Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting piece on Apple becoming more of a luxury brand:

And so Apple is gravitating to its strength—selling a commoditized product at a very high price as a part of a semi-open (or partly closed) ecosystem of services. Indeed, another change in how the company plans to present its financial picture is a more detailed breakdown of its “services” segment, which includes iTunes, the App Store, and ApplePay, all of which presumably will be a greater share of its revenue and profit.

Look, then, at where Apple is growing and where it isn’t: It is gaining share in the wealthy countries of the European Union and in the United States, and flat (or losing) in places such as China, Nigeria, India, and the rest of the world formerly known as developing. But its profit is growing massively, and from what we can tell growing everywhere. In a world where everyone will soon have a smartphone as surely as electricity, and the middle class will likely have a tablet or some form of computer, Apple has elected to be more like Tiffany or Mercedes rather than Walmart or Hyundai. That means speaking to as an aspirational clientele for whom brand, form, and function are all of a part, and where the higher price point is at times a sotto voce aspect of the appeal.

It is hard to argue with that strategy, although it does make Apple a different sort of company than it was a decade ago, away from owning the market with a range of prices and products and toward a premier provider in a mass world. It is also hard to see that strategy not producing incredible profits and cash for the coming years, absent some tectonic disruption in communications akin to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which is not evident but not impossible. In some sense, it is back to the future for Apple, which began in the 1980s selling a high-priced, elegantly designed Mac that eschewed the mass market.

Unlike then, however, it is hard to picture Apple as a leading innovator of the next thing or things, whatever those may be. Rife with cash and focused on honing and defending a premier brand, it is more like a dynamic retailer than a tech disrupter.

2) We were having fun with this sentence last night explaining to the kids how which word gets emphasized changes the meaning of a sentence, “I never said that she stole my money.”

3) I’m no expert on unions, but public and private sector unions really are fundamentally different and it really is too easy for public sector unions to abuse their position.  And California is a great example.  Drum.

4) Americans are literally dying because synthetic insulin, a product that has been around decades, keeps going up in price by absurd amounts.  Only in America, of course.  In theory there is competition, but, really, this is market failure which means the government needs to do something– like every other damn modern country.

5) Excellent (as always) Tom Edsall piece on “how the fight over men is shaping our future.”

Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality.”

The premise underlying the guidelines is summarized in a descriptive essay on the A.P.A.’s website: “Traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.” According to the A.P.A., the persistent commitment of many boys and men to the norms of traditional masculinity helps explain why

Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school — especially boys of color.

There is widespread support for many of the recommendations in the guidelines — encouraging increased paternal involvement with children, for example, and developing better approaches to reduce bullying — and these are not in dispute…

The report notes that “in the aggregate, males experience a greater degree of social and economic power than girls and women in a patriarchal society.” This, according to the guidelines, is detrimental to men because

Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege. Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply polarized views on such findings.

According to an October 2017 Pew Research report, a quarter of Republicans said the country has not done enough to insure equal rights for women, while 54 percent said the country has done enough and 18 percent said the country has gone too far. Among Democrats, 69 percent said the country has not done enough, 26 percent said the country has done enough and 4 percent said the country has gone too far…

Many Republicans believe gender roles to be distinct and that categorical denial of hormonal or biological underpinnings to sex differences is erroneous — while simultaneously voicing doubts about the legitimacy of the science of evolution. Many Democrats defend the basic theory of evolution but remain wary of, if not hostile to, biological explanations of human behavior, in part because of their belief in the efficacy of government or other societal intervention to change behavior.

What is patently clear to those on one side of the debate is patently false to those on the other. The pressures to conform to conservative orthodoxy on the right and to liberal orthodoxy on the left sometimes seem to preclude reasonable compromise — that nature and nurture interact endlessly. Fundamental disagreements about sex and gender have become so polarized that oversimplification is inevitable, and the obvious truth that both social and biological forces are at play is cast aside. [emphasis mine]

6) Meanwhile, a record low 46% of women are satisfied how women are treated by society.  I like that, as it shows that more women than ever are aware of the fundamental problems in how our society treats women.  You cannot address a problem if you don’t admit it’s there.

7) Not much could be better than Charles Pierce taking it to Mitch McConnell:

There simply is no more loathsome creature walking the political landscape than the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. You have to go back to McCarthy or McCarran to find a Senate leader who did so much damage to democratic norms and principles than this yokel from Kentucky. Trump is bad enough, but he’s just a jumped-up real-estate crook who’s in over his head. McConnell is a career politician who knows full well what he’s doing to democratic government and is doing it anyway because it gives him power, and it gives the rest of us a wingnut federal judiciary for the next 30 years. There is nothing that this president* can do that threatens McConnell’s power as much as it threatens the survival of the republic, and that’s where we are.

McConnell declared himself in opposition to Barack Obama right from the first day in office. There’s even video. Most noxiously, in reference to our present moment, when Obama came to him and asked him to present a united front against the Russian ratfcking that was enabling El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, McConnell turned him down, flat. Moreover, he told Obama that, if Obama went public, McConnell would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Obama should have done it anyway, god knows.) McConnell issued a watery denial of these charges, but there’s no good goddamn reason to believe him.

He doesn’t have the essential patriotism god gave a snail. He pledges allegiance to his donors, and they get what they want. He’s selling out his country, and he’s doing it in real-time and out in the open. This is worse than McCarthy or McCarran ever were. Mitch McConnell is the the thief of the nation’s soul.

8) A robotic device created for female pleasure had its technology award revoked for being ““immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image.

9) NYT writes, “Doug Jones Risks His Alabama Senate Seat Over the Shutdown and the Wall.”  Ummm, Doug Jones risks his Senate seat by running against any Republican not named Roy Moore next time.

10) This story about Michael Cohen paying some Liberty University flunkie to “rig” some on-line polls is just so sad, pathetic, and so Trump and so Liberty.

11) Baby Shark is all the rage.  I actually learned of this from my pre-schooler newphew, but then learned from my kids its everywhere and I just didn’t know about it.  I especially enjoy annoying them by singing it not quite right.

12) Loved this story on why the UCLA gymnastics floor routine went viral and on NCAA versus elite gymnastics.  For the record, I love NCAA gymnastics and have really enjoyed NC State meets in recent years.

13) Even a ten minute walk has benefits for your brain.  Just move, people.

14) I don’t get why it is not standard practice to numb with lidocaine before giving children shots.  We did it this year (we’ve been using it since Alex has had to get monthly blood draws) and it really helped.

“If you ask every single child in the United States, what are you most afraid of going to the pediatrician, the answer is needle pokes,” said Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf, the medical director of pain medicine and palliative care at Children’s Minnesota.

The pain and fear around childhood vaccinations, he said, contributes to the development of needle phobias, which can make people reluctant to get flu shots and other potentially lifesaving vaccines. Thus, pediatric pain specialists hope that reducing or eliminating the pain associated with needles can potentially reduce what we now call vaccine hesitancy, encouraging parents to get those annual flu shots for themselves and their children, and generally taking away some of the fear that can get in the way of ideal health care.

“We now have noticed that since we started doing this, it’s a life changing event, kids are less and less likely to be needle phobic,” Dr. Friedrichsdorf said. “We are trying to prove it’s lifesaving.” Through an initiative called the Comfort Promise at Children’s Minnesota, the entire hospital has committed to reducing or eliminating needle pain, along with other types of pain.

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