Quick hits part II

The lots and lots of Kavanaugh edition.

1) Vox on the 3.4 million chickens killed in Hurricane Florence:

Should anyone care? It’s not clear that drowning is a worse death for chickens than standard methods of slaughter. But there are lots of reasons for concern about the general changes to the industry which have increased the scale of the industry so drastically and concentrated animals onto so few farms.

Animals are likely to suffer intensely under those conditions. Waste disposal — an extraordinary challenge at that kind of scale — is handled irresponsibly. Efforts to keep animals alive under those conditions have driven antibiotic resistance. The millions of dead chickens floating in the floodwaters of Florence are just one of many ugly effects of our current agriculture system and its unprecedented scale.

2) I’m not a vegan at all, but definitely vegan-sympathetic.  Really liked this NPR opinion piece on the toll on livestock from Hurricane Florence:

But day by day, the picture is slowly coming into focus, and it’s a horrifying one: confirmed deaths of 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs, numbers that may yet rise…

We need to look beyond the numbers, though, and the tendency to focus on just the agriculture industry’s losses of “swine” and “broiler chickens.” As I have written elsewhere, these pigs and chickens, just like the hunting dogs, are thinking and feeling beings. It’s all too easy to imagine their terror as the floodwaters rose. No one came to their rescue, and they drowned…

We can pledge not to turn away from the plight of these animals — illustrated so powerfully here by McArthur’s and Guerin’s photographs — just as we don’t turn away from trapped hunting dogs or our own pets in trouble. The first step is to open our hearts to what is happening.

In this case, such a pledge means realizing that the drowned pigs and chickens would have died soon anyway, if not in floodwaters, then in the slaughterhouse. In other words, it’s not just the storm deaths. The whole CAFO network and its entanglement with our food system is rotten.

3) Wow– this was a disturbing story.  A physician who is a regular expert witness in child abuse cases who has, apparently, never seen an actual case of child abuse.  Pretty much every time, it is actually a very rare medical condition.  The history of shaken baby syndrome tells us we need healthy skepticism of medical experts and that people are wrongly accused, but, for my money, any “expert” who somehow always finds the same thing might not really be such an expert.

4) My wife could not stop talking about this great essay on “himpathy” for the whole day after she read it.

When it comes to the moral deficiencies exhibited by Mr. Trump and other supporters of the judge, many critics speak about lack of empathy as the problem. It isn’t. Mr. Trump, as he has shown clearly in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, seems to have no difficulty taking another person’s perspective, and then feeling and expressing a sympathetic or congruent moral emotion.

The real problem is that the people Mr. Trump feels with and for are most frequently powerful men who have been credibly accused of serious crimes and wrongdoing. He felt sorry for Michael Flynn, referring to him as a “good guy.” More recently, he felt bad for Paul Manafort. And, in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump feels sorry for a man accused of sexual assault while erasing and dismissing the perspective of his female accusers.

Mr. Trump is manifesting what I call “himpathy” — the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.

5) And a nice Vox interview with the “himpathy” author.

6) Timothy Egan on how Republicans’ bargain with the devil keeps getting worse:

If you put a man in the White House who openly boasts of being a sexual predator, a president credibly accused by more than a dozen people of misconduct, you are no friend of women and the good men who love them.

If your rallies are highlighted by “lock her up” chants against a person who has never been charged with a crime, you cannot wrap yourself in due process or presumption of innocence.

If your men of God, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, say attempted rape is not a crime because “if it was true, these are two teenagers, and she said no and he respected that,” you need a new faith in which to cover your hypocrisies.

Story follows character, as the Greeks knew, and what we’re seeing now with the Bonfire of Republican Vanities is the predictable outcome of those who enabled the amoral presidency of Donald Trump.

The bargain was simple: Republicans would get tax cuts for the well-connected and a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and in turn would overlook every assault on decency, truth, our oldest allies and most venerable principles. They expected Trump to govern by grudges, lie eight times a day, call women dogs, act as a useful idiot for foreign adversaries, make himself a laughingstock to the world.

“I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus,” as Ann Coulter said, “but I didn’t care.”

In the end, they would get what they wanted. In the end, they would get a court to return America to one imagined by the elites who put forth the lifetime protectors of the permanent class. They would get justices who came through a laboratory of privilege, someone “who was born for” a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, as Trump said of Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Oh, but the price has gone up. Republicans are left with a roomful of men standing athwart the #MeToo movement and yelling, “Stop!” They are left with Trump, who outlined the game plan for sexual predation, saying women who remember atrocities from the past are part of a “con game.” And men better watch out. George Washington would lose his teeth if he were around today.

7) How the ABA thought there were legitimate concerns about Kavanaugh’s fitness as a judge way back in 2006.

8) Really interesting essay by a sex crimes defense attorney on the questioning of Blasey Ford.

But angry doesn’t always mean credible. In fact, it’s usually a very bad sign when a witness gets angry, especially when the witness starts fighting with the lawyer (or in his case, the senator) questioning him…

In my experience, once a prosecutor like Ms. Mitchell believes a victim is credible, the truth-finding process is over for them. They become the victim’s advocate.
That’s what happened today. Ms. Mitchell asked the questions she was supposed to ask. She tried to show inconsistencies in Blasey Ford’s statements. She tried to show political motivations and improper influence.
But at some point, Ms. Mitchell decided she believed Blasey Ford. I think that happened when she called her a “victim” of sexual assault trauma. At that point, I don’t think she was going to do anything to hurt Blasey Ford. Perhaps that’s why the Republican senators decided to drop her like a hot potato when it came time to really confront Judge Kavanaugh about these allegations.
9) Greg Sargent on the casual lying of Kavanaugh:

Never mind, for now, the bigger matters that Kavanaugh stands accused of misrepresenting and falsifying. This sort of casual lying about trivial things that one should own up to belongs in its own category of reprehensibleness. It betrays a special order of contempt for one’s listeners to feed them obvious crap about matters that most ordinary people would forgive, if only the speaker copped to them.

My guess is that Kavanaugh panicked. All that grooming for this position — Georgetown Prep, Yale, the Federalist Society gatherings and schmoozing, all the slimy, sordid partisan committee grunt work against Democrats, and, in fairness, all the grinding study and hard work — flashed before his eyes.

I don’t know if the content of these seeming misrepresentations about Kavanaugh’s drunkenness and frat-goon treatment of women should be disqualifying. I tend to doubt it. I do think this apparent willingness to casually engage in such trivial dishonesty — about who he once was and where he came from — amounts to an ugly mark on his character that says a lot about who he is now. And that is something one might add to the case against him.

10) Really interesting experiment on perceptions of media bias:

Among all readers in the group who could see the news source, 35 percent exhibit large bias — meaning their trust rating of an article diverged from the blind-review group by 1.5 points or more on the 1-to-5-point scale.

Not surprisingly, those with more extreme political views tend to provide more biased ratings of news. Those who described their political views as very liberal or very conservative exhibited large bias across 43 percent of the articles they rated, whereas those who described their views as moderate exhibited bias just 31 percent of the time. Likewise, those who leaned toward one party but did not fully identify with it exhibited about the same bias as the moderates.

The data also suggests that those who approve of President Trump rate news articles with more bias than those who disapprove of the president (39.2 percent versus 32.8 percent). However, Trump supporters tend to be less biased than those identifying as “very liberal.”

11) Jennifer Rubin with multiple reasons Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court:

4. Kavanaugh’s anger and, more worrisome, his baseless assertion of a political smear inspired by the Clintons(!) and his anger toward Democrats reveal his partisan core. No Democratic claimant or party going before him can have confidence he will deliver an impartial ruling. His rudeness to senators, especially to two women, violated every norm of judicial conduct one can imagine. It is impossible to believe he would recuse himself in any matter involving President Trump and very easy to imagine him taking the president’s side in claiming the Russia probe is part and parcel of the same left-wing conspiracy he thinks tried to defeat him. One can say, Well, he had every reason to be upset. That is why only a select few should be chosen for the court.

12) On Kavanaugh discovering that there’s unfairness in the world.

New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister has written incisively about the constraints that exist on women’s anger. It is not a coincidence that Kavanaugh’s rage and open weeping seem to have buoyed his chances of confirmation, while Ford’s self-presentation was far more “nice”—if she had shown an ounce of the anger Kavanaugh did, she could have easily been written off as shrill or hysterical.
The many women alongside whom I watched the hearing—both in person and virtually, through text messages and social media—all seemed to see some of themselves in Ford because they had all experienced, or lived in fear of experiencing, something along the lines of her story. They, unlike her, were openly angry—probably because they did not have to perform for an audience of mostly male senators. These past two weeks have been a time of sickening, exhausting rage for many women I know.And for that reason, Kavanaugh’s anger was familiar, too. It was the anger of a person who seemed to be just discovering the unfairness of the world.
13) Dahlia Lithwick:

The dynamic of Thursday’s hearing was consistent: He had fury, and contempt, and seething threats that the republic would pay if he were thwarted. She had to functionally lie back and try not to infuriate anyone, as Republicans cowered behind the female prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, they had brought on to interrogate her. That was until it was Kavanaugh’s turn to speak, when they quickly jettisoned that paper-thin pretense of investigative “independence” and joined Kavanaugh to form a chorus of angry shouting men. They towered silently over Mitchell for the first half of the hearing, then summarily ignored her when she wasn’t offering questions fast or furious enough to protect their nominee.

At least Anita Hill was insulted, demeaned, and discredited to her face. Ford was patronized, thanked, and told that she was very, very credible. Over and over she was told she’d been given a “safe space” to tell her story; as if a safe space substitutes for reasoned process and investigation. She was given a safe space and then dismissed as though she were some character in a very sad French movie that had been very affecting indeed but had nothing to do with the great man and his destiny. After presenting an undeniable narrative—and one the nobody ever really attempted to specifically refute—she was told that her credibility didn’t count for anything because a man was bellowing and injured, that whatever had happened to her was not as important as his pain. And Senate Republicans—having tucked Mitchell back into her naughty chair—were delighted to bellow and yelp of horrid injuries they too had sustained alongside their guy.

14) Great Adam Serwer piece:

Senate Republicans are poised to confirm a man credibly accused of sexual assault with a mere cursory attempt to investigate the charges. With Thomas, at least, many of the facts emerged only after his confirmation. But today’s senators are moving ahead with their eyes open, knowing of Kavanaugh’s dishonesty, his devotion to partisan vengeance over the rule of law, and the possibility that he is a sexual predator.

They will do so because they have not paid a political price for the president’s bigotry, corruption, and incompetence, and the feebleness of the opposition they face has led them to believe they never will. The Republican Party has surrendered itself to a Trumpian agenda of the restoration of America’s traditional hierarchies of race and genderand of vengeance against those who would threaten those hierarchies. The accusations against Kavanaugh—and his conspiratorial, partisan response—have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump…

By Kavanaugh’s own standard, he is incapable of sitting on the Court. While justices are in practice often partisan actors, hewing closely to one party’s preferred outcome in big cases, they understand their own role as impartial jurists interpreting the law and the Constitution. Kavanaugh’s characterization of the charges against him as a left-wing revenge plot shows that the illusion is not one he even cares to maintain. There is no case that might come before the Court involving partisan interests in which Kavanaugh could be impartial. Kavanaugh himself told us so…

The lesson of the Trump era, since his nomination for president, has been that Republicans will pay no political price for the shattering of rules or norms, or for disregarding common decency, because the Democrats are unwilling or unable to extract one. As long as this is the case, Republicans have no reason to respect any of those things. If Republicans pay a price for confirming Kavanaugh, it will only be because the American electorate has had enough.

15) Dan Hopkins argues that Kavanaugh hearings won’t really affect the midterms, but will have long-term political consequences:

But there is a cost to dropping the cloak of non-partisanship and reserved judicial temperament en route to the Supreme Court, just as there is a cost to putting someone accused of sexual assault by multiple women in a position to cast pivotal votes on abortion rights and related subjects. Trump and other Republicans could have avoided these costs by quickly withdrawing Kavanaugh in favor of an equally conservative but less controversial nominee, but they are now in the position of either forcing their own party’s moderate members to vote Kavanaugh down or setting him up to be a divisive figure on the bench for years to come. It’s even conceivable that John Roberts—sufficiently concerned about the legitimacy of his institution to serve as the surprise swing vote upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012—will turn out to be less ambitious in charting a new rightward trajectory for the Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed than he would have been alongside a different appointee.

Trump, whatever his other qualities, is not known for being excessively occupied with long-term planning, and the entire Republican Party is now subject to Trump’s win-the-day strategic mentality for at least the duration of his tenure as its national leader. That doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of us can’t take the broader view. If Kavanaugh joins the Court, the consequences may not be immediately visible in the election returns, but they will still stretch on for many years after the 2018 midterms have come and gone.


Quick hits (part IB)

A few more I wanted to add in today:

1) Really enjoyed Drum’s take on Kavanaugh:

But there’s something else about the Kavanaugh hearing that struck me pretty hard, possibly because I’m 60 years old and I’ve watched it unfold.¹ For starters, it didn’t change my mind. Quite the opposite. I think it’s obvious that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth and that Kavanaugh told a lot of lies. This almost certainly means he’s lying about the assault on Ford too. The funny thing is that I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about what really happened. Like a lot of people, I refer to his actions as “attempted rape,” but there’s a pretty good chance that this wasn’t his intent at all. At the time, he may well have thought of it as nothing more than horseplay, just a bit of fun and games with no intention of ever taking it past that. And intent matters. Being an infantile 17-year-old lout is way different than being a 17-year-old rapist.

But when he was first asked about all this, he panicked and denied everything. He didn’t have to: he could have admitted what happened, apologized, confessed that he never had any idea how badly it had scarred Ford, and then explained that he’d tried to make up for it by being especially sensitive in his hiring and treatment of women ever since. I’m pretty sure that this would have cooled things down pretty quickly. But once he denied the incident entirely, he had no choice but to stick to his story. Everything that’s happened since has hinged on that one rash mistake.

And this is what explains his almost comically angry testimony. He knew he was guilty and he also knew he couldn’t admit that he’d lied about it. But the Republican playbook has a page for this. Even before his appearance, there were news reports about the advice Kavanaugh was getting: he needed to be passionate, angry, and vengeful against the Democrats who plainly orchestrated this entire witch hunt.

2) And Trevor Noah’s take.

3) And I love this about people who think they will impress others with their fancy purchases:

One story that’s true: Acquiring something luxurious can temporarily increase one’s self-esteem. One story that’s not: Acquiring something luxurious can impress potential friends.

A recent study by Stephen Garcia at the University of Michigan explores that second myth. He and his co-authors set up a variety of hypothetical scenarios and asked subjects what they’d choose to do in one of two roles—either as someone trying to make friends or as someone evaluating potential friends. They found that there’s an imbalance in how the people in the latter position perceive those in the former. “People think … that status is going to attract new friends,” he told me. “However, it actually has the opposite effect—that is, people would rather befriend, in a conversation or in an interaction, someone who doesn’t display [high-]status, but rather more neutral markers,” like a Timex instead of a Rolex…

In another experiment, college students were asked to pick who they’d like to have a conversation with after being presented with two profiles of imaginary participants that included their hobbies, their home state, the type of car they drive, and the brand of winter coat they wear. The fancier peer—the one who drove a 2017 BMW and wore a Canada Goose jacket—was picked less than a quarter of the time.

Garcia told me that one way to explain these findings is that people, when looking for friends, don’t like feeling inadequate; there’s research showing that people get uncomfortable when their friends outperform them and that they’re less okay with a friend’s success than with a stranger’s. (Another interpretation—and this one’s mine—is that people might mistrust rich people, or at least those who flaunt their wealth.)

4) It really is kind of crazy the way parents have turned a blind eye to the debauchery that is beach week for many east coast kids.  Even my friends who had relatively cautious parents let their kids go.  That said, from what I recall, the well-behaved kids with cautious parents generally did refrain from most of the debauchery.  (As did I, for what it’s worth, though I don’t think my non-cautious parents would have even cared that much).

5) Love this!  Dear Brett Kavanaugh– going to Yale is not a moral defense.  It just means you are smart and debauched.

At one point, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pursued a line of questioning about the “Beach Week Ralph Club,” a phrase that appeared in Kavanaugh’s yearbook next to his senior photo. Kavanaugh told Whitehouse that “Ralph” probably referred to vomiting, something that Kavanaugh attributed to his “weak stomach, whether it’s with beer or with spicy food or anything.” Whitehouse asked if the “Ralph Club” reference had to do specifically with alcohol, and Kavanaugh responded:

Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.

It was a deflection, but the particular shield he raised was telling. His response seems to suggest a belief that a prestigious education stands as evidence of moral rightness.

He offered the same defense when Senator Mazie Hirono brought up the fact that Kavanaugh’s freshman-year roommate recently remembered him as “a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time.” First, Kavanaugh questioned his former roommate’s motives for saying such a thing. But then he said, “Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

In those two exchanges, Kavanaugh treated his education as a magic wand, something that could be waved to dispel questions of his conduct. Indeed, Americans have a particular fondness for meritocratic narratives, frequently conflating achievements and hard work with human worth. And as deserving as they tend to think the wealthy and accomplished are of their money and success, it’s likely that luck gets underrated as a cause of them, as the economist Robert Frank has argued. (The word meritocracy was actually coined satirically, in an attempt to show how cruel the world would be if the intelligent and accomplished received preferable treatment.)

6) Krugman on Republican hypocrisy on health care.

On graduation, most medical students swear some version of the ancient Hippocratic oath — a promise to act morally in their role as physicians. Human nature being what it is, some will break their promise. But we still expect those who provide health care to behave more ethically than the average member of society.

When it comes to how political figures deal with health care, however, we’ve come to expect the opposite, at least on one side of the aisle. It often seems as if Republican politicians have secretly sworn a Hypocrite’s oath — a promise to mislead voters to the best of their ability, to claim to support the very protections for the sick they’re actively working to undermine.

To see what I mean, consider the case of Josh Hawley of Missouri, who is running for the Senate against Claire McCaskill.

Hawley is one of 20 state attorneys general who have brought a lawsuit attempting to repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act — the provision that protects people with pre-existing medical conditions, by requiring that insurance companies cover everyone of similar age at the same rate regardless of medical history. Kill that provision, and millions of vulnerable Americans will lose their insurance.

But here’s the thing: Protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions is overwhelmingly popular, commanding majority support even among Republicans. And McCaskill has been hammering Hawley over his role in that lawsuit.

So Hawley has responded with ads claiming that he, too, wants to protect those with pre-existing conditions, as supposedly shown by his support for a bill that purports to provide such protection.

I have to say, you almost have to admire the sheer brazenness of the dishonesty here. For the bill Hawley touts is a fraud: It’s full of loopholes allowing insurers to discriminate in ways that would end up making essential health care unaffordable for those who need it most.

7) Why divorce rates are still declining– it’s about who gets married:

When I asked Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, how to make sense of this trend, he opened his explanation with something of a koan: “In order to get divorced,” he said, “you have to get married first.”

The point he was making was that people with college degrees are now more likely to get married than those who have no more than a high-school education. And the key to understanding the declining divorce rate, Cherlin says, is that it is “going down some for everybody,” but “the decline has been steepest for the college graduates.”

The reason that’s the case is that college graduates tend to wait longer to get married as they focus on their career. And they tend to have the financial independence to postpone marriage until they’re more confident it will work. This has translated to lower rates of divorce: “If you’re older, you’re more mature … you probably have a better job, and those things make it less likely that you’ll get into arguments with your spouse,” Cherlin says.

Divorce rates had been increasing since the mid-1800s, in part because of what Cherlin described as “a gradual growth in the sense that it was okay to end a marriage if you’re unhappy.” Divorces spiked after World War II, peaking in 1980.

Cherlin says that in the late 1970s, when he received his Ph.D., it was widely expected among researchers that the divorce rate would continue to rise. But it hasn’t, and what’s behind this unforeseen development is the decline of marriage—and the corresponding rise of cohabitation—among Americans with less education. As the sociologist Victor Chen wrote for The Atlantic last year, those without college degrees were a few decades ago significantly likelier to be married by age 30 than were those with college degrees. Now, Chen notes, “just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree.”

Chen connects this trend to the decline of well-paying jobs for those without college degrees, which, he argues, makes it harder to form more stable relationships. Indeed, Cohen writes in his paper that marriage is “an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” The state of it today is both a reflection of the opportunities unlocked by a college degree and a force that, by allowing couples to pool their incomes, itself widens economic gaps.

So, looking at married couples alone doesn’t capture the true nature of American partnerships today. “If you were to include cohabiting relationships [in addition to marriages], the breakup rates for young adults have probably not been going down,” Cherlin says. In other words: Yes, divorce rates are declining. But that’s more a reflection of who’s getting married than of the stability of any given American couple.

8) Philip Bump documents all the places Kavanaugh’s testimony was either false or misleading.  It’s not a short article.

9) Great Fresh Air interview with a former White Nationalist who was basically born into it.  And a nice Post article on him from a couple years ago.

10) Can I tell you how little sympathy I have for folks upset that 12:00 football games don’t leave them enough time to get drunk beforehand?

Quick hits (part I)

So, running a little behind, so here’s a start for those of you counting on your early Saturday post.  And I’ll even start it off non-Kavanaugh.

1) It’s not a good idea for humans to eat their placentas.  Apparently, a lot of people need to be told this:

Why might a woman eat her placenta? I asked.

Mammals do it, I was told.


It’s true that many mammals eat their placenta. But there are a lot of differences between us and other mammals: Other mammals often have litters. Or differently shaped uteri with less invasive placentas. They also mostly have estrus — not menstrual — cycles, meaning they typically only have sex when in heat.

In short, most mammals have entirely different reproductive physiology. Not to mention entirely different behaviors.

When I was 5 years old, my gerbil became stressed and ate all her pups. These days, my cat eats grass. It makes her throw up because cats, being obligate carnivores, cannot digest grass.

I suspect she does this when she has an upset stomach, although it’s also possible she wants to release her artisanal cat food onto my shoes for some perceived slight. One never knows with cats.

Imagine if your gastroenterologist suggested eating grass for an upset stomach because cats do it?

I can think of no hypothesis in modern obstetrics — never mind modern medicine — that has been answered with, “Well, mammals do it!”

2) Chait on how Kavanaugh is the ultimate Trumpian Justice:

Kavanaugh’s speech was truly Trumpian, in a way that revealed how Trump tapped so deeply into the conservative soul. He dispensed with any pretense of law as a neutral value. Everything was reduced to power and motive. He invoked his own work to impeach Bill Clinton (on a sprawling investigation that began as a probe of an old land deal), and managed not to find any case for self-reflection in this episode at all. Instead he mentioned it to show that Democrats were vile liars bent on destroying their prey. And the notion that Democrats have hatched secret plots to undermine the legitimate government as revenge for the Clintons — a central theme of Trump’s rhetoric — formed the spine of Kavanaugh’s case.

Perhaps the most chilling line in Kavanaugh’s speech was, “what goes around, comes around.” He did not say it with any evident sadness, nor did he renounce it as a value. Here was a man apparently threatening revenge on his political enemies, and asking for a lifetime appointment with supreme power of judicial review with which to do it. Kavanaugh’s promise to conservatives vis-à-vis the law is Trump’s promise vis-à-vis the presidency: he will protect us against them. A vote for Kavanaugh is a vote to Trumpify the Supreme Court.

3) Leonhardt on a terrible day for the Supreme Court:

But the way that the Senate conducted the hearing — and the way Kavanaugh responded — created something close to a worst-case scenario for the Supreme Court.

First, the Republican senators in charge of the process have shown no interest in getting at the truth. They refuse to involve any neutral, nonpartisan investigator, as Kate Brannen of Just Security pointed out.They refuse to call witnesses whom Christine Blasey Ford said were present…

The second piece of potential damage to the court came from Kavanaugh himself. If he did not do any of the things that his accusers claim, his anger is completely understandable. To react any other way, in fact, would be surprising. But he did not merely display anger yesterday; he launched an extraordinary attack on Democratic senators and claimed they were behind the allegations in a nefarious plot.

There is no evidence for this. Yes, they have made mistakes during the process, allowing the allegations to become public only at the end. They deserve criticism for these mistakes. But they are not evidence of the plot Kavanaugh described. Remember: Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, honored Blasey’s request for confidentiality this summer, even when doing so helped Kavanaugh’s odds of confirmation.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will join the court looking not like an independent judge but like another partisan figure, doing the work of his party. That’s not how the Supreme Court likes to view itself. “Anger and partisan fury like this will be very hard for Judge Kavanaugh to overcome as Justice Kavanaugh,” Susan Glasser of The New Yorker wrote.

4) I feel like far more should be made of the fact that if this is just Democratic character assassination, how come nobody tried to assassinate Gorsuch’s character.  Hmmmm, could it maybe be something about Kavanaugh’s character?

5) Ross Douthat seems to think that an FBI investigation has the potential to uncover a lot about the party.  I totally disagree.  My guess is that I went to 1/3 – 1/2 as many parties in high school as Kavanaugh and I cannot definitively recall whose house or which friends I was with at any given party 30 years ago.  Of course, I suspect that would be different had I suffered a traumatic event at one of these parties.  Pretty sure we never played the devil’s triangle “drinking game” ;-).

6) I appreciate that Adam Liptak’s straight news article is pretty straight up about Kavanaugh’s intemperateness:

His performance on Thursday, responding to accusations of sexual misconduct at a hearing of the same Senate committee, sent a different message. Judge Kavanaugh was angry and emotional, embracing the language of slashing partisanship. His demeanor raised questions about his neutrality and temperament and whether the already fragile reputation of the Supreme Court as an institution devoted to law rather than politics would be threatened if he is confirmed

Just so we’re clear, even if Kavanaugh had never seen Blasey Ford till yesterday, he thoroughly disqualified himself for the court with his bald-faced lies.

8) James Comey

9) The moral and intellectual emptiness of Ayn Rand and laissez faire capitalism.

10) James Hamblin on retracted food science:

Taken individually, Wansink’s reported errors and misconduct are not novel or even especially rare. Scan sites like Retraction Watch and see all the bad science that’s happening all the time. We don’t hear about them because the fact of a study being found years later to be flawed is less interesting to most readers of newspapers and magazines than the fact that a study said one simple trick to slimming down your waistline is smaller plates. Even if science editors were interested in publishing stories that aren’t of much interest to their readers, the social-media distribution ecosystem adds an increasingly opaque layer in which those gatekeepers have less and less power to get eyes onto a problem. The people will share what the people will share.

The Wansink saga has forced reflection on my own lack of skepticism toward research that confirms what I already believe, [emphasis mine] in this case that food environments shape our eating behaviors. For example, among his other retracted studies are those finding that we buy more groceries when we shop hungry and order healthier food when we preorder lunch. All of this seems intuitive. I have used the phrase health halo in my own writing, and am still inclined to think it’s a valid idea.


What I know about Kavanaugh– he’s a liar

I’ve already dropped a few links in quick hits about the fact that Kavanaugh likely perjured himself in earlier Senate testimony about access to stolen files.  But, nobody has really paid much attention to that.  Things is, though, for anybody the least bit open-minded and paying attention it is super-clear that Kavanaugh was a hard-partying, hard-drinker in his early adulthood.  That does not mean he was a sexual assaulter.  But, he repeatedly refuses to own up to this and been zealously lying to the contrary despite the fact that it is pretty obvious to everybody.  On the one hand, maybe his yearbook paragraph is small potatoes, on the other, I was a teenager in the 80’s and “boof” is definitely not a reference to flatulence and you don’t claim the champion “ralphing”award because you’ve got a weak stomach.  Chait has a nice summary of the lying here:

Why do I believe Kavanaugh is lying? The charges are credible, and his accusers are willing to put themselves at risk, with no apparent gain to bring them to the public. Kavanaugh has said too many things that strain credulity for all them to be plausibly true. He almost certainly lied about having had access to files stolen by Senate Republicans back when he was handling judicial nominations in the Bush administration. His explanation that the “Renate Alumni” was not a sexual reference is difficult to square with a fellow Renate Alumnus’s poem ( “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate”) portraying her as a cheap date. His insistence “boof” and “devil’s triangle” from his yearbook were references to flatulence and a drinking game drew incredulous responses from people his age who have heard these terms. His claim that the “Beach Week Ralph Club” was a reference to a weak stomach seems highly unlikely.

The accretion of curious details ultimately overwhelms the small possibility that he is a man wronged. The conviction he summoned is the righteous belief of an adult who feels he should not be denied the career reward due to him by the errors of his youth, and who decided from the outset to close the door to that period in his life. Perhaps he believes he has made amends for his cruelty. I see a liar who has the chance to prove his good faith innocence, and has conspicuously refused.

Short version, I’m pretty damn sure that Kavanaugh is a liar in high-stakes circumstances (i.e., Senate testimony).  I know he has everything to gain by lying (a Supreme Court seat).  I have no idea whether Blasey Ford is a liar or not, but no particular reason to believe she is.  And, it’s also pretty clear that she has nothing to gain from false testimony against Kavanaugh.  So, ,who to believe?  That’s an easy one.

In the end, though, whatever doubts may remain about the alleged incident between Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford (and there is real room for doubt), I have almost no doubt that Kavanaugh is a public liar before the United State Senate.  (He’s also, clearly, an intemperate partisan hack).  And that is more than enough to disqualify him for the Supreme Court.

It really is Trump’s party– media edition

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

–Thomas Jefferson

And, sadly, you know whose side today’s Republicans are on.  This latest from Pew is disturbing and damning.  If there is one fundamental aspect of the media in a democracy, it is the watchdog role to keep politicians accountable.  Alas:

Most Americans still support the watchdog role of the news media, but Democrats and Republicans are as sharply divided as in 2017

In 2017 and 2018, partisan divides in support of the news media's watchdog role largest ever measured

Even among the long-time media-bashing of GOP elites, this is a radical departure.  Our democracy is in trouble primarily for one reason– the spinelessness, cowardice, and complicity by Republicans as Trump attempts to undermine our fundamental democratic institutions.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy

Really don’t know what’s going to happen at the Kavanaugh hearings today, but, damn, do I love Tomasky’s take.  I’ve just been listening to the terrific “Slow Burn” season 2 podcast about Bill Clinton’s impeachment and, as those of us who were politically sentient at the time recall, the Starr report was grossly, absurdly, obsessed with the sexual details of Clinton and Lewinsky.  And who was behind that push for knowing every last detail of those sexual encounters.  Tomasky:

“Piece by painful piece.”

If you don’t know those words as written by Brett Kavanaugh back in 1998, I urge you to commit them to memory in advance of Thursday’s questioning.

They appeared in a memo Kavanaugh wrote to his boss, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, on August 15, 1998. We were in the midst of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Starr’s team was about to question Clinton in front of a grand jury.

“After reflecting this evening,” the memo began, “I am strongly opposed to giving the President any ‘break’ in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship…I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him and to think of all reasonable defenses to his pattern of behavior. In the end, I am convinced that there really are none. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me.”

The subsequent questioning of Clinton went as Kavanaugh had urged, and a month later, Starr and Kavanaugh and team issued a report that read not like something published by the U.S. Government Printing Office but by Larry Flynt. [emphases mine] There were discussion of the presidential johnson, and of when he had and had not ejaculated. The word “sex” or a variation appeared in the report 581 times. The word “Whitewater”—the failed land-deal the Clintons were involved in that was the original raison d’etre for Starr’s investigation—was mentioned four times.

The 445-page, X-rated report existed in the form it did for one purpose only: To make the American people become so morally repulsed by Clinton’s behavior that they would rise up in fury and demand that he leave office. And this was done, as the memo reveals, at the behest of Brett Kavanaugh.

“let’s be fair” liberals. Let’s not get too detailed about Kavanaugh’s past. All that yearbook stuff; let’s not go there! Whatever he did, he doesn’t deserve to have his youthful errors thrown before the public in such ghastly detail…

But one of those reasons is most definitely not that Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve it. He deserves every last bit of it based on the standard that he himself set 20 years ago.

Then, he wanted America to know every single distasteful thing Bill Clinton had done. What right has he today to be shielded from the same treatment? …

A society’s real moral guardians are, throughout human history, the people who are at first accused of being immoral—the ones who are willing to lift the veil that has protected people like Brett Kavanaugh for centuries. The Democrats need to be clear about which side they’re on Thursday. They may decide for tactical reasons not to press this or that matter too hard, and I suppose they have to be mindful of possible blowback.

But I hope they do what Kavanaugh himself urged be done to Bill Clinton—examine every allegation and challenge every lie. Piece by painful piece.

That’s a long-ish excerpt, but the whole piece is really, really good.  If you get a chance, you really should read all of it.

Trump’s UN delusions

I didn’t really have much to say beyond the obvious humor value of Trump getting himself laughed at at the UN.  But, apparently, I am subscribed to the NYT’s Frank Bruni newsletter without even knowing it, and I really did like Bruni’s take on just how amazingly delusional Trump was here:

Where did he imagine he was? Whom did he imagine he was talking to? He has made clear his desire that America more or less go it alone in the world, reveling in its military superiority, flexing its economic might, junking the treaties and pacts that his predecessors agreed to, using its dominance to bring the less dominant to heel.

So he would have no reason — none at all — to believe that his audience of foreign leaders and dignitaries at the United Nations would thrill to his boasting or nod at his self-aggrandizing version of events. And yet somehow he did believe that. He regarded them precisely as he does the swooning supporters at a rally in a Trump-besotted patch of America. Perhaps he hallucinated them in #MAGA caps.

“In less than two years,” he told them, digressing from the business at hand, “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
And they laughed, or at least an audible number of them did. They can recognize a delusion when they hear one. I used the stock descriptor “self-aggrandizing” before, but it doesn’t do justice to Trump’s tic. It’s “self-deifying” from now on.

Trump’s exaggerations, however, aren’t my point, nor do I mention the response to them on Tuesday to mock them and him.

I recount the episode at the United Nations because it raises serious questions about — or, rather, confirms — how out of touch with reality he is. How deeply and broadly and limitlessly his vanity clouds his judgment and his assessments. How dangerous that is for all of us.

When he heard that laughter, it somehow took him aback. “Didn’t expect that reaction,” he said.

How can that possibly be? He expected . . . what? Pom-poms? Confetti? A marching band? He has taunted and tarred steadfast allies like Germany and Canada. He has dismissed countries not rich enough to harbor Trump golf courses and hotels with a fecal epithet that rhymes with “bit mole.” To much of the world he has shown the back of his hand. To much of it he has shown his middle finger.

Then he seeks to draft foreigners into the service of adoring him, and is surprised when they don’t report for duty?

Americans keep hearing — from “Fire and Fury,” from “Fear,” from let-me-wear-a-wire Rod Rosenstein, from get-me-out-of-here Gary Cohn — how perilously divorced from reality Trump is. His performance at the United Nations was all the confirmation that anyone could need.

What city is the best to raise your kids?

Why Cary, North Carolina, obviously. What was really cool about this best (and worst) places to raise kids list was that not only is Raleigh in the top 10, but even my previous home of Lubbock, TX makes it.  As for Lubbock– who knew?  And, I disagree.  Actually, the great thing about Lubbock is that you can get a nice house for an absurdly low amount of money and I presume that’s carrying a lot of the weight.  Otherwise, I’ll definitely take the Raleigh area.  Here’s the top 10:

Which large American cities are the most family friendly? Generally speaking, according to a recent study by the rental listings site Zumper, you are probably better off living in the Midwest or the South if you have children.

Higher mortgage rates, more expensive child care and longer commutes were among the reasons Northeastern cities didn’t fare as well in the study. Not surprisingly, New York City ranked low — 84th out of 94.

So which cities were the best? After weighing various factors important to family life — including median incomes, housing costs, unemployment and crime rates, and the percentage of the population under 45 — the study ranked Madison, Wis., in first place, followed by Lincoln, Neb., and Lexington, Ky. (Sources included the United States Census Bureau, the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Anyway, interesting food for thought.  No need to leave Chicago and head to Lubbock, though.

It really is the party of Trump

The latest from Gallup begins with the fairly dramatic headline, “Republican Party Favorability Highest in Seven Years.”  What?!  You might think.  I thought– well, I guess this is Republicans approving now that there party is actually in charge.  And, survey says… yes:

Republican Party Gains Ground Among Those With Republican Views
Percent with favorable view of each party, September 2017 and September 2018
Republican Party Democratic Party
Sep 2017 Sep 2018 Sep 2017 Sep 2018
% % % %
All adults 36 45 44 44
Party ID
Republicans plus leaners 67 85 13 11
Democrats plus leaners 10 10 80 80
Men 37 50 40 41
Women 35 40 49 48

While Republicans have become significantly more positive about their party over the past year, Democrats’ views of the Republican Party and their own Democratic Party have essentially not changed.

Short version: The GOP is the party of Trump.  The vast majority of Republicans in the electorate have chosen to embrace a political party that if not overtly ethnonationalist and authoritarian supports a leader who indisputably embodies those traits.  I don’t care how much you just want your tax cut.  Republicans own this anti-democratic awfulness.

If life were grade school, girls would rule the world

This was a fantastic piece in the Atlantic about how girls confidence, relative to boys, seems to drop so precipitously in the middle school years.  I loved the quote, I took for the title of this post:

“If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

So, what’s the story?  Great Atlantic piece on research by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and Jillellyn Riley:

In our research, we worked with Ypulse, a polling firm that focuses on tweens and teens, to survey more than 1,300 girls from the ages of 8 to 18 and their parents. (The sample was broadly representative of the country’s teen population in terms of race and geographic distribution.) The data is more dramatic than we’d imagined: The girls surveyed were asked to rate their confidence on a scale of 0 to 10, and from the ages of 8 to 14, the average of girls’ responses fell from approximately 8.5 to 6—a drop-off of 30 percent.

Until the age of 12, there was virtually no difference in confidence between boys and girls. But, because of the drop-off girls experienced during puberty, by the age of 14 the average girl was far less confident than the average boy. [emphases mine] Many boys, the survey suggested, do experience some hits to their confidence entering their teens, but nothing like what girls experience. (The Ypulse survey did not break down its findings at a granular enough level to discern if there was any correlation between kids’ race or income level and their self-described confidence.)…

As boys and girls (and men and women) take risks and see the payoffs, they gain the courage to take more risks in the future. Conversely, confidence’s absence can inhibit the very sorts of behaviors—risk taking, failure, and perseverance—that build it back up. So the cratering of confidence in girls is especially troubling because of long-term implications. It can mean that risks are avoided again and again, and confidence isn’t being stockpiled for the future. And indeed, the confidence gender gap that opens at puberty often remains throughout adulthood.

What makes confidence building so much more elusive for so many tween and teen girls? A few things stand out. The habit of what psychologists call rumination—essentially, dwelling extensively on negative feelings—is more prevalent in women than in men, and often starts at puberty. This can make girls more cautious, and less inclined toward risk taking. Additionally, at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls’ people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences. Often, this is because it just makes parents’ and teachers’ lives easier: In a busy household or noisy classroom, who doesn’t want kids who color within the lines, follow directions, and don’t cause problems? But perfectionism, of course, inhibits risk taking, a willingness to fail, and valuable psychological growth. “If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

In fact, later in life, the goalposts shift considerably. “It rewards people who take risks and rebound,” Dweck added. And the boys in our survey seemed to have a greater appetite for risk taking: Our poll shows that from ages 8 to 14 boys are more likely than girls to describe themselves as confident, strong, adventurous, and fearless.

Wow– that’s all disturbing and distressing.  The solution?  Girls soccer.  Okay, not exactly, but:

There’s evidence that tweaking the status quo, and acclimating girls at this critical age to more risk taking and failure, makes a difference. Some of the most compelling data links participation in sports to professional success.

Okay, obviously not just sports (though, I sure hope Sarah wants to stick with soccer as long as possible):

It’s not only through athletics that young girls can gain confidence; sport is simply an organized and easily available opportunity to experience loss, failure, and resilience. But the same skills can be acquired by participating on a debate team, learning to cook, or speaking up on behalf of a cause like animal welfare—as long as there is a move outside of her comfort zone, and a process of struggle and mastery, confidence will usually be the result…

It’s essential to close the gap, and to do so early, because the long-term effects of these dynamics hurt not only girls, but the women they become, many of whom, within a few years of entering the workforce, experience another confidence drop, and a drop in aspirations. Their rule-following, good-girl methods have been celebrated, rewarded by a structured educational and societal system. It’s a shock to arrive in the adult world and discover a dramatically new playing field: Failure is okay. Risk is worth it. No wonder they struggle: Their whole life, to date, they’ve internalized just the opposite, a societal bait and switch that should be recognized. Girls are adept at learning—they just need the right study guide.

Of course, is this all just society?  Is there some nature vs nurture going on here (obviously, there’s some pretty dramatic biological changes– and yes, the brain is biological– for both genders that kick in at puberty).  Would love to see more of this across different countries and cultures.  Of course, even if there is a genuine biological component, that doesn’t mean we we should respond any less to trying to overcome this gap, but I’m pretty curious.  Anyway, for know, all of us need to do our part to turn confident, kick-ass, grade school girls into confident, kick-ass, young women.

Single payer reality

We interrupt you from all Brett Kavanaugh all the time to highlight Jon Cohn’s excellent piece on Taiwan’s single-payer health care system.  There’s a lot we could learn from Taiwan.  They are relatively new to single-payer, actually.  Back in the 1990’s they realized they needed to create a high-quality, national health care plan and studied countries around the world to see what made the most sense.  Their conclusion: single-payer.  The results: not perfect, but really, really good:

More than 99 percent of people living in Taiwan now have insurance through the NHI. They pay premiums based on a sliding scale, with employers contributing additional premiums, and they have to pay modest out-of-pocket costs for everything from prescriptions to hospitalization.

That last part might surprise people who think that single payer necessarily means “free” health care. It doesn’t, though the NHI waives copayments and deductibles for several key populations: the poor, pregnant women, children younger than three and people with serious, long-term conditions like diabetes or cancer.

“It protects the disadvantaged, it protects the sick, really well,” Cheng said. “When they set up the program, they said, ‘We should feel sorry for those who are sick ― on top of that pain and suffering, it’s an awesome financial burden. We should take care of that.’”

It’s easy to see how such a system could get expensive. But the Taiwanese government establishes a hard limit on overall health care spending, then negotiates fees for every medical service and supply. It’s cost control by brute force, and it works. In 2016, the overall budget worked out to less than 7 percent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product, compared to 16 percent in the United States. [emphases mine]

Some of the difference shows up in superficial ways, like Taiwan’s conspicuously spartan and utilitarian facilities. A popular pediatric clinic in northwest Taipei that I visited had curtains, not doors, on some room entrances, plus a waiting area that consisted of a bench crammed into a hallway. The large, cartoonish sign bearing the clinic’s name looked like it belonged on a fast-food restaurant or gas station.

But patients in Taiwan have the kind of access to medical care most Americans would envy. They can see any doctor or visit any hospital anytime they want, and pay just a small additional fee for specialty care without a referral.

And, hey, because Cohn (and me) are fair and balanced, there’s some definite downsides:

Every health care system has its trade-offs, and in Taiwan one of those is the effect of low fees on physicians, who have basically tried to make up in volume what they can’t get in price. The Taiwanese end up seeing the doctor more frequently than people in most other countries but spend less time in the office when they do. Doctor burnout is becoming a problem and a small but growing group are making regular trips to clinics in mainland China, where they can make more money because the People’s Republic, desperate to meet their fast-growing population’s need for care, now offers better pay.

Another place Taiwan has saved money is on cutting-edge treatment ― in particular, the latest cancer drugs. Taiwan’s government negotiates pharmaceutical prices directly with manufacturers, as pretty much every country except the U.S. does. But it typically waits a year or two after the release of a new drug before approving it, and then bases its payment on a mix of what other, larger countries are already paying. That has the effect of steering more people to older, cheaper therapies, even when newer ones are available.

Also, the politics in the US for something like this are really, really hard:

Proposals like the one Bernie Sanders has outlined envision wiping out private insurance, which would mean getting rid of the employer benefits through which the majority of working-age Americans now get coverage. It might be a change for the better, providing more comprehensive coverage, with no networks, and for lower cost overall. But making that case to the tens of millions who currently have employer benefits they like is difficult, and some people would inevitably feel, justly or not, like the transition left them worse off.

Yep.  That said, well short of single-payer, there’s some really good steps we could and should take in this direction:

A good place to start might be taking the critical step that Taiwan did. Policymakers could make sure that people with cancer, diabetes and other chronic, economically-crippling conditions don’t face out-of-pocket costs ― protecting those people from financial duress and reducing the likelihood they postpone necessary care because of cost. Introducing fixed fees and global budgets slowly, as Maryland is already doing on its own and California is contemplating, might also work. That could also help ensure that cuts were done in a way that didn’t deter important innovation.

Neither of those features is unique to Taiwan or even, as it turns out, to single payer. Many of the public-private hybrid systems in Europe have them too. One very real possibility is that a push for single payer could leave the U.S. with a system that looks more like what those other countries have, simply because the politics and policy of dislodging the current system would prove too difficult. It’d still be cheaper, and a lot more humane, than what exists now.

There’s lots of ways to go.  A couple things are for sure– currently, sadly, Republicans have absolutely zero answers to solving the real health care problems we face as a country and as individuals, and, we really could learn a lot from places like Taiwan.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Loved this NYT story about the amazing science and technology behind the decades-long effort finally create a pizza MRE.  Now that’s a worthy cause.

2) Sebastian Mallaby on how “Trumponomics” is not working:

So is Trumponomics working? With one significant caveat, the answer is no. For one thing, Trump’s trade policy is turning out to be worse than expected. For another, the growth surge mostly reflects a temporary sugar high from last December’s tax cut. Economists are already penciling in a recession for 2020

But the greatest damage stems from Trump’s trade war with China. His opening demand — that China abandon its subsidies for strategic high-tech industries — was never going to be met by a nationalistic dictatorship committed to industrial policy. His bet that tariffs will drive companies to shift production to the United States is equally forlorn. If manufacturers pull out of China, they are more likely to go elsewhere in Asia. And even if some manufacturing does come to the United States, this gain will be outweighed by the job losses stemming from Trump’s tariffs, which raise costs for industries that use Chinese inputs. In short, Trump isn’t helping the American workers he claims to speak for. Instead, he is battering the rules-based international system that offers the best chance of constraining China.

Phases in economic history are remembered by their labels: the go-go ’60s, the stagflationary ’70s and so on. The current populist era in the United States will turn out no better than populist projects elsewhere: in Britain, where a self-harming experiment in deglobalization has dragged down the national growth rate; in Italy, where expensive promises to voters could bring on a debt crisis. So do not be surprised if the populists are temporarily popular: Popularity is what they crave most, after all. But recall that, everywhere and throughout history, the populists’ folly is unmasked in the end.

3) This is a great point, with NC’s post-Florence problems, “North Carolina’s Problem Isn’t Florence, It’s Poverty: The floodplains read like maps of inequality and race.”

4) I’m pretty sure I walk faster when I’m with DJC.  NYT, “Faster. Slower. How We Walk Depends on Who We Walk With, and Where We Live.”

People move differently when they walk in groups than when they walk alone. And their walking style is especially distinct when they walk with children, according to a fascinating new cross-cultural study of pedestrians in several nations.

The study, which also shows that men tend to walk differently with other men than with women and that some cultures may promote walking speed over sociability, underscores that how we move is not dependent solely on physiology or biomechanics.

It is also influenced to a surprising extent by where we grew up and who we hang out with…

Given this complexity, exercise scientists have long been interested in how we manage the physical demands of walking. In laboratory studies, they have determined that each of us has a particular pace at which we are most biologically efficient, meaning that we use the least energy.

In theory, this is the pace that we naturally would settle into when we walk.

But other, real-world studies and observations indicate that people rarely perambulate at their most efficient pace. Impediments such as crowds, streetlights and scheduling concerns affect walking speed, of course.

But even on uncrowded pedestrian pathways, people often choose walking speeds that are slower or faster than their physiological ideal. Men, for instance, tend to slow their natural pace when they walk with women who are romantic partners, a few past studies show, but hasten their velocity when walking with other men.

5) It’s cool that there’s a Raleigh teacher on the cover of Time’s cover story about under-paid teachers.  That said, I think it’s a real mistake to choose a teacher making $69,000/year as the face of under-paid teachers.

6) Good parenting advice (and for certain progeny of the blogger who read this) here from NYT– how to help teenagers embrace stress:

But the conventional wisdom is that stress does harm and so, accordingly, we should aim to reduce, prevent or avoid it. Not surprisingly, this negative slant on stress can shape parenting and also leave teenagers feeling stressed about being stressed.

“Especially within the last five years,” says Sarah Huss, the director of human development and parent education at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles, “we’ve seen a rise in the number of parents who feel that it’s their job to rescue their child from situations that are stressful.”

To reframe how we think about a phenomenon that has been roundly, and wrongly, pathologized, we should appreciate that healthy stress is inevitable when we operate at the edge of our abilities. Stretching beyond familiar limits doesn’t always feel good, but growing and learning — the keys to school and much of life — can’t happen any other way. [emphases mine]

According to Jeremy P. Jamieson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who studies how stress impacts emotions and performance, “Avoiding stress doesn’t work and is often not possible. To achieve and grow, we have to get outside our comfort zones and approach challenges.”

Stress is also known to have an inoculating effect. Research shows that people who overcome difficult life circumstances go on to enjoy higher-than-average levels of resilience. In short, achieving mastery in trying situations builds emotional strength and psychological durability.

How students themselves regard stress — whether they see it as positive or negative — has powerful downstream effects. Studies find that when faced with steep intellectual tasks, individuals with a stress-is-enhancing outlook outperform those with a stress-is-debilitating one…

Happily, studies also find that it’s not hard to convert people to the stress-is-enhancing perspective. To do this in my own work with adolescents, I liken the demands of school to a strength-training program. Everyone understands that lifting weights to the point of discomfort is the only way to build muscle; the process of developing intellectual ability, including the ability to manage the stress that comes with it, works just the same way.

In talking with teenagers, I matter-of-factly point out that their teachers should be giving them hard academic workouts, because that’s what will transform them from wobbly middle school colts into graduation-ready racehorses.

To be sure, some days will be light on challenge and others will feel overwhelming. But I try to reassure students by telling them this: If, on balance, they are feeling stretched at school and asked to step up to a new level once they’ve mastered an old one, then things are going exactly as they should.

7) Open tab for too long– Sean McElwee on the power of “Abolish Ice.”

The Voter Study Group also asks respondents whether undocumented immigrants make a contribution to society or are a drain on it. In 2011, 40 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants make a contribution, 16 percent said neither and 31 percent said “mostly a drain” (the rest were unsure). By 2016, 61 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants made a contribution, 10 percent said neither and 22 percent said mostly a drain.

The abolish ICE debate is a product of the way American policymaking has changed in our hyperpartisan age. Debates and dialogue hardly every occur across the aisle, but activists in each party form a collective vision, often when they are out of power, and implement it when they gain power. Though the Republican Party seems to think it can use the Abolish ICE movement against Democrats everywhere, the idea that it will provide a bludgeon in the midterm is a phantom. For one, ICE is rapidly losing popularity and political capital, with 49 percent of Americans expressing a positive view and 44 percent a negative view in recent Pew polling. That’s the lowest of any agency they examined. Even the I.R.S. has 57 percent positive views and 36 percent negative views.

Data for Progress also commissioned a national survey from YouGov Blue. We asked respondents, “Would you support or oppose defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enforcing immigration violations like other civil infractions?” We found 32 percent of respondents in support and 38 percent opposed (with another 30 saying neither or they didn’t know). Half of Democrats supported defunding ICE (18 percent opposed) and among people under 45, 33 percent supported the idea and 27 percent opposed it…

8) Love this “Be Better at Parties” guide from NYT, especially the part on making good conversation:


Tier one is safe territory: sports, the weather, pop culture, local celebrities and any immediate shared experience (that free information Ms. Fine talks about).

Tier two is potentially controversial: religion, politics, dating and love lives. “Test the waters, and back away if they’re not interested,” he warned.

Tier three includes the most intimate topics: family and finance, buckets into which Mr. Post Senning includes health and work life. “Some people love to talk about what they do and their kids, but don’t ask a probing question until the door has been opened,” he advised. Those sorts of questions can also become exclusionary, so think about everyone involved in the conversation before you start.

Knowing the tiers can save you from making the most embarrassing faux pas, e.g., “I notice you’re not drinking, are you pregnant?” Note also that while “So, what do you do?” is a pretty common and acceptable question in America, in Europe it’s as banal as watching paint dry.

They’ll think, “Why would you ever talk about that?” Mr. Post Senning said. Instead of “What do you do?,” Ms. Fine suggested “What keeps you busy?,” which applies to people whether or not they have traditional jobs, are stay-at-home-parents or are currently employed.

Ms. Fine has another basic rule: “Don’t ask a question that could put somebody in a bad spot: ‘Is your boyfriend here?’ ‘Did you get into that M.B.A. program?’” Instead try: “Catch me up on your life,” or, “What’s going on with work for you?”


Don’t head to a party with the intent of leaving everyone in stitches, unless perhaps you’re a professional comedian. Instead, as Ms. Aarons-Mele puts it, “Channel your inner Oprah.” This is especially helpful advice for introverts.

“If you just talk a lot you might get exhausted, but if you ask questions and listen and draw people out, they’ll think you’re a great conversationalist,” she said.

“For me it comes down to being aware that I should be more interested than I should be interesting,” Mr. Karia said. He brought up a study in which two researchers from the psychology department at Harvard University found that talking about yourself triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as food. “People would forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” he said. You can use this to your advantage simply by listening.

Mr. Ford wrote of this in his Medium post. At one party, he found himself saying: “Wow. That sounds hard,” after a stranger told him what she did for a living. It worked brilliantly. “Maybe a hundred times since I’ve said, ‘Wow, that sounds hard’ to a stranger, always to great effect.”

9) Presumably you’ve heard about the Flynn effect of IQ rise over the 20th century.  Now there’s evidence for an anti-Flynn effect of IQ decline.  Ruh-roh.

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