John Allen Poulos asks, “Are your friends more popular than you are?” Probably:
There doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason to suppose this is true, but it probably is. We are all more likely to become friends with someone who has a lot of friends than we are to befriend someone with few friends. It’s not that we avoid those with few friends; rather it’s more probable that we will be among a popular person’s friends simply because he or she has a larger number of them.
In the experiments, the students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using one of the methods to learn the material. Those who took the test after reading the passage predicted they would remember less a week later than the other students predicted — but the results were just the opposite.
. . . .
Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.
“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.
But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”
This fits my experience. I took my share of standardized tests in grade school (I remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in elementary school). The subjects were usually not that interesting, but I would recall the subjects and silly little facts from them years later. One 7th-grade test included a passage about beriberi—a disease caused by a vitamin deficiency linked to eating polished (white?) rice—that I still vaguely recall today.
Anne Applebaum says that the Department of Homeland Security does not protect America against terrorist plots. Yes, she says, “[t]errorists have been stopped since 2001 and plots prevented, but always by other means.” She continues:
After the Nigerian “underwear bomber” of Christmas Day 2009 was foiled, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed “the system worked” — but the bomber was caught by a passenger, not the feds. Richard Reid, the 2001 shoe bomber, was undone by an alert stewardess who smelled something funny. The 2006 Heathrow Airport plot was uncovered by an intelligence tip. Al Qaedas recent attempt to explode cargo planes was caught by a human intelligence source, not an X-ray machine. Yet the TSA responds to these events by placing restrictions on shoes, liquids, and now perhaps printer cartridges.
It’s short: read the whole thing.
From The New York Times’ Bits blog:
So the consensus is that Mr. McAdam will announce the iPhone on Verizon on Tuesday, and that the device will go on sale a few weeks after that. . . . [A]nother question is whether Apple executives will be on stage at the New York event. Don’t count on Steven P. Jobs, the company’s chief executive, to be there. Apple typically announces new iPhone carriers through press releases. Then again, Verizon is not any other carrier. So perhaps another Apple executive will make the trip.
God grant me the knowledge on the List of Common Misconceptions, and the wisdom never to use that knowledge at a party.
The Constitution means less than you think it does. Ezra Klein argues that the Constitution “rarely speaks directly to the questions we ask it.” Despite what some conservatives or liberals think the Constitution “obviously” says, Klein is right. But the point should be taken one step further: when the Constitution has nothing to say about a subject, we should not attempt to read more into it.
Klein raises his point in the context of the House Republicans’ new rule requiring every piece of legislation to cite to the constitutional provision authorizing it. (Another new rule requires the Constitution to be read aloud at the start of the session.)
My friends on the right don’t like to hear this, but the Constitution is not a clear document. Written more than 200 years ago, when America had 13 states and very different problems, it rarely speaks directly to the questions we ask it. The Second Amendment, for instance, says nothing about keeping a gun in the home if you’ve not signed up with a “well-regulated militia,” but interpreting the Second Amendment broadly has been important to those who want to bear arms. And so they’ve done it.
That’s their right, of course. Liberals pick and choose their moments of textual fidelity as well. But as the seemingly endless series of 5–4 splits on the Supreme Court shows, even the country’s most experienced and decorated constitutional authorities routinely disagree, and sharply, over what the text means when applied to today’s problems. To presume that people writing what they think the Constitution means — or, in some cases, want to think it means — at the bottom of every bill will change how they legislate doesn’t demonstrate a reverence for the document. It demonstrates a disengagement with it as anything more than a symbol of what you and your ideological allies believe.
In reality, the tea party — like most everyone else — is less interested in living by the Constitution than in deciding what it means to live by the Constitution. When the constitutional disclaimers at the bottom of bills suit them, they’ll respect them. When they don’t — as we’ve seen in the case of the individual mandate — they won’t.
There’s a way to solve this problem. When the Constitution has nothing to say about a subject—say, abortion, gay marriage, individual gun ownership—it has nothing to say. And when someone argues that there’s a constitutional rule but there isn’t one, they lose that claim. (My suggestion isn’t novel, nor is it mine. It’s exactly what Judge Frank Easterbrook proposed in Statutes’ Domains ($)). What happens then? The issue remains in the political process, for better or worse.
From Jonah Goldberg: By embracing gay marriage and military service, the bohemian left admits defeat.
[T]he sweeping embrace of bourgeois lifestyles by the gay community has been stunning.
Nowhere is this more evident—and perhaps exaggerated—than in popular culture. Watch ABC’s Modern Family. The sitcom is supposed to be “subversive” in part because it features a gay couple with an adopted daughter from Asia. And you can see why both liberal proponents and conservative opponents of gay marriage see it that way. But imagine you hate the institution of marriage and then watch Modern Family’s hardworking bourgeois gay couple through those eyes. What’s being subverted? Traditional marriage, or some bohemian identity-politics fantasy of homosexuality?
. . . .
Or look at the decision to let gays openly serve in the military through the eyes of a principled hater of all things military. From that perspective, gays have just been co-opted by The Man. Meanwhile, the folks who used Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as an excuse to keep the military from recruiting on campuses just saw their argument go up in flames.
Germany is vowing to defend the euro. Seems to me that having to vow to defend the euro is very bad news for the euro indeed. And, promising to support the euro might spur on the events that would make the euro need Germany’s promised assistance.
Jonathan Rauch explains why gays and lesbians need to be more, well, nice:
[W]e—gay Americans and our straight allies—have won the central argument for gay rights. As a result, we must change. Much of what the gay rights movement has taken for granted until now, and much that has worked for us in the past, is now wrong and will hurt us. The turn we now need to execute will be the hardest maneuver the movement has ever had to make, because it will require us to deliberately leave room for homophobia in American society. We need to allow some discrimination and relinquish the “zero tolerance” mind-set. Paradoxical but true: We need to give our opponents the time and space they need to let us win.
In other words, while it was wise for gays to argue strenuously and never give their opponents the benefit of the doubt, gays can now be kind and gracious to their opponents—and they should be. If gays can keep the high ground, they will be able to win the argument with their opponents while maintaining influence as a cohesive group.
If, on the other hand, gays and their allies shout down their opponents, they may end up winning the argument—gay marriage is coming, like it or not—even as they dissolve into meaninglessness.
Two questions, though, for Mr. Rauch:
H/t Eugene Volokh.