The Aussies on Trump

Just in case you haven’t seen this now-viral takedown of Trump from the political director of that ABC news.  So good.  And, so spot-on:


Photo of the day

Going to go with another of my own.  The next night a different set of swans came by and these two had their juveniles with them.  Pretty cool. This time I had my Olympus E620 on me. (I’ve generally been pretty happy with this camera, but it’s weakness is definitely low light– you can see the noise in this sunset-time photo.)

Satanic daycare workers are coming to harm your children

Sounds like a joke or a really absurd Onion headline– right?  Sadly, in the late 1980’s and early 90’s all sorts of people actually totally fell for obvious nonsense.  Bad enough, the worst part is the dozens of people who’s lives were literally ruined by what amounted to a modern day witch hunt.  Seriously, our criminal justice system functioned as embarrassingly poorly as if it were the Salem Witch Trials.

Here’s a great story in the Intercept about a Texas couple recently exonerated after 25 years (and 20 years in prison) for acts such as, “The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.”

It’s not crazy that suggestible pre-schoolers might make this stuff up.  What is crazy is all the adults in the criminal justice system who would then consider these pre-schoolers credible witnesses and zealously prosecute the poor Kellers.  And people are so committed to believing that they are good people and wouldn’t put innocent people in jail, that, even now, many in the criminal justice refuse to admit their mistakes.  Anyway, you should so read this story.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Greg Sargent on the hidden health care consensus:

Yet in a strange twist, the GOP debate over repeal has actually revealed that there is a surprising amount of hidden consensus on health care.

In a nutshell, what the debate has really shown is that the passage and implementation of the ACA has given rise to a latent majority in Congress — or at least one in the Senate — that has more or less made peace with the ACA’s spending and regulatory architecture and its fundamental ideological goals, either for political or principled reasons, or for some combination of the two. The debate has forced this basic reality out into the open. And this, I think, is one key reason it is proving so hard for the GOP to repeal it.

2) Is Connecticut an example of failed liberal policies?  Or something else?

3) Of all the dumbness from our NC Republicans, it seems like they are against renewable energy— in this case wind– just on principle.  Ugh.

4) Kris Kobach is clearly evil and clearly intelligent (and far more personable than Ted Cruz).  That’s a nasty and scary combination.

5) One Ohio sheriff would just prefer addicts die from overdose rather than get Narcan to save their lives.

6) Pretty fascinating story about a convicted murderer (still in prison) and his new novel.

7) Really interesting look at how society thinks about the roles of men and women (adding this to the next Gender & Politics syllabus):

Women may not be moving as fast into male-dominated worlds as feminists would like, but they have moved much faster than men have into female-dominated ones. To understand better this asymmetry, we need to look more closely at the relative value we place on masculinity and femininity.

Most people assume that gender is simply a scheme for classifying differences or a template for guiding the behaviour of children. The reality is more pernicious. We typically prize the attributes we associate with men, such as competence, strength, virility and stoicism, and underestimate the qualities we associate with women, like warmth, tenderness and compassion. We usually see masculinity in terms of power and dominance and femininity in terms of softness and subservience. We defer to men and indulge women. In other words, gender is not merely a bunch of traits embodied by individuals, but a subtle stratification system that often advantages men and disadvantages women. [emphasis mine]

All of this means there are far more incentives for women to act masculine than there are for men to act feminine. Women who behave like their male colleagues may be disliked for being “pushy” or “bitchy”, but these penalties are offset by the fact that they are also likely to enjoy more power and greater financial rewards. When men adopt the jobs and behaviours associated with women, however, they typically experience a loss of status with fewer perks and more social sanctions, especially from other men. “It’s seen as an unknowable crisis if men want to step down,” explains Barbara Risman, head of the department of sociology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “It’s not just being more like women, it’s seen as being less than men. Because women are seen as less than men.”

8) Which I had seen this before my recent post.  Robert Frank with a nice explanation of why Single Payer saves money.

9) Personally, I’m happy to call myself “liberal.”  I didn’t realize it was now also a bad word among those on the far left:

Over the last few years, though — and especially 2016 — there has been a surge of the opposite phenomenon: Now the political left is expressing its hatred of liberals, too. For the committed leftist, the ‘‘liberal’’ is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class. The liberal is pious about diversity but ready to abandon any belief at the slightest drop in poll numbers — a person who is, as the folk singer Phil Ochs once said, ‘‘10 degrees to the left of center in good times, 10 degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.’’ The anonymous Twitter account ‘‘liberalism.txt’’ is a relentless stream of images and retweets that supposedly illustrate this liberal vacuousness: say, the chief executive of Patagonia’s being hailed as a leader of ‘‘corporate resistance to Trump,’’ or Chelsea Clinton’s accusing Steve Bannon of ‘‘fat shaming’’ Sean Spicer.

10) How do you know when your knee doctor is either 1) a glorified con-man, or 2) essentially incompetent?  Whey they recommend arthroscopic surgery for regular wear-and-tear on the knee:

Serious questions are now being raised about the benefits of the arthroscopic procedures that millions of people endure in hopes of delaying, if not avoiding, total knee replacements.

The latest challenge, published in May in BMJ by an expert panel that systematically reviewed 12 well-designed trials and 13 observational studies, concluded that arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee arthritis and meniscal tears resulted in no lasting pain relief or improved function.

Three months after the procedure, fewer than 15 percent of patients experienced at best “a small or very small improvement in pain and function,” effects that disappeared completely within a year.

As with all invasive procedures, the surgery is not without risks, infection being the most common, though not the only, complication…“Arthroscopic surgery has a role, but not for arthritis and meniscal tears,” Dr. Reed A.C. Siemieniuk, a methodologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and chairman of the panel, said in an interview. “It became popular before there were studies to show that it works, and we now have high-quality evidence showing that it doesn’t work.”

11) Trump supporters just don’t care that he’s lying.

12) The problem with self-driving cars is not just the cars, but really the technology-human interface.  Trying to decide how much– if any at all– controls humans should have is key.  Nice story in Vox.  Also reminded me of this terrific 99% Invisible episode from last year on how automation can make humans less safe.

13) Excellent summary of the placebo effect from Vox’s Brian Resnick:

A 2010 systematic review looked at 202 drug trials where a placebo group was compared to patients who received neither placebo nor active drug. And it found that placebos seem to move the needle on pain, nausea, asthma, and phobias, with more inconsistent results for outcomes like smoking, dementia, depression*, obesity, hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety. (*Separate literature review on depression meds does find an effect of placebo compared with no treatment.)

“It seems like placebo taps into a family of psychological and brain processes that’s very much something we evolved for,” says Tor Wager, a University of Colorado Boulder neuroscientist who has co-authored many of the key papers on the neuroscience of placebo. “Take pain as an example. If you step on something sharp, there’s pain in your foot. Now, how should you respond to it? Well, if you are running from an attack, you don’t even want to feel that. You keep going.”

Another way to think about it: Placebos tweak our experience of symptoms, not their underlying causes.

14) New book explores why today’s high-powered white-collar criminals seem to so easily get away with their crimes.

15) Had a blast setting off fireworks this past week, as always.  You will not be surprised to learn I did a ton of this– and far less safely– as a teenager.  The headline for this Vox chart is, “The people going to the hospital for fireworks injuries are exactly who you think.”


16) I did very much enjoy watching Okja on Netflix last week (though, I would not go so far as to call it “fantastic” as this review does).

17) More Chait on Republicans and health care:

Conservatives cannot point to any real-world examples of a country or even a state that has successfully implemented the sort of health-care system they desire. (Some of them mistakenly cite Singapore, whose health-care system relies on massive state intervention American conservatives could never accept.) That’s because there’s no electorate in any industrialized country that would tolerate it.

Is that because a conservative health-care plan with catastrophic coverage and high deductibles is technically impossible to design? No, it’s because such a plan is politically impossible to sustain. People don’t want insurance coverage that only protects them against rare disasters. They want to be able to go to the doctor and get treated. In the English vernacular, comprehensive coverage is called “good insurance” and high-deductible insurance is called “bad insurance.”

18) And Ezra, “The Republican health bill is stuck in a valley of incoherence” and that’s putting it generously:

Political parties tend to agree on the goals of their major legislative efforts even if they disagree on means. The GOP’s various tax reform efforts begin from the premise that taxes should be lower. The Democratic Party’s health care push began with the premise that there should be fewer uninsured people. The fight over how best to achieve those goals was fierce, but everyone was clear about what they were trying to achieve, and so it was clear how to evaluate different policies.

That’s not the case here. The GOP’s health care effort began with the premise that Obamacare is bad and must be repealed and replaced. But repeal and replace is a means to an end, not an end itself. The end, in theory, is the post-replacement health care system — a system that aligns with the GOP’s vision of how health care should work. But that vision is absent. When we asked eight Republican senators to tell us what the health bill was meant to achieve, we got eight different answers, and most of them were incoherent…

Now, however, a Republican Party that only knows what it is against has to decide what it’s for — and it’s failing. The result is a chaotic legislative process wherein no one knows how to evaluate the proposed policies except on the crudest tactical dimension. Bills are unveiled and amendments offered wherein the only evident goal is getting something passed. At times, Republicans have been shockingly honest about this. Asked what problems the bill was meant to solve, Sen. John McCain replied, “They’re trying to get to 51 votes.” …

McConnell is trying to find a compromise between the wing of his party that wants to cover the poor and the wing of his party that doesn’t; between Republicans who think a 22 million increase in the number of uninsured Americans is a moral blight and those who think it’s a win for freedom. There is no sensible policy that splits the difference between perfectly opposed goals. And so the Kentucky Republican, in his purely tactical way, has found a compromise: a bill that could cover the poor, but won’t.

This is what happens when you make policy from deep inside a valley of incoherence. You mistake means for ends, you find yourself crafting policies with no clear sense of what they’re meant to achieve, you mistake something that might pass for something that will work. Aside from being able to say they repealed and replaced Obamacare, Republicans don’t know what they want their bill to achieve, and so at this point, it doesn’t achieve anything, save cutting taxes. [emphasis mine]


19) The horror that is Jeff Sessions as Attorney General pretty much knows no limits.  Anybody who pays the slightest attention knows that much “forensic science” is deeply, deeply flawed and not actually science at all.  That’s a huge Sessions problem if one is concerned about minor things like, you know, fairness, accuracy, and justice in our criminal justice system.  Alas, it’s not really clear at all that cares about any of these things.

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