Tuesday, February 21st, 2017


You Can’t Be Trusted

Reminder: Delivery will be sporadic this week.

We should function as reasonable people. It seems dangerous to do otherwise. And yet, human evolution has not selected against confirmation bias. The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert examines what seems to be a uniquely human trait: Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds: "If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it's hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Imagine ... a mouse that thinks the way we do. Such a mouse, 'bent on confirming its belief that there are no cats around,' would soon be dinner. To the extent that confirmation bias leads people to dismiss evidence of new or underappreciated threats -- the human equivalent of the cat around the corner -- it's a trait that should have been selected against. The fact that both we and it survive ... proves that it must have some adaptive function, and that function ... is related to our hypersociability ... Presented with someone else's argument, we're quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we're blind about are our own." (I've definitely spotted this trend in those who disagree with me.)

+ "This is the same bias that makes you fear swimming in the ocean lest you get attacked by a shark, despite shark attacks being far less common than, say, death by coconut." Wired on the cognitive bias President Trump understands better than you.

+ NAFTA destroyed the job market in Michigan. Or did it?

+ Stat: "Tired of alternative facts, fake news, and breathless hyperbole, two professors at the University of Washington are trying to strike a blow for science. Their weapon? A new course: Calling Bullsh-t In the Age of Big Data." (To be honest, I don't even believe big data exists...)


Sem as it Ever Was

"The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil." After a series of bomb threats against JCCs, the desecration of a Jewish Cemetery in Missouri, and tweets from both his daughter and Hillary Clinton, President Trump makes a statement on antisemitism.


Agent 45

Here's one area where America is certain to see job growth: Immigration and customs agents. From the NYT: The new Trump deportation rules allow fo far more expulsions: "The change in enforcement priorities will require a considerable increase in resources. With an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, the government has long had to set narrower priorities, given the constraints on staffing and money."

+ "After a lot of persistence, effort and patience, a pro-immigrant ethos has gradually taken root here." From NPR: A thriving rural town's winning formula faces new threats. (It turns out we're not in Kansas anymore. And in some ways, neither is Kansas.)

+ Overall, do immigrants really contribute to a rise in crime? Definitely not before they get assimilated. From Pew: Crime rises among second-generation immigrants as they assimilate.

+ "Among the 1.3 million people who sought asylum in Europe in 2015 were nearly a hundred thousand unaccompanied children. Most were from Afghanistan and Syria. Thirteen per cent were younger than fourteen years old." This is just one more reminder that America does not have a refugee crisis. Refugees have a refugee crisis. From The New Yorker: At an age when most kids need supervision to do their homework, hundreds of thousands of minors are crossing continents alone.


Retirement Package

"She pops a green pill filled with cannabis oil into her mouth with a sip of vitamin water. Then Ms. Brunn, who has neuropathy, settles back in her wheelchair and waits for the jabbing pain in her shoulders, arms and hands to ebb. 'I don't feel high or stoned,' she said. 'All I know is I feel better when I take this.'" Winnie Hu in the NYT: When Retirement Comes With a Daily Dose of Cannabis.



"How can we be talking about tweets concerning Pence's trip to Hamilton when there's a more important story about the $25 million judgment against Trump University? How can we be focused on a slapstick press conference when we should be digging into the ties between Russia and the Trump team?" This is a common theme among many in mainstream and social media. Here's my somewhat contrarian take: Stop beating yourselves up. The Distraction is the Story.

+ Quartz: You're not imagining it: The Trump media vortex has gotten even worse since the election.


Blogseat Driver

Following Susan J. Fowler's blog post on the mind-boggling sexual harassment she encountered at Uber, CEO Travis Kalanick hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to probe allegations of sexism. Uber's Official Line: Eric Holder has been hired to investigate sexism. Uber's Unofficial Line: Holder. Heh. Like "hold her." Heh, heh.

+ Axios: Silicon Valley's ugly secret exposed -- again.


Everything But the Kitchen Sinks

"Much is being written about climate change and the impact of rising seas on waterfront populations. But coasts are not the only places affected. Mexico City -- high in the mountains, in the center of the country -- is a glaring example. The world has a lot invested in crowded capitals like this one, with vast numbers of people, huge economies and the stability of a hemisphere at risk." The NYT digs deep with an investigation into Mexico City, Parched and Sinking.


Banzai Like an Eagle

"Under French military supervision, four golden eagle chicks hatched last year atop drones -- born into a world of terror and machines they would be bred to destroy." Avi Selk in WaPo: Terrorists are building drones. France is destroying them with eagles. (Now I feel less weird about training my beagles to defuse dirty bombs.)


Dad Genes

"There are a plethora of new mom and baby groups, as well as online forums and blogs, to help women transition into motherhood, but fewer options when it comes to dads." Dads are parenting more these days, but they don't have many places to get support. (ESPN has always worked pretty well for me.)


Bottom of the News

"The City of Stamford has issued the couple a blight citation, which carries a $100 daily fine, for failing to remove or cover up the N-word in front of their home." An interracial couple has been fined for not removing a slur someone else spray-painted on their house.

+ He once wrote Lost and now he's found... The talented and attractive Damon Lindelof is also extremely well dressed in his Read Real News shirt. Speaking of which, his excellent show The Leftovers is back in April. Here's a first look.

+ "Putin's desk was also empty, but the pen was gone. Instead, Putin had a TV remote control on his desk." This story of a leader and his television might sound familiar.

+ Springsteen invites a kid up on stage to play a song with him. Kid kills it. World not such a bad place after all.