Quick hits

1) Kaepernick’s girlfriend is Muslim.  Official embarrassment to Congress, Rep. Steve King, thinks that must mean he supports ISIS.

2) James Hamblin on Clinton’s pneumonia.  I love the headline and subhead, “Hillary Clinton Attended a 9/11 Memorial Service Despite Illness: Some see this as weakness.”

Pneumonia would explain both the coughing and fatigue. In contrast to the classically severe bacterial pneumonias that are a common cause of death in older and chronically ill people, a relatively mild “walking pneumonia”—usually caused by an atypical microorganism like Mycoplasma—tends to leave a person feeling well enough to walk around despite fighting a significant infection. Patients often don’t take adequate time to rest and recover, but try to operate while coughing and feeling fatigued.

The condition is common and treatable, and as a cause of Clinton’s symptoms—even for those who have no trust in the candidate’s physician—this is simply a much more likely diagnosis than anything more serious. And having pneumonia, especially of the variety where a person is so high-functioning, does not raise concern over her ability to execute the duties of the office. Presidents can and have served well with much more serious conditions (coronary artery disease,paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome, Addison’s disease, and, of course, various bullet wounds).

Rather, Clinton was told to rest and take it easy, but instead made a point of going to a 9/11 memorial service.

3) NYT feature on just what Trump supporters in rural Kentucky are thinking.

4) Yes, many obese people should  try a low-carb diet before going with bariatric surgery, but if it was just as simple as following a diet, would they be so obese?

5) Speaking of which… how the sugar industry successfully (and disastrously for American’s health) shifted the blame to fat.

6) This essay on the “Falling Man” photo of 9/11 is fabulous.  Seriously, just read it:

The resistance to the image—to the images—started early, started immediately, started on the ground. A mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: “Maybe they’re just birds, honey.” Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chasing a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, “Don’t you have any human decency?” before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo—the only images from which Americans were proud to avert their eyes. All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network’s news bureau, calls “agonized discussions” with the “standards guy,” it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all…

But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

7) Fairfield, CT spends $16,000 per student per year and way outperforms Bridgeport and it’s $14,000.  But I’m sure if you switched those numbers, little would change.  Yes, Bridgeport may need more funding, but this is ultimately a story about the impact concentrated poverty has on school systems.

8) Krugman on Trump’s Putinophilia:

There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.

Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.

When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!

9) Apparently, the giant island of garbage in the Pacific is pretty much a myth.  Whoa!  Not that we don’t have a huge problem with ocean pollution.

10) This XKCD on global warming is so, so good.  Take a look.

11) It’s a shame that the NYT’s Public Editor just doesn’t get the problems with false equivalence.  Chait eviscerates her.

12) Now NC is losing NCAA tournament basketball games (and NCAA soccer championships right here in Cary!) due to HB2.  And all the GOP can offer up is the most absurd comments.

13) Another example of our party asymmetry.  Democratic governors just never are half this crazy, “Kentucky Gov Predicts, Calls for Bloodshed If Hillary Wins.”

14) So guilty of this common mistake of basing my spending/time decisions based on percentages instead of absolute dollars.

15) David Frum with the case against college diversity officers:

Today’s New York Times offers one modest illustration. Over the past 18 months, the Times reports, 90 American colleges and universities have hired “chief diversity officers.” These administrators were hired in response to the wave of racial incidents that convulsed campuses like the University of Missouri over the past year. They are bulking up an already thriving industry. In March 2016, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education held its 10th annual conference in San Francisco. Attendance set a new record: 370. The association publishes a journal. It bestows awards of excellence.

As diversity officers proliferate, entire learned specialties plunge into hiring depressions. In the most recent academic years, job postings for historians declined by 8 percent, the third decline in a row. Cumulatively, new hirings of historians have dropped 45 percent since 2011-2012.

I anticipate the response: This only represents a tiny fraction of the growth among administrators! Diversity is important! Graduation rates among black university students have improved in recent years. Surely all these chief diversity officers are accomplishing something?

Yet the closest studies of disadvantaged-student performance discover that what such students need most is more intensive teaching and mentoring. As my colleague Emily DeRuy has reported, young people from impoverished backgrounds live in “relationship poverty”: “Research, which involved surveys of thousands of young people and in-person interviews with more than 100, suggests that if a web of supportive relationships surrounds these students, the chances that they will leave school shrink dramatically.” But that’s not only expensive—it also requires extraordinarily hard work, with uncertain chances of success. Even more relevantly: The students at risk are not all or even mostly “diverse,” as diversity is conventionally understood in the United States in 2016. If J.D. Vance’s marvelous Hillbilly Elegy pounds any one idea into the heads of America’s university presidents, that idea should be it.

But maybe the university presidents already know it. “Diversity” is an easier problem to manage than “disadvantage.”

16) Blaise Pascal figured out back in the 17th century the social-science-validated approach for how to change minds.

17) Conor Friedersdorf explains how Trump exploited charity for personal gain.  Of course, since this is just Trump being Trump, nobody seems to care.  Imagine if Romney or McCain or Clinton had done these things.

18) James Surowiecki on the huge, anti-reform, problem of police unions:

On August 26th, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the national anthem, as a protest against police brutality. Since then, he’s been attacked by just about everyone—politicians, coaches, players, talk-radio hosts, veterans’ groups. But the harshest criticism has come from Bay Area police unions. The head of the San Francisco police association lambasted his “naïveté” and “total lack of sensitivity,” and called on the 49ers to “denounce” the gesture. The Santa Clara police union said that its members, many of whom provide security at 49ers games, might refuse to go to work if no action was taken against Kaepernick. A work stoppage to punish a player for expressing his opinion may seem extreme. But in the world of police unions it’s business as usual. Indeed, most of them were formed as a reaction against public demands in the nineteen-sixties and seventies for more civilian oversight of the police. Recently, even as the use of excessive force against minorities has caused outcry and urgent calls for reform, police unions have resisted attempts to change the status quo, attacking their critics as enablers of crime.

Police unions emerged later than many other public-service unions, but they’ve made up for lost time. Thanks to the bargains they’ve struck on wages and benefits, police officers are among the best-paid civil servants. More important, they’ve been extraordinarily effective in establishing control over working conditions. All unions seek to insure that their members have due-process rights and aren’t subject to arbitrary discipline, but police unions have defined working conditions in the broadest possible terms. This position has made it hard to investigate misconduct claims, and to get rid of officers who break the rules. A study of collective bargaining by big-city police unions, published this summer by the reform group Campaign Zero, found that agreements routinely guarantee that officers aren’t interrogated immediately after use-of-force incidents and often insure that disciplinary records are purged after three to five years.

19) House Freedom Caucus looking to impeach the IRS Commissioner because they hate taxes that much.  Shameful.

20) Apparently Chromebooks are about to transform laptop design.

21) A full deconstruction of the hilariously absurd NC GOP response to the NCAA.

22) Ginning up false fears of voter fraud in Wisconsin.

23) Andrew Rosenthal on the deplorableness of Trump’s deplorables.  And the photo KE cannot resist:

Damon Winter/The New York Times

24) So, how much do parents really matter anyway?  Lessons from around the world.

Friedman: Is there one particularly brilliant parenting technique you came across in the course of your research?

Sarah: In South Asia—I’ve worked a lot in Nepal, and also in India—I’m very impressed by two particular parenting behaviors. One is that parents are very physically affectionate. Fathers as well as mothers, and close relatives are too. And that is combined with totally clear expectations on the part of the parents: You know, “I love you—and this is what we expect of you.”

Well, I’ve at least got one of the two, down :-).

25) Really good Toobin piece on Kaepernick and a famous Supreme Court case on free speech:

More important, even amid the patriotic displays associated with the mobilization for war, the degradations of Nazi Germany had impressed themselves upon the American conscience. The result of the case flipped the result to a six-to-three victory for the family, and Jackson’s opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette stands as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of expression ever formulated by a Supreme Court Justice—and, not incidentally, a useful message for the N.F.L.

The core idea in Jackson’s opinion is that freedom demands that those in power allow others to think for themselves. In nearly every line, Jackson’s opinion is haunted by the struggle on the battlefield against, in his phrase, “our present totalitarian enemies.” “Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good, as well as by evil, men,” Jackson wrote. “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.” Such melodramatic phrasing may feel more appropriate for the worldwide crisis of that era than for the present one, but the message of tolerance also resonates on the less fraught setting of a football gridiron.

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

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