I recently came across an article discussing a TED Talk by a Baltimore police officer. The thesis: we (Americans) rely on police too much. I didn’t find that an unreasonable premise. It got me thinking about both policing as well as our criminal justice system. Do we depend on them too much? Consider all the ways in which we use police: * There are thousands of police officers assigned to schools all over the country.
In a political culture divided not simply by ideology, but basic judgments about reality, it should be no wonder that echo chambers–homogeneous clusters, in the research parlance–are commonplace. A couple of papers were brought to my attention, both written by (more or less) the same group of Italian researchers. They are: * [Debunking in a World of Tribes](http://arxiv.org/pdf/1510.04267v1.pdf) * [The spreading of misinformation online](http://www.pnas.org/content/113/3/554.full.pdf) I will quote from both, as needed.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has made an impressive showing thus far in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary season. Last summer, he was considered an incredible longshot–a guy with no chance in hell of securing the nomination. To have come from behind and shaped himself into a real contender is admirable. It is not, however, without its downsides. Most of Sanders’ support comes from white people. It has been claimed that there is a gender gap between Sanders and Clinton supporters, but this isn’t true: about half of Sanders’ supporters are women, same with Clinton.
I was recently embroiled in a discussion about police responses to dangerous situations. It was suggested that police, when responding to a mass shooting event, are generally able to stop or reduce the killing. Being the kind of person I am, I wondered if this was true. I had to find out! This LA Times piece was cited as evidence of effective police responses to mass shootings. It is a list of the 46 deadliest mass shootings in the US, in reverse chronological order.
Most reporting about the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL, etc.) is frustratingly superficial, or relies on virtually deranged conservative American political commentary. I know I tire of seeing stories about how we need to “flatten Raqqa,” or otherwise annihilate seemingly all the territory (and people) under the Islamic State’s control. But then there’s a piece like this one, in Foreign Policy magazine. My only complaint is that it’s rather short. Otherwise, it provides a good look at what life is like in Raqqa.
I play the lottery now and then, by which I mean maybe once every year or two. I like to think I might win, but of course don’t entertain any illusions that I will. It’s more of a fun social activity to take part in a lottery pool at work, or among friends. But the lottery isn’t that way for everyone. Lotteries bring in billions while preying on the poor. They are touted as helping education funding, but once lottery funds pick up, it gives state legislators an excuse to cut taxpayer funding.
Obama’s legacy has been a topic of discussion virtually since he took office, but as we enter the final year of his Presidency, it’s sure to come up more and more. To that end, Politico has a new panegyric out, lavishing praise on the President and calling attention to some of his perhaps lesser-known victories. Obamacare wasn’t really a government takeover, but the student loan overhaul actually was; it yanked the program away from Sallie Mae and other private lenders that had raked in enormous fees without taking much risk.
Republicans still don’t understand how their own political strategies created the Tea Party and, most recently, Donald Trump. Gary Legum of Salon has a good piece on the topic, in response to an essay old guard conservative David Frum wrote for The Atlantic. Legum: Frum argues that the GOP base that is upsetting the party’s established order is simply “pissed off.” Which is true! But why is this mostly white cohort so angry?
There is a tendency I’ve seen to assume that the current anti-intellectual trends in American politics are new, or especially bad today in ways they weren’t in the past. The reality of the situation is, as usual, far more complex. In 1963, an American historian named Richard Hofstadter published Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which traced the history of anti-intellectual movements in the US. Per the Columbia Journalism Review,in a recent retrospective, Hofstadter described intellectualism like so:
“Political correctness” has once again become a buzzword in American politics. Criticism of it cuts across both racial and partisan lines. But what is the problem, really? This piece in today’s New York Times offers an overview of how the issue is presented, depending on your political leanings: “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” Donald Trump[told a cheering audience of South Carolina business leaders](http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/donald-trump-politically-correct-crap-213988)in September. “That’s called politicians’ speak.