Quick hits (part I)

1) I was fascinated by this story about Trader Joe’s products.  Basically, they get national manufacturers to make a Trader Joe’s version to sell for cheaper and keep it entirely secret.

2) Nice 538 piece on the rise of white identity politics.  Pretty sure I’ve posted a version of this chart before, but it’s worth it again.  As long as Republicans manage to convince themselves that white people (and Christians!  My God, the level of delusion!) face more discrimination than Black people, we have a serious, serious problem in this country.

3) Seems like a good time to mention that Republican state legislatures across the country– including here in NC– would like to make it legal to run over protesters.  Seriously!

4) My solar eclipse glasses were refunded by Amazon out of “an abundance of caution.”  That said, based on this Today story, I’m using them anyway (rather than ordering more at what has quickly become astronomical prices):

One sure tip that the glasses are safe for use according to Pfriem is if they have “ISO 12312-2 standard” labeled on them.

Another tip: You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face while wearing the glasses. That would mean too much light is getting through the filter.

“So a third thing you could look for is when the product is actually in your hand,” Pfriem said. “Look at the film itself and make sure that there’s no pocking, bubbling or creasing. What those deformities sometimes serve to do is amplify the sun’s light coming through the filter.”

The ones I bought are literally like wearing a blindfold except when looking at the sun.  If blocking out that much visible light I’m going to assume they are blocking out the UV as well.

5) How the alt-right’s rebranding has failed.

6) You should take a look at the really disturbing Vice documentary of Charlottesville.

7) I had no idea about “crown shyness” in trees.  Very cool.

8) Enough with the constant password changing and the insistence on special characters.  What you need is a long password.

9) We really don’t have a very good sense of just how bad being “overweight” is for your health.

Most researchers agree that it’s unhealthy for the average person to be, say, 300 pounds. They don’t really know why being very overweight is bad for you, but the thinking is that all those fat cells disrupt how the body produces and uses insulin, leading to elevated glucose in the blood and, eventually, diabetes. Extra weight also increases blood pressure, which can ultimately damage the heart.

But whether just a few extra pounds raise the risk of death is a surprisingly controversial and polarizing issue. Usually, nutrition scientists tell journalists hedgy things like, “this is just what my study shows,” followed by the dreaded disclaimer: “Further research is needed.” But on this question, the researchers involved are entrenched, having reached opposite conclusions and not budging an inch. Like many internecine wars, the dispute mostly comes down to one small thing: how you define the “overweight” population in the study.

10) What Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is very bad and very scary and very under-the-radar.  Not good.

11) The open carry laws in Virginia sure don’t help the situation.

12) NC Governor Roy Cooper makes the strong case for removing the confederate monuments in NC.  Not while the Republicans run the legislature, but he’s right.

13) It is just so obvious that kids need to move to keep their brains working best (heck, adults, too) and just keeping that at their desks all day with minimal breaks is counter-productive.  And, not just obvious, plenty of studies backing them up.  At least some schools are catching on.  Alas, depressing that some educators still can’t get past this mindset:

But not all districts are embracing the trend of movement breaks.

“The bottom line is that with only six and a half hours during the day, our priority is academics,” said Tom Hernandez, the director of community relations for the Plainfield School District in Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. He said that under state law, the schools provide daily physical education classes and that teachers in the district find ways to give students time during the day to refresh and recharge.

I think I’m going to send the article to my kids’ elementary principal next week.  I’ll be curious as to her response.

14) Jonathan Bernstein on how a classic of political science (I read it in grad school) very much explains Trump’s weakness as a president:

What Neustadt taught was that the constitutional office of President of the United States is an inherently weak one, but that skilled presidents can nevertheless become enormously influential. The flip side of this, however, is that an amateurish president can barely even exercise the constitutional and statutory authority of the office…

Without a more direct way to control the government, Neustadt argues that presidents must depend on what he calls “persuasion” — better referred to as the skilled use of leverage and bargaining power. Not just with Congress, or within the executive branch, but across the board. This “persuasion” doesn’t necessarily mean changing anyone’s mind. It may just mean convincing someone in a position of power to do nothing rather than something.

Resignations from the president’s American Manufacturing Council are a classic case of failed persuasion. The businesspeople who quit — at least six since the president’s poorly reviewed comments on Charlottesville — were private citizens, not government officials. And all Trump wanted from them, to put it plainly, was for them to do nothing while lending their credibility to his agenda. That’s not necessarily a huge ask in the current situation, which didn’t directly put the interests of Merck or Under Armour at risk. Yet persuading them to stay put was something apparently beyond the very limited abilities of the president at this point. It didn’t help, of course, that Trump reinforced his reputation as a paper tiger by attacking Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier only to have Merck’s share prices spike. As my View colleague Joe Nocera pointed out, “there’s nothing to be scared of” from Trump’s tweets. Skilled presidents, however, rely on more than just threats. They work hard to build strong relationships, and know when to dangle carrots to loosely affiliated supporters, too.

Or perhaps an even better illustration of how weak Trump has become is that he’s even lost, in at least one case, the ability to supply the words coming out of the presidential mouth. Trump resisted the statement originally drafted for him about Charlottesville on Saturday, adding squish words about “many sides” to a statement that would have condemned neo-Nazis. But that didn’t stand; by Monday, over his own personal objections, Trump wound up giving the statement he was supposed to have given in the first place. And after kicking up a firestorm in an ugly appearance on Tuesday in which he went back to blaming both sides, it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up backing down again — or suffering a real price for saying what he wanted to say.

So Trump is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a historically weak president. His professional reputation is in tatters, he’s unusually unpopular, and he doesn’t appear to come close to having the skills to do anything about it. Exactly the conditions under which Neustadt predicted presidents would lose influence. [emphasis mine]

15) Been hearing a lot about Antifa lately.  Nice take on it from Peter Beinart.

16) TV is getting more confusing and it’s only going to get worse.

17) Do not use hair conditioner in the case of a nuclear explosion near by.

18) Watched Bill and Ted’s (on Amazon prime this month) with the boys this week.  Holds up in my book.  David loved it just as much as I did at his age.

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