Quick hits

1) John Oliver’s post-take of the Democratic convention is great.  I especially love his “bed of nails principle” as applied to Trump.  Never thought of it this way, but totally makes sense.  The whole segment is great, but I marked it for the bed of nails.

2) You know, there really is something to this “Democrats who cried wolf.”  I know I was pretty hard on GWB back in the day (especially on torture, for which I have zero regrets), but I’m pretty damn sure my criticism of McCain and Romney was never near what I have to say about Trump.

3) This seven-roundabouts-in-one Roundabout in Swindon, England is amazing.

4) Serious electoral success for the forces of sanity in Kansas.  Hooray!

5) Man, James Fallows is having a field day with Trump.  Here’s a good one on his horrible recent interview with the Washington Post:

There is no there there. For some reason, Donald Trump agreed to another long on-the-record interview with a major newspaper. The three previous times he has done so—two sessions with David Sanger and Maggie Haberman of the NYT inMarch and July, and one in March with the full editorial board of the WashingtonPost—the result was a long run of negative coverage about the knowledge gaps his comments revealed and the risky claims he had made. For instance, the secondNYT interview was the source of his observation that under a President Trump the U.S. might honor NATO obligations to defend European allies, or might not, depending on whether the country under attack had paid up.

He’s done it again, and this newest one, yesterday with Philip Rucker of the Post, made news for Trump’s studied refusal to endorse either Rep. Paul Ryan or Sen. John McCain in their hard-fought GOP primaries. These are two people who, especially Ryan, have piled their personal dignity up in a pyre and set it alight, through their stance of “rebuking” Trump but still saying he should be Commander in Chief. And Trump says, Meh.

But the real news of the transcript is the utter void of knowledge or ability to maintain consecutive thought it reveals, on any topic other than Trump’s own greatness. Time and again, Rucker shows Trump’s attention flitting away to whatever has caught his eye on a TV running in the background.

6) Okay, about the best essay on why “pro-life” persons should actually be voting Democratic that I’ve read.  Short version: if you genuinely want fewer abortions there is one political party that consistently works towards policies that would actually reduce abortions, and, yes, it’s the Democrats.

7) I like this Seth Stevenson piece on how most Democrats would fall in line if Sean Penn (the “Trump of the left” if you will) were the Democratic nominee.  He’s right.

8) Michael Tomasky on how such speculations are pointless as we would not actually get a Trump of the left:

Democrats have cantered a bit to the left, but the Republicans have galloped to the right like Secretariat on crack. And over these past eight years of birther conspiracies and racially coded barbs at the moocher-class president, they’ve led their voters to the point where those voters thought voting for Donald Trump was a sensible and defensible thing. If I were on the right, I’d spend a lot more time examining why that happened than I would analyzing Hillary’s imperfections.

And, yes, all Secretariat references make me think of Bojack now.

9) It’s funny, given all the craziness from Trump this week, it’s actually easy to forget just how nuts it is what he had to say about Ukraine and Crimea (bed of nails!).

10) NYT has put together a nice page featuring all the “really, really short workouts” they have written about in past years.  I discovered the 10-20-30 workout that Gretchen Reynolds is a big fan of and gave it a try this week on the exercise bike.  If it really is effective as claimed, than wow, that is awesome.  10 seconds of 100% effort out of every minute just isn’t that bad.  I about die from workouts that call for 20-30 seconds of 100% effort (which somehow make me think those have to be better– don’t they?).

11) Interestingly, CBS News had the best story I’ve seen on the new recommendations (or, lack thereof) on flossing.  Of course, there are not actually high-quality studies saying flossing does not provide value.  Rather, there have just not been good studies to definitively show that flossing does provide value.  Ummm, maybe somebody should do these studies?!  As for me, as Seth Masket wrote, “You can have my floss when you pry it from my saliva-and-bacteria-covered fingers.”

12) Seems that Ezra Klein has gotten better at asking interesting questions in his eponymous podcast.  I especially loved the latest with Atul Gawande (I already loved Gawande, and it was great to learn he’s also a Weezer fan).

13) (Big) Steve Saideman with a thoughtful piece on why we should not want our retired generals so involved in politics.

14) Max Boot— foreign policy adviser to McCain, Romney, and Rubio– on how Trump is the creation of the “stupid party.”

In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington…

Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He usesthe vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

 Mr. Trump even appears proud of his lack of learning. He told The Washington Post that he reached decisions “with very little knowledge,” but on the strength of his “common sense” and his “business ability.” Reading long documents is a waste of time because of his rapid ability to get to the gist of an issue, he said: “I’m a very efficient guy.” What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”

Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars…

In a way, the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter. [emphasis mine]

15) Male academics are far more likely to cite their own research than our female academics.  Hmmm, in my case, my co-author Laurel writes pretty much all of our literature reviews where the self-citing happens.  I wonder if we’ve been short-changed because Laurel is writing these instead of me :-).

16) I’ve been so not looking forward to colonoscopies once I hit 50.  Great news— I don’t actually need one and you probably don’t either.  Turns out, there’s no evidence the procedure is any more effective at preventing cancer than an annual test in which you provide your own fecal sample.  I’ll sure as hell take that.  Of course, I cannot help but wonder if the huge fees (and profits) generated by colonoscopies are not part of the bias for this procedure over the far simpler fecal test.

17) Turns out Trump’s apocalyptic speech writer began his political writing career for the Duke Chronicle and has just been waiting his adult life for a political candidate to actually match his political beliefs.

18) Conor Friedersdorf on why Khizr Khan is Trump’s worst nightmare:

Before, Republicans could always maintain, with at least some veneer of plausibility, that they would of course repudiate a politician who crossed a certain line.

With Donald Trump as their standard-bearer, that line has been shown to encompass a candidate who, feeling attacked by the father of a fallen soldier, finds that his first instinct is to lash out at the man’s grieving wife, the fallen soldier’s mother, impugning both with ignorant, derogatory speculation rooted in prejudice.

In this way, Trump brings shame to everyone and everything his campaign touches. For Ryan and other informed Republicans who back him, the inescapable conclusion is that neither naked racism nor prejudice are deal-breakers for them in the head of their party or their country. It’s an accusation that they would’ve assailed in the recent past. Today, the proposition’s truth is self-evident. And a man with a knack for TV will keep reminding them of their shame.

19) Quite the collection of video clips from Trump supporters at his rallies.  Not surprising, but still.

20) Fecal transplants are amazingly effective.  And gross as hell.  How awesome would it be to get that benefit in a pill which contains all the key bacteria.  Alas, the first such serious effort to make this happen has proven a failure.  Clearly, more work will be done here and I imagine some day there will be success.  But harnessing the microbiome ain’t easy.

21) Oh, just your every day attempts to purge minority voters from voter rolls in Southern states now that the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act.  I’m sure it’s not really about race.

22) Love this… in the face of insufficient and under-funded public defense in Missouri, the director of Missouri’s public defender system assigned the governor to take a case.

23) Corrections remains one of my favorite books ever, so even though I was a little disappointed by Jonathan Franzen’s more recent efforts, I still find him fascinating.  Really enjoyed this interview with Isaac Chotiner.

24) Trump on the NYT, “They don’t write good.”  This guy is practically a living Onion headline.

25) Here’s an analogy I love– Brian Beutler on Trump as the GOP’s Milgram experiment:

Republicans like McConnell and Ryan, and the vast majority of elected members of the party, are the unknowing subjects of their own Milgram experiment in 2016—except in this instance there are real victims, including vital civic norms, and innocent people whose only sin is finding themselves in Trump’s way.

In this metaphor, Trump himself is an increasingly dangerous electrical current, and Republican leaders are allowing it to flow by continuing to support his campaign, making his depredations seem acceptable. The administrator isn’t an individual, per se, as in the Milgram experiment, but the mixture of incentives that impel party actors to do what they believe is necessary to win. No single person is telling Republicans they must enable Trump; lust for power and aversion to loss are motivating them, and in this case, these forces make a toxic brew.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

6 Responses to Quick hits

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #6 – Religious beliefs trump pragmatic solutions. If a fertilized egg is a person with equal rights to a born person, it is very difficult or impossible to terminate that life without being a murderer not even if it will lower the number of embryos killed in the long run. Lowering numbers is not an option in this view. If one killing is murder, how many murders can be tolerated?
    Another problem is that if the fertilized egg is a person with equal rights, how can en vitro fertilization ever be justified? It seems that many people who view abortion at even the beginning stage as murder, strongly justify creating the multiple embryos necessary to produce a health baby.
    Sorry, but they can’t have it both ways.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #11 – flossing.
    Maybe we don’t know whether regular flossing helps keep cavities at bay, but what do we think about flossing as helpful in preventing bad breath and that icky taste in the mouth?

      • Jon K says:

        Not to mention sore / sensitive gums and gingivitis. I know when I neglect flossing it leads to bleeding gums and gingivitis. In fact I floss and use a water pick to keep that from happening, and I don’t need a study to convince me that it is necessary.

  3. Jon K says:

    16) My brother in law’s mother went for her first colonoscopy when she turned 50. They found cancer, and she died 3 years later. Anything that encourages people to get checked as recommended is a good thing.

    • R. Jenrette says:

      There are risks, especially in old people and colonoscopies are not recommended for people over 80.
      There is much more risk of perforations after that due to biological aging of the GI system.

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