Data USA, Happy Americans, and Hating Each Other

Ideas and Issues

05data-web-master675New Orleans    Here’s some good news, assuming you want to hear some.

An MIT computer lab working with the financial and consulting firm, Deloitte, put together a website called Data USA which makes a vast amount of census and other information easily accessible. Graphs and short descriptions help walk people through the information. Yes, I gather that some of you would rather watch cats and pratfalls on YouTube, but this is some good stuff, I swear. It’s not the revolution that the technocracy would have us pray for, but it does make some kinds of research and insights easily available, and that’s a good thing. Of course this assumes all of you are interested in the facts, which may or may not be true.

Recently,  I interviewed the communications director and one of the tech managers for the City of Little Rock on Wade’s World. They described a Bloomberg Foundation funded project for scores of US cities that they had joined as well to allow people to access a number of data sets in order to more easily make 311 complaints and access city information. All of this is a good beginning, especially if there becomes enough cooperation to integrate property tax information and other data sets for other jurisdictions jointly. They were pretty clear though their new websites are in no danger of being crashed by too many users.

Speaking of data and the next thing you know we’re dealing with politics.

A political scientist looked more closely at the data from the comprehensive US community survey and darned if we’re not a happier little people around the country now. This anger and rage thing we read about in the papers turns out to be mainly the high volume coming from the voices on the microphone, rather than folks across the land.

But, there’s bad news with this as well according to Lynn Vavreck, a professor of political science at U.C.L.A. We’re happier in general, but we’re through with that loving our neighbor thing. We just plain are not that much into each other. Ok, it’s worse than that, a lot of us are hating each other, the numbers say. We’re happier on our side of the street, but we’re drawing the line hard and fast and warning folks not to cross. Parties are more partisan, and we’re not being liberal about it. The data says we’re not going to look kindly if our children start dating conservatives and Republicans if we look left or vice versa. A Trump might be able to rise, but family reunions are going to be less frequent and guest lists are going to be more closely scrutinized.

As Americans today we now continue to keep smiling and walk with a happy dance, but watch our backs and are wary of strangers among us and anyone who might ripple our waters, because as Sturgill Simpson sings, “it’s turtles all the way down.”