Photo of the day

Most of the photos on Flickr now where taken with an Iphone. But all their best shots of 2017 were taken with a DSLR.  Real cameras are not dead.  Nice gallery here:

The Elephant Walks at Night [Photo: Wayne Pinkston]

Quick hits (part I)

1) Good article in Chronicle of Higher Ed about the Canadian graduate student reprimanded for showing a video debate about gender neutral pronouns.

2) Check out America’s declining fertility rate.  You know how to maintain economic growth and a society that is not hopelessly old when this is below 2.0?  That’s right– immigration.

3) Washington State University campus Republicans re-elected their organization’s president even after he was shown to be a a white nationalist.

4) Yglesias on tax cuts and deficits

At some point Democrats will be in a position to govern again, and will likely want to roll back significant elements of this unpopular and regressive tax plan. At that point, they’ll have a choice between spending the money raised on deficit reduction (as the partial repeal of the Bush tax cuts did) or to help pay for worthwhile new programs. It’s true, of course, that Republican politicians will opportunistically flip and start condemning debt as the greatest evil of all.

More to the point, it’s true that the CEO class — currently hungry for tax cuts — will revert to “grand bargain” mode and insist that tax increases, if they must happen, should be paired with spending cuts. It’s true that much of the media will cover this hypocrisy in a clueless and irresponsible way. But the most important truth of all: Democrats will have the power to govern as they see fit, and the right choice will be to implement sound economic policy, not obsess about the deficit. So let’s not spend the Trump years in a senseless state of debt panic.

5) Very useful reminder from Chait that even the least conservative GOP Senator, Susan Collins, is still in conservative fantasyland on taxes.

6) Seth Masket on Trump facing consequences:

There are some important ways in which Trump is paying a price for his behavior, however, and these should not be ignored simply because they move slowly. For one, there’s a very serious criminal investigation of this administration moving ahead. Robert Mueller’s investigation has now produced four indictments this year, including that of the president’s former campaign manager and his choice for national security advisor. In the legal world, this is fast, and consequential, work, and could well end up as a case for impeachment and removal.

What’s more, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Trump is highly unpopular. His approval ratings seem mired in the 30s during a period of solid economic growth, low crime, low gas prices, low inflation, and a relatively peaceful international environment. This unpopularity is costly to him and his agenda and it could prove devastating for his party.

7) I love my Netflix.  Interesting Vox take on the future of streaming.

8) Ahhhh, McSweeney’s, “Things to do at work besides showing your penis to coworkers.”

9) Former child actress gets the best of FCC Chairman in battle over net neutrality.

10) Lemurs and gut microbiomes— two of my favorite topics together!  Also, I love that their is now a journal called “Gut Microbes.”

11) A good (and much shorter than Jesse Singal’s long, but excellent) article on the deep flaws of the widely-used Implicit Attitude Test to measure racism.  And a nice further (short) response from Jesse Singal.

12) In a similar vein, excellent Hidden Brain podcast on the heinous mis-use of super-flawed personality tests.

13) Nice Mea Culpa from Billy Bush.

14) Philip Bump, “Why aren’t you paying the estate tax? Maybe because you bought 311,000 bottles of whisky.”

15) What happens when cheerleaders in small-town NC take a knee for the anthem.

16) Really enjoyed this piece from Allison Benedikt (who married her former workplace supervisor) on the grey area of workplace romance:

If a younger woman asks an older and more professionally powerful man for job advice, and that man ends up hitting on the woman, is that on its own harassment? Is it always wrong when a man is attracted to a woman at work, and acts on that attraction? If that man tries to, say, kiss the woman he is attracted to, and she’s not into it, and they leave it at that, was that forcible kissing? If a woman is not attracted to a man who comes on to her, and that man is in a position of any sort of power, is that clearly a fireable offense? I don’t think the answer to these questions is definitively yes. And yet, these tales and others like them have been stitched into the narrative of behavior that’s truly beyond the pale, and at times punished accordingly…

But when John took me to a dark bar after we closed our first story together, or when he made his move on the steps of the subway station, in the romantic glow of the Duane Reade sign, why wasn’t that harassment? Though he wasn’t the editor of the magazine or anything close, he controlled which assignments I got, and which I didn’t, and would have been the person to write my evaluation, had we done those back then. There were the steps John took to evaluate my interest before leaning in for that kiss, like asking me out for drinks after work. But what if I had felt pressure to say yes to his  invite? Or what if, when he did kiss me, I had pulled away? At the time, our work and our social lives were all mixed up in wonderful, messy, risky ways. I know John wouldn’t have punished me at work had I not been interested in his advances; if he had, that would have been harassment, and not OK. Even so, life at the magazine might have become uncomfortable for me, or for him, if things hadn’t worked out. Maybe I would have wanted to find another job, or maybe he would have. Maybe, because I was younger and less established, it would have fallen on me to figure that out, which would have been hard, but no harder than needing to find a new job because I wasn’t advancing or because I hated my boss for nonkissing reasons. Maybe I wouldn’t have cared at all that this weird dude kissed me. Maybe I would have been flattered. Or maybe it would have really sucked. In none of those scenarios, though, would John have been a sexual harasser simply because he had more power in the office than I did and made a move. He took a risk. I was capable of evaluating his advances for myself. In my case, I welcomed them. If we had just met today, though, I fear there’s no way he would have even tried…

Of course not all workplaces are the same, and I have no interest in arguing that every office should be flirty and fun, or that all bosses should feel free to flirt with abandon. My point is not that I know where the line is. It’s that, even in the midst of the most public reckoning with atrocious and abusive male behavior of my lifetime, the line is not as clear as much of the dialogue would have you think. We spend a huge portion of our waking hours at work, and particularly when you are young and single or childless or divorced or simply working all the time, much of your social life revolves around your colleagues. We have work crushes and work wives and husbands, and sometimes we kiss our co-workers or sleep with them. Sometimes that turns into something real—my husband and I are not the only long-married couple to come out of that now-defunct magazine. But sometimes it turns into everyone at a bar, drinking a little too much, and a man touching a woman’s arm or leg or rubbing her shoulder, trying to make a move, and that woman not being into it. That’s an uncomfortable situation, but we all make each other uncomfortable sometimes, particularly when sex and attraction are involved. The goal should be for a person to say “no thanks, dude,” without consequences, not for rejection to never be necessary at all.

17) A nice, succinct summary of how CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing works.

18) History tells us that getting rid of net neutrality is a radically bad idea.

19) Was talking about people taking their kids to Disney World at way too young ages at lunch and I hit upon the term “performative parenting.”  Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first to coin it, but damn is it an apt term in our social media age.

20) Or not.

21) The best solution to obesity is actually bariactic surgery.  A huge part of its effectiveness is that it actually changes how the body produces hunger and satiety hormones.

22) Really interesting piece from Farhad Manjoo on how Amazon has led to a growth in surprisingly cheap– while still being good– consumer electronics.  I’ve definitely benefited from this headphones and very much recognize the attempts of these small companies to work rigorously for strong Amazon reviews.

23) Chait with the case for why the Steele dossier on Trump is likely mostly true.

24) And he points to this assessment from intelligence pros:

[Editor’s Note: In this special Just Security article, highly respected former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher examines the Steele dossier using methods that an intelligence officer would to try to validate such information. Sipher concludes that the dossier’s information on campaign collusion is generally credible when measured against standard Russian intelligence practices, events subsequent to Steele’s reporting, and information that has become available in the nine months since Steele’s final report. The dossier, in Sipher’s view, is not without fault, including factual inaccuracies. Those errors, however, do not detract from an overarching framework that has proven to be ever more reliable as new revelations about potential Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin and its affiliates has come to light in the nine months since Steele submitted his final report.]


25) Christina Cauterruci argues the Democrats have successfully played the long game with Franken’s resignation:

I’d counter with an even longer game: Think about the Democrats with long, bright futures ahead of them, the rising stars, the next Obamas, the legislators who might pass universal Medicare or eliminate Medicaid abortion bans or become president someday. If Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, and Kamala Harris didn’t condemn Franken, they’d lose no small degree of faith among women currently feeling empowered by the #MeToo movement to root out abusers. If Franken was allowed to keep his seat while his party comrades twiddled their thumbs, young people who already think the Democratic Party is a corrupt instrument of the bourgeoisie would have one more reason to write it off for good. By sacrificing one senator, however popular he might be and whatever the perils of relinquishing his seat, Democrats were able to prevent irreparable damage to the party’s reputation among the people it should care about most: its base.

There’s another still longer game to think about, too. In the best-case scenario, the hurt caused by Franken’s resignation will be a memorable lesson to Democrats: Don’t mistreat women, or promote the candidacies of people who do—otherwise, your party might take a debilitating loss when it can least afford it, and the whole country will suffer. The moral high ground can be painful to walk, but at least there are fewer gropers there.


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