Quick hits (part II)

1) Kind of fascinating to see NYT run a health column about sodium and high blood pressure and get so much wrong.  Unlike most on-line comments (which are a cesspit), NYT readers are an impressive lot and these comments are actually far more informative than the article.  Including linking to this earlier NYT piece which is far more accurate on the matter.

2) It seems crazy that we should need an Op-Ed to argue that we should not be criminally charging sexual assault victims with lying.  But we do.

3) Yes, it is overblown in conservative media, but, damn, sometime PC liberalism really does run amok at universities.

4) Jeffrey Toobin on the cultural legacy of Charles Manson:

Manson died on Sunday—remarkably, he was eighty-three years old. His era had long passed by the time of his death, but his legacy was surprisingly durable. In media, in criminal law, and in popular culture, Manson created a template that, for better or worse, is still familiar today.

5) Honestly, the case for Lena Dunham as a racist is the reason that conservatives think liberals are way too ready to cry racism.

6) Jon Bernstein on the case for superdelegates:

So why keep them? Supers have several practical functions. Their votes for the winner of the primaries and caucuses extends the delegate lead, adding both legitimacy and certainty to the nominee. That’s something they’ve done in close contests, such as the 2008 cycle. 2 But they’re also a fail-safe if something goes wrong. The proportional system of delegate allocation makes it possible that the winning candidate will fall just short of a delegate majority if one or more spoiler candidates hang on and accumulate delegates even after they no longer have a chance to win. Supers, if that happens, would presumably put the plurality winner over the top, avoiding an ugly and counterproductive deadlocked convention.

Both of those possibilities are more likely than usual in 2020, a year without any obviously strong Democratic frontrunners (Sorry, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders: Party actors and voters are not rushing in large enough numbers towards either of you to clear the field). It’s likely the Democratic field will wind up more similar to those of 1976, 1988, or 2004, with no clear early leader and at least a possibility that multiple candidates will remain viable well into the primaries and caucuses.

7) So, we know that lots of mass murderers have a red flag of domestic abuse.  What’s really interesting is that offenders who choke and strangle their victims are basically waving a bright red flag that we really ought to be paying attention to.

8) For some reason, I always find the subject of how sporting events (in this case NFL games) are assigned to different regional affiliates to be really interesting.

9) This big NYT feature on the problems with the NYC subway system is pretty amazing.  And not in a good way.

None of this happened on its own. It was the result of a series of decisions by both Republican and Democratic politicians — governors from George E. Pataki to Mr. Cuomo and mayors from Rudolph W. Giuliani to Bill de Blasio. Each of them cut the subway’s budget or co-opted it for their own priorities.

They stripped a combined $1.5 billion from the M.T.A. by repeatedly diverting tax revenues earmarked for the subways and also by demanding large payments for financial advice, I.T. help and other services that transit leaders say the authority could have done without.

They pressured the M.T.A. to spend billions of dollars on opulent station makeovers and other projects that did nothing to boost service or reliability, while leaving the actual movement of trains to rely on a 1930s-era signal system with fraying, cloth-covered cables.

They saddled the M.T.A. with debt and engineered a deal with creditors that brought in quick cash but locked the authority into paying $5 billion in interest that it otherwise never would have had to pay.

In one particularly egregious example, Mr. Cuomo’s administration forced the M.T.A. to send $5 million to bail out three state-run ski resorts that were struggling after a warm winter.

And, my God, the pay!

Subway workers now make an average of $170,000 annually in salary, overtime and benefits, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by the federal Department of Transportation. That is far more than in any other American transit system; the average in cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington is about $100,000 in total compensation annually.

The pay for managers is even more extraordinary. The nearly 2,500 people who work in New York subway administration make, on average, $280,000 in salary, overtime and benefits. The average elsewhere is $115,000.

New York is more expensive than most other cities, but not by that much. The latest estimate from the federal Department of Commerce said the region’s cost of living was 22 percent higher than the national average and 10 percent higher than the average for other areas with subways.

Mr. Samuelsen rejected the idea that subway workers were overpaid, arguing that it is a dangerous job in which assault is common. “We earn every penny that we make,” he said. “This is New York City. This isn’t Mayberry. It costs $700,000 to buy a house in Brooklyn. What do you want us to make? Fifteen dollars an hour?”

10) Dave Leonhardt on how America is an outlier in driving deaths:

But it’s not just speed. Seatbelt use is also more common elsewhere: One in seven American drivers still don’t use one, according to the researchers Juha Luoma and Michael Sivak. In other countries, 16-year-olds often aren’t allowed to drive. And “buzzed driving” tends to be considered drunken driving. Here, only heavily Mormon Utah has moved toward a sensible threshold, and the liquor and restaurant lobbies are trying to stop it.

The political problem with all of these steps, of course, is that they restrict freedom, and we Americans like freedom. To me, the freedom to have a third beer before getting behind the wheel — or to drive 15 miles an hour above the limit — is not worth 30 lives a day. But I recognize that not everyone sees it this way. [emphasis mine]

Which is part of the reason I’m so excited about driverless technology. It will let us overcome self-destructive behavior, without having to change a lot of laws. A few years from now, sophisticated crash-avoidance systemswill probably be the norm. Cars will use computers and cameras to avoid other objects. And the United States will stand to benefit much more than the rest of the industrialized world.

Until then, be careful out there.

11) And the six main causes of automobile accidents in Slate.

12) On how to raise girls and boys to counter-act gender stereotypes.  I especially liked the part about parenting boys:

What could make a big difference is raising boys more like our girls — fostering kindness and caretaking, not just by telling them to respect women, but by modeling egalitarianism and male affection and emotional aptitude at home. While parents and other adults teach girls to protect themselves against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, that doesn’t do much to stem the tide of Weinsteins. Raising our boys differently would.[emphasis mine]

Parents should also shift the ways they teach girls to protect themselves. When we’re young, many of us were told to tell Mom and Dad if anyone ever touched us in a way that felt icky; as we grow up, we are armed with pepper spray and rape whistles, with instructions to always carry cab fare, not leave our drinks unattended at a bar, that no should mean no.

This is an understandable impulse, and some of the advice is good. But what girls don’t learn is how to be the solo aviators of their own perfect, powerful bodies — to happily inhabit their own skin instead of seeing their physical selves as objects to be assessed and hopefully affirmed by others; to feel entitled to sex they actively desire themselves, instead of positioned to either accept or reject men’s advances. Nor are we allowed full expressions of rage or other unfeminine emotions when we are mistreated. No wonder we try to politely excuse ourselves from predatory men instead of responding with the ire that predation merits.

One of the most important ways to move forward at this moment is to simply be aware that these assumptions and prejudices exist, and to deal with them head-on instead of pretending they aren’t there. Here, daughters of conservative men are at a particular disadvantage: Three-quarters of Republican men say that sexism is mostly a thing of the past.

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