Quick hits (part I)

1) It’s okay that prosecutors make honest mistakes.  What’s so not okay is when prosecutors refuse to admit they have made mistakes and go on willfully destroying people’s lives.

2) Video of lemurs mobbing a BBC reporter.  Good stuff!

3) NYT Smarter Living column on self-awareness research.  I actually took Organizational Psychologist Tascha Eurich’s on-line test, and thanks to the confirmation of my wife, I’m officially self aware.  That said, I went looking for peer-reviewed research on the matter and found distressingly little.

4) Loved this Vox article featuring “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal on being self-disciplined in writing.

5) Great summary from Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll on why US has the most expensive health care in the world.  The prices.

The United States spends almost twice as much on health care, as a percentage of its economy, as other advanced industrialized countries — totaling $3.3 trillion, or 17.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2016.

But a few decades ago American health care spending was much closer to that of peer nations.

What happened?

A large part of the answer can be found in the title of a 2003 paper in Health Affairs by the Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt: “It’s the prices, stupid.

The study, also written by Gerard Anderson, Peter Hussey and Varduhi Petrosyan, found that people in the United States typically use about the same amount of health care as people in other wealthy countries do, but pay a lot more for it.

6) A Boeing employee friend sent me this from a while back about how Paul Ryan went to Boeing to make the case for corporate tax cuts.

Facts are for suckers these days, but c’mon. Not only is Boeing gushing cash, but its own financial documents show it has actually paid an average federal income tax of just 3.2 percent of profits over the past 15 years. That’s less than one-tenth the figure Ryan cited.

7) Chait on why conservatives love dumb presidents.

8) Austin Frakt on off-loading your memories to other people via “memory extension.”

There’s another type of memory extension that is even more mindlike. We routinely extend our memories by using other people’s minds, and our minds serve as memory extenders for others. Anyone with children is constantly remembering things for them — what time they need to be at soccer practice, where it is, what they need to bring. My children know the names of many other children and their parents, a resource I draw on regularly at family social events because I often forget — or never knew — them…

Humans have been using this kind of mind extension forever. Passage of information from brain to brain orally was the norm well before writing. We’re social animals and formed social networks long before social media. We’re accustomed to relying on one another for information as much as anything else. So remembering who said what or who knows what comes naturally.

Harnessing this to strategically store and retrieve memories from other people’s minds is not a big leap. It relieves you from trying to do what you can’t do anyway: always remember everything.

9) Not ever really paid attention to Lana del Rey before, but she so stole from Radiohead’s “Creep.”  I don’t think it’s really all that hard to make original music— just don’t blatantly take the key melodic phrase of a song.

10) Dahlia Lithwick on everybody’s favorite stable genius:

It seems to me, though, that Raskin has identified the central irony of this political moment: We don’t need Wolff’s book, or even an independent commission, to identify the ways in which the president is not by temperament or character fit for office. This is all already widely known, and spoken aloud, even by his Cabinet members and Republican officeholders. The problem is in developing a process of amassing evidence to reach a conclusion that would require Congress and the Cabinet to act, in contravention of their own parochial interests and the 2016 vote. Republicans have showed no intention of acting in any way against this president. And as my colleague Jamelle Bouie notes here, that is where the system breaks down.

11) And yet more on the fact that eating less, not exercise, is the key to weight loss.

12) Michael Tomasky on the sad (rightward) trajectory of Orrin Hatch.

13) Here’s some cool research:

We show that socioeconomic attributes such as income, race, education, and voting patterns can be inferred from cars detected in Google Street View images using deep learning. Our model works by discovering associations between cars and people. For example, if the number of sedans in a city is higher than the number of pickup trucks, that city is likely to vote for a Democrat in the next presidential election (88% chance); if not, then the city is likely to vote for a Republican (82% chance).

14) This tweetstorm putting the “shithole” of Haiti into proper context is absolutely fantastic.

15) Somehow, until last week, I missed this amazing spoof advertisement from 2016 of Patrick Stewart singing cowboy classics.  Especially for those of us who grew up on ads like this, so, so good.

16) Zack Beauchamp on Trump and the “shithole” countries:

The sheer racism of the comments would be shocking coming from any other president. The heartbreaking, and terrifying, thing is that it’s not the least bit surprising coming from Donald Trump.

This is a man who launched his political career by pushing a conspiracy theory that the first black president was not actually born in America. This is a candidate who rocketed to the top of the GOP primary polls by calling Mexicans rapists. This is a president who has repeatedly attempted to act on his campaign pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States, who has said that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians live in “huts.”

It’s not just that Trump has consistently and unambiguously expressed beliefs like this — though he has. It’s that his willingness to say these things, out loud, is the core of his political appeal to his vaunted base. Trump won the GOP primary and the presidency not in spite of his xenophobia and racism, but because of them.

Put even more bluntly, his talk about “shithole countries” is a perfect distillation of Trumpism.

17) But, damn, Dave Leonhardt lets loose:

When it comes to President Trump and race, there is a predictable cycle. He makes a remark that seems racist, and people engage in an extended debate about whether he is personally racist. His critics say he is. His defenders argue for an interpretation in which race plays a secondary role (such as: Haiti really is a worse place to live than Norway).

It’s time to end this cycle.

No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people.

And that makes him a racist. [emphasis mine]

Is it possible to defend some of his racially charged statements by pointing out that something other than race might explain them? Sure. Is it possible that he doesn’t think of himself as a racist who views white people as superior to nonwhite people? Yes.

But the definition of a racist — the textbook definition, as Paul Ryan might say — is someone who treats some people better than others because of their race. Trump fits that definition many times over: [many documented examples follow]

18) I’ve been discussing the use of totally inappropriate metrics in a variety of contexts lately.  Catherine Rampell on Trump’s wholly inappropriate use of stock market indices as a metric for the health of the American economy and the success of his presidency.

19) The work requirements for Medicaid plan that Republicans are pushing is pretty much the apotheosis of Republican policy– stupid, counter-productive, and needlessly cruel.

20) Dahlia Lithwick says that this article on how to fix Facebook should be your weekend read.  As a Facebook lover, who am I to object?

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R, Jenrette says:

    #16 – I’m not on Twitter so this is an education in more ways than one. That quick review of Haiti’s history of exploitation and the tweets that followed – extraordinary!
    #20 – depressing warning about the ability of unfriendly people to manipulate Facebook and its viewers. Our Congress is just not collectively smart enough and motivated enough to handle this threat effectively. I hear that Senators are threatened in the 2018 election. Their emails are said to be in danger of being hacked and of being used against them. Mostly Democrats and those Republicans who are thought to be too moderate no doubt.

    • Mika says:

      Beware the spell of Twitter! Nowadays I’m only on Twitter. Too much good stuff. Information overload. There are so many headlines to read that you don’t have any time to read the actual stories. Lisa Simpson used to blame TV for her short attention span but I blame Twitter.

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