Dave Roberts’ long article about the rise of what he calls “tribal epistemology” is my lead pick for what you should read. In tribal epistemology,
Information is evaluated based not on conformity to common standards of evidence or correspondence to a common understanding of the world, but on whether it supports the tribe’s values and goals and is vouchsafed by tribal leaders. “Good for our side” and “true” begin to blur into one.
It’s a masterful tour of the challenge, and it’s honest enough to admit that the path back to universal knowledge—verified by evidence and testable with logic—remains uncharted. Sobering but essential reading (and critical for a think tank like Sightline to grapple with).
A perhaps-contrarian view of this week’s nuking of the filibuster in the US Senate. Whatever you think of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (I’m no fan), the filibuster’s days have been numbered since Harry Reid first deployed the “nuclear option” in 2013 (a change we celebrated here). The remaining filibuster—for legislation rather than Supreme Court confirmations—will die too in the next few years, I predict. Once the ruling party had changed the rules by simple majority, it was inevitable the other party would too when in power. In the near term, that’s bad for progressives and good for conservatives, but in the long run, it’s a huge win for American democracy and for Cascadian sustainability. The filibuster empowers low-population states against large-population ones, as Rocky Barker, dean of environmental reporters in the inland Northwest, noted in the Idaho Statesman. Demographically, that skew favors older, whiter, rural, more-conservative US voters—not the vanguard of a sustainable future. More fundamentally, the change to sustainability requires sweeping policy changes, and the filibuster is a colossal brake on change of all types. Steven Waldman spells out a brief articulation of this case here, and I wrote extensively about it a few years ago in this series.
The Tampa Bay Times examined every Florida police shooting from 2009 to 2014. They found that blacks were more likely to be shot than whites. Specifically, blacks were more likely to be shot in situations where they were unarmed, not wearing a seatbelt or pulled over for other minor traffic violations, being chased on foot (e.g. running away), or suspected of a minor, non-violent crime. Blacks were four times more likely to be shot in the back. It’s important research, in part because these data are not always easy to track down. See the powerful slide show here. You can also listen to a two-part Radiolab podcast on this research and the local context here.
In Holland, straight men are holding hands to show solidarity with gay men subject to harassment and attacks.
And, some click bait I was glad I bit (sorry…puns). Stunning drone footage of an Alaska salmon run from Lake Iliamna. (Beware: annoying popups and dreamy scenery).
In my continuing quest to find hopeful news, I came across this article about how a positive outlook is good for your health. So, in an effort to do my part for public health, here are a couple articles that gave me a little optimism boost this week:
According to researchers in the Journal of Mammology, the best way to minimize livestock predation by wolves is to coexist. Over the course of the years-long study, not only did non-lethal wolf control methods prove to be more effective, sheep mortality rates in the wolf-killing control group came out to a full 3 ½ times higher than in the live-and-let-live study area. Coming right on the heels of a petition calling for a ban on the predator-killing cyanide traps that recently killed a pet dog and injured a 14 year old boy in eastern Idaho, this couldn’t be better news for wildlife in the West.
On the other side of the country, there’s a very interesting special election happening in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, until recently held by the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. In a district that hasn’t voted for a democrat in decades and which re-elected Mr. Price just last November with 62% of the vote, a 30 year-old neophyte Democrat is making his 11 Republican competitors very nervous. It will be an interesting one to watch.
Research suggests women are “better at creating value through collaborative exchanges.” Women are more likely to seek mutually beneficial solutions that value all parties’ interests. But to succeed in careers, women are urged to act on more traditionally masculine values, such as a focus on profit and self-interest. But if enough women work together, they can steer organizations in a more “ethically sustainable” direction.
I’m a few chapters in to the fascinating book Democracy for Realists which, so far, is making a pretty convincing argument that voters vote based on their tribe (usually, their political party, their race or ethnicity, or their religion) and not based on policy preferences or evidence. Put another way: people decide which party they are a part of and then favor the policies that party espouses, rather than looking at evidence to decide which policies they like and then favoring the party that espouses those policies. (Pretty easy to see recently: Amercians’ views of Russia are driven by their partisan affiliation, not the other way around). Matthew Yglesias has a somewhat alarming summary of the book that emphasizes the “voters are inattentive and uninformed” piece of the story.
Now I am given
a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,
a grey both heavy and chill. I’ve boasted I would not care,
I’m London-born. And I won’t. I’ll dig in,
into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.
Grey is the price
of neighboring with eagles, of knowing
a mountain’s vast presence, seen or unseen.
Plus, good news for those who exercise outdoors in this cold damp climate, a Swedish brewer has improved one of life’s finest pleasures with a beer meant solely for drinking in the shower.
How do we move forward with environmental justice in the era of Trump? Grist collects wisdom from important environmental justice leaders.
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Progressive City highlights persistent planning inequalities and exclusionary practices, and explores what placemaking would look like when Black lives matter. Here are a few words from Washington DC’s director of planning on Park(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event that transforms parking spots into temporary public spaces, “I’ve told my staff that PARK(ing) Day is really nice. But if five black males took over a parking spot and had a barbecue and listened to music . . . would they last 10 minutes? Who gets to ‘disrupt’ the public space paradigm, and who gets arrested for disturbing the peace?”
Jon Talton, an economics columnist for The Seattle Times, listens to the “99 percent.” In a recent piece, he attacks the canard of “job-killing regulations.” He points out that forcing giant corporations to be better neighbors protects public health, and can create jobs.
In the “climate change is already with us category,” the New York Times ran this article describing how wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have killed cattle, and the burdened ranchers feel that their government has abandoned them. Those interviewed were family ranchers, not owners of “factory farms” with tens of thousands of livestock, generating millions of gallons of liquid manure per year, such as the controversial giant dairies in eastern Oregon.
Also in the New York Times, in the “atomic power is not a climate solution category,” is a report on the radioactive rubble, still being generated during cleanup, that must be managed from the Fukushima reactor accident.
On the same topic, Westinghouse, now a subsidiary of Toshiba of Japan, filed for bankruptcy because of huge losses from atomic plant construction. The projects include an uncompleted reactor in Georgia, for which the US Department of Energy granted over $8 billion in loan guarantees. Westinghouse’s bankruptcy may mean that taxpayers will be stuck with that bill.
In some good news, the Times also ran an article about Diego, a very prolific Galapagos giant tortoise, who has rescued his species from the brink of extinction.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.