Photo of the day

From National Geographic Found:

Boys dressed up in school uniforms pose with king penguins at the London Zoo, 1953. Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart and David S. Boyer, National Geographic Creative

Boys dressed up in school uniforms pose with king penguins at the London Zoo, 1953.PHOTOGRAPH BY B. ANTHONY STEWART AND DAVID S. BOYER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

The biggest political science fraud ever

I don’t think I actually ever mentioned the recent Political Study that showed amazing amounts of attitude change when a person had a talk about gay marriage with an actual gay person.  But you likely heard about it anyway, because it got a bunch of coverage– including playing a major role in a This American Life episode.

So, here’s the amazing thing– the data this is all based on was faked by a graduate student.  And the co-author on the paper, Donald Green, is one of the most esteemed names in the study of elections (by all appearances, it appears that he was duped as well).  It’s really a pretty amazing story.  Vox has the best run-down of the matter I’ve seen:

Last year, UCLA grad student Michael LaCour and Columbia political scientist Donald Green published a startling finding, based on a experiment they ran: going door to door to try to persuade voters to support same-sex marriage works, they found, and it works especially well when the canvasser delivering the message is gay. They even found spillover effects: people who lived with voters who talked to a gay canvasser grew more supportive of same-sex marriage, too…

The findings were, as it turns out, too miraculous. Green has retracted the study, and asked the journal Science to do the same. LaCour, it turned out, faked the data

LaCour was set to become an assistant professor at Princeton this July. Any reference to that job has been removed from his homepage. But the page still features a long list of media outlets that have covered his research. Just about every place you can think of covered the same-sex marriage study: This American Life, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Science Friday,Bloomberg Politics, Huffington Post, and, of course, me at Vox. We all got it wrong.

Personally, I believed the study was sound because it came from sources I trust. Ironically, Broockman — who’ll start as an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall — was the one who first alerted me to the study he’d wind up exposing as a fraud. David’s an old friend and often passes along papers he thinks I ought to cover. Here’s what he said on LaCour and Green: “Deep. Compelling. Awesome … The most important paper of the year. No doubt.”

The whole article explains how the data was faked and how the fakery was uncovered.  Likewise, I would not question anything written by Don Green that’s been through peer review.  But not many of stop to consider that data is being faked.  Certainly shows the importance of replication.  And probably the importance of replication before we all go trumpeting some world-changing result.

On Life and Death

Okay, don’t really want to go too deep here, but I have been thinking about such matters as I was back home in Springfield, VA today (have I mentioned my deep and abiding hatred for the traffic in Northern Virginia) for the funeral of my godfather.  He was an awesome, awesome, man.  Yes, it is super-cool that he was a Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot, but his awesomeness was in his kindness and generosity of spirit.  He (and his wonderful wife) welcomed not just me, but Kim and all our kids into his family.  And honestly, whenever I have needed to remind myself that conservative Republicans and conservative Christians (of the Catholic sort, of course, in this case) are not the enemy, but good people with a sincere difference of opinion, I would think of him (though, part of the success of our relationship was pretty much never discussing politics, but in the most oblique fashion).

So, yes, of course, it is sad that he died.  And I feel bad for his wife, daughters and grandkids who will miss out on his loving presence in their lives.  But living 84 years while staying sharp as a tack to the end and not having a long, lingering illness at the end?  That sounds pretty good to me.  A life well lived (and I learned today that he had survived presumably terminal kidney cancer twice, fifteen years apart).

Could not help, but think about the contrast with the last funeral I attended– my friend Craig Brians.  The funeral for a man in his early 50’s, who dies suddenly leaving  young children behind.  That was the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced.  Today was the celebration of a long life, well-lived.  Alas, none of gets the choice in such matters, but that is certainly what we can hope for for ourselves and our loved ones.

Chart of the day

Wonkblog nails it, so I’ll borrow their headline as well as their chart:

Why your Internet is so slow and your commute is so miserable — in one chart

You get the picture. Conversely, so many of the things we absolutely hate about modern life — traffic, slow internet, train delays, etc — exist largely because we don’t want to fork over the money it would take to make them go away. Want better roads? Raise the gas tax. Want a less terrible commute? Pay more for commuter rail. Want better internet service? Demand your telecom companies step up their game.

But none of this is likely to happen with political leadership from the top, at a national level. And we all know how that’s going.

More on rape and Game of Thrones

Okay, given my limited blogging of late, this is probably not where I should be spending my energy, but this whole “controversy” is just too much.  It even made the Times:

A rape scene in Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones” has brought renewed criticism to this popular HBO fantasy series, which has previously drawn fire for what some viewers believe is its frequent and callous depiction of sexual violence.

The audience members who have expressed their disapproval since Sunday’s broadcast include United States Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, who said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that she was “done” with the show.

This episode of “Game of Thrones,” which is adapted from a series of novels written by George R. R. Martin, concluded on Sunday with a wedding between the characters Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). In a scene that follows, Ramsay sexually assaults Sansa while he forces a third character, Theon (Alfie Allen) to watch. The rape is primarily portrayed through sound and through Theon’s pained reactions.

Please!  The society portrayed in GOT is full of horrible violence.  Most of it non-sexual, some of it sexual.  It is a brutal, rough society.  It would be one thing if rape were being portrayed in some form of positive or exploitative fashion.  Heck, in the one that set off the latest firestorm, it is literally the show’s most odious character who commits the act of sexual violence (one that is clearly not rape in their society).  Our sympathy is 100% with the victim– and the scene is filmed in an entirely non-sexual way– who suffers from so many forces beyond her control that lead to this.  And this is what sets off the fuss?  Meanwhile, the series has had a number of scenes in brothels which can hardly be described as anything other than gratuitous female nudity.  Anyway, violence is horrible, sexual violence is horrible, but somehow pretending that this particular depiction of sexual violence in any way would encourage rape or the degradation of women is patently wrong.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week.  Now that’s what I call a photobomb!

Malte Woestefeld, a 24-year-old business administration student, was on a day trip to Zoo Safaripark in Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany

How do my stripes look? A visitor to a wildlife park seemed to make a new friend when a zebra stuck its head through his car window – and posed for a ‘selfie’. Malte Woestefeld, a 24-year-old business administration student, took the snap while on a day trip to Zoo Safaripark in Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany.Picture: Malte Woestefeld/REX Shutterstock

Game of Thrones and the meaning of rape

So, I’ve been too busy lately and not getting in good blogging.  But I have not been too busy to watch the (terrific, in my opinion) finale of Mad Men and the latest Game of Thrones.  And to do plenty of reading about them both on-line.  One thing that keeps coming up, is spousal rape (e.g., this).  On Mad Men, we haven’t seen Greg (Joan’s ex-husband) in a long time, but most references to him on-line refer to him as a rapist.  Meanwhile, GOT this week saw the rather unpleasant consummation of poor Sansa Stark’s marriage (and, honestly, I find most every scene With Ramsey Bolton far too unpleasant– the stuff last year with Theon went well into gratuitousness).

Anyway, what strikes me about so many responses is that they all use post 1970’s conceptions of what “rape” is.  Now, don’t for a second pretend that I am arguing that it is “right” or acceptable to force sexual intercourse on an unwilling woman, but the simple fact is that throughout most of history, this was seen as perfectly legal, if not appropriate, behavior, if that unwilling woman was one’s wife.  Here’s a nice summary from a laywer:

Marital rape was a term that was viewed by the law as an oxymoron until shamefully late in U.S. history. Until the 1970’s, the rape laws in every state in the union included an exception if the rapist and the victim were husband and wife…

While it has generally been illegal at all times for a man to force sex upon a woman other than his wife, a husband could force sex upon his wife without violating the law until very recently. The justifications for this marital rape exception were:

  • the British common law view that the contract of marriage includes the husband’s “right to sex”—the wife having given consent for all time by entering the contract
  • the traditional view of wives as the property of their husbands with which they could do as they pleased under common law

So, did Greg “rape” Joan on Mad Men?  According to the laws in New York at the time, certainly not.  Did Ramsey “rape” Sansa in GOT (or Kal Drogo and Danaerys for that matter)?  Okay, I’m not sure of the legal code in Westeros, but I’m pretty sure it is not more progressive towards gender that British common law.  It seems to me, Sansa did not even conceive of the idea that as a wife she could do anything except submit?  Within the universe of GOT I have absolutely no doubt, Sansa was not raped.  Now, there is something worthwhile in emphasizing that women should never be coerced/forced into sex against their will, but I also think it actually just serves to muddy the picture when we apply our modern understandings of rape (especially the spousal exemption) to times and places where such conceptions are completely alien.


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