This week is a Hidden Brain podcast marathon.
First up, an episode on racial bias. No surprise here—Americans are unconsciously biased against Black people: gun-wielders are more likely to shoot Black people, doctors are less likely to prescribe them needed heart medication, and judges are more likely to overturn opinions by Black judges. But there’s an interesting thing about the bias—researchers can’t tightly connect individual bias to individual actions, but they can connect community bias to community actions (a biased police officer may not be more likely to shoot a Black person, but communities with higher rates of bias have higher rates of police shootings of unarmed Black people).
There is hope! You can train biased police officers to not shoot Black people and can nudge biased doctors into more equitable prescription practices. “You can’t train people not to have unconscious bias, but you can do things to make sure people aren’t effected by their bias.”
For several decades, the US did a pretty good job of nominating Black judges to federal courts. (Not anymore). But Black judges get overturned at higher rates than their White counterparts. “It’s one thing to appoint people of color, but for diversity to take root and flourish, the entire ecosystem has to embrace the newcomers and their ideas. If it doesn’t, diversity ends up being mostly about optics.”
Next, why did the #MeToo movement take off now? For decades, women have tried to shine a light on sexual harassment and have gotten silenced, sending the message to other would-be accusers that they should just shut up too, because nothing is going to happen. One of the interviewees poignantly explains why she stayed in a job with a serial harasser boss: “I wanted to work.” But finally, thanks to our president, women are finally getting heard.
Finally: Lonely American Men. Masculine culture tells boys not to be vulnerable and form deep friendships, which harms them as teenagers and as men.
Is there any sentence sweeter in the English language than “I told you so”? That’s the essence of what I’ve been feeling this week as the Facebook debacle unfolded. The two best pieces I read were the Guardian on why the data breach (if that’s what it is) is more far-reaching than you think and Matthew Yglesias at Vox making what I take to be the really important argument: that the problem isn’t only about privacy, it’s that the core function of Facebook makes people lonely and sad. It’s not clear if there are any practical remedies in the near term, but John Talton argues that big tech needs trust-busting, Teddy Roosevelt-style, and Franklin Foer says it’s time to regulate the internet. And with that I’ll return to basking in the glow of my Luddite self-righteousness.
The Seahawks appear determined to scrap the team that thrilled many in recent seasons and start over, but is there something deeper going on here? A fascinating take considering the city’s liberal reputation.
Among the transactions that went down was the departure of Richard Sherman, which jogged my memory about something I wrote about him in the wake of his most iconic play (and subsequent postgame interview). Four years later, I still stand by it.
Meantime, Facebook: too big to leave? I’ll be curious to see if there’s any significant dent in the wake of all the negative publicity around the social network.
I’m happy to have a couple positive local news items to recommend this week: You may have heard that the mayor of Seattle is proposing a new law requiring gun owners to keep their weapons locked up when being stored in their homes or vehicles. This legislation has little to do with mass shootings, but everything to do with keeping kids safe—if you didn’t know, an average of 300 kids accidentally shoot themselves every year in the US, and roughly 500 will commit suicide by gun each year. That’s why Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has a program called Be SMART, which is a campaign to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children get ahold of an unsecured firearm. The local MOMS chapters are very active in this campaign, and will give a presentation to groups of any size, from you and your kids’ playdate parents up to your church congregation or your workplace. We had them present to our PEPS group, since those were the first houses our child spent significant time in outside of our own. If anyone is interested in getting their own Be SMART presentation, let me know and I would be happy to make the connection!
The other good local news this week comes out of Centralia, WA, where an energy company has proposed building a major solar project on the site of the former coal mine there. I can’t think of a better use of a former coal mine.
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More good clean energy news comes out of Arizona this week, where the Republican-dominated utility commission rejected a utility’s plans to build more natural gas plants and instead demanded a new plan that included more renewable energy.
Some good news for the zero-waste crowd as well: scientists from the University of Boulder and the University of Maryland have developed a cheap, effective, and renewable replacement for insulation.
And finally, new research shows that “getting sick can be really expensive, even for the insured”, which really shouldn’t be news to anyone. To make matters worse, “[t]he authors of the paper, published in The American Economic Review, were surprised by how often an illness or injury could upend the finances of Americans with health insurance.” This just makes me wonder what rock these researchers have been living under.
How do you keep local indigenous language alive? Elvis hits sung in coast Salish language! Teachers of Salish are getting creative, using music and contemporary cultural mash-ups to keep the next generations fluent. This Salish-language karaoke is a stroke of genius—not to mention inspiring and fun to see.
Here’s the last thing you ever need to read about how to eat healthfully. Mark Bittman and David L. Katz answer all the questions. (Spoiler: Eat your broccoli. And also: bacon’s not technically or even functionally that “paleo”).
Jill Lepore, History professor and staff writer at the New Yorker, ran this article on remembering Rachel Carson, not only for her ground-breaking work Silent Spring, but also for her larger body of work on life in the sea.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.