In general, I am suspicious when someone dismisses a view for being “radical” or “extreme.” There is usually sloppy thinking behind that designation. Why not just say what is wrong with the view? How for instance are we supposed to feel about “radical Christianity”? Good or bad? Does it mean Origen or Ted Cruz or something altogether different? Can’t we just debate the question itself?
The same is true in politics. Let’s say someone favors free trade and the First Amendment. Is that “radical”? Or is it mainstream and thus non-radical? Does labeling it radical further the debate on whether or not those are the correct positions?
Count higher than two. Of all the mental habits that encourage polarization, the most dangerous is probably binary thinking – the tendency to divide everything into two mutually antagonistic categories.
It’s easy to favor drug legalization when you’re middle-class and well educated. Your social group probably doesn’t include many people who abuse drugs much in the first place. Moderate users can afford their habit. And when their use turns into addiction, they usually have a strong support network to help out. It’s a problem, but not a huge one. In poor communities, none of this is true. Drug addiction is financially ruinous. It often leads to petty crime. Support systems are nonexistent. The justice system is harsh. There are no rehab centers on the Malibu coast to help out. Drug epidemics — Oxy, meth, heroin, you name it — are devastating. It’s something to keep in mind when you consider both the costs and benefits of drug legalization. Ending the war on drugs would indeed be a huge benefit, but the costs might be higher than you think.
Then there’s the question of automated changing of profile pictures to express sympathy, a form of emotional disaster relief. We first saw this phenomenon when Facebook created an easy way for people to apply a rainbow overlay to their profile pictures to support and celebrate a civil rights win: marriage equality. Even if you approve of rainbowing profiles, you have to acknowledge that by encouraging rainbows, Facebook was making another political choice, like the way Safety Check was a political decision.
Internet writers live on Twitter and it greatly distorts their understanding of reality.
As someone who loves Twitter, this can be hard to admit, but ultimately Twitter is an ephemeral online forum that nobody really uses, and our tiny politics subpocket of Twitterdom almost certainly has no effect on anything.
The mainline congregations may be gone as significant factors in the nation’s public life, but their collapse released a religious logic and set of spiritual anxieties that are still with us—still demanding that we see our nation and ourselves in the patterns cast by their old theological lights.
Interesting villain-in-prison cliché to see popping up recently. Practical for shooting movies (nothing blocking your view), but then again, these days you can put a camera anywhere. Pairs nicely with a more paranoid, surveillance-oriented approach to war and policing. Can’t fight what you can’t constantly observe, or so they say.
We often have it stuck in our heads that science communicators have only failed to speak to the religious right. But while issues of science-and-society are always tied up, in some ways, with politics, they’re not bound to any particular part of the spectrum.
An addiction to outrage seems to afflict writers across the political spectrum. Opponents are castigated for being insufficiently scandalized by the atrocity of the hour, and authors of offending posts are roundly demonized and ridiculed. Silver linings are rarely sought in bad news, common ground with adversaries seldom found.
Delighted to see discussion of Zero Dark Thirty in this essay. I was so bummed out by the conversation around the movie last winter.
What I do wish is that we were in agreement on the basic question of what we think we’re doing when we interpret the Constitution. I mean, that’s sort of rudimentary. It’s sort of an embarrassment, really, that we’re not. But some people think our job is to keep it up to date, give new meaning to whatever phrases it has. And others think it’s to give it the meaning the people ratified when they adopted it. Those are quite different views.
Really enjoyed this interview. I need to keep an eye out for this Jennifer Senior character, as I just remembered her really good article on high school.
All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods. Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.
Hey wait that cuts across party lines what should I believe?! Cf. The Geography of Stuck.
I’m a little obsessed with the story that broke yesterday about PRISM, the NSA/FBI project to gather information from popular Internet services, including Facebook, Google, and Apple.
So, naturally, I’ve been doing a lot of digging about the story on *.gov websites. In the process, I realized that the U.S. government loves the “PRISM” acronym. There are literally dozens of projects and applications named PRISM at the state and federal level, many with delightfully goofy logos. Here are some of my favorites.
Vigilante justice is a tricky thing.
Part of what makes obesity a wicked problem is how existing solutions — farmers markets, anti-corporate marketing — led advocates to frame the problem in particular ways. “The picture painted by advocates of grocery stores and gardens in the inner city was compelling to so many in no small part because it combined an established way of thinking about poor neighborhoods as materially deprived along with rising cultural support from middle-class Americans for eating healthier, locally grown foods,” Lee writes.
So we’re debunking “food deserts” now. More from Jacob Geller, I thought this was a useful way to think about it:
What I think is going on in America is that if someone really does want to eat healthy — and they know how to — then they will eat healthy, but huge numbers of Americans “choose” not to. The cost and the distance don’t much matter. And I put “choose” in air quotes, because people are not “choosing” per se, rather they are hooked. They buy sugar instead of broccoli, because sugar tastes awesome and goes with everything, whereas broccoli is gross. The deck is physiologically stacked in favor of sugar. The cost and the distance are virtual non-factors for most Americans, outliers notwithstanding, and obesity really does need to be tackled aggressively on the demand side, if at all possible, precisely because distance and cost are virtual non-factors.
The economist’s way of saying the same thing is that unhealthy foods (like sugar) tend to be sort of addictive, or habit-forming, or are at least advantaged by our physiology or biology, so our demand for that food tends to be pretty insensitive to price (or “inelastic”). And because our demand is insensitive to price, shifting the supply curve one way or the other isn’t going to change the quantity consumed all that much. You can fiddle with the supply curve all you like, but the problem is ultimately that this inelastic demand curve is keeping quantity consumed stuck more or less in the same place. So from a public policy and public health standpoint, it’s better to just tackle the demand curve, by shifting it leftward or making it less inelastic, through solid health education curricula or forming good eating habits during childhood, or whatever, if possible.
“People who don’t live in the area drive by, see people hanging out in the park or on the street talking, and assume everyone’s dealing drugs or up to something. Most of them are just living their lives.” [Police Lieutenant Douglas E. Little, speaking about Bedford Pine in Atlanta]
Conspiracy is a nearly irresistible labor-saving device in the face of recalcitrant complexity.
I’m not about to get all gun talk here. Mostly tumbling so I can mention that Megan McArdle is a great, thoughtful writer.
You win this one, Onion.
We’ve nationalized so many of the events over the last few decades that the federal government is involved in virtually every disaster that happens. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It stresses FEMA unnecessarily. And it allows states to shift costs from themselves to other states, while defunding their own emergency management because Uncle Sam is going to pay. That’s not good for anyone.