so me, “Accidentally Closing Browser Window With 23 Tabs Open Presents Rare Chance At New Life.”  Except in my case, I’m desperate to recover all the open tabs.

8) More really interesting PS research in the latest PRQ.  And why, sadly, it’s not enough to even ask women to run for office more (which we do need to do more than ever):

Gender differences in who gets recruited by political party elites contribute to women’s underrepresentation on the ballot, but recent evidence suggests that even when women are recruited to the same extent as men, they are still less likely to be interested in seeking office. Why do men and women respond differently to invitations to seek office? We hypothesize that women view party recruitment as a weaker signal of informal support than men do. We use a survey experiment on a sample of 3,640 elected municipal officeholders—themselves prospective recruits for higher office—to test this. We find that female respondents generally believe party leaders will provide female recruits less strategic and financial support than male recruits. In other words, even when elites recruit women, women are skeptical that party leaders will use their political and social capital on their behalf. This difference may account for many women’s lukewarm responses to recruitment.  [emphasis mine]

9) Really liked this from a widow friend, “‘Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell The Grieving.”

10) Drum on Facebook:

In a sense, though, I don’t blame either Facebook or Zuckerberg for any of this. As a country, we’ve made it crystal clear that we don’t care about personal privacy. We mock European privacy directives. We ignore the dozens of companies that do exactly the same thing as Facebook but have lower profiles. We allow credit reporting companies to collect anything they want with no oversight at all when they screw up and wreck someone’s life. On a personal level, we’re routinely willing to turn over every detail of our lives in return for a $1 iTunes coupon.

If we don’t like the idea of Facebook making our personal lives an open book to anyone, we can do something about it. The way to do that is to elect “politicians” who will write “laws” that regulate it. But Republicans don’t like regulations in general, and Democrats are queasy about regulating Silicon Valley since they get lots of money from there. As it happens, this is not one of my personal hot buttons,² but I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats could make some real inroads among older voters if they took a strong stand on this.

11) I still love March Madness but college basketball sure ain’t the same in the one-and-done era.  That said, the rule is terrific for the NBA and they have basically no incentive to get rid of it.  Short version: the signal to noise ratio of quality players coming straight of high school is not good.  That same signal to noise ratio after a single year of college is way better.  Why would the NBA give that up. There’s been no Kwame Brown’s since the one-and-done rule.  Here, Adam Silver basically admits as much after politically claiming it’s not actually working for the NBA:

In a press conference before the 2017 NBA Finals, Silver said the eligibility rule was “not working for anyone.”

“We think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play at an elite level before they come into the NBA,” Silver said. [emphasis mine] “On the other hand, I think the question for the league is in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger?”

That said, I’ve heard plenty of argument for the baseball model, but never for the hockey model.  I like it.

12) Loved this in the Atlantic on why guilt is good for your kids:

And guilt, by prompting us to think more deeply about our goodness, can encourage humans to atone for errors and fix relationships. Guilt, in other words, can help hold a cooperative species together. It is a kind of social glue.

Viewed in this light, guilt is an opportunity. Work by Tina Malti, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, suggests that guilt may compensate for an emotional deficiency. In a number of studies, Malti and others have shown that guilt and sympathy (and its close cousin empathy) may represent different pathways to cooperation and sharing. Some kids who are low in sympathy may make up for that shortfall by experiencing more guilt, which can rein in their nastier impulses. And vice versa: High sympathy can substitute for low guilt…

Proper guilting connects the dots between your child’s actions and an outcome—without suggesting anything is wrong or bad about her—and focuses on how best to repair the harm she’s caused. In one fell swoop it inspires both guilt and empathy, or what Martin Hoffman, an emeritus professor at NYU known for his extensive work on empathy, has termed “empathy-based guilt.” Indeed, you may already be guilting your child (in a healthy way!) without realizing it. As in: “Look, your brother is crying because you just threw his Beanie Boo in the toilet.” Hopefully, the kid is moved to atone for her behavior, and a parent might help her think through how to do that.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on the reality of “political correctness” and attitudes towards free speech on campus, “Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong: Support for free speech is rising, and is higher among liberals and college graduates.”

2) Not a big fan of being verbally abusive to employees– male or female– but that doesn’t make it a #metoo issue.  I liked this comment from an accomplished female friend who shared this article, “The Stranger Things creators were accused of verbally abusing female employees” about the Duffer Brothers.  The fact that this story seemed to have a shelf-life of about a day, suggests many believe similarly.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been yelled at, I could retire. I don’t get a free pass from pissing off my bosses because I’m female. Granted, I think there are more effective management techniques than shouting at and insulting subordinates, but that’s a management issue, not a harassment issue.

3) This New Yorker article on how we determine death and “brain death” in particularly was really interesting.  I had never heard about this fascinating case of a family who simply refused to accept “brain dead” as actually dead for their daughter that they still care for.

4) Sticking with the New Yorker, also loved (and was scared/disturbed) this article on the stinkbug invasion.  Hasn’t made Cary, NC yet, at least.

5) How a couple in Michigan learned to game the lottery.  Interesting stuff, but I’m going to be a little judgmental here, though, and say it’s a real shame that people would actually spend pretty much all their time doing this rather than something with at least a minimally pro-social benefit (like the case of the Biomedical researcher who gave up his job to work full time on gaming the lottery).

6) Enjoyed Sean Illing’s interview (these are almost uniformly great) with Bruce Gibney about how the Baby Boomers have ruined everything:

Sean Illing

What’s the most egregious thing the boomers have done in your opinion?

Bruce Gibney

I’ll give you something abstract and something concrete. On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they’ve done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it’s been replaced by a cult of individualism. It’s hard to overstate how damaging this is.

On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward. Because we failed to confront things like infrastructure decay and climate change early on, they’ve only grown into bigger and more expensive problems. When something breaks, it’s a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been to just maintain it all along.

7a) What’s so ultimately stupid about tipping is that even when restaurants try and get rid of it for all the right reasons, it’s so damn embedded in our culture that the restaurants actually suffer for doing  the right thing.  Ugh.  Nice New Yorker on the matter:

New research by Lynn shows that when restaurants move to a no-tipping policy, their online customer ratings fall. One factor that explains that dissatisfaction is how we, as consumers, respond to “partitioned” prices versus “bundled” prices. A partitioned price divides the total cost of an item into smaller components—say, a television listed for a hundred and ninety dollars that has a ten-dollar shipping fee. A bundled price would list the television, shipping included, for two hundred dollars. Consumers tend to perceive partitioned prices as cheaper than bundled ones. Lynn says that a customer who routinely tips fifteen per cent will see a gratuity-included restaurant as more expensive than a traditional restaurant with menu prices fifteen per cent lower. “In fact, a customer who routinely tips twenty per cent”—making her total bill higher than the gratuity-included alternative—“will still view the no-tipping restaurant as more expensive,” Lynn told me.

Lynn found that online customer ratings fell even more dramatically when restaurants instituted a mandatory service charge. People don’t like price hikes, he said, but they accept the logic of a restaurant taking on responsibility for its employees’ full wages and pricing its goods accordingly. They hate service charges. The underlying issue is that, while it is strongly encouraged by social norms, tipping is still notionally optional; being automatically billed for it feels like a “gotcha” moment. Lynn’s research also shows that customers expect inferior service from no-tipping establishments—which biases their views of the service they receive.

In Lynn’s study of online customer ratings, mid-scale restaurants suffered more after instituting no-tipping policies than upscale ones, where, he hypothesizes, customers are less price-sensitive. This suggests that, for the time being, success with tip-free programs may be restricted to the very high end. But that won’t necessarily stop other restaurants from trying. Despite the ethical virtues associated with going tipless, restaurant owners’ primary motivation to do so is likely financial. Minimum wage is rising across the country. If the tipping system remains, restaurants will have no choice but to raise menu prices in order to pay their staff. Servers will then double-dip, so to speak: they will benefit from a higher base wage while their tips also increase as menu prices climb. In other words, the best way for restaurants to keep prices low is to eliminate tipping. The biggest thing holding them back is customers’ suspicion that doing so is a ripoff.

7b) Among other heretofore largely ignored problems with tipping, it makes sexual harassment more likely.

8) Do antidepressants work?  Yes, but pretty modestly, and mostly for major depression.

9) Greg Sargent on the Republican cover-up for Trump:

House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam B. Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.

But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been made public yet — that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.

10a) Not a fan of having a torturer in charge of the CIA.

10b) And my good friend and colleague, Michael Struett, on the matter in the N&O.

11) And the political scientist who thought he’d throw in his lot with Kris Kobach’s dishonest case against the almost non-existent voter fraud has basically had his reputation publicly trashed.

12) This is a great thread from Niskanen (libertarian think tank) President Jerry Taylor summarizing a fascinating new working paper from political scientist extraordinaire, Larry Bartels.

In contrast to much journalistic speculation, I find that Republicans are not particularly divided by cultural conservatism (as measured by survey items focusing on respect for the American flag, the English language, and negative feelings toward Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and gays and lesbians, among others); indeed, they tend to be united and energized by these values. Democrats, by comparison, are relatively divided on cultural issues, with more than one-fourth finding themselves closer to the average Republican position than to the average position of their own party.

13) Totally nerdy, but totally loved Drum’s take on how to use the y-axis in charts.  Short version, so long as you are not being misleading, minimize white-space.  I agree.

14) Of course Alabama sheriffs are allowed to get rich by letting prisoners go hungry.  Yes, seriously.  Welcome to America.  Or at least the deep South part.

15) Another nice Sean Illing interview, this one on rural resentments:

Sean Illing

In the book, you argue that the anger we’re seeing in rural America is less about economic concerns and more about the perception that Washington is threatening the way of life in small towns. How, specifically, is Washington doing this?

Robert Wuthnow

I’m not sure that Washington is doing anything to harm these communities. To be honest, a lot of it is just scapegoating. And that’s why you see more xenophobia and racism in these communities. There’s a sense that things are going badly, and the impulse is to blame “others.”

They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington’s interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

Sean Illing

But that’s just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact. [emphasis mine]

Robert Wuthnow

I don’t disagree with that. I’m just explaining what I heard from people on the ground in these communities. This is what they believe, what they say, not what I believe.

Sean Illing

Fair enough. The title of your book, The Left Behind, rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that many of these people haven’t been left behind; they’ve chosen not to keep up. But the sense of victimization appears to overwhelm everything else.

15) This article is not quite 100% explicit on the point, but I like how it gets at the fact that Virginia was particularly ripe for an upset because it’s games are less reliable indicators of relative team quality due to the lower number of possessions:

Playing slowly leaves better teams more vulnerable to upsets, said John Harris, a mathematics professor at Furman University who, with two other faculty members, Kevin Hutson and Liz Bouzarth, has studied N.C.A.A. tournament upsets.

He groups teams into “Giants” and “Killers.” The Giants are always the better team. The variable is what improves the underdogs’ chances. The answer, it turns out, is when the Giants’ giant-like qualities are minimized, because a slow pace means there is literally less basketball being played.

“Picture it in terms of an extreme case,” Harris said. “If each team had one possession, a Killer is more likely to upset a Giant. The more possessions you give a Giant, the more likely it is they’re able to separate.

“It’s the reason,” he added, “why you don’t play the World Series in one game.”

16) Yeah, some kids may get hurt at Britain’s riskier new playgrounds, but the payoffs in building children’s non-cognitive capacities is worth it.

17) I do love the idea of tying fines to your income.  Smarter countries have already figured this out:

If Mark Zuckerberg and a janitor who works at Facebook’s headquarters each received a speeding ticket while driving home from work, they’d each owe the government the same amount of money. Mr. Zuckerberg wouldn’t bat an eye.

The janitor is another story.

For people living on the economic margins, even minor offenses can impose crushing financial obligations, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration for nonpayment. In Ferguson, Mo., for example, a single $151 parking violation sent a black woman struggling with homelessness into a seven-year odyssey of court appearances, arrest warrants and jail time connected to her inability to pay.

Across America, one-size-fits-all fines are the norm, which I demonstrate in an article for the University of Chicago Law Review. Where judges do have wiggle room to choose the size of a fine, mandatory minimums and maximums often tie their hands. Some states even prohibit consideration of a person’s income. And when courts are allowed to take finances into account, they frequently fail to do so.

Other places have saner methods. Finland and Argentina, for example, have tailored fines to income for almost 100 years. The most common model, the “day fine,” scales sanctions to a person’s daily wage. A small offense like littering might cost a fraction of a day’s pay. A serious crime might swallow a month’s paycheck. Everyone pays the same proportion of their income.

For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Really enjoyed this very personal essay (from dealing drugs on a corner to the NBA in four years) from former NBA player Steve Francis, whom I remember well from his ACC days at Maryland.

2) Sure, concerns about kids watching porn on their smartphones at school are real.  But if you give a kid a smartphone– or let them hang with any other kids at all– that’s a risk you take.  Talk to your kids.  The solution is not to suggest schools ban smartphones as a solution.

3) Nice piece from Nate Cohn on how the exit polls way over-estimated Trump’s support among college-educated whites, leading to a current false conclusion that his support has slipped among them more than it has.

4) Trump would not even get within smelling distance of a security clearance if he wasn’t president.  Seriously.

5) Paul Waldman, “All the crazy things Trump wants you to believe about the Stormy Daniels scandal.”

This scandal provides a vivid reminder that in the Trump era, not only are we lied to constantly, we’re also asked to believe lies that are so obvious and absurd that one can only marvel at their epic shamelessness. Granted, if you had an affair with a porn star and paid her $130,000 in hush money, you might be spinning out a few implausible excuses to explain the whole thing away, too. But the preposterousness of the Stormy lies really sets them apart.

Here are some of the things Trump and his defenders would have us believe:…

[you get it, preposterous lies.  Click through if you are curious]

While the Stormy Daniels affair may not seem as momentous as some other Trump scandals, we have to keep reminding ourselves that the president allegedly had an affair with a porn star and paid her $130,000 in hush money to cover it up. It would have ended the presidency of just about any of his 44 predecessors, and yet we treat it like it’s somewhat amusing but not really any big deal.

Just as important, Trump and his allies are acting like we’re all idiots and we’ll believe any ludicrous claim they make. But at this point, what else would we expect from them?

6) I would so never take my family on a Disney cruise.  Though, the best part of this piece from a sceptical travel-writer who did just that is all the hating on each other from the commenters.

7) Americans may not prefer sons over daughters any more:

The new study, a working paper published in September, used the same technique, but with fertility data from 2008 to 2013. “We were surprised to find that it was not true anymore that having a girl encouraged additional births,” said Francine Blau, an economist at Cornell and one of the paper’s authors. “There could be a daughter preference.”

Ms. Blau and her colleagues said the new data shows that other factors now outweigh the preference for sons. That could indicate a preference for daughters, or it could be a combination of things.

In general, Americans — especially men — have been more likely to say they want a child of their own gender. In the 2011 Gallup survey, 31 percent of women wanted a boy and 33 percent a girl, while 49 percent of men wanted a boy and 22 percent a girl.

Part of the reason is parents want to share interests and hobbies with a child, research shows, and think this will be based on gender. Now that girls play sports and do other things that used to be considered masculine, fathers might feel more of an affinity for them. Stereotypes about what boys spend their time doing have not changed as much.

As women have gained more decision-making power in marriages, and become more likely to be single mothers, they might be exercising their daughter preference more often than they used to. That could explain the difference between the Gallup survey responses and the results from the new research. (Gallup said it was planning another survey on this question this year.)

8) Farhad Manjoo spent two months getting all his news from print newspaper and recommends it.  I love print newspapers, but sure not giving up my on-line NYT and WP.  I think the key is to not have a “breaking news” addiction.

9) This is so good.  Pro-gun moron writes stupid email to teacher blaming teacher’s anti-gun stance on lack of masculinity.  Teacher uses it as opportunity to teach his students how to actually argue:

A North Carolina teacher who was accused in a letter of having a “lack of testosterone” and being a “wuss” for not wanting to arm teachers got the last laugh by having his seventh-grade students critique the letter.

Justin Parmenter, a language arts teacher at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, argued in an opinion piece in The Charlotte Observer that more counselors and social workers are needed instead of armed teachers following the Valentine Day’s mass school shooting in Florida.

A person who said he was a parent of two public school students emailed Parmenter to say that based on the educator’s picture, the teacher had “never even saw a barbell, much less lifted one, and most likely gets queasy at the sight of a gun.”…

Parmenter said his students gave advice such as “work to understand opposing points of view,” “take a fact-based approach if you want to persuade” and “refrain from name calling. It’s often cover for a weak position.”

Parmenter, who used to be a gun owner, said he was amazed and inspired by the civil discourse shown by his students. He said it reminded him of how some survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, have become advocates against gun violence.

“I’m inspired by the ability of the Parkland students and my own students to cut through the noise and focus on what’s most important: our need to be courageous and unite in the face of our shared challenges,” he wrote.

Parmenter’s response to the email has drawn praise from fellow educators. James Ford, a former North Carolina Teacher of the Year, tweeted that the email exposes “the fragile masculinity at the root of so much of this debate.”

10) Thanks to Mika for sharing this MoJo report on the Obama administration response to the Russians in 2016.

11) I’ve always been intrigued by the gender gap in political knowledge.  Some nice new PS research on the matter:

Gender-based differences in political knowledge are pervasive in the United States and abroad. Previous research on the source of these differences has focused on resource differentials or instrumentation, with scholars arguing either that the gender gap is real and intractable, or that it is an artifact of the way the concept is measured. Our study differs from past work by showing that (1) male–female differences in political knowledge persist even when knowledge is measured with recommended practices, but that (2) knowledge gaps can be ameliorated. Across laboratory, survey, and natural experiments, we document how exposure to information diminishes gender-based differences in political knowledge. The provision of facts reduces—and often eliminates—the gender gap in political knowledge on questions covering a range of topics.

12) Find out by how much teachers in your state are underpaid (and, unless you are in one of a handful of states, they probably are).

13) This Aaron Carroll twitter rant on the amoral wrongness of Medicaid lifetime limits is so good.  Click and read the whole thread.

 

 

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