Chipotle thinks I’m stupid

Not just me, of course, all their customers.  Mmmm, do I love me some carnitas (and barbacoa when responsibly-raised pork is not available), but I really do resent their new non-GMO position. Ronald Bailey deconstructs its wrongness:

Chipotle offers three “key reasons” for rejecting genetically modified ingredients. The first: “We don’t believe the scientific community has reached a consensus on the long-term implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption.” As evidence for this statement, the company notes that “in October 2013 a group of about 300 scientists from around the world signed a statement rejecting the claim that there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs for human consumption.” Three hundred whole scientists!

So who are these GMO rejecters? The cited statement was issued by a notorious anti-biotech claque, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. Signers included people who have made whole punditry careers out of anti-biotech rhetoric, such as Charles Benbrook, Vandana Shiva, and Gilles-Eric Seralini. Benbrook regularly (and incorrectly) claims that planting biotech crops has boosted pesticide applications; Vandana Shiva lies about biotech crop failures causing farmer suicides in India; Seralini produced a bogus study in 2013 that claimed that rats fed biotech corn developed breast cancer. (The study was later retracted.)

The plain fact is that every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated the safety of modern biotech crops has deemed them safe for human beings to eat. This includes the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many more…

Chipotle’s third “key reason” is that the restaurant “should be a place where people can eat food made with non-GMO ingredients.” Why? The company states, “In our quest to serve the best ingredients, we decided to remove the few GMOs in our food so that our customers who choose to avoid them can enjoy eating at Chipotle.” Basically, this is a marketing ploy aimed at appealing to customers who have been bamboozled into thinking that biotech is bad. The customer is always right, even when they are wrong…

Private companies like Chipotle have the right to try to sell whatever they want. But they cannot claim that they are acting with integrity.

Yep.  Of course, I’ll still (mostly) happily eat my Chipotle meals because I still love that their are committed to less inhumane (not quite sure I want to go as far as “humane”) meat and their food is so damn good.  If I stopped using the products of a corporation every time they did something I disagreed with or insulted my intelligence, I might as well live in a cave eating my own gathered food.

Donald Trump is the Republican Id

Love this post from Jamelle Bouie.  Just going to copy and paste copiously:

More significantly, there’s the fact that this [absurd statements about McCain] was the tipping point for anti-Trump Republicans, and not his aggressive xenophobia. For the past month, Trump has used racist invective and know-nothing nativism to build a platform in the Republican presidential primary. Like the most famous provocateurs of the Obama era—from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh and Dinesh D’Souza—he’s indulged the worst, most paranoid parts of the Republican base, feeding the fear and anxiety unleashed by economic insecurity and rapid social change.

The whole time, mainstream Republicans were silent. The same figures who pounced on their opponents for slight missteps were unwilling to denounce Trump for his racism. Up until his attack on McCain, the collective Republican Party response to Donald Trump was somewhere between silence and qualified defense…

So, I’ve been thinking that this past weekend marks the beginning of the end for Trump.  Bouie makes an interesting case for why that may not be so:

At the same time, Trump isn’t a meaningless sideshow that will disappear after a few offensive remarks. “He has exposed and exploited the Republican Party’s two great weaknesses,” writes Ryan Lizza for the New Yorker, “the fact that many of its voters don’t agree with Party leaders on immigration and the fact that the Party is powerless to do much about it.” [emphases mine]

I’ll add something else: For the past eight years, an ecosystem of pundits, politicians, and provocateurs has spun a web of conspiracies about the president. Barack Obama wasn’t a mainstream politician from the center-left of American politics, he was a “Marxist” consumed by “anti-colonial ideology,” an “Alinskyite radical” who wouldconfiscate guns and send opponents to re-education camps.

Trump does more than come out of this fever swamp; he’s a conduit for its views, and evidence that it’s more than a fringe—it’s a substantial portion of the GOP electorate.

I hope Trump stays up in the polls like enough that the 2016 election studies include questions on him, because I can already tell you that’s what I will have fun analyzing in 2017.

Photo of the day

Wired gallery of the history of Soviet photography:

Gallery Image

Fidel Castro had lunch with Soviet politician Nikita Khrushchev in 1963. Vasily Egorov capturing the moment. THE LUMIERE BROTHERS CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Kasich winning battle to be Democrats’ favorite Republican

So, John Kasich officially jumped into the race yesterday (at the workplace of one of my favorite people/readers, no less).  I must say, I’m really liking John Kasich these days.  Of course, given that he’s running in a Republican primary, that’s a big problem.  Sorry, you cannot win elections by not just disagreeing with your potential voters, but insulting their moral values (even if you are right– which I very much think Kasich is).  Chait’s had a great take on this last month:

Alex Isenstadt reports that Kasich offended a number of party donors at a Koch-organized conference last year. Randy Kendrick, a major party contributor and wife of the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, objected to Kasich’s moral defense of the Medicaid expansion:

The governor’s response was fiery. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he said as he pointed at Kendrick, his voice rising. “But when I get to the Pearly Gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

The exchange left many stunned. Around 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar — opportunities for presidential aspirants to mingle with the party’s rich and powerful — in the months since.

It’s worth contemplating just how deeply Kasich’s heresy runs. Conservatives disagree about the optimal health-care policy they would implement in a world without political constraints. The closest a Republican can come to insisting upon the need to provide some alternative to Obamacare is to insist that repealing the law is not enough, that the party must put in place an alternative plan as well. A Republican can argue that their alternative plan is better than Obamacare, and that their alternative plan is better than the pre-Obamacare status quo. The thing you cannot say, and remain a Republican in good standing, is that Obamacare is better than the pre-Obamacare status quo.

But that is the fissure Kasich exposed. As a governor, the choice he faced was not the hypothetical one that Republicans prefer, between Obamacare and an imagined Republican plan that doesn’t impose costs on anybody. His choice was whether to accept the Medicaid expansion or let poor Ohioans suffer. He chose the former. And he defended his choice by stating that the alternative is cruel and barbaric.

Obscuring the moral basis of that actual real-world choice is the whole basis of contemporary Republican policy-making. If you’re sitting around the back room of the Bada Bing club and you suggest maybe shifting some operations out of racketeering and into stock scams, you’re probably okay. If you just come out and say that beating people up and stealing their money is immoral and you won’t do it, they’re not going to pick you to be the next head of the family. [emphasis mine]

Now that’s a hell of an analogy.  And it also means Kasich’s chances, despite a lot going for him on paper– popular governor of Ohio and former fellow Gingrich revolutionary– are pretty much zero.

What matters for partisanship

Have been having some interesting discussions on-line and off about the potential impact of Trump on the Republican “brand.”  Reminded me of a post last month from 538’s Harry Enten about the relationship between various issues and partisanship, in which he argues the ongoing opposition to same-sex marriage really damages Republicans.  And I can’t resist his nice bit of data analysis

A look at public opinion on same-sex marriage and what drives party affiliation suggests that Cruz, Walker and the other candidates on the right may be risking the party’s appeal in the general election. The Republican Party’s opposition to same-sex marriage is one of the top positions that may have kept voters from identifying with and potentially voting for the GOP…

I’ve taken a look at individual responses from two 2014 Pew Research Center surveys. I wanted to see which of 14 issues (ranging from abortion to gay marriage to size of government) provided the most information about a person’s party identification after controlling for demographic factors like age, education, income, race, and religious attendance.1

More specifically, I ran a series of logistic regression analyses that tested each issue, along with the demographic categories I described above.2 The chart you see below reflects the regression coefficient associated with each issue variable. Here’s how to decode the numbers. Positive values mean that support for that issue predicts a greater likelihood of affiliating with the party. Support for gun rights, for example, is predictive of a greater likelihood of identifying as Republican. The larger the coefficient, the more influence the issue has. Negative values, conversely, predict less likelihood of supporting the party.


Now, correlations is not causation, of course, but I nonetheless think this chart is telling.  Does anybody really doubt that health care, same-sex marriage, size of government, and gun issues play an outsized role in partisanship today?  Anyway, plenty more interesting discussion from Enten, but mostly I wanted to get this cool chart out there.

When judges kill people

No, not the death penalty, but by ordering stupid, anti-science conditions for heroin addicts.  I’d actually been meaning to write just how dumb we are about opiate addiction (again) in this country after reading recently about how an increasing number of people are being honest about the nature of opiate addiction and death in obituaries for family members.

The worst shame of it is that people are dying needlessly as we actually know how to treat heroin addiction reasonably well (opiate substitution with methadone or suboxone), but fail to do so for cultural and political reasons.  this is not some idle debate– people die as a direct result.

Anyway, here’s Vox’s story on a recent case:

Robert Lepolszki had kicked his heroin addiction. In 2014, the 28-year-old from Long Island was in a methadone treatment program — which lets addicts replace heroin, a very deadly opioid, with methadone, a safer opioid that doesn’t produce a euphoric high like heroin, to suppress withdrawal symptoms. For him, methadone acted like medicine for heroin addiction.

But then Lepolszki was arrested for an old drug sale and placed in front of a drug court, which push addicts to treatment instead of jail. These courts tend to take a hard line on addiction, and this court was no different. Judge Frank Gulotta Jr. said Lepolszki could only avoid incarceration if he quit all drugs — including methadone, the one drug keeping him off heroin.

Methadone treatment programs “are crutches — they are substitutes for drugs and drug cravings without enabling the participant to actually rid him or herself of the addiction,” Gulotta wrote, NBC 4’s Ann Givens and Chris Glorioso reported. “It must be remembered, the purpose of this program is to rid the participant of all addictions.”

Lepolszki died of a heroin overdose six months later…

Gulotta, like other critics of methadone treatments, was repeating a common refrain: Using methadone to quit heroin only replaces one drug with another.

But as drug and science journalist Maia Szalavitz explained in the New York Times, this line of thought fundamentally misunderstands drug addiction and why it’s a problem…

Under this view, methadone isn’t an addiction. The drug is not anywhere as deadly as heroin if used as advised. And since it doesn’t produce a euphoric high like heroin, it doesn’t lead to addicts looking for more and more as their tolerance increases, which raises their chances of overdose. It is, simply, a medication for opioid addiction.

There’s solid science behind the safety and efficacy of methadone and Suboxone, another drug with similar benefits. Decades of research have deemed them effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and World Health Organization acknowledge their medical value. [emphasis mine]

Hey, but why go with solid science when you are a judge and know that these other drugs are just a cheat for drug addicts.  Here’s a reason– people will die.  But, hey, what’s a few tens of thousands of opiate overdose deaths a year– surely they deserve their fate, their drug addicts.

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