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Dataclysm: Our Data, Ourselves

I just finished reading Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking. It was written by Christian Rudder, one of the founders of the dating site OkCupid, so you figure he knows a thing or two about the subject. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, Rudder draws on data pulled from OkCupid,, Twitter, Facebook, and other sources to explore various aspects of ourselves. This involves examinations of how perceived attractiveness affects one’s dating prospects, racial biases when seeking romantic partners, the mechanics of online outrages, and the various ways people describe themselves, held up against what their actions betray as their true selves.

Thoughts on GamerGate and Reactionaries

I’ve not written much about GamerGate on this blog. If you don’t know what that is, you’ll get a brief explanation here (and then some). Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll point toward RationalWiki’s mercifully brief synopsis: * Video game designer breaks up with her boyfriend. * Boyfriend posts bitter screed about her, hoping to use the Internet as his personal army. * Internet Hate Machine™ obliges. * Peoples' privacy destroyed, lives ruined, careers in gaming industry ended.

Political Journalism Sucks

Ever wonder why political journalism in the US is, by and large, so terrible? Maybe you’ve already answered this question for yourself. In that case, this post will be redundant! But if not, read on. A piece was published on Gawker today that offers a timely highlight of a central problem.  While it may be true that the political press doesn’t always write exactly what Clinton would like, emails recently obtained by Gawker offer a case study in how her prodigious and sophisticated press operation manipulates reporters into amplifying her desired message—in this case, down to the very word that _The Atlantic_’s Marc Ambinder used to describe an important policy speech.

Part 5: May Be Habit Forming

All this week I have been writing about issues of health in the United States. Americans are less healthy than our counterparts in other wealthy countries, for a variety of reasons. But the two biggest reasons are poverty and culture. Poverty can be dealt with using the bluntest of methods: throw money at it. It works. Food stamps, welfare payments, and other programs have been effective at poverty reduction, despite the bad press they have received and constant harping by conservatives that such initiatives only create generations of government dependence.

Part 4: Health and Morality Politics

The series is not done yet! Today, I am writing about issues of American health and the ways in which they are bound up and influenced by morality politics. There’s no point mincing words: American attitudes, by and large, are more conservative than those of citizens in other wealthy countries. We are more religious, we take religion more seriously, and part of that is assigning moral components to almost every public policy decision.

Part 3: Mental Illness and Addiction

Continuing on the theme of issues in American health, this time I want to talk about two things that haven’t gotten much attention so far: mental health and addiction. The good news is that mental health in the United States isn’t as stigmatized as it used to be. Overall, we speak about it more openly, and are more willing to seek treatment than in the past. The stigma is eroding, albeit slowly.

Why Are Black Americans Sicker?

Given the title of yesterday’s article, it should be clear that this one is intended as a sequel, hitting on similar themes, but focusing more specifically on black Americans, who I believe didn’t get much focus in the study discussed yesterday. First things first: black Americans have lower life expectancy than white Americans. This is well borne out by statistics. The most straightforward way to put it is that black men and women today have the same life expectancy as their white counterparts did in 1970.

Why are Americans so Sick?

Recently, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released his healthcare reform plan. Suffice it to say, it’s a single-payer system. Others say this is unrealistic, impossible, etc. Many Americans are frustrated by the reality of the Affordable Care Act, when compared to what was promised. (This is ignoring, for the sake of argument, those who hated it all along.) If we could magically have a single-payer system tomorrow, would it work? Would it be cheaper?

Do Americans Care About Political Process?

It’s no revelation that Americans have strange attitudes about politics. We like results, but we don’t like seeing the work required to accomplish them. We fear the government running amok, yet grow weary of gridlock in which nothing is accomplished. Political process is, as the term suggests, the way political goals are achieved. There are formal and informal aspects to this. Formal aspects are things like Constitutional and administrative procedures. Informal elements consist of backroom dealing, favor trading, and various forms of relationship management and networking.

What Men Don't Talk About

A sexist culture harms everyone. Some are harmed more than others. I don’t think I need to argue that women bear the brunt of sexism’s consequences. I’ve written about it here a couple of times. But it affects men, too, and in ways that are often difficult to talk about. I don’t anticipate bringing a lot of links and scientific research to this post, though I will do so as I consider appropriate.