Quick hits (part II)

1) Given how subjective the experience of pain is, it should not be surprising that there seems to be quite a socio-cultural element.  The experience of pain varies dramatically around the world.  Drum.  Totally not surprised that Americans come out with the most pain.  What’s with the Czech’s?!

2) Hope I’m not giving away too much about the latest season of Curb your Enthusiasm to say that “Fatwa: the Musical” is about my favorite thing ever.  I would so pay big money if this were real.

3) Paul Waldman on the lessons of recent sex scandals:

And who survives this kind of scandal? The ones that are the least repentant — and often, the most guilty…

How do I know that Republicans will accommodate themselves to Moore’s presence? Because that’s exactly what they did with President Trump…

The depressing lesson is clear: If you don’t give any ground and don’t express contrition, you can turn your personal scandal into a partisan fight, which will rally your party to your side. And no matter what you did, there’s a good chance you’ll win. [emphasis mine]

4) As you know, I normally love Thomas Edsall, but in this column that argues liberals need to be less condescending and pay more attention to the realities of middle-American Trump supporters, he completely ignores the topic of race.  Edsall does raise some good points, but it is dramatically undermined by ignoring race.

5) On a somewhat similar note, I love this from Jennifer Rubin, “Journalists: Forget the Rust Belt diners. Head for the suburban yoga classes.”

6) Nice Vox summary of a recent Columbia Jouralism Review of the NYT’s email-obsessed 2016 coverage, “Study: Hillary Clinton’s emails got as much front-page coverage in 6 days as policy did in 69.”

And it’s not as if the Times, or any other media outlets, didn’t cover Trump’s scandals. They did. But there were so many, from relentless daily outrages to the dirt from Trump’s past, that it made it more likely, maybe even necessary, for journalists to move on to the next one thing.

But as Watts put it: “The monolithic story that’s constantly renewing itself seems to be disproportionately damaging compared to this kaleidoscope.”

7) In climate change research, “The most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences, study finds.”

8) Krugman on the Republicans’ war on children:

Meanwhile, here’s the funny thing: While there is zero evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves, there’s considerable evidence that aiding lower-income children actually saves money in the long run.

Think about it. Children who get adequate care are more likely to be healthier and more productive when they become adults, which means that they’ll earn more and pay more in taxes. They’re also less likely to become disabled and need government support. One recent study estimated that the government in fact earns a return of between 2 and 7 percent on the money it spends insuring children.

By the way, broadly similar results have been found for the food stamp program: Ensuring adequate nutrition for the young means healthier, more productive adults, so that in the long run this aid costs taxpayers little or nothing.

But such results, while interesting and important, aren’t the main reason we should be providing children with health care and enough to eat. Simple decency should be reason enough. And despite everything we’ve seen in U.S. politics, it’s still hard to believe that a whole political party would balk at doing the decent thing for millions of kids while rushing to further enrich a few thousand wealthy heirs.

That is, however, exactly what’s happening. And it’s as bad, in its own way, as that same party’s embrace of a child molester because they expect him to vote for tax cuts.

9) And Ronald Brownstein with a really nice piece going beyond his usual demographic analyses:

In that way, the tax debate offers the clearest measure of how powerfully the Republican Party in the Trump era is folding inward. Neither Trump nor GOP congressional leaders are even pretending to represent the entire country—or to consider perspectives beyond those of their core coalition. Instead the party has shown that as long as it can maintain internal unity over its direction, it will ignore objections from virtually any outside source—not just Democrats, but also independent experts, affected interest groups, and traditional allies abroad.

In a best-selling book published during the Reagan years, neoconservative cultural critic Allan Bloom lamented The Closing of the American Mind. The Trump era is crystallizing the closing of the Republican mind.

In several distinct ways, the party is now governing solely of, by, and for Red America…

10) Nice Mischiefs of Faction post on the conflicting rights in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

11) Michael Tomasky on Al Franken:

This is where I see some opportunism at work, in two ways. First, let’s cut to the chase: Do you think we’d have heard all these calls for his resignation from his Democratic colleagues if Minnesota had a Republican governor? No way. Maybe a couple senators would, but as a group they wouldn’t be nearly so cavalier about dumping him if they knew a Republican was going to replace him. And that’s fine; that’s politics. Newsflash: Politics is political. But it does make me take these high-moral-ground statements of his colleagues with a few grains of salt…

Second, obviously, the Democrats are hoping to present to America a contrast between them and the Republicans. And that contrast is real. But it, too, is not really about morality. It’s because rank-and-file Democrats take sexually inappropriate behavior a lot more seriously than rank-and-file Republicans do. This week, Quinnipiac polled about 1,700 people and asked them whether an elected official accused (and only accused) of sexual harassment or assault “by multiple people” should resign. Among Democrats it was 77 percent yes to 14 percent no. Among Republicans it was 51-37…

But there’s more. They’ve circumvented process and the principle of hearing from both sides. They’ve completely ignored the possibility that a person can reform himself. (Maybe Franken used to be a sexist jerk but has genuinely changed; aren’t liberals supposed to welcome that?) And they’ve blurred the line, which I think should exist, between different categories of sexual crimes, some of which are obviously worse than others. The day will almost surely come when they’ll regret having established these precedents.

12) Masha Gessen thinks we are going to far in “policing sex.”

13) Really like this piece about how so many men just don’t get enough touch in their lives.  Fortunately, for me, both my parents were huggers and physically affectionate.  I remember going off to college and missing the lack of physical contact.  Fortunately, I had a friend down the hall (who would become my best friend and roommate), who was always ready and unsparing with a good hug.

Touch is the first, and perhaps most profound, language we learn when we’re very young, says Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Touch might have a more immediate impact than words, Dr. Field said in an email, “because it is physical and leads to a chain of bioelectric and chemical changes that basically relax the nervous system.”

The benefits of nonsexual touch read like a 19th-century tonic advertisement, except that the outcomes have been scientifically vetted. Touch has been found, among other things, to reduce stress, heart rate andblood pressure. Touch has even been found to lower the level of cortisol in the body (especially in women) which, when elevated, impedes our working memory and, most critically, the immune system’s resiliency…

The psychologist Ofer Zur notes that for most 20th- and 21st-century American men, physical contact is restricted to violence or sex. As the sociologist Michael Kimmel, who studies masculinity, said in an email, touch between straight men can occur only when physical contact “magically loses its association with homosexuality” — as happens in sports.

The fear that girds the lack of platonic touch among American men also fuels the destructive force of their hands, a 2002 study in the journal Adolescence found. Dr. Field was the lead author of the study, which looked at 49 cultures. “The cultures that exhibited minimal physical affection toward their young children had significantly higher rates of adult violence,” she said. But “those cultures that showed significant amounts of physical affection toward their young children had virtually no adult violence.”

14) Yeah, of course Roy Moore is lying and there’s increasing evidence to suggest that.

15) The marijuana as a gateway drug theory is making a bit of a comeback.  That said, the evidence for it is largely based on rats.  The human evidence still suggests the contrary.  Somehow, I had not heard of common liability theory.  Definitely going to educate myself more on this.

Today, health advocates tend to rally around a concept known as common liability theory, which states that certain people, by virtue of biology, environment or both, are simply more likely than others to become addicted to drugs. Part of the appeal of the theory is it explains why so many people can use so-called gateway drugs and never become addicted.

“Gateway theory only deals with the initiation of the use of various substances, and this order means exactly nothing,” said Michael M. Vanyukov, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of a 2012 paper comparing gateway and common liability theories. “What is important is why people start using drugs at all, and common liability accounts for that.”

16) Black women are far more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than white women.  And here’s one particularly heartbreaking tale of it.

17) Happy birthday to the #1 fan of quick hits, DJC.  This most eccentric of friends will be celebrating his 41st birthday by walking 41K today (I plan on joining him for a handful of those), so he might be behind in reading this.

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