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.


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

2 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Dogs also eat grass and people say that it may be to treat an upset stomach. They throw up the grass as they too can’t digest it. Cats may eat grass to throw up on their owners’ shoes. Dogs eat grass because it is there.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    Animals eat their placentas because a mammal in the wild can’t leave the new born and need food and to clean up. Our dogs who whelp pups in a human home follow the old ways from their wolf ancestors even though they have food and water brought to them by their humans and help with the clean up.

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