Knecht Ruprecht writes: Haidt is at it again. This is a quiz that purports to pinpoint your political leanings by asking a few attitudinal questions, mostly about lifestyle and culture.
It pegged me at 77% liberal, 23% conservative, which is pretty close to my self-estimation (maybe 85-15). If I shared my socioeconomic cohort's enthusiasm for fusion cuisine, the results probably would been right on the money.
That said, I suspect the predictive value of the model starts to break down at lower income and education levels.
Heebie's take: How big a stereotype are YOU? This quiz determines where you fall on the spectrum from Pajama Boy to Hillbilly Redneck, and then extract your politics from your degree of cliche.
I'm somehow infuriated by the premise of this quiz. I get that it's a statistical game, like those quizzes that ask you 50 apparently oddball questions and then guess your gender. But this one seems to be preying on stereotypes - the questions aren't oddball at all. "Do you enjoy sly ironic winks or big sweaty fists that punch?" and the major weakness seems to be that the stereotypes fall short of being predictive:
The biggest weakness we discovered is that the results from our survey were less distributed across the spectrum than the figures for people's self-reported ideologies. A person who reported themselves as "very liberal" or "very conservative" tended to receive scores that were artificially close to the center.
I got a 22% conservative, 78% liberal. I don't think it detected my crunchy exterior or my gooey center very well.
Politicalfootball writes in: CIA lawyer John Rizzo offers this first-person account of his role in the U.S. decision to torture prisoners.
He rehearses the familiar pro-torture arguments. He cites the ticking bomb scenario and notes the seeming paradox that we recoil from torturing enemy combatants even when we find it acceptable to kill them. His main concern, however, is not with the ethics of torture, but with the difficult issues raised by torture for bureaucrats who labor behind the scenes to cover their asses.
When the CIA's Counterterrorism Center proposes "enhanced interrogation," here's how he responds:
My first reaction was to tell the CTC, at a minimum, to forget waterboarding. ... I had been around the CIA long enough, had been through enough of its misadventures and controversies, to develop a gut instinct about what could get the Agency -- and its people -- into trouble down the road.
In pondering torture, he cuts straight to the central issue: Will he and his colleagues get in trouble? In weighing his response, he reflects on past occasions when the CIA has come under fire, such as Iran-Contra, and he considers the ongoing panic over terrorism.
With all of that churning in my head, I couldn't shake the ultimate nightmare scenario: another attack happens, and Zubaydah gleefully tells his CIA handlers he knew all about it and boasts that we never got him to tell us about it in time.
So a terrorist attack would be tragic because the CIA might be blamed. On the other hand, what will people say about torture? Rizzo must make sure his posterior isn't exposed there, either. He tells his co-conspirators that if enhanced interrogation constitutes torture, then it's illegal.
Understandably, nobody in the room found that response satisfying. Finally, someone -- I believe it was the CTC chief, Jose Rodriguez -- broke the silence and declared, "Our people won't do anything that involves torture."
"You're damn right," Tenet interjected. I couldn't tell if their reaction was based on the law or their moral dictates, but it was exactly the right response.
Rizzo, it becomes increasingly clear, isn't much interested in whether or not prisoners are tortured. He lays out his plan:
"Look," I said, "let me take this to the Justice Department, to get something definitive, something in writing. We tell them everything we want to do, every detail about how we would conduct the EITs.
And let them make the final legal call. And not just settle for a simple yes or no -- we make them go on the record for every single one of the techniques, especially if it's a yes."
I was punting, of course, but it was a strategic punt. ... I wanted a written OLC memo to give the Agency -- for lack of a better term -- legal cover. ... It would be as good as gold, I figured confidently.
Thirty years ago, I read Joseph Heller's broad bureaucracy satire, Good As Gold. It's full of material like this. Rizzo regards ass-covering the way that Tom Wolfe regards status-seeking: He can't imagine any other lens through which to evaluate human behavior. Rumsfeld is described unsympathetically for his ass-covering, while Bush is a stand-up guy because he declines an easy opportunity to cover his ass.
There's a (perhaps unintentionally) funny bit at the end, where Rizzo asks Tenet about the mechanics of ass-covering, and Tenet's response is to cover his ass:
He did not recall ever briefing Bush on any of the specific EITs.
He did not recall ...
Rizzo tries to portray these discussions as natural, normal and reasonable, and I think he succeeds. John Yoo's crimes lead me to believe he is loathsome; Rizzo causes me to hate humanity.
The George Mason accent archive is a nice "who do you sound like?" complement to the "who do you talk like?" of the dialect quiz.
Nick S writes: Three short posts in which Drum links to interesting research. All of of which looked like interesting information.
Unfortunately, total prison population tells us more about policies and crime rates in the past, when today's prisoners were first incarcerated, than it does about today. So Keith Humphreys decided instead to take a look at new prison admissions. He was pleased with what he found:
"I was startled and encouraged to see that under current policies, we are at a two decade-year low in the prison admission rate. To provide historical perspective, peg the change to Presidential terms: When President Obama was elected, the rate of prison admission was just 3% below its 2006 level, which was very probably the highest it has ever been in U.S. history. But by the end of Obama's first term, it had dropped to a level not seen since President Clinton's first year in office."
Take a look at the top three lines. Among those with high incomes, the risk of hypoglycemia is about the same all month long. But the red line shows the incidence of hypoglycemia among the poor. It goes down at the beginning of the month, when money is available for food, rises a bit in the middle of the month, and then jumps dramatically in the final week when money is tight. As a check to make sure that tight budgets really are at fault, the authors ran the same test on the incidence of appendicitis, which should be unrelated to income. It was.
The dramatic thing about this chart is that the United States does worse than other rich countries in every single area. Sure, it's possible that there are 16 different reasons that we're doing worse in 16 different categories, but it doesn't seem likely, does it? When something is this widespread, the cause is a lot more likely to be something broadly based, like health care delivery. This isn't smoking gun proof that our Rube Goldberg health care system is responsible for our lousy life expectancy, but it sure ought to make you sit up and take notice. There's a pretty good chance that you, your friends, and your family are going to live three or four years less than you should, solely because you live in America.
I probably should have posted about it ages ago, but I didn't, and now he's blathering on in press conferences. We could debate if he's a buffoon or a thug? That just invites portmanteaus.
We acquired a deck three years ago, and gained a yard last summer. The kids are not in the habit of playing in our new backyard at all. Also we have no furniture on the deck besides a grill.
What sort of backyard items give the highest payoff in terms of time actually spent outside, enjoying them? What about deck items? Deck furniture seems especially tricky because I don't like to clean stuff that gets gross from living outdoors, and I don't want to lock down the functionality of the deck too much. I do like to serve meals out there, though. And I'd like to be in the habit of doing more back there.
Cecily sends in this, and notes "This is intense":
The first time Trace Lehrer touched me it seemed harmless. He placed a hand on one of my shoulders while we were alone in his classroom and told me that I shouldn't worry about my grade in his course. The gesture actually might have been harmless if I hadn't been thirteen years old at the time, and if Trace Lehrer hadn't been a teacher ten years my senior; it might have been harmless too if he hadn't started to massage my neck and then my back a moment later. But at the time I didn't want "harmless"--or "innocent" or "friendly" or "benign"--to describe his hands on my shoulders.
One thing about the article is that while she's very clear that she was not traumatized by the relationship as it unfolded in real time, but in the aftermath she did become traumatized, and she's frustratingly vague about which part of the saga became the traumatic part. She hints once or twice that he was manipulative - was that what troubled her? Or how it turned her family life upside down? Or the jarring end to the relationship? Spell it out, sister.
It just occurred to me how strikingly absent from popular entertainment are portrayals of crazy returning soldiers like we had after Vietnam, with films like The Deer Hunter. You know thousands of soldiers are coming home right now with PTSD or worse, and horrible, only recently survivable, injuries. If there's been a major movie about them, I haven't heard of it.
Very nice interactive map of poverty by the Times. Having recently moved from one of the dark blue areas to a very light blue one, I...have no special insight other than, truly, this country is seriously fucked up. And of course there are the notorious juxtapositions, like Palo Alto (cheapest three-bedroom house currently on the market: $1.7M) and East Palo Alto (30% in poverty, and that's with some fair bit of gentrification recently) and Evanston, IL, where Groupon Fuckwit Mason just sold his beachfront house for $4M, while blocks away, in the same city, 44% of people live in poverty. And I suppose everyone knows this, but the poverty line is really low; you can be above it and still living a life not one of us would envy. It remains a wonder to me that no shit has been burned down.
I feel like it's nigh obligatory for us to discuss why women aren't welcome on the internet. But it's hard to come up with any angle for this crowd - I assume there's a consensus that comment sections (and inboxes) are generally wretched places unless you've got glowingly adorable moderators.
If this becomes a place for anecdotes, I will say that my experience as a not-very-prominent blogger in a well-insulated corner of the internet has been notably free of this kind of harassment. I'm exceedingly grateful for that.
I have a super easy baked eggs dinner that generally goes over well with the family. Usually it bakes to a beautiful golden color, but the last time it turned a nasty yellow-gray color, when I put spinach, mushrooms, and feta in there. (Usually I put in whatever I have on hand, which ends up being things like ham or chicken, cheese, broccoli, assorted vegetables, etc.) What's the difference? That there wasn't a regular shredded cheese on top? That the spinach had more water in it? It tasted fine.
Quite a story about the group that broke into an FBI office and unearthed COINTELPRO.
Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about how he's not crazy about paternal leave programs explictly earmarked for fathers in an attempt to destigmatize fathers doing childcare, on the grounds (roughly) that fathers doing childcare is just a baseline responsibility, and it's condescending and counterproductive to be handing out encouragement and praise for something people should be doing anyway.
I've seen variants of that argument a lot -- often phrased as "What do you want, a cookie?", and it's never really worked for me. Someone demanding praise for meeting minimum standards is being a twerp, and particularly if they're not really meeting those standards. But if you want people to do something, praising them for it works really well, even if they should be doing it without the praise.
I do a fair amount of training people to do not-terribly-difficult legal work. And I'm pretty free with the praise when they get even fairly simple tasks right. And I swear it works -- my trainees develop fast and do good work, even the ones that weren't wildly promising out of the gate. I think half of what's going on is the literal informational content of the praise: stroking someone for doing a solidly adequate job, means that they know the difference between a solidly adequate job, which draws recognition, and something that I rolled my eyes at but let pass because I didn't have the time or energy to chastise them for.
I also pay off my kids for good grades. Not all that much, but a small amount for each report card grade over 90, and a bonus if grades in all classes (not counting gym) are over 93 (number selected arbitrarily to make it possible but not likely most cycles). They don't need it to do well in school -- they did great before I started, and it's not enough money to be important to them. And I'm not actually sure that it's a reasonable thing to be doing. Largely, I'm exorcising my own bad childhood memories -- grades were important, and obviously I could be doing spectacularly well by just doing the assigned work. So very high grades were the minimum standard, unworthy of notice, and any deviation from that (which happened all the time, because I wasn't so much with the work ethic) was serious trouble. Nothing good could ever happen from bringing my report cards home. I really hated that -- I'd be literally nauseated when grades were due to come out. So, for my kids, I want interactions around their academic performance to be baseline at least moderately pleasant and rewarding, at least partially to give me the emotional space to investigate and work on remedies when something's going wrong, without feeling like I'm in the same cycle I hated so much coming from my parents.
Does anyone have experience with actual negative effects of too much praise and encouragement (so long as the praise is directed at behavior, rather than innate qualities)? I think people worry about overpraising/encouraging much more than they should.
A poem I liked. If you know Unfogged people there, you've probably seen it already, but otherwise it's worth clicking through.
Charley Carp sends in this story about a woman getting different results from different genetic testing services, and even when they agree on the genetic material, they can disagree on how to interpret it. It makes pop genetics seem like it follows in the tradition of astrology more than science.
That Lou Reed was only two years younger than Phil Everly? I'm fond of both of their music, but would have thought there was a generation between them. It's peculiar to think about what seem like radically different eras coexisting at basically the same time.
Stay warm, you crazy diamonds.