How to experience the Vietnam War second-hand

So, as you might have noticed from a variety of posts, I’ve been on a bit of a Vietnam War kick since Ken Burns’ brilliant documentary (watch it, watch it, watch it!).  I’ve re-watched “Platoon” (still loved it) and “Full Metal Jacket” (still not a fan, though I can appreciate Kubrick’s film-making acumen).  I read something I’ve been meaning to for years, Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam story collection, The Things They Carried.  It was excellent, but made me want to re-up my periodic recommendation for Phil Klay’s terrific Iraq story collection, Redeployment.

But what inspired me to write this post was finally reading Karl Marlantes, brilliant novel of a Marine rifle company in 1969 Vietnam, Matterhorn.  It’s been in my “to read” queue ever since in came out in 2010, but watching Marlantes’ commentary in the Burns’ documentary, I knew I really had to read his book.  So glad I finally did.  So, so good.  In many ways, even though it was fiction, I thought this was pretty much a perfect complement to the documentary.  Burns’ documentary reveals the insanity of the Vietnam war, e.g., losing dozens of Marines to capture a hill in broad daylight only to abandon it days later because it actually has no strategic importance, on an impersonal level, but Marlantes’ novel really brings that insanity home through some terrific characters that you literally slog through the jungle with.  No, I will never experience anything like Vietnam, but many veterans attest that Matterhorn is about as close as you can get without actually being there.  The fact that the novel was 30+ years in the making is also a great story in itself.

 

Quick hits (part II)

0) Happy Birthday to me (46th).

1) Chait on Trump’s absurd comb-over and what it says about him.  And some nice mocking from Comedy Central.

It was the worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life. And it may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss. But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short. He sees his succession of wives as visual testament to his own status. He selects his Cabinet on the basis of their looking the part. He conscripts the military as a prop to bathe himself in an aura of presidential grandeur.

Trump’s absurd hair is of a piece with his lifelong attempt to market himself as a brilliant deal-maker and stable genius. So yes, it is okay to laugh when the ruse is exposed.

2) More on motherhood and the gender wage gap via the Upshot:

Two studies of college-educated women in the United States found that they made almost as much as men until ages 26 to 33, when many women have children. By age 45, they made 55 percent as much as men.

In Sweden, a recent study found, female executives are half as likely as men to be chief executives, and one-third less likely to be high earners — even when they were more qualified for these jobs than men. Most of the difference was explained by women who were working shorter hours and taking time off work in the five years after their first child was born.

As any parent knows, children come with a host of time-consuming responsibilities. Someone has to do the work. In most opposite-sex couples, that someone is the mother.

There are different explanations for this, researchers say. Women may have intrinsic preferences to do more of this work, or couples could decide it’s most efficient to divide the labor this way. It could also be that social norms about traditional gender roles influence men and women to behave this way.

3) And I’ve got to admit to being guilty by giving my daughter totally gendered toys, i.e., My Little Pony, Barbie, etc.  Of course, this is what she asks for (for which we can presumably blame peer influence and all those commercials on Nickelodeon), but, yeah, I probably should try harder to counter-act this.

4) As if we needed more evidence that many on-line degree programs are a joke (I can personally attest that NCSU’s LPS program is not), an on-line student at Southern New Hampshire University failed an assignment in which the instructor argued, quite persistently, that Australia was a continent, but not a country.

5) Just a friendly reminder that the US Constitution largely does not apply in important ways within 100 miles of the US border.  And, yes, this encompasses most of the country’s population.

6) More evidence on getting the human microbiome off on the right foot via vaginal birth and breastfeeding:

Many studies have strongly suggested that the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the human body influence our current and future health and may account for the rising incidence of several serious medical conditions now plaguing Americans, young and old.

The research indicates that cesarean deliveries and limited breast-feeding can distort the population of microorganisms in a baby’s gut and may explain the unchecked rise of worrisome health problems in children and adults, including asthma, allergies, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes and obesity. These conditions, among others, are more likely to occur when an infant’s gut has been inadequately populated by health-promoting bacteria…

For example, a Danish study of two million children born between 1977 and 2012 found that those born by cesarean delivery were significantly more likely than those born vaginally to develop asthma, systemic connective tissue disorders, juvenile arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, immune deficiencies and leukemia.

7) Really interesting NYT piece on what teenagers are learning from porn.  Short version– it’s not good.  Had a great discussion about this with my NCSU students.  Probably also need a discussion about it with my boys.

8) Love this from Dylan Matthews.  Sure, John Kelly may be a relative grown-up in the White House.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t nonetheless represent much of the worst of Trumpism.

 I would go further, though, and say that Kelly, personally, has become an unacceptable symbol of the worst tendencies of this White House. When he was appointed, he was greeted with widespread bipartisan praise, as a “grown-up” capable of bringing order to an anarchic administration. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Kelly was “in a position where he can stabilize this White House.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called him “one of the strongest and most natural leaders I’ve ever known.”

But from his time as secretary of homeland security, when he aggressively stepped up immigration raids, including ones sweeping up non-criminals whom immigration enforcement agents weren’t even targeting, Kelly has aligned himself with the hardline anti-immigrant wing of the Trump administration. Not coincidentally, he has also repeatedly expressed extreme disrespect for Americans who are not white.

It was not a coincidence that both Rep. Wilson and Myeshia Johnson, the war widow for whom she advocated, are black women. It was not a coincidence that Kelly praised Gen. Lee, who fought to prevent the expansion of rights (including the right to not be owned as chattel) to black Americans. It was not a coincidence that he describes unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as children, a group that’s disproportionately Latino, as lazy.

Nor is it a coincidence, now, that Kelly appears to have repeatedly disregarded women and instead protected their abusers. He chose Rob Porter over the three women who accused him, and a Marine officer who admitted to harassing a female subordinate over that subordinate — who was also a fellow Marine, and much more worthy of Kelly’s loyalty, camaraderie, and brotherhood.

The Trump administration recoils from accusations that it does not care about nonwhite Americans or women. Instead of getting defensive, this time it should try to prove its critics wrong by ejecting a man who has exemplified those tendencies, who has repeatedly disrespected black and Latino Americans and shown no concern for the physical safety of women. The absolute least it can do is force John Kelly to resign.

9) Could really do without all the hyperbolic language in Rebecca Shulman’s Slate article on how German parenting is simply better.  That said, I’m inclined to agree that German parenting is simpler better (largely, because they give their kids far more freedom and independence).  Personally, especially love encouraging kids to play with fire.  Hey, I do that!  Must be my German heritage coming through :-).

10) Really enjoyed this NYT feature on the existing border wall with Mexico.

11) Whoa!  Where has all the sex gone?

American adults, on average, are having sex about nine fewer times per year in the 2010s compared to adults in the late 1990s, according to a team of scholars led by the psychologist Jean Twenge. That’s a 14 percent decline in sexual frequency. Likewise, the share of adults who reported having sex “not at all” in the past year rose from 18 percent in the late 1990s to 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the General Social Survey…

Similar trends are apparent among younger men and women. In the early 2000s, about 73 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 had sex at least twice a month. That fell to 66 percent in the period from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the GSS.

Other 18- to 30-year-olds aren’t doing it at all. From 2002 to 2004, 12 percent of them reported having no sex in the preceding year. A decade later, during the two years from 2014 to 2016, that number rose to 18 percent.

Sex is also down among teenagers. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in the share of high school students who said they ever had sex: from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Sexual activity among teenagers fell the most between 2013 and 2015, about the same time that sex took a real dip among 18- to 30-year-old adults…

What’s driving this sexual counter-revolution? It’s too early to offer definitive answers, but a few hypotheses seem especially plausible.

First, while they are not socially conservative, the members of the millennial (born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) and iGen (born since the mid-1990s) generations are more cautious on average than earlier generations, and hence more inclined to focus on the emotional and physical risks of sex, rather than its joys. Raised by helicopter parents, these young adults take fewer risks. As a group, they drink less, drive less, and they also hit the sheets less. Today’s young adults have gotten the message—think MTV’s 16 and Pregnant—that sex and pregnancy can be a threat to them and their future. Tyrone, a 20-year-old man, put it this way to Twenge for her book, iGen: His generation is having less sex “because of fear of pregnancy and disease.” He added, “There’s a bunch of commercials and television shows and stuff trying to teach you a lesson.”

12) Yes, Americans should totally do more babysitting for each other!

13) Jordan Weissman on how the GOP’s deficits are terrible for our politics:

Forget the GOP’s obvious hypocrisy on spending—ever since the Bush era, it’s been clear that elected conservatives do not really care about deficits, except insofar as they make a handy club for whacking Democrats. Instead, worry about the lessons Republicans might draw from this experience. During Obama’s presidency, the GOP’s mania for spending cuts—and its ability to wring budget concessions out of the president—was an anchor on the economy at a critical moment when millions were suffering from the aftermath of a financial catastrophe. Yet, the party suffered precisely zero political consequences. Instead, they’re in power in part because of the slow, post-crises economy at the end stages of a recovery that could help them hold onto Congress in 2018. Moreover, its clear that nobody actually expects them to make good on their rhetoric about fiscal prudence. They’ve abandoned it pretty much without punishment. Pushing austerity during a downturn and priming the pump when the economy is near full health might turn out to be an incredibly canny political strategy, even if it may have been unplanned. If there ever comes another time when sabotaging the economy might work to Republicans’ advantage, they have every incentive to do it again. [emphasis mine]

14) So, I’m going to be reviewing some students for scholarships soon and it really got me thinking about what sorts of character traits a reviewer might want to see.  I thought to myself “intellectual humility.”  Turns out, that is a thing.  It also led me to this nice Tom Friedman column on how to get a job at google:

And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” It is why research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” said Bock.

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ ” You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.

That’s good stuff.  That said, it seems to be hard enough to find in 40-somethings.  I wonder how much you find in high-achieving young adults.

15) Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the sea turns 20.  One of the very best albums ever.

16) Michael Lewis on Trump and Bannon.  So, so much goodness:

Bannon has a favorite line: If I had to choose who will run the country, 100 Goldman Sachs partners or the first 100 people who walk into a Trump rally, I’d choose the people at the Trump rally. I have my own version of this line: If I had to choose a president, Donald Trump or anyone else I’ve ever known, I’d choose anyone else I’ve ever known. Among the revelations of Wolff’s book was just how many of the people in and around Trump’s White House feel more or less as I do…

He just thinks I’m missing the point. “What was needed was a blunt force instrument, and Trump was a blunt force instrument,” he says. Trump may be a barbarian. He may be in many senses stupid. But in Bannon’s view, Trump has several truly peculiar strengths. The first is his stamina. “I give a talk to a room with 50 people and I’m drained afterward,” Bannon says. “This guy got up five and six times a day in front of 10,000 people, day in and day out. He’s 70! Hillary Clinton couldn’t do that. She could do one.” The public events were not trivial occasions, in Bannon’s view. They whipped up the emotion that got Trump elected: anger. “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” he says. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.”

The ability to tap anger in others was another of Trump’s gifts, and made him, uniquely in the field of Republican candidates, suited to what Bannon saw as the task at hand: Trump was himself angry. The deepest parts of him are angry and dark, Bannon told Wolff. Exactly what Trump has to be angry about was unclear. He’s had all of life’s advantages. Yet he acts like a man who has been cheated once too often, and is justifiably outraged. What Bannon loved was the way Trump sounded when he was angry. He’d gone to the best schools, but he had somehow emerged from them with the grammar and diction of an uneducated person. “The vernacular,” Bannon called Trump’s odd way of putting things. Other angry people, some of whom actually had been cheated by life, thrilled to its sound.

 

 

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