Quick hits (part II)

Hmmm, well I never did get to 1B.  And Part II is really late.  Sorry.

1) This is something.  Local bagel shop owner accidentally caught on voicemail with racist rant against our new Wake County Sheriff.  That will not be good for business.

2) This “progressive” case against Beto made me like Beto more:

In the meantime, though, we have the national election to think about, and when it comes to national politics, O’Rourke is plainly uninspiring. As Zaid Jilani pointed out at Current Affairs, O’Rourke’s congressional voting record signals skepticism about progressive priorities. “While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O’Rourke sponsored neither House bill,” Jilani wrote, “During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus.” Instead, O’Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a centrist caucus with Clintonian views on health care, education and trade.

Where it comes to Medicare-for-all, O’Rourke has been carefully unclear about his stance: A Politico article from July notes that, at least for a time, he had sworn off using the terms “single payer” or “Medicare for all,” instead using the less-specific, policy-neutral phrase “universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care for all.” His campaign website remains unclear, stating that he aims for achieving universal health-care coverage “whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise.”

This is just Tea Party of the Left stupid “progressivism.”  Firstly, all sorts of modern democracies have way better national, universal healthcare without single payer.  That should be the damn goal.  Secondly, yeah, free college is great, but it benefits rich and middle-class far more than the poor.  This should not be the core of the liberal agenda.

3) Drum, “Foodborne Illnesses Were Up Last Year. They May Be Up Again in 2018.”  If only we could be rational about our food and just irradiate it already instead of freaking out about “radiation!”

In any case, I’m not really sure why we put up with this. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but a big part of the answer to food poisoning is simple: irradiation. It’s simple, safe, and it’s old technology with years of use behind it. It won’t do anything for foodborne illnesses introduced during prep—Chipotle can’t run your tacos through an irraditation machine on the way to the cash register—but it would be a boon to the packaged food industry. For all practical purposes, if it were made mandatory it would entirely eliminate foodborne illnesses in raw commercial and packaged foods.

But it’s opposed by conservatives because it’s a regulation that would save lives, and who wants that? And to make things worse, it’s also opposed by many liberals, who view it as a Frankenfood sort of thing that would destroy their precious organic labels. In fact, it would do no such thing. It doesn’t leave any radiation behind, it doesn’t kill off vitamins, and it doesn’t affect the taste of food. It just kills off pathogens, the same as pasteurizing milk.

Why, even lefty rags like Mother Jones think it’s a good idea. You can read all about it here.

4) This is really cool a comic-book-style, “What doctors know about CPR

5) Brian Beutler, “Republicans recommit to to Trump’s impunity”

This highlights the inherent danger of buying your own bullshit when you’re both powerful and corrupt. Republicans in Congress spent the better part of two years trying to shake classified and sensitive information about both the Clinton-email and Trump-Russia investigations loose from the Justice Department, to actively mislead as many people as possible about why Trump confederates keep getting charged with federal crimes. Republicans are desperate for their voters to believe that Trump is the victim of a hidden political conspiracy organized inside the Justice Department, because the alternative is a broad but accurate consensus that the Trump campaign engaged in a genuine criminal conspiracy to cheat in the 2016 election, and that congressional Republicans are complicit in those crimes.

In the end, none of that information was even slightly “devastating” to Democrats. Its real purpose was to flood the zone with ephemera, and potentially harm national security, to obscure the fruits of news reporting and the Russia investigation, and provide Trump with some illusory sense of revenge.

Come January, Republicans won’t control the House anymore, but their ability to produce reams of bullshit will be barely diminished.

There has likely never been a greater mismatch between a president’s corruption and the Congress’s indifference than we’ve witnessed the past two years. In many instances, Republicans have enabled and partaken in the corruption. It is as if Republicans controlled Congress during Watergate, and worked hand in glove with a vast propaganda apparatus not to investigate President Nixon but to smear Archibald Cox.

The GOP response to the puncturing of that impunity will be to characterize any level of oversight beyond what Republicans provided in 2017 and 2018 as “presidential harassment,” and seek to neutralize it with genuine harassment of current and former civil servants. The coming House Judiciary Committee showdown with Comey is best understood less as a parting shot than as the teeing up of diversionary nonsense for Senate Republicans. For instance, the terms of Comey’s agreement with Republicans seem not to preclude Republicans from redacting the transcript, declaring the redacted information classified, and saying it contains evidence that Comey stonewalled or misled the committee. Senate Republicans would then be able to begin the new Congress with yet more counter investigations, designed to muddy the waters whenever the House’s genuine oversight embarrasses the president. We should expect two more years of Nunes memos, because that is what Republicans have promised.

And why wouldn’t they? The Nunes memo is rightly mocked in hindsight, and the House Intelligence Committee’s “report” on Russian election interference laundered illegal false statements, but these efforts also helped social media trolls spread disinformation, and, at least for a time, benefited from credulous coverage in the mainstream press. If the goal is not to win elections, but to protect Trump from the kind of collapse in public opinion that would make him vulnerable to impeachment, they already have proof of concept that the strategy is effective.

The disempowering of newly elected Democrats, and the sowing doubt about the legitimacy of elections Republicans lost aren’t distinct cases of Republicans thumbing their noses at voters, but part of the same overarching plan. The notions that the president should be immune from accountability, and that harassing his political opponents is a proper means of protecting him politically, are close cousins to the idea that he can not be defeated legitimately. Republicans will hobble through 2020 as best they can with whataboutist propaganda and voter suppression, and if those tactics aren’t enough to deliver Trump re-election, they can still claim the results of the election are invalid.

6) Enjoyed this from Seth Masket in how both George HW Bush’s were unusual– parties don’t usually get a third straight term and incumbents usually win.

7) Enjoyed Drum’s mini-rant on nature versus nurture.  Of course it’s both and it is so lame to always set up just one or the other as a straw men. And, yes, there are real differences between male and female brains, but it is generally absurd to talk about the “male brain” and the “female brain.”

8) The new David Attenborough series “Dynasties” will probably end up running on the Greene family television lots (always put on Planet Earth when there’s nothing else to grab my attention).  Here’s an awesome sneak-peak.

9) This interview with Claire McCaskill annoyed me because she focused on how Democrats have “failed” rural Americans.  Only in the sense that they have failed to validate their racial resentment.

10) And, speaking of race, a nice Op-Ed: “Yes, Jury Selection Is as Racist as You Think. Now We Have Proof:
A new study from North Carolina confirms some long-held folk wisdom about race and juries. The good news is there are two doable solutions.”

11) Why are rich people always wanting even more money?  Great explanation here.

As the number of millionaires and billionaires in the world climbs ever higher, there are a growing number of people who possess more money than they could ever reasonably spend on even the lushest goods.But at a certain level of wealth, the next million isn’t going to suddenly revolutionize their lifestyle. What drives people, once they’ve reached that point, to keep pursuing more?There are some good explanations, I found, after talking to a few people who’ve spent significant amounts of time in the presence of and/or researching the really, really rich. Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the connections between happiness and wealth, had a particularly elegant model for understanding this pattern of behavior.Norton says that research regularly points to two central questions that people ask themselves when determining whether they’re satisfied with something in their life: Am I doing better than I was before? and Am I doing better than other people? This applies to wealth, but also to attractiveness, height, and other things that people fret about.

“But the problem is,” Norton says, “a lot of the things that really matter in life are hard to measure. So if you wanted to be a good parent, it’s a little hard to know if you’re being a better parent now than you were a year ago, and it’s also hard to know if you’re a better parent than the neighbors.”

12) Time for me to start offering cookies on class evaluation day?  Survey say yes.


Results from end‐of‐course student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are taken seriously by faculties and form part of a decision base for the recruitment of academic staff, the distribution of funds and changes to curricula. However, there is some doubt as to whether these evaluation instruments accurately measure the quality of course content, teaching and knowledge transfer. We investigated whether the provision of chocolate cookies as a content‐unrelated intervention influences SET results.


We performed a randomised controlled trial in the setting of a curricular emergency medicine course. Participants were 118 third‐year medical students. Participants were randomly allocated into 20 groups, 10 of which had free access to 500 g of chocolate cookies during an emergency medicine course session (cookie group) and 10 of which did not (control group). All groups were taught by the same teachers. Educational content and course material were the same for both groups. After the course, all students were asked to complete a 38‐question evaluation form.


A total of 112 students completed the evaluation form. The cookie group evaluated teachers significantly better than the control group (113.4 ± 4.9 versus 109.2 ± 7.3; p = 0.001, effect size 0.68). Course material was considered better (10.1 ± 2.3 versus 8.4 ± 2.8; p = 0.001, effect size 0.66) and summation scores evaluating the course overall were significantly higher (224.5 ± 12.5 versus 217.2 ± 16.1; p = 0.008, effect size 0.51) in the cookie group.


The provision of chocolate cookies had a significant effect on course evaluation. These findings question the validity of SETs and their use in making widespread decisions within a faculty.

13) It really shouldn’t take the one Black Republican in the Senate to stop the appointment of federal judges with a racially problematic history.  But it does.  For now, hooray, for Tim Scott.

It is a common rhetorical trope among liberals to suggest that conservative giants of the past would not recognize today’s party of Trump. But Jesse Helms almost certainly would. That’s the problem.

Farr should never have been nominated, and once nominated, the vote against him should have been 0–100. Scott’s stand against Farr was admirable. But it should not fall to him alone to conclude that a man who spent his career trying to prevent his fellow citizens from voting does not belong on the federal bench. Scott has no obligations to the American people that his Republican colleagues do not share. And one of those obligations is to defend the American people from those who would seek to infringe on their basic constitutional rights, no matter what party they belong to, no matter what their racial background might be, and no matter whom they might vote for.

14) Personally, I never use the word “shitstorm,” but was fascinated to learn not just the different meaning, but different level of appropriateness in German and English.

15) Today’s GOP, “Texas Republican Who Helped Write Party’s Platform Says He Is “a White Nationalist and Proud of It”

16) The Trump White House’s plans to counter the Mueller report are, as it turns out, about as well thought-out as most of Trump’s plans.

17) Post, “The man at the center of fraud probe in North Carolina may have been doing this for eight years.”

18) So, my son Alex is on a medicine to try and reduce a “benign” brain tumor that is part of his rare disease.  Treatment seems to be going well, but we won’t know for sure till we get an MRI in a couple months.  Among other really cools things about this medication that is hopefully helping him avoid surgery is that it was discovered in soil samples from Easter Island.

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