Quick hits (part II)

1) ESPN football broadcaster is giving it up– can no longer be complicit in a sport that damages so many brains.

2) Google vs. progressive thinktank.  Google wins.

3) How Waffle House prepares for natural disaster rapid-response.

4) Charles Pierce (again) on Harrvey:

This is a result of neglect, not on the part of this administration, for which neglect is a business plan, but on the part of all of us. We allowed citizenship to decay to the point that we now do not recognize the most fundamental truth of the American experiment: that The Government is Us. It is not Them. The creation of a political commonwealth is ongoing and it starts anew, over and over again, whether we participate in it or not, because somebody always will. Pericles warned us eons ago, when he warned citizens that we may have no interest in politics, but that politics always will have an interest in us. Our ignorance of this fundamental fact is the reason we now find ourselves in a situation in which a political calamity has to address a meteorological catastrophe. Harvey’s giving the Houston the high water, but we’ve all in our own way given it the hell.

5) Statues of famous people “don’t send any message”??!!  Drum asks, of George Leef, “where does National Review find these people.”  NC’s own conservative thinktank.  And, I have served on the NC Civil Rights Commission with him.  You might be interested to know that state-level civil rights commissions are set up to include voices of those who aren’t really a big fan of civil rights.

6) Time to ditch the concept of “100 year flood“?

That’s no surprise to experts, who say the concept of the “100-year flood” is one of the most misunderstood terms in disaster preparedness. In the wake of catastrophic flooding on the Texas coast, the media has been workinghard to explain the termturning out dozens of articles explaining that a “100-year flood” is not a flood that you should expect to happen only once every 100 years. Instead, it refers to a flood that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a house in a 100-year floodplain has a 26 percent chance of being inundated at least once.1

Stories that emphasize this fact are “doing the Lord’s work,” said Wesley Highfield, professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston. But there are still more holy offices to perform. The concept of using a “100-year flood” as a benchmark for risk isn’t just misunderstood; it obscures fundamental statistical problems in how we assess flood risks — problems that can lead to residents and homeowners believing themselves to live in a zone of safety that isn’t there. It may be time for us to find a different way of evaluating that risk altogether.

7) Was recently reminded by a student of this nice New Yorker piece, “why facts don’t change our minds.

8) I’m shocked, shocked the Florida State fired the graduate teaching assistant who tried to push back against football player favoritism:

As the Florida State University football team was marching to a national title in the fall of 2013, the school was investigating allegations of academic favoritism involving a half-dozen of its leading players, including one who scored the winning touchdown in the championship game.

The inquiry, previously unreported, stemmed from a complaint by a teaching assistant who said she felt pressured to give special breaks to athletes in online hospitality courses on coffee, tea and wine, where some handed in plagiarized work and disregarded assignments and quizzes. The assistant, a 47-year-old doctoral student named Christina Suggs, provided emails and other evidence in late August 2013 to the Florida State inspector general, an independent office. But her case was soon taken over by the university’s attorney…

Even so, two things are certain: By the end of 2013, Florida State had tightened standards for the online hospitality courses. And Ms. Suggs had lost her job and left the school.

Also… online courses on coffee and tea?!  Ummm, this is not great for universities’ reputations.

9) Given the well-established link between animal abuse and serious violent crimes against humans, hell yeah we should take animal abuse more seriously.

10) Republican pollster losing faith in her party:

“What has really shaken me in recent weeks is the consistency in polling where I see Republican voters excusing really bad things because their leader has excused them,” she told me. “[Massachusetts Governor] Charlie Baker, [UN Ambassador] Nikki Haley, [Illinois Representative] Adam Kinzinger—I want to be in the party with them. But in the last few weeks it has become increasingly clear to me that most Republican voters are not in that camp. They are in the Trump camp.”

The portion of the party coalition willing to tolerate, if not actively embrace, white nationalism “is larger than most mainstream Republicans have ever been willing to grapple with,” she added.

Ummm, yeah!  Of course, this has been there for decades.  It’s just that after Trump, there’s simply no denying it for any remotely open-minded person.

11) While we’re at it, Jamelle Bouie:

Seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump is deeply unpopular. In Gallup’s latest poll of presidential job approval, he’s down to 34 percent, a level unseen by most presidents outside of an economic disaster or foreign policy blunder. In FiveThirtyEight’s adjusted average of all approval polling, he stands at 37 percent. And yet, few Republican lawmakers of consequence are willing to buck him or his agenda, in large part because their voters still support the president by huge margins. What we have clearer evidence of now is why. From polling and the behavior of individual politicians, it’s become harder to deny that people support the president not just for being president, but for his core message of white resentment and grievance—the only area where he has been consistent and unyielding.

12) Emily Bazelon on the gerrymandering wars– democracy versus math.

13) Paul Ryan introduced “do your taxes on a postcard.”  Of course, like much of Paul Ryan, it sounds smart and reasonable on the surface, but is a giant con if you know anything about policy.  Yglesias.  And  Drum:

In other words, cut the crap. If you have simple wage income and take the standard deduction, your taxes are already postcard simple. For anyone else, the tricky part is calculating your income based on the rules passed by Congress and enforced by the IRS. Ryan’s postcard does nothing to change that, which means that in real life your postcard will be accompanied by dozens or hundreds of pages of additional worksheets, schedules, and references.

But who cares, right? Honesty is for suckers these days.

14) Excellent Upshot piece on how to understand rising inequality by looking at the life of a janitor at one of America’s largest corporations, then and now.

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Some of the last victims (i.e., the heinously, wrongly accused) of the Satanic day care scare of the 80’s and 90’s are finally exonerated and getting paid millions.  Not enough. I’d be far happier with some of the legal professionals responsible for this travesty facing some accountability.

2) On a related note, I just finished reading Dan Chaon’s terrific novel, Ill Will, in which a false accusation of a ritual Satanic murder plays a central role.  It was excellent, but Chaon’s Await Your Reply was even better.

3) A woman was awarded over $400 million by a jury that agreed talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.  This, despite the fact that the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute believe that any link ranges from non-existent to small.   Who needs science?  Not our legal system.

4) Loved this article on all the ways Indiana Jones would actually have died were he in a nearby refrigerator for a nuclear blast.

5) I had not really appreciated just how remarkable Roger Federer’s career resurgence had been till I read this great feature.

6) You will not be surprised to learn I score low on Social Dominance Orientation.  Trump and Neo-Nazis, on the other hand…

7) Haven’t had time to fully digest the utterly deplorable Arpaio pardon yet, but the NYT Editorial is a good start:

The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.

Mr. Arpaio could not be less deserving of mercy. In addition to the dragnets of Hispanic-looking people that ultimately led to his contempt conviction, he racked up a record of harassment, neglect, mistreatment and other flagrant abuses of office that should have ended his career years ago.

8) On the “last great newspaper war” between the Post and the Times.  Winner?  All of us.

9) Drum on statue creep:

This is a quick note to New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio and everyone else: don’t tear down any statues of Christopher Columbus. Ditto for George Washington, the Puritans, George Custer, or anyone else you can think of who might be problematic. Just don’t.

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, this stuff plays into the hands of the Trumpies. The whole “Who’s next?” meme is an almost childishly transparent attempt to distract attention from Confederate statues; build support among moderates; and sow division among liberals. Don’t play the game. The answer to every question about statues is: I don’t know. Let’s tear down the memorials to Confederates who fought a war in defense of slavery, and then we can decide later if we ought to do anything more. OK?

That’s it. Easy peasy. We have a moment right now when we might be able to get some low-hanging fruit and make a difference. Let’s not screw it up by thinking it’s also a chance to redress every historical offense that Howard Zinn ever taught us.

9) Likewise, I entirely endorse MB’s sentiments on the idea of removing a Columbus status in Buffalo:

Is there any political/ideological group that is better at winning a battle but losing the war? Do these do-gooder, hyper-sensitive, ahistorical, and politically tone-deaf uber-liberals have any judgment whatsoever? Why not remove every statue or memorial that depicts a man since they all represent patriarchal societies that oppressed women? The impact of this type of petition is to make people like me angry about being lumped together with Nazi/racist/white supremacists because I am not sufficiently offended by a statue of Columbus to demand its removal. And people wonder how “political correctness” gets such as bad reputation.

10) Mike Pesca was also great on the statue issue in his “spiel” during his Gist podcast.  (The sexual assault conversation that was the main feature of the podcast is also worth a hearty recommendation).

11) I like to think I’m a good feminist and fully embrace women’s equality.  But is it so wrong to have different pronouns for males and females?  We really are different in some ways.  In Sweden, the answer to that question is, increasingly, “yes.”

12) A study from Texas suggests that ballot order matters to a disturbing degree.  It is, of course, so easy to rotate the order of names– nothing else should be acceptable.

13) Okay, back to the “how extreme liberals ruin it for everybody” theme.  ACLU tweets out a photo of an adorable toddler wearing an ACLU onesie and holding a flag and gets raked over the coals on twitter.  Well, the toddler was white and blonde, so clearly an act of white supremacy.  Yes, seriously.  Just sad reading the comments.  A lot of people thought this was in poor taste because the ACLU is all about defending neo-nazis these days.  They are not!  The ACLU is about defending free speech damn it.  The whole point is that you don’t get to pick and choose whose speech we can hear and whose we cannot (the damn neo nazis make it more complicated with Virginia’s open carry, etc., but that’s a different, yet related, issue).  Alas, many on the left increasingly think that the ACLU should only defend free speech for some.

14) The rather copious evidence that Exxon quite intentionally tried to mislead the public on climate change.

15) I really enjoyed this effort to follow-up on just how much the eclipse affected tourism in cities within the zone of totality.

 

 

Quick Hits (part I)

1) Bias for and against ugliness:

But it also appears that voters on the right tend to identify attractiveness with conservative views, and, when there’s little other information to go on, beauty plays a bigger role in their voting choices than it does for liberals.

Democrats might still find solace in the ugliness premium. Lenz summarized the situation in terms that Darwin might have appreciated. “There are such strong selection pressures for attractiveness,” he said. “My guess is that, in jobs where there’s a premium on looking good, if you see a funny-looking person there, they’ve got to be amazingly talented, because it’s the only way they could have gotten where they are. Henry Waxman”—who, he added, was highly regarded for his commitment and work ethic—“is a good example of that.”

2) Unsurprisingly, Trump is basically a lying con-man at golf, just like everything else.

3) I don’t think I’ve ever read an NYT piece (an Op-Ed against colleges weakening Title IX enforcement on sexual assault) where the comments have been so much better than the Op-Ed (short version– the key is not the standard of proof, but due process, which is pretty much ignored in the Op-Ed).

4) More reason to love Pope Francis as the Vatican tells conservative American Catholics to get over the culture war and actually care about the stuff Jesus did.

5) In a world of too many shelter dogs and not enough space, it makes sense that shelters would test dogs for aggressiveness, etc., before deciding who gets euthanized.  Alas, turns out those tests may not have any predictive validity.  Also, why do so many horrible humans basically just abandon their dogs.  So frustrating.

6) Back in the day, people would leave struggling communities to go to where the jobs are.  Now, it seems, they much prefer to stay in the struggling communities, blame Blacks and immigrants for their problems, and expect Donald Trump to make America great again.  This was a really interesting WSJ piece on this problem, but I don’t feel like it really gave a convincing explanation for why geographic mobility has declined so much.  Cities have always been vastly culturally different from rural areas.

7) If they actually taste reasonably like potato chips, I will happily eat jellyfish chips.  I think.

8) Of course Donald Trump is likely guilty of tax fraud in selling real estate to his son.  In a regular presidency, people would actually care.

9) Paul Waldman on Trump’s empty threats:

This all adds up to a president who is incredibly frustrated that no one is doing what he wants, yet has no idea how to change the situation because he still doesn’t understand Washington. In the business world, Trump utilized threats often, especially threats to sue people. Given that Trump is one of the most litigious people on the planet (he has sued other people more than 2,000 times, according to one count), this was a threat you might be scared by — particularly if you were someone with less money and influence than him. But when he made the same threat to those with a comparable level of resources, it wasn’t so frightening. Remember when he threatened in October to sue the New York Times because it reported that multiple women were accusing him of unwanted sexual advances? The paper was not afraid and didn’t change how it reported on him, and the suit never materialized.

When he was only a businessman, things were straightforward and easy for Trump to understand: He can intimidate little guys, but not big guys. But power in Washington is much more complicated. Power is diffuse, spread across many individuals and institutions. And it changes as circumstances change.

10) Damn, Jennifer Rubin is pretty much done with the Republican Party.

11) From what little I heard, I thought the #noconfederate movement was pretty asinine.  Now that I’ve read an interview with it’s instigator, I’m even more convinced of that.  Loved Mike Pesca’s take in a recent spiel.  Came across TNC’s take after originally queuing this post.  It’s good, but I still think dramatically overstates the case against.

12) Charles Krauthammer with a surprisingly good column on how the guardrails of democracy are doing a good job holding up against Trump of late (among the more amazing features of Trump– how often he has led me to agree with Krauthammer).

13) I really like Julia Galef’s idea of a surprise journal:

Galef set out on a personal quest to identify her wrong assumptions. The outcome: the Surprise Journal. She keeps this journal with her at all times, writing down when something surprises her and why. For example, she noticed she was surprised that both older and younger people were attending her workshops, because she assumed people would self-segregate by age. She was surprised that her students would mention a concept from one of her colleague’s classes, because she didn’t expect that idea to be very memorable. “I started thinking about surprise as a cue that my expectations were wrong,” she says.

14) Apparently McMaster is cleaning house at the National Security Council.  That’s good news for America’s security.

15) Chait on Trump’s conversation with the Australian PM is so good.  Title captures it, “Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot.”

16) Well, this is somewhat disturbing… intelligent people are more likely to stereotype.

17) Jack Shafer’s take on Fox News and Trump was so good.  Definitely read all of this one:

That Fox has ended up gulling a president is a programming accident. When the late Roger Ailes conceived Fox News two decades ago, he hoped to create shows that attracted—is there a polite way to put this?—an older demographic that seeks news that reinforces its prejudices and rarely challenges them. And he succeeded. It was only by chance that Ailes ended up creating a network that appealed to this particular flighty, low-attention-span 71-year-old.

The Ailes demographic wants to be told that the world is going to hell, a message that harmonizes with the declining status and health many of them experience. The Ailes demographic wants simple and reductionist viewpoints on America’s cultural and policy dilemmas—from crime to immigration to taxes to war and trade. The Ailes demographic seeks the restoration of the social mores it remembers from its youth, and if the past can’t be restored, it wants modern mores castigated. And it wants to be frightened and outraged. Fox almost never disappoints them.

It was the network’s dumb luck that Trump aged into its core audience as he reached the White House. Like so many of his fellow senior citizens, Trump now spends his golden years huddled at the Fox hearth, shouting amen as it voices his resentments and disappointments. Only the hearth is in the White House. As news, real and not, travels from Fox’s lips to Trump’s tweets, we have the chance to see media history in the making. Presidents have, from time to time, courted publications to advance a White House agenda or steered the news by feeding tips to columnists and reporters, but never before has a president so consistently echoed an outlet’s message.

18) Thanks to BF for sharing this about expected Solar Eclipse day traffic jams.  Maybe I should just go to SC the night before.  I tried out my solar eclipse viewing glasses on the sun the other day– so cool.

19) Really interesting philosophical take on anti-free speech campus lefitsts:

The identity politics that thrives on today’s college campuses continues to use the language of sin adopted more broadly by the cultural left of the ’60s. Students are taking on urgent issues like women’s rights, racial profiling and police brutality, climate change, and economic inequality. And while they spend a lot of their time refining politically correct forms of speech, these can be helpful learning tools, especially for young people making their way into society. When their approach becomes judgmental and unyielding, however, it backfires, leaving activists vulnerable to apathy, infighting, and ineffectiveness.

Among other things, their focus on sinfulness turns politically useful activism into useless performance. On college campuses, for example, candid and necessary discussions about race among well-meaning students can degenerate into something less productive, according to McWhorter. “For white people, it is a great way to show that you understand racism is real,” McWhorter said last month. “For black people and Latino people, it is a great way to assuage how bad a self-image a race can have after hundreds of years of torture.” In this way, activism becomes more about an insider conversation and competition, and less about effecting change. “White privilege is real,” McWhorter said. “The issue is that it shouldn’t be used as something to shut down conversation, to inculcate unreligious people with a new sense of original sin.”

20) Enjoyed this NYT on back-to-school Tech you need and don’t need for college students, but was taken aback by, “You probably don’t need a printer, either. Few professors request hard copies of term papers and other assignments anymore.”  Seriously?!  Am I actually an outlier dinosaur by requiring hardcopies?  Not as far as I can tell.

21) Ryan Lizza thinks Kelly may actually be able to reign in Trump.  We’ll see.

22) Frum makes an interesting case that, yes, it really was a failure of Trump’s leadership that Republicans could do nothing about health care:

The Republican Party had marched itself into a hopeless dead-end on health care. The party had promised not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but to replace it with something that would offer better coverage at a lower price—while also spending less public money and cutting the taxes that financed the whole thing. This was clearly impossible. Yet nobody dared say what everybody knew.

Only presidential leadership could have marched the party back out of this cul-de-sac. Theoretically, Donald Trump could have been the president to do so too. Of all the 2016 candidates, he had been the least beholden to outdated party ideology. He owed little or nothing to the interest groups that four years previous had compelled Mitt Romney to disavow his own health-care plan in Massachusetts. He was perfectly positioned to tell his own party: 2012 was the repeal election. We lost. Now it’s time to try something new. [emphasis in original]

Rescuing a party from unworkable commitments is a job only a presidential nominee can do.

It was Dwight Eisenhower’s nomination in 1952 that finished off Republican opposition to a permanent NATO commitment.

John F. Kennedy’s nomination served notice that the Democrats would end their long equivocation between pro- and anti-civil-rights wings.

Ronald Reagan put an end to the GOP’s long ambivalence about Social Security; Bill Clinton in 1992 reinvented the Democrats as a party that accepted limits to the growth of government.

It could have been Trump who likewise rescued the GOP from the excesses of Tea Party Republicanism.

23) NYT on Hollywood dialect coaches.

24) Here’s how you actually fix Obamacare if you want to– it’s not that complicated.  And Drum with the short version.

25) Recently came across this column of Paul Waldman from last year on Ben Sasse and the totally disingenous appeals to the wisdom of the common man.  It’s so good.  Just read it.

Now Ben Sasse isn’t an idiot — in fact, he’s an extremely smart guy. He went to Harvard and got a Ph.D. at Yale. He served in George W. Bush’s administration and was a university president at a young age. He understands how government works. But he’s playing a game here, one that says that you don’t need to actually understand anything about policy, that the “adult” response to the current political situation is a formless grunt of displeasure. That’s the worst kind of pandering, to tell people that their own ignorance and refusal to confront real choices is actually the soul of wisdom.

 

A few more

Didn’t quite get to finish last night due to attending a soccer game (local minor league team versus a Premier League team– Swansea City– pretty cool) and then watching UMNT vs. Costa Rica.  Got to use my new Canon SX 730 super-zoom at the soccer game.

And nothing super-zoomy about this, but certainly capture the sunset well.

Anyway…

1) Jack Shafer on Spicey:

The White House attracts all manner of toadies, suckups and flatterers seeking the president’s favor, but never did any staffer demean, degrade and humble himself to the chief executive the way outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer did. Abandoning the arts of both persuasion and elision that have served previous prevaricating press secretaries so well, Spicer flung barb-tongued lies in the service of President Donald Trump…

Reviewing Spicer’s tenure as press secretary, we find no Trump transgression so foul that Spicer would not grovel before it. When Trump praised North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and invited thuggish Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, Spicer dispensed sympathy and understanding upon the despots. No Trump mistake was too mundane for him to correct: He insisted that the word “covfefe,” which appeared in a late-night Trump tweet, wasn’t a typo. When Trump alluded to secret Trump-Comey audio recordings, Spicer dodged all questions about their existence. After the president claimed Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower, Spicer created a diplomatic incident by falsely accusing British intelligence of doing the snooping.

Shall I continue? When Trump made the baseless allegation that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, Spicer defended him. He slammed the media in general for a “default narrative“ that was “always negative” and slammed CNN in specific for calling March for Life demonstrators “demonstrators.” He accused the TV press of working harder to create alluring YouTube clips than “getting factual news,” attempted to marginalize the nonprofit investigative outlet ProPublica as a “left-wing blog,” and berated reporter April Ryan for shaking her head at his evasions during a briefing. “Even Hitler” wasn’t as bad as Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad, because he “didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.” Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, he said, had “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” Hillary Clinton’s Russia ties were more troubling than Trump’s. And so on.

2) The genes that makes dogs so sociable may be related to the gene that causes Williams-Beuren Syndrome in humans.

3) Nine-year old boy discovers million year old fossil in the desert.  My 11-year old is pretty jealous.

4) Pretty interesting take on how modern-day economics bears a disturbing similarity Imperial Chinese astrology.  Seriously.

5) NYT Editorial on the bogus voter fraud commission:

The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam.

It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square.

It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s.

Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.

6) Here’s an idea that strikes me as pretty damn obvious, but now science has clearly demonstrated– babies born addicted to opioids fare a whole lot better (and save the government a bunch of money) when they are actually left with their mothers.  Of course, not so long as people like Jeff Sessions make our drug policy.

7) Kristoff on the absurdity of Kushner still having a security clearance:

For all that we don’t know about President Trump’s dealings with Russia, one thing should now be clear: Jared Kushner should not be working in the White House, and he should not have a security clearance.

True, no proof has been presented that Kushner broke the law or plotted with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election. But he’s under investigation, and a series of revelations have bolstered suspicions — and credible doubts mean that he must be viewed as a security risk.

Here’s the bottom line: Kushner attended a meeting in June 2016 whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin initiative to interfere in the U.S. election; he failed to disclose the meeting on government forms (a felony if intentional); he was apparently complicit in a cover-up in which the Trump team denied at least 20 times that there had been any contacts with Russians to influence the election; and he also sought to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin during the presidential transition.

Until the situation is clarified, such a person simply should not work in the White House and have access to America’s most important secrets.

8) OMG am I glad my tenure-track position does not depend upon obtaining grants.  It’s damn hard out there for the “real” scientists.

9) Good NYT feature on why there are so few women CEO’s.  It’s pretty subtle, but hell yeah there’s still lots of bias:

The parallels with politics are striking. Research in both fields, including some conducted after Mrs. Clinton’s loss, has shown it’s harder for assertive, ambitious women to be seen as likable, and easier to conclude they lack some intangible, ill-defined quality of leadership.

In a Korn Ferry survey in April of 786 male and female senior executives, 43 percent said they thought that continued bias against women as chief executives was the primary reason more women did not make it to the top in their own companies — and 33 percent thought women in their firms were not given sufficient opportunities to become leaders.

At DuPont, Ms. Kullman said, she found that men were being promoted within two years, women in three. “It wasn’t as overt as, ‘She’s too aggressive,’ ” she said. “It came down more to, ‘We’re not sure she’s ready for that job.’ ”

As Wendy Cai-Lee, a banker now running her own investment firm, put it, if she wrote a book about women in business, the title would be “Dependable Back-Up.”

The Lean In survey shows a pervasive sense among women that they face structural disadvantages: They are less likely than men to believe they will be able to participate in meetings, receive challenging assignments or find their contributions valued. The bleakest perceptions are from minority women; only 29 percent of black women think the best opportunities at their companies go to the most deserving employees, compared with 47 percent of white women.

10) This is awesome– North Dakota is embracing Norway’s far more humane, far smarter approach to incarceration:

Warden James Sayler and Joey Joyce, his deputy, were quick to embrace the Norway philosophy. They immediately began devising ways for inmates to earn more freedom—shopping excursions, day passes home, and even the right to wear civilian clothes on-site. They also scaled up an existing work-release program so more men could take real jobs. “Everybody down here is going to be out of here in a short amount of time,” Sayler says. “So how do you want ’em?” This is the crux of Norway’s approach: Once you accept that these people will one day be your neighbors, you might feel more invested in making sure they have the skills to get by on the outside.

Quick hits (part I)

1) How could I not love the NYT feature, “How to raise a reader.”  Alas, I wish my oldest was willing to read more novels and fewer Dungeons and Dragons guidebooks.  (At least he has good taste in blogs).

2) How the prosperity gospel (oh how I hate the prosperity gospel for being so obviously at odds with the real one) explains Evangelical support for Trump.

3) Meant to include last week.  Deborah Tannen on how absurd it is that Republicans were hanging on the fact that Trump said to Comey he “hopes” that Comey could let the Flynn investigation go.  When I say to my kids, “I hope you get off the computer and ready to go in five minutes” they know its an order.  Language is a lot more than just word choice.

4) I’ll be honest, the latest research is not encouraging for diet soda.

People who drink diet sodas daily have three times the risk of stroke and dementia compared to people who rarely drink them, researchers reported Thursday.

It’s yet another piece of evidence that diet drinks are not a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, and suggests that people need to limit both, doctors said…

The researchers accounted for age, sex, education, overall how many calories people ate, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking.

If I were not already a regular soda drinker, I would be wary of starting.  But as a very healthy (by every objective measure) diet soda drinker, I’m not stopping now.  Also, I still believe that used responsibly (i.e., not, “oh, I had Diet Coke, now I can have cake for dinner) diet soda is probably preferable to consuming all that sugar in regular soda.

5) Of course most new terrorist attacks show how utterly pointless Trump’s travel ban is.  That is, pointless except as xenophobic symbolism appealing to the Republican base.

6) Speaking of stupid Trump policies– undoing Obams’s Cuba policy is stupid, stupid, stupid.  And doing it in the name of human rights– just after his visit to Saudi Arabia– is extraordinarily dishonest.

7) Not every day I link to the Hindu Times, but the latest research on genetic immigration into the Indian sub-continent is really interesting:

The thorniest, most fought-over question in Indian history is slowly but surely getting answered: did Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans, stream into India sometime around 2,000 BC – 1,500 BC when the Indus Valley civilisation came to an end, bringing with them Sanskrit and a distinctive set of cultural practices? Genetic research based on an avalanche of new DNA evidence is making scientists around the world converge on an unambiguous answer: yes, they did.

This may come as a surprise to many — and a shock to some — because the dominant narrative in recent years has been that genetics research had thoroughly disproved the Aryan migration theory. This interpretation was always a bit of a stretch as anyone who read the nuanced scientific papers in the original knew. But now it has broken apart altogether under a flood of new data on Y-chromosomes (or chromosomes that are transmitted through the male parental line, from father to son).

Lines of descent

Until recently, only data on mtDNA (or matrilineal DNA, transmitted only from mother to daughter) were available and that seemed to suggest there was little external infusion into the Indian gene pool over the last 12,500 years or so. New Y-DNA data has turned that conclusion upside down, with strong evidence of external infusion of genes into the Indian male lineage during the period in question.

The reason for the difference in mtDNA and Y-DNA data is obvious in hindsight: there was strong sex bias in Bronze Age migrations. In other words, those who migrated were predominantly male and, therefore, those gene flows do not really show up in the mtDNA data. On the other hand, they do show up in the Y-DNA data: specifically, about 17.5% of Indian male lineage has been found to belong to haplogroup R1a (haplogroups identify a single line of descent), which is today spread across Central Asia, Europe and South Asia. Pontic-Caspian Steppe is seen as the region from where R1a spread both west and east, splitting into different sub-branches along the way.

8) I did not follow the case of the texting-encouraged suicide till I read about the verdict yesterday.  Technology aside, the case raises so many fascinating legal issues around responsibility, culpability and free will.

9) The Gif (always soft “g” to me!) is thirty years old and going strong.  Pretty cool history of the matter in Wired.

10) How Amazon purchasing Whole Foods may signal the end-of-the-line for an increasing number of cashiers.

11) Also led me to a link on a Neil Irwin story from last year on how Walmart paying it’s employees more has been good for business:

As an efficient, multinational selling machine, the company had a reputation for treating employee pay as a cost to be minimized.

But in early 2015, Walmart announced it would actually pay its workers more.

That set in motion the biggest test imaginable of a basic argument that has consumed ivory-tower economists, union-hall organizers and corporate executives for years on end: What if paying workers more, training them better and offering better opportunities for advancement can actually make a company more profitable, rather than less?

It is an idea that flies in the face of the prevailing ethos on Wall Street and in many executive suites the last few decades. But there is sound economic theory behind the idea. “Efficiency wages” is the term that economists — who excel at giving complex names to obvious ideas — use for the notion that employers who pay workers more than the going rate will get more loyal, harder-working, more productive employees in return. [emphasis mine]

12) It’s not inherently wrong for Megyn Kelly to interview Alex Jones, but as she’s actually done it– as Julia Belluz nicely argues– is all wrong:

Reporting on Jones makes sense; he has indeed gained prominence since the last election. But a serious sit-down interview was a poor choice of format for covering him. It’s extremely difficult to have a reasonable exchange with a person who regularly rants and spews nonsense, as Jones does. It’s like running a straight one-on-one with a climate change denialist or someone who refuses to accept the Holocaust happened.

Jones doesn’t live in reality, and Kelly’s interview risks validating him and disseminating his bullshit. It doesn’t leave space for context and debunking.

It also sends the message that in an era of “fake news” and a president who regularly attacks the media, hoaxers like Jones are worthy of an hour of primetime TV to share their ideas.

If Jones’s words didn’t have dangerous real-world consequences, it wouldn’t matter much that he’ll soon have this megaphone. But they do — from spurring people to violent action to undermining institutions such as the media, science, and government.

13) Did you know about the giant, lost, medieval-era city on the outskirts of St. Louis? Me neither.

14) Just to be clear, any parent who would yell at the lifeguard for telling their kid not to run at the pool is a horrible parent.

15) A very nice interview explaining what the hell is going on with Qatar.

16) The story of a Maine woman who was attacked by a rabid raccoon and drowned it in a puddle is pretty amazing.

17) Even if you are not a Duke basketball fan, you might enjoy the story of the man with Downs Syndrome (recently passed away) who was a fixture behind Coach K and the Duke bench for decades.

Photo of the day

How did it take me almost a week to learn of the free solo climb of El Capitan truly an astounding feat.  You fall; you die.  That simple.  The National Geographic story and photos.  Also, a really good piece in the New Yorker.

Picture of Alex Honnold free solo climbing upper pitches Freerider on El Capitan

Rock climber Alex Honnold training on Freerider for the first ever rope-free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He completed the feat on Saturday, June 3rd. The historic event was documented for an upcoming National Geographic feature film and magazine story.

 
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIMMY CHIN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Quick hits (part II)

1) Even though I hardly follow baseball at all anymore, I found this interactive WP article about how hitters are now trying to hit balls with a greater upward angle to be really fascinating.

2) I’ll say that “cultural appropriation” is about the worst of what the left has to offer and rightly lampooned by conservatives.  The case of the Portland burrito cart run by white women (!!) demonstrates the level of absurdity.

3) William Ayers is still not afraid of President Trump because he thinks we over-emphasize the powers of the presidency:

I am, however, sticking to my pre-election conclusion: one man, no matter how ill-informed, arrogant, or unqualified, cannot destroy the United States or the world. The United States Presidency is far more limited in its scope and influence than we tend to give it credit for in our public discussions. Moreover, everything that Trump has done so far has had the effect of weakening the office still further, whether by appointing ill-prepared department heads who will spend their time fighting their own bureaucracies, taking extreme positions that mobilize resistance, or making policy proposals so absurd that he gets excluded from the important conversations. That’s not the world I would like to see, but it’s one I can live with.

I think Ayers is largely right.  Yet, if Trump were simply a more competent demagogue I think there’s enough evidence that he could do very serious damage to our democracy.

4) Speaking of democracy, Bartels and Achen have a helluva a critique.  Nice interview in Vox.

“Election outcomes,” Achen and Bartels conclude, “turn out to be largely random events from the viewpoint of democratic theory.”

If Achen and Bartels are right, democracy is a faulty form of politics, and direct democracy is far worse than that. It virtually guarantees that at some point, you’ll end up with a grossly unfit leader.

And that, of course, is what we now have.

5) Due to very low birth rates, Japan’s population is predicted to fall by 1/3 by 2060.  Sounds like a recipe for political turbulence.

6) New season of Invisibilia is out and the first two episodes about Emotion are fascinating.  Loved listening to and discussing these with David.  Here’s an interview with Lisa Barrett, one of the key subjects:

On the “classical” theory of emotions

The classical view of emotion is the idea that somewhere lurking deep inside you are the animalistic engine parts of your brain. There are circuits — one each for anger, sadness, fear, disgust and so on. And that when something happens in the world to trigger one of those circuits — say, for fear — you will have a very specific facial expression, a very specific bodily response, and that these expressions and responses have universal meaning. Everyone in the world makes them and recognizes them without learning or any experience at all.

On the wide variety of human emotions

There’s tremendous variability when it comes to emotion. Variety is the norm. It’s not the case that there are there’s one set of facial movements that you make when you’re sad, or when you’re angry, or when you’re afraid. For example, people don’t just scowl when they’re angry or smile when they’re happy. People smile when they’re sad, they cry when they’re angry, they scream when they’re happy. A person can tremble in fear, jump in fear, freeze in fear, scream in fear, hide in fear, attack in fear, even laugh in the face of fear.

So, I think that’s one important observation that’s really meaningful for understanding how emotions work in everyday life. That it may feel to you as if you look at someone’s face and you just know how they feel. But in fact your brain is guessing, [and] it’s using your own experiences from the past to make those guesses.

7) Ezra Klein on whether Elizabeth Warren’s more confrontational or Cory Booker’s conciliatory approach is the antidote to Trumpism.  I think I like Booker more, in general, but I’m with Warren here.

8) You know I love my social science, but I actually find it disheartening to think that preschools should be focusing more on academics.

9) Love this from my friend, Matt Shipman– you may be a scientist and not know it.  It’s all about the scientific method.

 

10) Jamelle Bouie makes the case that the rise of racist hate crimes is definitely related to the rise of Trump:

Throughout American history, the ascendance of political racism—the use of explicit prejudice to energize voters and win elections, often as a backlash to the social and economic advancement of black Americans and other nonwhite groups—has brought corresponding waves of racial violence. The “white supremacy” campaign that struck North Carolina in the state’s 1898 elections combined heated, racist rhetoric with a campaign of terror against black Republican voters and their white allies. Likewise, during the heyday of the civil rights movement, the heated demagoguery of segregationists was fuel for the violent responses that marked the crusade for black rights.

11) Nice to see Political Science professor Larry Sabato take CNN to task for absurd levels of false equivalency.

12) Long-time Republican big-whig (and NeverTrumper) Pete Wehner tells Republicans to stop being complicit in the firing of Comey.

13) Okay, I disagree with this.  A University of Florida Dean lost her job for giving a strong reference to a former employee.  The problem? Said employee lost his job for ordering “adult” DVD’s with his university email address.  I don’t think either of these should be firable offenses.  As for the Dean, if somebody is an entirely excellent employee under your supervision, what’s wrong with reporting that reality.  I don’t think it’s the Dean’s responsibility to review the email receipts of all her employees.  Personally, I use my ncsu account to buy stuff all the time.  Though, it is more likely to be fidget spinners.  I get that it’s a public account, but what I buy with it on my own time should not necessarily be.

14) The case for going all-in on the placebo effect, even when patients know that’s what it is.

15) This Nautilus piece on evolution and survival of the friendliest was really, really interesting.

16) This is a really good CNN piece on the affront to justice and human decency of mandatory minimum sentences.  Mentioned, but under-played that this is, at heart, a problem of over-zealous prosecutors.  Presumably, to convince themselves that they are good people who are making the world a better place, they actually come to believe that it somehow benefits society to put a 50-year old housewife with no criminal history and no history of violence into jail for a minimum of 5 years for 5 grams of meth.

17) OMG, I think I would take Ted Cruz over these “liberal” fascists at Evergreen State.  Unreal.

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