Blissful ignorance and magical magic

Charles Taylor had a great piece in the Boston Globe yesterday. The opening sentence hits hard. “There’s no shame in not knowing; there’s shame in not wanting to know.” Another piece on Quartz argues that thinking like a scientist is a cure-all for democracy. “If there’s overwhelming evidence for something—like man-made climate change—and you don’t believe it, you aren’t being a skeptic, you are in denial. Being skeptical means demanding evidence, not ignoring it.”

I agree with both of these statements, and I do believe that society would be better if more people followed them, but the Taylor piece, and a comment in response to the Quartz piece paint the problem.

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View from my window

Andrew Sullivan’s the Dish was one of my favorite parts of the internet for a long time. A regular feature was the “view from my window” that had photos taken, obviously, from a window somewhere in the world. I liked this feature, among many other things the blog had, and I’m stealing it as the ultimate flattery. Because the site is no longer active, I don’t feel as bad about this intellectual theft as I would otherwise.

Here is today’s view, complete with very large snowflakes:

Changing how we elect our presidents

Elections like this, and like the election in 2000, when the popular vote winner is not the same as the electoral vote winner, make people stop and think about the system we have. I have had quite a few discussions about this over the past month, and I am moved by the arguments in favor of the electoral college. Some say it’s antiquated, and that it was a system designed to give more power to states with high slave populations, but without giving slaves the right to vote. True or not, I accept the premise of why the electoral college is important today: it gives a voice to the small states, and helps make sure they are heard. This has been spun as a benefit to republicans, but the evidence supporting that isn’t very strong.

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Two sides to a coin

Imagine this: you’re a man sitting on a bus, next to some stranger who is also a man, and a woman gets on the bus, walks toward your seats, turns to the stranger next to you and says, “I love you.”  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to conclude two things: a) that the woman loves the man, and b) that the woman does not love you. The first can be a bit heartwarming, the second either neutral or heartbreaking. If the woman is somebody you’ve never met before, the conclusion that the woman does not love you is likely meaningless, and not anything you’d think twice about. Of course she doesn’t love you, she doesn’t know you. But, what if the woman were your wife. Now, not only is her love for the stranger next to you a betrayal, but the lack of love for you is about has hurtful as you can imagine. The point to take from this, and hold on to for what’s coming next, is that the lack of a message directed to you, while being directed to another, can be neutral or hurtful, depending on the context. Let’s adopt some shorthand for the rest of this. The situation when somebody does something nice for another (e.g., says “I love you”) and you smile because it was sweet is going to be called a “positive interpretation.” When somebody does something nice for another and you feel like you deserved something nice too, and you focus on the fact that something wasn’t done for you, we’ll call that a “negative interpretation.” Remember that jargon and let’s think about some issues in society and let’s see where this changes how we feel when we hear others say things, and how we might want to think about things we say ourselves.

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On winning

Trump won the election. I do not question that (although I can’t say I would be sad to learn that we were mistaken, and Trump didn’t actually win, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen). That comes with an important logical conclusion: The campaign is over.

We all know there is a difference between campaigning and governing, and we all recognize that the current landscape means that campaigning gets mixed with governing. But the target of that campaign changes, at least should change, after the election. Hillary Clinton was not elected president, but it seems like Trump’s surrogates don’t seem to realize that. Kellyanne Conway, for instance, was interviewed by Chris Wallace not to long ago, and when asked a question about Trump, she instantly pivoted to negative comments about Clinton.

Not only is she still in campaign mode, but she’s as combative as ever.

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How do we know when it’s bigotry, stupidity, or just a bad comparison?

I’m frequently asked to complete YouGov surveys, and I make it a point to respond as much as I can. I think polling data moves public opinion as much as public opinion is revealed by polling data, so I like to play my part. The questions that came up today, in back to back items, made enough of an impression on me that I was compelled to screenshot them…and, of course, post something on FaceBook.

This is what I saw:

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