Photo of the day

Also loved this from Atlantic’s animals on the playing field gallery:

An encounter on the golf course, during the first round of the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana on April 25, 2013, in Avondale, Louisiana. 

Chris Graythen / Getty

And the liars just keep on winning

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

Here’s the digital version of the N&O that was in my driveway this morning.

Ugh.  So many people are not going to read the story.  All they see take in is Russia investigation is biased.  The story (from NYT) is actually not bad.  Within the first few paragraphs, you get:

But it fell well short of making the case promised by some Republicans: that the evidence it contained would cast doubt on the origins of the Russia investigation and possibly undermine the inquiry, which has been taken over by a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The Page warrant is just one aspect of the broader investigation.

Instead, the document confirmed that contacts between a former Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, and Russian intermediaries were a primary factor in the opening of the investigation in July 2016.

So, you read the story, and you can mostly figure out that this is pure partisan hackery.  And, yet, that fact is completely missing from the one interaction with this story most readers of the paper will have.

The NYT itself is no better.  This particular story is off the front page, but here’s a capture of the politics page just now and the story is top right.  Again, we get the accusation of bias, but nothing about the fact that the story itself shows these accusations to be bogus.

I honestly don’t know who is responsible for the headlines that end up on the front of on-line editions and hardcopies.  I know it’s not the person writing the story, but I assume editors have final oversight on this.  And they are totally abdicating their responsibility.

Time and time again, the “liberal” media just gets totally played by conservatives’ utter shamelessness in lying.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Apparently, there’s all sorts of cool new medical treatments based on ultrasound.

2) Loved this about the myths behind speed reading and how to actually improve reading speed.  TLDR: read:

The serious way to improve reading—how well we comprehend a text and, yes, speed and efficiency—is this (apologies, Michael Pollan):

Read. Reading skill depends on knowledge acquired from reading. Skilled readers know more about language, including many words and structures that occur in print but not in speech. They also have greater “background knowledge,” familiarity with the structure and content of what is being read. We acquire this information in the act of reading itself—not by training our eyes to rotate in opposite directions, playing brain exercise games, or breathing diaphragmatically. Just reading.

As much as possible. Every time we read we update our knowledge of language. At a conscious level we read a text for its content: because it is a story or a textbook or a joke. At a subconscious level our brains automatically register information about the structure of language; the next chapter is all about this. Developing this elaborate linguistic network requires exposure to a large sample of texts.

Mostly new stuff. Knowledge of language expands through exposure to structures we do not already know. That may mean encountering unfamiliar words or familiar words used in novel ways. It may mean reading P. D. James, E. L. James, and Henry James because their use of language is so varied. A large sample of texts in varied styles and genres will work, including some time spent just outside one’s textual comfort zone.

Reading expands one’s knowledge of language and the world in ways that increase reading skill, making it easier and more enjoyable to read. Increases in reading skill make it easier to consume the texts that feed this learning machinery. It is not the eyes but what we know about language, print, and the world— knowledge that is easy to increase by reading—that determines reading skill. Where this expertise leads, the eyes will follow.

3) This Washington Post feature on the peril of women freezing eggs until later was really, really good.  It’s no guarantee, though for some women it works great.  A big key is how many eggs can be harvested (as this chart below shows) and that varies a lot.

4) Loved Caitlyn Flanagan’s latest take on #metoo:

And then came the allegations that Al Franken had groped six women, and forced a kiss on one of them. While many of his colleagues in the Senate dithered about whether this was really grounds for banishing him, Gillibrand wrote a 600-word Facebook post entitled “Senator Franken Should Resign.” Within 90 minutes, 15 more Democrats, and one Republican, had joined her in a coordinated push for his ouster. By day’s end, the great majority of Democratic senators sided with her—perhaps because she had persuaded them, and perhaps because #MeToo has made cowards of many people who are terrified of having the mob turn on them. It was after this victory that she gave her news conference about having “the wrong conversation.”

There were a few women who were willing to stand up for Franken. The law professor—and feminist—Zephyr Teachout wrote in The New York Times that she was not convinced Franken should quit: “Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality.” These words—a balm of Gilead for anyone hoping to strengthen the movement by adding reason and fairness to its core ideals—seemed not to register within the larger, “burn it down” spirit animating the mob.

Bill Maher told his audience about the trouble Matt Damon got into for saying that “There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation.” That prompted Minnie Driver to tweet, “No. You don’t get to be hierarchical about abuse. You don’t get to tell women that because some guy only showed them his penis, their pain isn’t as great as a woman who was raped.”

It was like the kind of hyper-gendered conversation that women’s magazines of yesteryear loved to decode for their readers: He was talking about facts; she was talking about feelings.

Holy shoot– something is really wrong with somebody is as traumatized from seeing a flasher as they are from being raped.  Damn straight you get to be hierarchical about abuse.  Life is a serios of judgments that some things are better/worse than other things.  Damn.

5) Turns out podcast listeners (That’s me!) are advertisers’ holy grail.  Also, after a twitter discussion on the matter, I’ve switched from the Apple podcast player to Overcast.  Very happy with it so far.

6) “North Carolina Mismanaged Itself Into Electoral Chaos.”  I.e., North Carolina Republicans mismanaged…

7) Love Penzey’s Spices.  Now even more so that I have learned their owner/founder is unapologetic about mixing his liberal politics with his spices.  Also enjoyed learning about the family dispute in the Wisconsin mail-order spice business.

8) Oh, man, the malfeasance and lawlessness of this Baltimore police unit are absolutely disgusting.  Meanwhile, Trump’s DOJ has pulled back federal oversight of this.  Ugh.  Radley Balko:

It gets worse. Here are some other highlights from the trial, as reported by the Baltimore Sun:

• [Former detective Maurice] Ward testified that his squad would prowl the streets for guns and drugs, with his supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, driving fast at groups of people and slamming on the brakes. The officers would pop their doors open to see who ran, then give chase and detain and search them. Ward said this occurred 10 to 20 times on slow nights, and more than 50 times, “easy,” on busier nights.

The officers had no reason to target the crowds other than to provoke someone who might have drugs or a gun into running.

• Ward said Jenkins liked to profile certain vehicles for traffic stops. Honda Accords, Acura TLs, Honda Odysseys were among the “dope boy cars” that they would pull over, claiming the drivers weren’t wearing seat belts or their windows were too heavily tinted. …

• Ward said the officers kept BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.” He did not say whether the officers ever planted a BB gun on anyone. …

• Ward testified that he and [Marcus] Taylor once conducted a “trash run” on a home in preparation for obtaining a search warrant. They found marijuana residue in the target’s trash, but realized the trash can belonged to another resident. They proceeded anyway, submitting an affidavit for a search warrant falsely claiming the drugs had been found in the target’s trash can. …

• Rayam said the unit made regular use of illegal GPS trackers to follow suspects.

• Rayam said the officers once recovered a pound and a half of marijuana and a gun in a search conducted before they had secured a warrant. Jenkins told him to “just get rid of it,” and Rayam said he and another officer sold the drugs and gun back onto the street.

Keep in mind, these weren’t inexperience beat cops. This was one of the elite police units in the city. Also keep in mind that the only reason we know about all of this is because of — yes — a federal investigation.

9) Wow.  This US Navy “Fat Leonard” scandal is absolutely something else.

In a case that ranks as the worst corruption scandal in Navy history, the Justice Department has charged 15 officers and one enlisted sailor who served on the Blue Ridge with taking bribes from or lying about their ties to Leonard Glenn Francis, a Singapore-based tycoon who held lucrative contracts to service Navy ships and submarines in Asian ports.

For the better part of a decade, as part of a massive scam to defraud the Navy, Francis systematically infiltrated the Blue Ridge to a degree that is only now coming into focus, more than four years after the defense contractor’s arrest, according to the documents from federal court and the Navy, as well as interviews with Navy officials and associates of Francis.

10) Love this New Yorker piece on carob.  I had literally forgotten about it’s existence, but I definitely remember it’s heyday in my childhood as a supposed chocolate substitute.

11) Of course Trump’s appointee to head the CDC bought tobacco stock one month after taking over the agency.

12) Pretty interesting essay on all that’s gone wrong with people posting crazy stuff on YouTube.

13) Of course Trump’s infrastructure “plan” in completely empty.  Yglesias:

That Democratic plan was always going nowhere but it existed as a trial balloon to test one potential theory of Trump-era governance.

Maybe Donald Trump who, after all, lacked personal or institutional ties to the Republican Party or the conservative movement, would govern as a kind of free-agent. Sure, Trump would say and do racist stuff that Democrats didn’t like. But maybe they could work with him on infrastructure and other elements of his “populist” persona.

What we’re saying today is that persona is dead, if it was ever really alive to begin with. Like his vaporware plan to reduce prescription drug costs, or his long-forgotten promise to expand health insurance coverage, Trump’s infrastructure plan is a rhetorical conceit with no relationship to the actual way he runs the federal government. Authority is vested in the hands of a handful of aides who largely defer to congressional Republicans, while the president busies himself tweeting and plotting against Robert Mueller. There is no infrastructure plan and there never will be.

14) Love this Chronicle of Higher Education piece on the misguided obsession with metrics in academia:

The key components of metric fixation are:

  • the belief that it is possible and desirable to replace judgment, acquired by experience and talent, with numerical indicators based upon standardized data.
  • the belief that making such metrics public assures that institutions are carrying out their purposes.
  • the belief that the best way to motivate people is by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance.

These assumptions have been on the march for several decades, and their assumed truth goes marching on.

The pernicious spillover effects became clear to me during my time as chair of the history department at the Catholic University of America. Such a job has many facets: mentoring and hiring; ensuring that necessary courses get taught; maintaining relations with the university administration. Those responsibilities were in addition to my roles as a faculty member: teaching, researching, and keeping up with my field. I was quite satisfied.

Then, things began to change. Like all colleges, Catholic gets evaluated every decade by an accrediting body. For my university, that body is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It issued a report that included demands for more metrics on which to base future “assessment” — a buzzword in higher education that usually means more measurement of performance. Soon, I found my time increasingly devoted to answering requests for more and more statistics about the activities of the department, which diverted my time from research, teaching, and mentoring faculty members. New scales for evaluating the achievements of our graduating majors added no useful insights to our previous measuring instrument: grades.

Gathering and processing all this data required the university to hire ever more specialists. Some of their reports were useful; for example, spreadsheets that showed the average grade awarded in each course. But much of the information was of no real use, and read by no one. Yet once the culture of performance-documentation caught on, department chairs found themselves in a data arms-race. I led a required yearlong departmental self-assessment — a useful exercise, as it turned out. But before sending it up the bureaucratic chain, I was urged to add more statistical appendices — because if I didn’t, the report would look less rigorous than that of other departments…

Metric fixation, which seems immune to evidence that it frequently doesn’t work, has elements of a cult. Studies that demonstrate its lack of effectiveness are either ignored or met with the claim that what is needed are more data. Metric fixation, which aspires to imitate science, resembles faith.

15) Brian Beutler on the Republican war on empirical reality.

16) Drum on how Republicans like to use human misery as a bargaining chip.

Here’s the problem for Democrats: taking this position will almost certainly cause some human misery. Republicans won’t fold easily, and in the meantime Dreamers will indeed get deported to a country they’ve never lived in. But liberals don’t like human misery, and Republicans hold them hostage to this sense of basic decency all the time. It happened with CHIP. It happened with the shutdown. And it’s happening now with DACA. Democrats fold because they actually care about the pain that their actions might cause.

Republicans are well aware of this, so they perversely have an incentive to deliberately provoke human misery as a bargaining tool against Democrats. This is the kind of tough-guy politics that makes me ill, but maybe it’s time for Democrats to stop providing this incentive.

17) Heartbreaking essay from the wife of a brain-damaged former NFL player.

18) Something tells me that the shortage of high school referees is because they get treated like crap and everybody seems to think that’s fine.

19) Jamelle Bouie on nativism and Trump’s immigration policy.

The cohesion Trump espouses isn’t national or ideological. It is racial. The fight over immigration isn’t between two camps who value the contributions of immigrants and simply quibble over the mix and composition of entrants to the United States. It is between a camp that values immigrants and seeks to protect the broader American tradition of inclusion, and one that rejects this openness in favor of a darker legacy of exclusion. And in the current moment, it is the restrictionists who have are the loudest and most influential voices, and their concerns are driving the terms of the debate.

20) In-car navigation systems are trying to come to grips with the fact that nobody uses them because they are so much worse than what we all have in our phones.  The built-in navigation on my Jetta is a joke compared to Apple or Google maps.  Furthermore, thanks to Apple CarPlay, Apple Maps can basically be my in-car navigation system (also, one of the reasons I’m glad I decided on the Jetta over the Mazda 3).

21) Somehow I had missed this 2016 Wired article asking if the Honeycrisp apple is engineered to fail.  Honeycrisps are good, but not nearly good enough to justify their price premium.  I far prefer the more reasonably priced Jazz and Braeburn.  But why in the world are Red Delicious apples still even for sale anywhere??!!

22) Can’t say I agreed with everything in this essay about “the female price of male pleasure” but it certainly made me think.

23) Finally watched my open tab of John Oliver’s takedown of junk forensic science.  It was so good.  Especially his CSI dramatization at the end.

24) If you haven’t listened to Ezra Klein’s “How Democracies Die” interview you really should.  It’s terrific.  That said, nice summary of the argument from Ezra here.


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