Photo of the day

From a recent In Focus photos of the week gallery.  These horses do not look like they are having fun.

Assateague wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel during the annual Chincoteague Island Pony Swim in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, on July 26, 2017. 

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty

Quick Hits (part I)

1) Bias for and against ugliness:

But it also appears that voters on the right tend to identify attractiveness with conservative views, and, when there’s little other information to go on, beauty plays a bigger role in their voting choices than it does for liberals.

Democrats might still find solace in the ugliness premium. Lenz summarized the situation in terms that Darwin might have appreciated. “There are such strong selection pressures for attractiveness,” he said. “My guess is that, in jobs where there’s a premium on looking good, if you see a funny-looking person there, they’ve got to be amazingly talented, because it’s the only way they could have gotten where they are. Henry Waxman”—who, he added, was highly regarded for his commitment and work ethic—“is a good example of that.”

2) Unsurprisingly, Trump is basically a lying con-man at golf, just like everything else.

3) I don’t think I’ve ever read an NYT piece (an Op-Ed against colleges weakening Title IX enforcement on sexual assault) where the comments have been so much better than the Op-Ed (short version– the key is not the standard of proof, but due process, which is pretty much ignored in the Op-Ed).

4) More reason to love Pope Francis as the Vatican tells conservative American Catholics to get over the culture war and actually care about the stuff Jesus did.

5) In a world of too many shelter dogs and not enough space, it makes sense that shelters would test dogs for aggressiveness, etc., before deciding who gets euthanized.  Alas, turns out those tests may not have any predictive validity.  Also, why do so many horrible humans basically just abandon their dogs.  So frustrating.

6) Back in the day, people would leave struggling communities to go to where the jobs are.  Now, it seems, they much prefer to stay in the struggling communities, blame Blacks and immigrants for their problems, and expect Donald Trump to make America great again.  This was a really interesting WSJ piece on this problem, but I don’t feel like it really gave a convincing explanation for why geographic mobility has declined so much.  Cities have always been vastly culturally different from rural areas.

7) If they actually taste reasonably like potato chips, I will happily eat jellyfish chips.  I think.

8) Of course Donald Trump is likely guilty of tax fraud in selling real estate to his son.  In a regular presidency, people would actually care.

9) Paul Waldman on Trump’s empty threats:

This all adds up to a president who is incredibly frustrated that no one is doing what he wants, yet has no idea how to change the situation because he still doesn’t understand Washington. In the business world, Trump utilized threats often, especially threats to sue people. Given that Trump is one of the most litigious people on the planet (he has sued other people more than 2,000 times, according to one count), this was a threat you might be scared by — particularly if you were someone with less money and influence than him. But when he made the same threat to those with a comparable level of resources, it wasn’t so frightening. Remember when he threatened in October to sue the New York Times because it reported that multiple women were accusing him of unwanted sexual advances? The paper was not afraid and didn’t change how it reported on him, and the suit never materialized.

When he was only a businessman, things were straightforward and easy for Trump to understand: He can intimidate little guys, but not big guys. But power in Washington is much more complicated. Power is diffuse, spread across many individuals and institutions. And it changes as circumstances change.

10) Damn, Jennifer Rubin is pretty much done with the Republican Party.

11) From what little I heard, I thought the #noconfederate movement was pretty asinine.  Now that I’ve read an interview with it’s instigator, I’m even more convinced of that.  Loved Mike Pesca’s take in a recent spiel.  Came across TNC’s take after originally queuing this post.  It’s good, but I still think dramatically overstates the case against.

12) Charles Krauthammer with a surprisingly good column on how the guardrails of democracy are doing a good job holding up against Trump of late (among the more amazing features of Trump– how often he has led me to agree with Krauthammer).

13) I really like Julia Galef’s idea of a surprise journal:

Galef set out on a personal quest to identify her wrong assumptions. The outcome: the Surprise Journal. She keeps this journal with her at all times, writing down when something surprises her and why. For example, she noticed she was surprised that both older and younger people were attending her workshops, because she assumed people would self-segregate by age. She was surprised that her students would mention a concept from one of her colleague’s classes, because she didn’t expect that idea to be very memorable. “I started thinking about surprise as a cue that my expectations were wrong,” she says.

14) Apparently McMaster is cleaning house at the National Security Council.  That’s good news for America’s security.

15) Chait on Trump’s conversation with the Australian PM is so good.  Title captures it, “Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot.”

16) Well, this is somewhat disturbing… intelligent people are more likely to stereotype.

17) Jack Shafer’s take on Fox News and Trump was so good.  Definitely read all of this one:

That Fox has ended up gulling a president is a programming accident. When the late Roger Ailes conceived Fox News two decades ago, he hoped to create shows that attracted—is there a polite way to put this?—an older demographic that seeks news that reinforces its prejudices and rarely challenges them. And he succeeded. It was only by chance that Ailes ended up creating a network that appealed to this particular flighty, low-attention-span 71-year-old.

The Ailes demographic wants to be told that the world is going to hell, a message that harmonizes with the declining status and health many of them experience. The Ailes demographic wants simple and reductionist viewpoints on America’s cultural and policy dilemmas—from crime to immigration to taxes to war and trade. The Ailes demographic seeks the restoration of the social mores it remembers from its youth, and if the past can’t be restored, it wants modern mores castigated. And it wants to be frightened and outraged. Fox almost never disappoints them.

It was the network’s dumb luck that Trump aged into its core audience as he reached the White House. Like so many of his fellow senior citizens, Trump now spends his golden years huddled at the Fox hearth, shouting amen as it voices his resentments and disappointments. Only the hearth is in the White House. As news, real and not, travels from Fox’s lips to Trump’s tweets, we have the chance to see media history in the making. Presidents have, from time to time, courted publications to advance a White House agenda or steered the news by feeding tips to columnists and reporters, but never before has a president so consistently echoed an outlet’s message.

18) Thanks to BF for sharing this about expected Solar Eclipse day traffic jams.  Maybe I should just go to SC the night before.  I tried out my solar eclipse viewing glasses on the sun the other day– so cool.

19) Really interesting philosophical take on anti-free speech campus lefitsts:

The identity politics that thrives on today’s college campuses continues to use the language of sin adopted more broadly by the cultural left of the ’60s. Students are taking on urgent issues like women’s rights, racial profiling and police brutality, climate change, and economic inequality. And while they spend a lot of their time refining politically correct forms of speech, these can be helpful learning tools, especially for young people making their way into society. When their approach becomes judgmental and unyielding, however, it backfires, leaving activists vulnerable to apathy, infighting, and ineffectiveness.

Among other things, their focus on sinfulness turns politically useful activism into useless performance. On college campuses, for example, candid and necessary discussions about race among well-meaning students can degenerate into something less productive, according to McWhorter. “For white people, it is a great way to show that you understand racism is real,” McWhorter said last month. “For black people and Latino people, it is a great way to assuage how bad a self-image a race can have after hundreds of years of torture.” In this way, activism becomes more about an insider conversation and competition, and less about effecting change. “White privilege is real,” McWhorter said. “The issue is that it shouldn’t be used as something to shut down conversation, to inculcate unreligious people with a new sense of original sin.”

20) Enjoyed this NYT on back-to-school Tech you need and don’t need for college students, but was taken aback by, “You probably don’t need a printer, either. Few professors request hard copies of term papers and other assignments anymore.”  Seriously?!  Am I actually an outlier dinosaur by requiring hardcopies?  Not as far as I can tell.

21) Ryan Lizza thinks Kelly may actually be able to reign in Trump.  We’ll see.

22) Frum makes an interesting case that, yes, it really was a failure of Trump’s leadership that Republicans could do nothing about health care:

The Republican Party had marched itself into a hopeless dead-end on health care. The party had promised not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but to replace it with something that would offer better coverage at a lower price—while also spending less public money and cutting the taxes that financed the whole thing. This was clearly impossible. Yet nobody dared say what everybody knew.

Only presidential leadership could have marched the party back out of this cul-de-sac. Theoretically, Donald Trump could have been the president to do so too. Of all the 2016 candidates, he had been the least beholden to outdated party ideology. He owed little or nothing to the interest groups that four years previous had compelled Mitt Romney to disavow his own health-care plan in Massachusetts. He was perfectly positioned to tell his own party: 2012 was the repeal election. We lost. Now it’s time to try something new. [emphasis in original]

Rescuing a party from unworkable commitments is a job only a presidential nominee can do.

It was Dwight Eisenhower’s nomination in 1952 that finished off Republican opposition to a permanent NATO commitment.

John F. Kennedy’s nomination served notice that the Democrats would end their long equivocation between pro- and anti-civil-rights wings.

Ronald Reagan put an end to the GOP’s long ambivalence about Social Security; Bill Clinton in 1992 reinvented the Democrats as a party that accepted limits to the growth of government.

It could have been Trump who likewise rescued the GOP from the excesses of Tea Party Republicanism.

23) NYT on Hollywood dialect coaches.

24) Here’s how you actually fix Obamacare if you want to– it’s not that complicated.  And Drum with the short version.

25) Recently came across this column of Paul Waldman from last year on Ben Sasse and the totally disingenous appeals to the wisdom of the common man.  It’s so good.  Just read it.

Now Ben Sasse isn’t an idiot — in fact, he’s an extremely smart guy. He went to Harvard and got a Ph.D. at Yale. He served in George W. Bush’s administration and was a university president at a young age. He understands how government works. But he’s playing a game here, one that says that you don’t need to actually understand anything about policy, that the “adult” response to the current political situation is a formless grunt of displeasure. That’s the worst kind of pandering, to tell people that their own ignorance and refusal to confront real choices is actually the soul of wisdom.


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