Quick hits (part II)

1) So, in addition to the refugee thing, our governor now wants the state to join a lawsuit about transgender restrooms.  More evidence that McCrory will try and get re-elected by appealing to the GOP base in 2016, rather than 2012’s strategy of appearing a moderate acceptable to Democratic voters.  (Not that Democrats are going to the mattresses on transgender bathroom issues, but it speaks to a culture war focus to gin up GOP base support).

2) I saw a drug ad yesterday that advertised the drug as the most prescribed for a particular condition.  Why in the world then, does it need to be advertising directly to consumers?  Nice Op-Ed in NYT against this practice.

3) Judge Posner certainly understands what “undue burden” means.  And a nice piece on it from Dahlia Lithwick.

4) Fascinating society in Northern Syria based on radical notions of gender equity:

‘‘The battle made me think of women differently,’’ he told me. ‘‘Women fighters — they saved us. My society, Yazidi society, is more, let’s say, traditional. I’d never thought of women as leaders, as heroes, before.’’

Mirza heard about the academy at a refugee camp, and here his education in feminism had continued. He and his fellow students studied a text that Ocalan wrote on gender equality called ‘‘Liberating Life.’’ In it, Ocalan argues that problems of bad governance, corruption and weak democratic institutions in Middle Eastern societies can’t be solved without achieving full equality for women. He once told P.K.K. militants in Turkey, ‘‘You don’t need to be [men] now. You need to think like a woman, for men only fight for power. But women love nature, trees, the mountains. … That is how you can become a true patriot.’’

5) Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers.

6) Are good doctors bad for you health?  Quite possibly.  Excellent column from Zeke Emmanuel:

One thing patients can do is ask four simple questions when doctors are proposing an intervention, whether an X-ray, genetic test or surgery. First, what difference will it make? Will the test results change our approach to treatment? Second, how much improvement in terms of prolongation of life, reduction in risk of a heart attack or other problem is the treatment actually going to make? Third, how likely and severe are the side effects? And fourth, is the hospital a teaching hospital? The JAMA Internal Medicine study found that mortality was higher overall at nonteaching hospitals.

7) On the rising prominence of on-line polls.

8) Dylan Matthews on how the media has no idea how to deal with Trump’s shameless lying.

9) George Will’s take on the overly-sensitive students in recent college protests.  I could deal without Will’s smugness, but some more good examples of this all going too far.

10) John Cassidy on the latest pharmaceutical merger:

Read, in his statement explaining the proposal to merge with Allergen, said that it would help put Pfizer “on a more competitive footing within our industry.” This was a reference to the fact that other big pharma companies, such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis, are headquartered in countries with lower corporate tax rates than the United States. However, there is scant evidence that being based in the United States has handicapped Pfizer or made it more difficult for the company to raise capital.
To the contrary, being based in the United States enables Pfizer to exploit the vast reservoirs of technical expertise that reside here, and to access federal support for scientific research. For example, according to the company’s Web site, it has dozens of collaborative projects with the National Institutes for Health. And being headquartered in the United States certainly hasn’t prevented Pfizer from making a lot of money. Over the past two years, the company has generated almost nineteen billion dollars in net profits.

11) What to do about those prosecutors who abuse their authority with no concern for Constitutional rights?  Prosecute them.  A thousand times, yes.

12) Nice piece from early-childhood expert (and Matt Damon’s mom!) on putting way too much emphasis on testing and academics at way too early an age.  Kind of depressing.

13) The highest bridge in the world.

14) Jamelle Bouie on why “fascist” is the most appropriate term for Donald Trump:

With that said, it is true that there are fascist movements, and it’s also true that when you strip their cultural clothing—the German paganism in Nazism, for example—there are common properties. Not every fascist movement shows all of them, but—Eco writes—“it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.” Eco identifies 14, but for this column, I want to focus on seven.

They are: A cult of “action for action’s sake,” where “thinking is a form of emasculation”; an intolerance of “analytical criticism,” where disagreement is condemned; a profound “fear of difference,” where leaders appeal against “intruders”; appeals to individual and social frustration and specifically a “frustrated middle class” suffering from “feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”; a nationalist identity set against internal and external enemies (an “obsession with a plot”); a feeling of humiliation by the “ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”; a “popular elitism” where “every citizen belongs to the best people of the world” and underscored by contempt for the weak; and a celebration of aggressive (and often violent) masculinity.

If you are so inclined, Bouie spells out how these apply to Trump.  But I think it is plenty obvious.

15) Not impressed by Mockingjay Part 2.  One movie would have been plenty sufficient.  More so, the source material just wasn’t that great.  Suzanne Collins came up with a terrific idea for The Hunger Games.  It was a great idea for one book, not three.

16) Nice long read in Wired on how humans got such big brains.

About that fear of refugees

From a recent Gallup post… Yes, it is pretty unfortunate and wrong how much Americans are needlessly opposed to Syrian refugees, but it is interesting to see how much this opposition is driven by Republicans.  Sure, even 40% of Democrats disapprove of admitting the Syrian refugees, but check out these numbers among Republicans:

Opinions on Syrian Refugees Coming to U.S., by Political Party

And, of course, I can’t help but thinking about what a high percentage of this 85% are Jesus-loving Evangelical conservatives.  Better to just focus on what Jesus had to say about sodomy (oh right, nothing).

Photo of the day

love using slow shutter speeds on flowing water.  Especially waterfalls.  So, this really cool waterfall is just 40 minutes from my in-laws and a super-easy 1/2 mile hike from the parking, yet somehow we never even knew about it.  If you are ever in the area and want a really easy drive (i.e., not a lot of curvy mountain roads) and easy hike for a waterfall, Toms Creek Falls seems hard to beat.  (And also, a really cool abandoned mine shaft).



Quick hits (part I)

Sorry for the delay.  Thanksgiving vacation and all.

1) Really interesting piece about Massachusetts‘ complicated relationship with Common Core.

2) Vox summarizes the research on children and happiness.  Maybe it really doesn’t make a difference on average and I suppose I would still be a happy person without kids, but no way would I be as happy.

3) Kristof with a strong column on anti-refugee sentiment.

4) Had no idea that Syracuse, NY had one of the worst slum problems in the country.  On how a downtown highway contributes to the problem.

5) I don’t buy “expensive” running shoes, but maybe I should go even cheaper based on research.

6) Max Ehrenfreud spoke with psychologists about the psychology of support for Trump:

From a psychological perspective, though, the people backing Trump are perfectly normal. Interviews with psychologists and other experts suggest one explanation for the candidate’s success — and for the collective failure to anticipate it: The political elite hasn’t confronted a few fundamental, universal and uncomfortable facts about the human mind.

We like people who talk big.

We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren’t.

And we don’t like people who don’t look like us.

Most people share these characteristics to some degree, but they seem to be especially prevalent among Trump’s base.

7) Contra the rest of the country, Virginia has gone on a marijuana arrest binge.  Not surprisingly, the state is way disproportionately arresting Blacks.

8) NPR story on how young people are much more okay with “socialism” than older Americans.  Surely, in part, it just doesn’t have the same connnotations as it did a generation ago.

9) Really good NPR interview about political polarization and trust with great political scientist and fine human being, Marc Hetherington, about his new book:

You say that Americans really aren’t getting all that ideologically polarized. That doesn’t feel true. So how on Earth is that right?

Hetherington: People are not so polarized on issues specifically or in terms of their ideological predispositions.

And the reason is that most people don’t pay that close of attention to politics. And in order to have extreme viewpoints on the issues or in terms of their ideologies, that requires a lot of political expertise to take extreme positions on issues.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not polarized. It just means that we’re not polarized in terms of our issue positions or ideologies. We point out that ordinary Americans are, in fact, polarized, but it’s in their feelings, not in their issue positions. We’ve come to dislike our opponents in a way that we’ve never disliked them at this level before.

How did that happen?

It’s a combination of lots of things over time. A big part of this, at least to Tom and me, is that there’s really nothing that [our representatives] in Washington agree on across party lines any longer. In other words, all the moderates kind of disappeared from the people who represent us.

It’s a story that’s tied up in the evolution of the parties on racial issues. As race came to dominate politics, no longer could Southern Democrats survive, so they were replaced with ever-more conservative Republicans and, in the Northeast, Northeastern Republicans couldn’t survive; they were replaced by really liberal Democrats.

So, the center of both parties ended up disappearing, in fact, becoming pretty conservative among the Republicans [and] Southerners, and liberal among the Democrats — the Northeasterners and far Westerners, for that matter.

So, a big part of why we don’t like each other is the people who provide us with our cues — that is, our leaders — they basically spend all their time telling us that the other side is always wrong, on every single vector. And that’s one of the things that causes people to dislike the other side.

Another important piece is the types of issues that divide us these days — when we are divided about things people have deep, strong feelings about, like race and ethnicity, as it is tied up in immigration these days, or gay rights.

10) Oh man do I hate the guardians of propriety on twitter.


11) The Washington Post takes its turn on money and college sports.  Good stuff.

12) On having fewer kids to do your part for the environment.  Hey, at least I recycle!

13) On the Catholic Church in Africa (with Francis visiting this week).  Oh my.

At the synod last month, Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea grabbed headlines with a speech that equated gay rights with terrorism. He said both were “apocalyptic beasts” with a “demonic origin.”

“What Nazi-fascism and communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” said Cardinal Sarah, who has served in the Vatican for years and was named to the top liturgical post there by Francis in 2014.

14) It would be great if we could clean up pollution really cheaply in local lakes with solar-powered devices.  Seems like time to admit they are not working, though.

15) Randall Munroe (XKCD) explains relativity.

Photo of the day

I don’t get as many good shots of my 3rd son Evan as 1) he tries to avoid the nature walks that David and Sarah always gladly accompany me on; and 2) he doesn’t really like to pose for photos.  Thus, I was really glad to just nail this shot of him happy after landing in a leaf pile.



Scenes from a Trump rally

From Molly Ball.  Depressing and scary:

Four months into his crazed foray into presidential politics, Trump is still winning this thing. And what could once be dismissed as a larkish piece of political performance art has seemingly turned into something darker. Pundits, even conservative ones, say that Trump resembles a fascist. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, which some hoped would expose Trump’s shallowness, have instead strengthened him by intensifying people’s anger and fear. Trump hasfalsely claimed that thousands of Muslims cheered the 9/11 attacks from rooftops in New Jersey; he has declined to rule out a national database of Muslims. The other day, a reporter asked Trump if the things he was proposing weren’t just like what the Nazis did to the Jews. Trump replied, “You tell me.” …

They seem so nice, your friends and neighbors. Your fellow Americans.

“In today’s time, if I’m a white person who’s proud to be white, I’m a racist,” says 44-year-old Kevin Stubbs, a land surveyor who shared his Marlboro Reds with an African American T-shirt vender on the way in. “Yet a minority can say that.”

“I do not feel safe,” says his fiancee, Loree Ballenberger, 42. “People are coming in across the border, and we have no idea where they are coming from.” She recently called her congressman to urge him to vote for a bill limiting Syrian refugees.

“I remember seeing Muslims around the world celebrating after 9/11,” says Chip Matthews, a 63-year-old retired carpentry teacher in glasses with tinted lenses. So what if it was the Mideast and not New Jersey? “The basic point, I think, is true,” he says.

“I look at the pictures of those refugees and they all look like able-bodied young men, 18 to 30 years old,” says his wife, Patrice Matthews, a 62-year-old retired school-district worker. Matthews doesn’t see why we have to be the ones to help these people. “It’s their country—they need to take it back,” she says.

I hear versions of the point about able-bodied young men from five different people. I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face. Almost everyone says their second-choice candidate is Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas; many express a wish that he and Trump would run on the same ticket.

Barnhill, the man with the “balls” button, says, “Like he says, people have got to abide by the law. And unfortunately, a lot of minorities don’t.”

Jay Alter, a 49-year-old computer programmer in a tweed blazer, is here with his 15-year-old son. “Just because he thinks illegal immigrants and terrorists should be deported doesn’t make him a racist,” he says. “He’s calling it as it is. You’ll never see CNN do that.” …

“I’m against the anchor babies, and I’m against the Muslims,” says Kathy Parker, a tiny former elementary-school teacher with gold hoop earrings. [Ed: Omg– to think she was teaching children!] “We can’t have churches in their countries—why should they have mosques in ours? He is the only one with the guts to speak out and say it.”

“We’re just tired of paying for people who don’t deserve to be here,” says Nina Lewis, a blue-eyed 33-year-old former sheriff’s deputy who is going back to school to be a veterinary technician. [Ed: Glad she’s no longer in law enforcement!] She has brought a giant handmade sign that says “TRUMP: FOR THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN WORKING CLASS CITIZENS.” “He stands up for the blue-collar people everywhere. He speaks for us,” she says. There is no one else she would vote for.

Of course, this is actually nothing new.  Such sentiments are sadly always lurking in the dark hearts of our neighbors.  What is new is how damn successful Trump has been in tapping into this sentiments.

And, the case for Trump… again

Ezra Klein interviewed Alan Abramowitz and gave him a chance to respond to Nate Silver’s critique.  Some highlights:

[Abramowitz] I saw what Nate Silver posted on FiveThirtyEight, and what he’s saying is reasonable based on the history of these presidential nominations, but there are a couple things I think are different this year.

Silver makes the case that the polls at this point don’t necessarily mean much, and you can get big swings in voter preferences in relatively short periods of time. And that’s true. What I think is different is Republicans are tuned in to a much greater degree than they were at this point in previous nomination contests. You can see that in polling when you ask whether voters are paying attention, and you can see that in ratings for the debates. The idea that voters aren’t tuned in yet and won’t make up their minds till January or later may not prove as true as it has in the past.

Because of the higher level of interest and attention this year, these early polls may be more predictive of what’s likely to happen.

The second point is Trump isn’t only leading in national polling. He’s leading in every state poll I’ve seen. He seems to be ahead in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, Nevada…

There have been very clear signals already from the Republican establishment, from Fox News, from conservative pundits — it’s been clear they think this is really bad for the Republican Party, but it hasn’t worked so far.

There have been repeated moments when Trump said something outrageous and there were predictions that this is the beginning of the end of Trump, and then he does better. This goes all the way back to his attacks on John McCain’s war record and his sexist attacks on Megyn Kelly. These things don’t seem to hurt him. Among his supporters, they take that as a sign that this is a guy who speaks his mind, says a lot of things they agree with — and besides which, who do you trust, Donald Trump or the mainstream media that is telling you he’s lying?

Abramowitz makes a strong case not that Trump will be the nominee, but that we should definitely take the possibility seriously.  I think he’s right.  And here’s some fun food-for-thought (also via Vox):

1) If the field narrowed to just Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, Trump would crush Rubio 57-43


One way of downplaying Trump’s persistent dominance in the polls is to suggest his 20-30 percent is a ceiling, not a floor. Nate Silver, for instance, wrote that Trump “has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.)”

The idea here is that Trump’s lead represents a fractured field: As weaker candidates drop out and the establishment consolidates around a single anti-Trump, that candidate will pass Trump in support even if Trump holds his current numbers.

But in a head-to-head matchup among Republican voters, Trump beats Rubio 57-43. That suggests that Trump’s ceiling, at least among Republicans, is far above his current 25 to 30 percent, and he may well benefit as weaker candidates drop out.

Only in America.  Happy Thanksgiving! :-)


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