Is Stormy picking up steam?

Just maybe.  That’s the premise of today’s NYT article, that I mostly wanted to highlight because I just appreciated so much humor in an NYT news story.  There was no “news” reason to lead with this hilarious quote from Mike Murphy, but the quote and the follow-up had me quite amused:

 If a porn-tinged hush payment falls in a news din already torqued to maximum volume, does it make a sound?

It seems to be getting there, despite North Korean intervention. And this much is becoming clear: There is no hiding from the tale of the president and the porn star.

“Porn actress,” Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist, amended. “People go straight to ‘porn star.’ I like to see a few awards before you use that moniker.”

Stephanie Clifford has more than a few of those, actually (although an internet search for the particulars is not recommended). [emphasis mine]

Confederate statues really aren’t about race at all

It’s just that their supporters think of Confederate statues are removed, then MLK statues should have to be moved to.  The arguments here are laughably pathetic and practically seem like they came from the Onion.  But, alas, this is indeed, deplorable America:

If the state moves Confederate statues to a Civil War battlefield, Martin Luther King statues should be removed too, some members of the public told the state committee considering the fate of the monuments.

More than 3,700 people have submitted online comments to a group of NC Historical Commission members considering the request from Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to relocate three monuments from the Capitol grounds in Raleigh to Bentonville Battlefield in Johnston County…

Among a sampling of comments reviewed by The News & Observer, at least 11 people who want the Confederate statues to stay in Raleigh equated moving them with moving or removing a statute of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. There is no King statue on the Capitol grounds, but there is one at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens, a Raleigh city park.

“I just feel like they’re trying to wipe out all white history,” Roger Dale Williams of Graham said in an interview…

“The whole thing is a joke,” he said Friday. “You should leave them all alone. If you mess with one, you should mess with them all.”

Williams, 62, wrote: “If the Confederate statues are removed all the streets and statues named after Dr. Martin Luther King should have their names changed or removed.”

“If the Confederate statues have to be removed because they offend some people, the King ones should be as well because they offend some of us.”

Yep.  There’s your “history” and “heritage.”  A history and heritage of racism and bigotry.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I get that this piano composition is physically punishing and hard as hell to play.  But that sure doesn’t make it a “masterpiece.”

2) I’ve yet to read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker feature on Christopher Steele (of dossier fame), but her interview with Terry Gross was fascinating.

3) Uh, yeah, so maybe this isn’t the confederate mural you want in your elementary school gym.

4) Another clear demonstration of both racial and gender bias in online courses:

A study being released today by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, however, finds that bias appears to be strong in online course discussions.

The study found that instructors are 94 percent more likely to respond to discussion forum posts by white male students than by other students. The authors write that they believe their work is the first to demonstrate with a large pool that the sort of bias that concerns many educators in face-to-face instruction is also present in online education.

The study looked at discussion forums in 124 massive open online courses (all were provided on a single MOOC platform that the paper does not identify, citing confidentiality requirements). The researchers created fictional student accounts, with names that most would identify as being either white, black, Indian or Chinese, with male and female names for each racial/ethnic group.

Over all, instructors responded to 7 percent of comments posted by students. But for white male students, the response rate was 12 percent.

“Our results show compelling experimental evidence that instructor discrimination exists in discussion forums of online classrooms,” says the paper. “Simply attaching a name that connotes a specific race and gender to a discussion forum post changes the likelihood that an instructor will respond to that post.”

The gap in instructor response rates was the same in courses in science and technology and in other subject areas.

This is just really, really unfortunate.  I have on-line discussion fora for my on-line classes, but I’m actually pretty sure I don’t even notice the names before I respond.  And now I’ll make a point not to.

5) Interesting piece on the history of how corporations became “persons.”

6) How Economics works, Trump style:

Speaking to Bloomberg on March 7, Navarro heaped praise on his boss and described his own role as that of an enabler.

“This is the president’s vision. My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters,” Navarro said. He compared the White House to the successful New England Patriots football team. “The owner, the coach, and the quarterback are all the president. The rest of us are all interchangeable parts.”

7) Roger Cohen with a nice piece to help understand the mess of Italy’s elections.  And a really useful take from John Cassidy.

8) The very good reasons you should not get your dog cloned.

9) Really fascinating take on evolution and heart disease:

If you look back and see what it was that has threatened human beings for more than 95 percent of our existence, it’s been three main things: infections, injuries or wounds, and malnutrition. In that setting, the most successful human being was the one who had the most paranoid and xenophobic immune system, which would detect any outside activity and then try to destroy it as soon as possible.

Now, that of course, has changed. We don’t have the burden of infections, especially in higher-income countries, but what has happened is that we have been self-selected to have a very, very robust immune system.

For most of human history, things like being bitten by some wild animal or having any type of traumatic injury has been a part of routine human life. The way that we’ve always combated that has been with inflammation. When the immune system is activated, it results in inflammation. For example, you get a viral infection and you have a fever. That fever is really as a result of the inflammation that’s being caused by the immune system.

What we’re learning is that inflammation is in fact at the heart of atherosclerosis, which is basically at the heart of all heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks. White blood cells, many of them, are full of cholesterol, and they’ll start depositing. Over time, as these plaques build up, they result in blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

These very robust immune systems are in some ways like a post–Cold War nuclear arsenal, in which you don’t have that threat anymore, but these weapons are still lying around. That’s why we see all these autoimmune diseases, and also we see such a high prevalence of atherosclerosis.

[In a similar way,] even though our nutrition has changed a lot, adaptive mechanisms that were meant to protect us from starvation have now, in fact, led to the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes, which are some of the main reasons why heart disease remains the number-one killer of people around the world.


10) When divorcing parents disagree as to whether head-injury concerns should prevent their teenage son from playing football.

11) Yet more evidence of the over-use of opioids— big study shows they are no better than tylenol or NSAIDS for long-term arthritis or lower-back pain.

12) Identity politics is for Republicans.  Good political science here:

Interestingly, in the realm of “identity politics,” it is generally the Democratic Party that is associated with the use of social identities for political gain. In fact, what we find here is that, if anything, Republicans are more responsive to the alignment of their party-associated groups. Among Republicans, the most cross-cutting identities are more detrimental to in-party allegiance than they are among Democrats. Grossman and Hopkins (2016) suggest that Democrats are the party of group interests and Republicans the party of ideological purity. What we find is that Republican “purity” applies to in-party social homogeneity. A Republican who does not fit the White, Christian mold is far less attached to the Republican Party than one who does fit the mold. This effect is stronger among Republicans than among Democrats, who include significantly more individuals whose racial and religious identities do not match those of the average Democrat. The concept of a “deal-breaker” identity among Republicans is more feasible than it is among Democrats, as Republicans are generally associated with fewer linked social groups. In this sense, Republicans are more reliant than Democrats on their social identities for constructing strong partisan attachments.

Taken together, these results demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of identity politics, and its power to affect partisan ingroup preferences. Unlike pundits who characterize “identity politics” as appeals of the Democratic Party to minorities and other marginalized groups, we show that social identities are a critical ingredient to partisanship across the political spectrum. In an era of increasing affective polarization, it is crucial to underscore the point that identity politics includes the politics of traditionally high-status groups, as well as the politics of traditionally marginalized groups.

One implication for these findings is that political elites may have varying incentives to remind their voters about the multiple groups that make up each partisan team. In particular, the Republican Party, being the less socially complex of the two parties, could relatively easily remind voters of their White and Christian identities to enhance partisan identity strength. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, would likely find it more useful to remind their voters about their achievements on behalf of multiple and varied groups. All partisans, however, are incentivized to portray the other party as social strangers, making the in-party ever more attractive.

13) An interesting case that retweets make twitter worse by rewarding the worst of twitter.  The key is to only follow good people on twitter.  I follow interesting, smart, thoughtful people and when they retweet something from somebody I don’t follow, it is usually interesting and worth my time.  Like all things, just use twitter wisely.

14) Jordan Weissman, hell yeah there’s no good reason to deregulate banks now.

15) Enjoyed this review of Radley Balko’s new book on junk science.  Alas, this is so much a problem of junk prosecutors and judges:

As it so often does in the criminal justice system, the story goes back to the prosecutors. No matter how many times defense lawyers raised concerns about the credibility of Hayne and West, prosecutors called the doctors to the stand. No matter how many individuals were exonerated in cases that turned on Hayne’s or West’s word, prosecutors fought like hell to preserve their convictions. As one book reviewer put it: “When Mississippi prosecutors were in need of physical evidence in a murder case, they often would turn to Hayne and West.” Prosecutors wanted nothing more than to win. Whether the evidence was reliable, whether the experts were credible, whether the defendant actually committed the crime—those questions became irrelevant. The truth was optional.

“The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist” also brings shame to the judiciary. Despite hefty challenges backed by the testimony of real medical experts, Mississippi judges refused to shut down Hayne and West. Requarth writes, “[a]ccording to Balko and Carrington, not a single Mississippi judge in 20 years even held a hearing to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of the ‘West Phenomenon.’ No trial judge ever refused to let Hayne testify.” While there are a number of plausible explanations for the judiciary’s failure—we certainly have our own theory—the shame that this text brings should shine a light on the role courts play in permitting the introduction of junk science.

16) Thanks to Nicole for this interesting article on how Xyrem (GHB) is basically a wonder-drug for narcoleptics, but, it is priced super-high and can be very difficult to get for some.




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