Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait on GOP and the crazy bomber dude:

The left certainly has illiberal, paranoid modes of thought. The difference is that the left-wing version resides outside the boundaries of two-party politics, because the Democratic Party is fundamentally liberal not radical. Coulter’s examples of “liberal” violence inadvertently bear this out: the Haymarket Square bombers were anarchists, and the Unabomber developed an idiosyncratic hatred of technology that did not connect to other nodes of left-wing politics. The street-fighting cult antifa lies outside of, and is primarily hostile to, Democratic politics. Left-wing violence from the 1960s likewise came out of radical groups who viewed the Democratic Party with contempt.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has followed a course that has made its rhetoric amenable to extremism. Republican radicalism enabled the rise of a conspiratorial authoritarian president, and that president has expanded the bounds of the party’s following farther out to the fringe. It is getting harder and harder to distinguish the “normal” elements of conservatism from the “kook” parts. That some of those kooks would resort to violence is not an accident but a statistical likelihood. Trump’s party is a petri dish for diseased minds.

2) As a candy lover, I loved this cool NYT magazine candy feature.  And I had no idea that Japan loves Kit-Kat’s so much (me, too).

3) Jennifer Finney Boylan on the stupidity of judging as “calling balls and strikes” (something pretty much only conservative judges argue):

There was a lot of talk during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing about the proper role of a judge, comparing his or her ideal approach with that of an umpire. It was Chief Justice John Roberts, in fact, who — during his own hearing in 2005 — most famously used the metaphor. “Umpires don’t make the rules,” he said. “They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

A few years later, during Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she agreed with much of what Chief Justice Roberts had said. But she also noted that the metaphor might suggest to some people that law is a kind of robotic enterprise, that “everything is clear cut, and there’s no judgment in the process. And I do think that that’s not right, and that it’s especially not right at the Supreme Court level, where the hardest cases go.”

Judges, like umpires, have to decide what kind of philosophers they will be: empiricists, realists, pragmatists — or something else entirely.

If you “call them the way you see them,” you’re accepting that your role is to incorporate your own wisdom and research into the making of decisions — because “the way you see them” is influenced by your own experience of being human.

If you believe “they ain’t nothing until I call ’em!” you’re not just a pragmatist — you’re an activist, or so conservative legal scholars would have you believe.

And if you “call them the way they are,” you’re suggesting that the law exists independent of human experience — that the business of judging should be like the job of a robot. The realist’s world is a black-and-white one, with no shades of gray.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the world of grays that often presents the greatest challenge for conservatives; they don’t like it when things fall outside the bright lines originally imagined by our 18th-century founders — men whom, we should note, agreed that African-Americans should count as only three-fifths of a human and that the right to vote should be reserved for white men who owned land.

But the passage of time ensures that a changing world surely contains shades of gray. Most of the cases coming before the Supreme Court call not for the application of black-and-white rules but for an understanding of the complexity of human experience.

4) US Fertility rates are way down in just the past decade.  That’s not good (below the 2.1 replacement level is a problem).  And there’s a variety of theories as to why.

5) I’ve beenn waiting and waiting for Terry Gross to get on the Bojack Horseman train and finally interview it’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.  Finally

6) And the Guardian with a relatively spoiler-free review of the terrific 5th season I just finished watching.

7) Great Jack Shafer column on the need to stop giving attention to everything Trump says:

The rule that everything the president says is newsworthy was established in those days when presidents 1) were less omnipresent that Trump 2) were more circumspect in what they said and 3) in which there was no cable news. [emphases mine] Nobody ever claimed that the president had a right to massive mindshare every time he opened his mouth, but that’s where we’ve landed. When Trump denounced kneeling NFL players—over whom he has no control—the press made a big deal out of it. When he claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners“ have joined the migrant caravans, we elevated it. When he described well-reported news stories as “fake news,” we gave it big play. But why? The press long ago established that Trump lies with such frequency that it might be easier to count the number of true statements he’s made than false ones.

Like winter rain in Seattle, Trump’s lies, his incessant name-calling, and his baseless rabble-rousing have become so common they merit almost no recognition as “news.” I’m not suggesting that the press ignore Trump when he refers to the “Democrat mob” or makes off-the-cuff threats to impose new tariffs. Reporters should still record his remarks for analysis. But they should abandon the default news-sense setting that dictates that any Trumpian riff deserves top-news treatment. As I brainstormed this idea with my editor, I suggested that newspapers could run columns (buried inside the front section) titled “Shit Trump Says” that would list Trump’s arbitrary policy pitches and verbal berserking. My editor said, no, that would only encourage him to fill the column with the sort of vituperation that would make it destination reading.

For once, my editor was right. The threshold for what constitutes news from Trump’s mouth should be reset. Unless his statements are true or his proposals have some chance of advancing, Trump’s loose talk belongs in concise and dismissive stories in the middle pages of the newspaper where we can skim them and move on. The press corps’ new motto should read: “Just because the president said it doesn’t mean it’s news.” Put the president’s boombox on mute.

8) Really interesting Jay Rosen piece on the defensiveness of the NYT.

9) I didn’t know that they made clothes from plastic bottles until last week when I got some new pants with an “I’m made from plastic bottles label.”  And then Vox has something on it the same time.

10) Some good PS research from Gregory Martin and Steven Webster on geographic sorting:

Political preferences in the United States are highly correlated with population density, at national, state, and metropolitan-area scales. Using new data from voter registration records, we assess the extent to which this pattern can be explained by geographic mobility. We find that the revealed preferences of voters who move from one residence to another correlate with partisan affiliation, though voters appear to be sorting on non-political neighborhood attributes that covary with partisan preferences rather than explicitly seeking politically congruent neighbors. But, critically, we demonstrate through a simulation study that the estimated partisan bias in moving choices is on the order of five times too small to sustain the current geographic polarization of preferences. We conclude that location must have some influence on political preference, rather than the other way around, and provide evidence in support of this theory.

11) Not quite sure what to make of this Post piece on Northerners who love the confederate flag.

12) OMG this ad in Arkansas is unreal.  I played in class this week and one kid literally just dropped his jaw and kept his mouth agape in shock for the whole ad.  I then got to show them this jaw-dropping NC ad from 12 years ago that was basically from the same guy.

13) I take probiotics every day because Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG has actually shown some efficacy in real double-blind trials.  But its probably not doing as much as I hope.  The proven benefits of probiotics are pretty limited.  Aaron Carroll:

Given all of this, what are the benefits? The most obvious use of probiotics would be in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, given that they are focused on gut health. There have been many studies in this domain, so many that early this year the journal Nutrition published a systematic review of systematic reviews on the subject.

The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 reviewshowed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.

Those somewhat promising results — for very specific uses of very specific strains of bacteria in very specific instances — are just about all the “positive” results you can find.

Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrheaThree reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.

14) So, this seems so wrong that it can still happen.  NYT: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: Women in strenuous jobs lost their pregnancies after employers denied their requests for light duty, even ignoring doctors’ notes, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

15) I have to confess, I did not read all of the NYT’s big story on Trump’s massive life-long tax fraud.  But this Fresh Air interview with the authors was great and so worth a lesson.  Rather than focusing on the tax fraud, the real story is about just what an incredible con man Trump is and how he has been conning pretty much everybody (notably of late, credulous Republican voters) about his wealth for pretty much his whole adult life.

Advertisements

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

One Response to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Nicole K. says:

    N&O had a copy of the same ad being run against Claire McCaskill in Missouri. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article220332520.html
    I wonder how many people will be sympathetic to the idea white, democratic women are trying to lynch men through the use of baseless rape allegations. Seems to be one idea so nutty that only conspiracy theorists and men’s rights movement crazies would buy it. Since Republicans have many of those voters solid support already, I am unsure of the point of the ad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: