The American dream?

I must say that in addition to his fine YA fiction, John Green really does nice work summarizing political issues in short catchy videos.  You all know the American dream (i.e., upward mobility) ain’t so great, but here’s a nice distillation in in 3 1/2 minutes:

You already know what to eat

Nice post by James Hamblin summarizing the latest findings on diets:

Scientific publisher Annual Reviews asked Katz to compare the medical evidence for and against every mainstream diet. He says they came to him because of his penchant for dispassionate appraisals. “I don’t have a dog in the fight,” he told me. “I don’t care which diet is best. I care about the truth.”

Katz and Yale colleague Stephanie Meller published their findings in the current issue of the journal in a paper titled, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” …

Among the salient points of proven health benefits the researchers note, nutritionally-replete plant-based diets are supported by a wide array of favorable health outcomes, including fewer cancers and less heart disease. These diets ideally included not just fruits and vegetables, but whole grains, nuts, and seeds…

They also found carbohydrate-selective diets to be better than categorically low-carbohydrate diets, in that incorporating whole grains is associated with lower risks for cancers and better control of body weight…

A nod to the fact that popular media is not totally lost, Katz borrows from the writer Michael Pollan, citing a seminal 2007 New York Times Magazinearticleon “nutritionism” in concluding that the mantra, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is sound.

Got that?  Fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains.  There you go.  I suspect you already knew this.  A lot of the article is about how the media gets things all wrong, but I would say that for people paying attention at all, this conclusion has been obvious for a long time.  I’ve also got to say, I love it how they stick it to the Paleo people:

Finally, in a notable blow to some interpretations of the Paleo diet, Katz and Meller wrote, “if Paleolithic eating is loosely interpreted to mean a diet based mostly on meat, no meaningful interpretation of health effects is possible.” They note that the composition of most meat in today’s food supply is not similar to that of mammoth meat, and that most plants available during the Stone Age are today extinct.

In many ways, though, I don’t think the hard part is knowing what to eat.  Various fads aside, the Pollan formulation is pretty solid and we’ve known it in some form for a long time.  The hard part is actually eating what you know is healthy.

The early primary season

A couple of good pieces on how the 2016 Presidential primaries are already well under way.  First, Jonathan Bernstein nicely explains how we are seeing the “invisible primary” right now:

The presidential nomination contest doesn’t start when the voters get involved in January or February 2016. It began roughly in November 2012; important events are going on right now. Indeed, by the end of 2014, it’s likely that one candidate or more will have been effectively knocked out of the race. It’s even possible that one of the nominations will be locked up…

Caucuses and primaries often ratify in public results that were rendered quietly over several years prior to voters getting involved. Right now, Hillary Clinton may be wrapping up the nomination — just as Al Gore and George W. Bush wrapped up their own long before 2000, and Mitt Romney more or less did before 2012. If reporters wait until Iowa to cover the presidential campaign, they may find themselves covering ancient history, not news.

Indeed.  And Alex Seitz-Wald on how they are starting earlier than ever:

Yet according to a National Journal analysis of media coverage, the Clintons are not wrong. The 2016 presidential race has received more attention earlier than any other in recent memory, quickening a tendency that began some 30 years ago.

“It’s a trend that goes back to at least the 1980s and 1990s when candidates began, especially in open races, formally announcing their presidential campaigns about a year and a half before the elections,” says Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University. “But we have seen some acceleration.”

But the media coverage is even more telling. Whether we looked at just the four biggest national newspapers, all U.S. publications in the Nexis database, or mentions on broadcast news outlets, we found a clear trend toward more coverage in more-recent presidential cycles, with 2016 in many cases doubling the early coverage of 2008.

Actually, if the media are covering the right things– a dubious proposition, perhaps– this is not a bad thing as it would mean that they have woken up to the fact that the invisible primary going on right now is incredibly important for who we’ll even be able to choose from in 2016.

“The media coverage is absolutely warranted,” says Lichtman, the historian. “The candidates are talking to donors. They’re out in Iowa. They’re establishing their brands.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the ever-earlier campaign. Candidates must run longer and longer to getting elected; those who can’t raise large sums of money are excluded; and polarization, already at record highs, might only be reinforced by the constant horse race.

Christmas, it turns out, does not actually come earlier every year (it just sneaks up on you). Presidential campaigns, on the other hand, do start earlier every four years, just as they cost more.

Photo of the day

I almost went with the ostrich racing photo from this Wired gallery of weird sports, but could not resist the drama in this frog-jumping photo:

Breanna Ziehlke encourages her frog to get on with it at the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee. SOL NEELMAN

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