Not quick hits

So, I’ve really, really been enjoying my annual week at Topsail Island.  I’ve been managing to keep up with 30-40% of my political reading in the evening, but definitely not sacrificing beach time for blogging.  I’ll manage to get a single quick hits (so many open tabs) out on Sunday.  Until then, here’s a photo I took of a rehabilitated loggerhead turtle on its way to release in the ocean:

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) In theory, the idea of a semi-automatic transmission where you can shift gears without worrying about a clutch is pretty cool.  In practice, the majority of drivers pretty much completely ignore this feature on their cars.  Me, too.  I will admit, though, to enjoying shifting into Sport mode some of the time.

2) Honestly, I don’t even get the point of pretending that a study of a scant 49 Facebook users is real social science.  That said, the typology seems to comport with reality and I especially like this description as I’ve used almost these exact words myself:

Relationship builders

This cohort uses Facebook much the way humans once used actual mail and landline telephones: to strengthen existing relationships with friends and family. In fact, Facebook is an extension of their offline life, according to Tom Robinson, associate director of BYU’s Graduate School of Communication and a professor of advertising.

3) Vox with an ex-CIA officer on Trump Jr, “An ex-CIA officer: the Trump Jr. meeting shows how the Russians exploit intelligence targets.  “This is how it’s done.” —Glenn Carle

4) Yale law school dean on free speech on campus.

5) Yglesias on why Trump JR has no credibility:

But as the old saying says, fool me twice, shame on me. Trump Jr. has already tried to fool us four or five times about this meeting, and there’s absolutely no reason we should trust him. Fox News, tellingly, has in part already moved on to justifying collusion, showing little faith from Trumpworld that the denials of collusion will hold up over the long run. Those of us who aren’t in the tank ought to muster at least the same level of skepticism.

6) This is from two years ago, but I found it utterly fascinating the level of engineering and design that goes into canned beverages and foods.  Why hasn’t there been a 99% Invisible on this?!

7) Enjoyed this complete guide to the religions on Game of Thrones.  That said, I have strong opinions on the matter and feel like far more people should have converted to the Lord of Light (he actually gets stuff done!).

8) OMG, sure there’s some imbalance in who’s doing what’s “cool” and “not cool” in this poster, but taken it it’s totality, it strikes me as a long way from “racist” (especially since most of the non-white kids in the poster, including the lifeguard, are perfectly well-behaved.  Mostly, it strikes me as an effort at inclusive racial harmony in a swimming pool, where some kids need to be better at following the rules.

9) Say it with me, “the dose makes the poison.”  Ignoring this fact is fearmongering.  NYT should know better.

10) Nice review/summary of Dan Drezner’s new book on public intellectuals.

11) Jon Cohn on why a bipartisan health care bill might make sense for Republicans.

12) And on how health insurance companies are unloading on the “unworkable” idea Ted Cruz is pushing to undermine pre-existing conditions protections.

13) The Breitbartification of right-wing media:

As recently as five or 10 years ago, every major news outlet would have treated this set of facts [the Russia story] as front-page news and a dire threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The conservative press and Republican voters might disagree on certain particulars or points of emphasis. But their view of reality — of what happened and its significance — would have largely comported with that of the mainstream. You’d have had to travel to the political fringe of right-wing talk radio, the Drudge Report and dissident publications like Breitbart News to find an alternative viewpoint that rejected this basic story line.

Not anymore. Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics.

14) Nice piece in TNR on how to best make the case for “Medicare for all.”  Surely, if we are going to get a policy like this, it needs to be framed and sold to the public as effectively as possible.

15) Nice column from Jamelle Bouie asks, “How long can Republicans risk everything to pretend Russia is no big deal?”  I know!  Until they get their tax cuts for rich people.  Bouie’s damning conclusion:

If nothing else, Republican behavior—the extent to which the party is still powering through a hyper-partisan agenda, even as evidence of something untoward mounts—is an implicit statement that foreign interference is an acceptable path to partisan gain. At the risk of cliché, it normalizes outside meddling in American democracy. And the 2016 election won’t even be the end of Russian interference in our elections. There is real potential for further, more damaging hacking aimed at often-obsolete local election infrastructure. Preventing this is of national concern and requires cooperation from both sides at all levels of government. It requires both parties to show a commitment to the ideals of American democracy.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that both parties have that commitment. The GOP’s recent enthusiasm for voter ID laws (and the voter suppression they cause) has long since thrown that issue of commitment into question. But the institutional indifference to foreign intervention is something different. It signals a dangerously zero-sum attitude, where any price—including subversion from outside forces—is worth paying if it clears a path to partisan and ideological victory. Perhaps the worm will turn and Republicans will join Democrats in demanding real answers from President Trump and his associates. For now, at least, we have a Republican Party that values its success above the integrity of our system.

16) Former Trump employee on the disastrous consequence of Trump putting family first in his business endeavors.

17) So, basically, a lot of favorite breakfast items are pretty much dessert.   I did discover that my go-to cereal, Kashi Go Lean fares quite well, though (of course, I used to claim that it “tastes like twigs.” I’m use to the lower sweetness now).

18) Long time conservative columnist Mona Charen is not exactly persuaded by the Trump line on Russian collusion.

19) It’s amazing how much genetics seems to explain how our brains process looking at faces.  And this can help us understand autism better, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the day

These top 100 Audubon photos are amazing.

Category: Professional
Photographer: Aaron Baggenstos
Species: Bald Eagle
Location: Skagit Valley, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Every year thousands of Bald Eagles gather along rivers in the Pacific Northwest in search of their favorite food, wild salmon that have swum upstream to spawn. When these two birds locked talons in a battle over one such fish Baggenstos was there to capture the action. To overcome the cloudy conditions he used a Nikon D4S camera body at ISO 3200, and he froze the moment by locking in his shutter speed at 1/2000. Lastly he shot to the right of the histogram to optimize results in post-processing, a technique he recommends for anyone photographing action in low light. 

Quick hits (part I)

1) In light of the recent Pew findings on Republicans and higher education, Dan Drezner with a nice post on the GOP’s “war on college.”

2) Personally, I’m all for using genetically-modified mice to try and save endangered bird populations (it’s pretty cool how this would work).  NCSU scientists are working to make this happen, but probably not anytime soon.

3) Much talked about article this week painting a doomsday picture of climate change.  Interesting discussion as to whether this is an effective approach.

4) Speaking of climate change, I was a little abashed that I did not get this key driver of climate change right in this quiz.  And excellent article on abating the issue.

5) David Brooks on Trump family morals:

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life. When the Russian government offer came across his email, there doesn’t seem to have been a flicker of concern. Instead, he replied with that tone of simple bro glee that we remember from other scandals.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

Successful business people, like successful politicians, are very ambitious, but they generally have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive. The House of Trump has sprayed an insecticide on any possible complementary code, and so they are continually trampling basic decency. Their scandals may not build to anything impeachable, but the scandals will never end.

6) Honestly, bashing Evangelical Christians for their love of Trump just never gets old for me.

7) Pretty cool story on how the mis-use of the Calibri font helped catch a forgery.  Also, I didn’t even realize that I use it all the time in various Office documents.

8) Catherine Rampell, “Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse.”

9) Jennifer Rubin on Trump and the GOP’s “moral rot.”  She might as well become a Democrat already:

Let me suggest the real problem is not the Trump family, but the GOP. To paraphrase Brooks, “It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.” Again, to borrow from Brooks, beyond partisanship the GOP evidences “no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”

Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America…

Out of its collective sense of victimhood came the GOP’s disdain for not just intellectuals but also intellectualism, science, Economics 101, history and constitutional fidelity. If the Trump children became slaves to money and to their father’s unbridled ego, then the GOP became slaves to its own demons and false narratives. A party that has to deny climate change and insist illegal immigrants are creating a crime wave — because that is what “conservatives” must believe, since liberals do not — is a party that will deny Trump’s complicity in gross misconduct. It’s a party as unfit to govern as Trump is unfit to occupy the White House. It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any “external moral truth or ethical code.” [emphasis mine]

10) Love this from political scientist David Hopkins, “Want to Influence the Democratic Party? Try Joining the Democratic Party.”

11) Thanks to Mika for enlightening me about cloudberries (and telling me of his unpleasant childhood cloudberry picking trips).  I shall be sticking with blueberries.

12) Loved this story about how “South of the Border” on I-95 in SC keeps it going after all these years.

13) In a different administration, we wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by wrongdoing that stuff like this simply flies under the radar, “State Department spent more than $15,000 for rooms at new Trump hotel in Vancouver.”

14) Big Steve went to town coming up with D&D stats for various Trump folks.  Big Steve is rusty on the D&D side, I wonder what my 5th-edition-conversant son would come up with.

15) Apparently “Baby Driver” is creating Ipod nostalgia.  I still love my 6th generation Ipod Nano (so compact and easy to use with a built in clip).  Still use it for all my workouts.  I have no interest in having a smartphone with me when I’m exercising.

16) So, I know Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” became a giant controversy.  As for me, I simply really enjoyed the movie.  Pretty much agree with this review.

17) Bloomberg thinks plug-in electric cars are going to start making dramatic inroads within the next 10-15 years:

The Bloomberg forecast is far more aggressive, projecting that plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will make up 54 percent of new light-duty sales globally by 2040, outselling their combustion engine counterparts.

The reason? Batteries. Since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion battery packs has plunged by two-thirds, to around $300 per kilowatt-hour. The Bloomberg report sees that falling to $73 by 2030, without any significant technological breakthroughs, as companies like Tesla increase battery production in massive factories, optimize the design of battery packs and improve chemistries.

18) Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is bullish on renewable energy:

Research analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that renewable energy like solar and wind power are hurtling towards a level of ubiquity where not even politics can hinder them. Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast. Basic economics, the analysts say, suggest that the US will exceed its commitments in the Paris agreement regardless of whether or not president Donald Trump withdraws, as he’s stated he will.

“We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe,” with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday.

19) Really enjoyed this story about mass-producing GM mosquitoes to help fight mosquito-borne disease.  The key is separating the males from females (sterile males are released) and now robots and software can do that really well.

20) I was particularly interested in this article about dentists looking to prescribe less opioids after wisdom teeth extraction.  I remember the huge benefit I got from my opioids many years ago.  And just this past December, the Vicodin my son got seemed dramatically more effective for his pain relief than high dose ibuprofen (and I love ibuprofen).  Interestingly, though, the latest research suggests nsaid/acetaminophen combinations may actually be the most effective for pain after wisdom teeth extraction.  But the doctors don’t care.

 

Personalized news

Love this

Don’t get too excited

I do think that, even for Trump, gravity exists and really at some point, the catastrophe that is his presidency will be noticed among even Republicans and he will fall in popularity down to a more appropriate level.  But for now, DJT Jr and all this Russian stuff and whatever else might as well be liberal fake news.  A tweet from Patrick Egan:

So, when will it move.  When GOP elites begin to make more than the most tepid “not sure that was appropriate” criticisms of his abominable behavior.  As long, however, as they are so sadly willing to be apologists for things like his campaign (attempting to) conspire with the Russian government, Trump’s approval won’t really go anywhere.  At this point, one might wonder what it would take for GOP politicians to actually come out forcefully against Trump.  Maybe it’s after they get their tax cuts through.  And, my guess is that there’s a decent chance Trump’s closet has a skeleton truly ugly enough to actually break through.

Regardless, this is a key dynamic right now– elected GOP elites continue to support Trump and GOP voters continue to support Trump.  Until that first part changes, don’t expect much of the latter.

But what about Hillary

Apparently the latest from Trump, Hannity, and company is to try and deflect with some whataboutism by claiming Hillary did the same thing with Ukraine.  She didn’t.  Anyway, inspired a very nice piece from Tomasky.  It concludes:

I’m sure that like me, you wake up some mornings and don’t know whether to be enraged or depressed or amused, or you hear the words “President Trump” on the radio and still sometimes wonder how the $@&# did that happen? Well imagine how Hillary feels. She was the target of the biggest coordinated campaign attack, stretching from the Kremlin to Julian Assange’s sitting room, in the history of American politics. She got zonked by Jim Comey 11 days before the election in a move that was totally without precedent in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And both of these after a quarter-century smear campaign that alleged everything up to and including murder but that never actually proved—and I mean proved, not “proved” to the satisfaction of millions of people who’d been worked into a state of rage against her over two decades—a single thing of importance that she did that was wrong or unethical. And still she got 3 million more votes.

Three emails marked classified on her server. Three. About things like talking points for a call with the president of Malawi. And two of those may have been marked in error. And that was her great crime? For that, we have to live through this?

She’s the most royally screwed-over person in the history of American politics. She should be in the White House, right now. And she’d have been good. Maybe not great. They wouldn’t allow that. We’d be having impeachment hearings underway already, I assure you, over far smaller matters than the things we know the Trump family has done. That would be rough, but  I know this much: She wouldn’t be suddenly discovering that health care is complicated, she wouldn’t have her son-in-law on the White House staff and in charge of Middle East peace, and she wouldn’t be an international embarrassment. The free nations of the world wouldn’t be trying to find ways to work around the United States of America.

That Trump is sitting in that office and not her is a tragedy. And what are we to do if, someday, we learn it was also a crime?

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