Let’s just make it race day

Well, in reference to my first post today, love this from Michael Tesler in the Monkey Cage, “No, Mark Meadows. Having a black friend doesn’t mean you’re not racist.”

Regardless of what you think of the racism accusations made against Trump and Meadows at Tuesday’s congressional hearing, there’s one point that simply can’t be said often enough.

Having a black friend doesn’t mean you don’t hold racist beliefs.

The data is crystal clear about this, too. In 2009, Pew asked nearly 1,500 white Americans whether words such as intelligent, law-abiding, honest, hard-working and generous described “most blacks.”

Not many whites in the survey took the overtly racist position of saying “most blacks” lacked those positive attributes. The responses ranged from 9 percent of whites who said “most blacks” aren’t intelligent to 20 percent who said most African Americans aren’t law-abiding or generous.

Source: Pew Racial Attitudes Survey (whites only), November 2009. Graph by Michael Tesler. (Michael Tesler/Michael Tesler)

Yet the vast majority of whites who expressed such explicitly racist views still said they had black friends. In fact, the graph above shows that roughly 9 out of 10 whites who think that most blacks aren’t intelligent, law-abiding, honest, hard-working and/or generous have African American friends. [bold is mine; italics in original]

Damn if that isn’t a factoid I’m going to be using a lot in the future.

Then, regarding my second post of the day on racial attitudes and partisanship, a great twitter thread from Brian Schaffner

Also, a really nice thread from Hans Noel looking at the historical relationship between racists and the party coalitions.  These are the key points:

Twitter, obviously, can be hugely problematic.  But used properly, i.e., following people/organizations like Schaffner, Noel, Kruse, Monkey Cage, etc., it is just a gold mine of knowledge.



American politics: it’s all about race

Great piece from Thomas Edsall summing up all the great recent political science research on race and putting in the context of a book Edsall himself wrote on race and politics way back in 1992:

Poll data suggests that Trump is driving Democratic liberals further left and conservative Republicans further right on a key test of racial attitudes.

Michael Tesler, a political scientist at the University of California-Irvine and the author of the 2016 book “Post Racial or Most Racial,” writes in “Racial Attitudes and American Politics,” a chapter in a forthcoming book:

Democratic and Republican voters do not simply disagree about what the government should do on racially charged issues like immigration and affirmative action, they now inhabit increasingly separate realities about race in America.

The growing alignment between racial attitudes and public opinion, Tesler continues, “has polarized the electorate and helped make American politics increasingly vitriolic.”

Racial attitudes have, in turn, become indelibly linked to partisan identification and “party identification influences just about everything in contemporary American society,” Tesler writes:

Partisanship is not only the most important determinant of our vote choices and policy preferences, but it shapes countless other beliefs and behaviors. Party identification has even been linked to who we find attractive and who we decide to marry, how we perceive objective conditions like the unemployment rate and federal budget deficit, which neighborhoods we want to live in, and the type of TV shows and cars we like.

Because of this, Tesler argues, “the racialization of party identification is by itself the racialization of American politics and society.”

Ryan Enos, a Harvard political scientist notes that

The pull of racial attitudes seems to be moving both directions — so that racial conservatives are being drawn into the GOP and racial liberals are being drawn into the Democratic Party…

Tesler and many other academics use a set of polling questions to determine the intensity of what they call “racial resentment.” Whites who score high in racial resentment have consistently voted in higher percentages for Republican presidential candidates.

“From 1988 to 2012 average white resentment scores were very stable, but in 2016 something quite notable happened,” Tesler explained by email. Referring to data from American National Election Studies, Tesler pointed out that

White resentment was significantly lower in 2016 than had ever been recorded in the ANES. It’s not just the ANES or resentment, either. Across several surveys and attitudes, the country has grown significantly more liberal on several questions related to race, immigration, Islam and gender since Trump’s campaign.

The shift to the left was not, however, across the board. It was driven by one group: Democrats and voters who lean toward the Democratic Party. [emphasis mine]

“This growing tolerance is largely confined to Democrats and Democratic leaning Independents,” Tesler wrote, adding that

Democrats have grown more tolerant as a backlash against Trumpism. It also means that while the country is growing more tolerant, they’re also more polarized over race and ethnicity…

In “The Distorting Effects of Racial Animus on Proximity Voting in the 2016 Elections,” Carlos Algara and Isaac Haley, political scientists at the University of California at Davis, show how powerful race has become in mobilizing support for Republicans: “Not only did Trump’s frequent invocations of race in the 2016 campaign prime voters with high levels of racial animus to evaluate the presidential contest in racial terms,” they write, but the increased salience of race in the 2016 campaign “percolated to relatively low-information congressional contests as well.”

The result, Algara and Haley show, is that voters liberal on issues other than race defect “to Republican candidates up and down the ticket when they harbor racial animus.” Racial animosity, they write, hurts both black and white Democratic candidates: “Racial animus (at least when salient) harms Democratic candidates across the board.”

Let’s end like this.  Not all Republicans are racists.  But a disturbing amount of Republician electoral support and an increasing amount of Republican electoral support is motivated by white racial resentment.

I’ve got Black friends, how can I be a racist?!

Or Black employees!  This basically sums up the review of much of the Republican Party on racism and it utterly sad and pathetic.  Tracy Jan’s WP piece asks, “Why did a GOP congressman invite this HUD official to stand behind him at the Michael Cohen hearing?”  Because, if you are a Republican, you are clueless enough on race to actually think such cheap theatrics inure you/Trump to charges of racism.

Something curious happened about 90 minutes into the Michael Cohen testimony which transfixed much of Washington on Wednesday: A woman rose behind Rep. Mark Meadows as the North Carolina Republican grilled President Trump’s former fixer on his characterization of the president as a racist.

The woman — sunglasses affixed to her head, white cape draped over her shoulders — was Lynne Patton, longtime Trump family aide and an official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most important, for the cameras, she is African American.

“I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light,” Meadows said.

Cohen acknowledged his longtime friendship with Patton, saying that he was responsible for her joining the Trump Organization as well as for her current job as the HUD official overseeing New York and New Jersey.

Meadows got to his point: “You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those?”

Mark Meadows is a truly and utterly deplorable human being.  And I’m quite sure that people like Patton allow him to convince himself that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  I’m also quite sure that’s a delusion.


Lots and lots of good takes out there.  A few I really liked.

Crooked newsletter:

What Cohen testified to Wednesday is stunning.

He appeared at the hearing knowing that all hope for a pardon is gone, and that if he gets caught lying under oath again, he might face more time in prison. And yet, Republicans spent the entire hearing ginning up conspiracy theories, and pretending to believe Cohen couldn’t be taken seriously because he’s a convicted liar—without noting that he was convicted of lying to help Trump cover up his own lies about the Trump Tower Moscow project. We should never get so desensitized that we stop being shocked to see Republicans, almost to a member, going all-in on this mobster president. Not a single Republican has run out of patience with Trump. To the contrary, they’re escalating their efforts to cover up for him.

Paul Waldman:

Every Republican member used their five minutes to look for a new angle to go at Cohen, so long as it didn’t touch on what he was testifying to with regard to the president. Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), the head of the House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of President Trump, used his time to question Cohen on the almost comically sleazy efforts he undertook after Trump took office to sell himself to large corporations as an influence-peddler.

It’s a colorful story, and one that does indeed shed light not only on what kind of guy Cohen is but also the general atmosphere of cashing in that attended Trump’s ascendance to the White House. The problem is that like all of the other Republican criticisms, it doesn’t tell us anything about what Trump knew in 2016 about the Russian campaign to get him elected president. And yes, Cohen is a sketchy character. But it’s awfully hard to find any honest people around Trump who can speak to what the president did and didn’t do.

The argument Republicans make about Cohen comes down to this: This gentleman, whom Trump employed for a decade, is such a dishonest criminal that we shouldn’t believe anything he says about anything.

Cohen himself realized this a few hours in. “Not one question so far” from the Republicans, he said, “has been asked about Mr. Trump.”

Even the Republicans on the Oversight Committee who aren’t in regular contact with the president are well aware of what his strategy is to deal with the Russia investigation and his other scandals: Ignore the specifics, insist that any piece of information that reflects poorly on him must by definition be fake, and say the whole thing is a “witch hunt.”

And NeverTrumper Peter Wehner:

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.

Instead, in the most transparent and ham-handed way, they saw no evil and heard no evil, unless it involved Mr. Cohen. Republicans on the committee tried to destroy the credibility of his testimony, not because they believe that his testimony is false, but because they fear it is true.

By now Republicans must know, deep in their hearts, that Mr. Cohen’s portrayal of Mr. Trump as a “racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat” is spot on. So it is the truth they fear, and it is the truth — the fundamental reality of the world as it actually is — that they feel compelled to destroy. This is the central organizing principle of the Republican Party now. More than tax cuts. More than trade wars. More even than building a wall on our southern border. Republicans are dedicated to annihilating truth in order to defend Mr. Trump and they will go after anyone, from Mr. Cohen to Robert Mueller, who is a threat to him. [emphasis mine]

I have no confidence in the future judgment of history.  But, if it is remotely accurate people will look back in dismay and disgust not just at Trump, but at today’s Republican Party.

Intention doesn’t matter

I was having a class conversation about Northam in Virginia a couple of weeks ago and one of my students literally said, “intention doesn’t matter.”  I think my jaw pretty much dropped on that one.  Obviously, with certain bad acts, we take the consequences very seriously regardless of the intention, but, damn, do go so far as to suggest that the mental state of the actor doesn’t matter?!  What the hell.  Stop for a minute and consider what it would be like going through life responding only to actions and not the intent behind the action.  Think about how you would parent; how you would relate to your significant other, etc.  It would be a very different world if we were not constantly taking others’ intent into account when judging their actions and our response.  I responded in class that our entire criminal justice system is hugely based on the concept of intent.

I enjoyed having a mini-rant on this with DJC last week, but this great post from Jesse Singal on “mind-reading” from writers was terrific and hit at exactly this point, thus inspiring this post.  Singal:

Let’s pull a couple quick excerpts from two recent articles in Vox, shall we? In “Liam Neeson’s comments show how racism and denial work hand in hand,” Alex Abad-Santos, explaining why it was problematic that Neeson admitted in an interview that he had once fantasized about finding and murdering a black man after a friend of his was raped — even though he made it explicitly clear he is now deeply disgusted with and ashamed of his mindset at the time — writes:

One of the most pertinent moments in Neeson’s follow-up interview with [Robin] Roberts came when he confidently asserted that “this was 40 years ago” and stated that he isn’t racist.

Despite Neeson also saying that he worked to get rid of his racist feelings, his reminder that decades have passed since this incident might be interpreted as a declaration that racism and bias are problems that go away with time. If that were true, racism wouldn’t exist today.

The phrase “might be interpreted” is doing so much work here! Who, exactly, would interpret Liam Neeson saying of an evil and embarrassing personal moment “this was 40 years ago” as him meaning to make the much broader and less personally focused claim that “racism and bias are problems that go away with time”? How is this a good-faith interpretation of the plain text of his statement? It doesn’t feel like one. (Sort of a side point, but also: In a certain sense racism does gradually, generally, and with exceptions “go away” with time, even if hitting the zero mark is, of course, impossible; both explicit and possibly implicit prejudice have diminished over the years, setting aside the issues with the implicit association test.)

I love Vox when reporting on policy, but a great example of how Vox definitely gets off-base and absurdly woke when wandering into social justice territory.  I blame Ezra.  Anyway, continuing…

I think “mind-reading style” points to something slightly broader, but Bovy’s diagnosis is definitely correct and related. Feelings journalism/The mind-reading style requires nothing but [gestures vaguely] feelings. I feel that when you said “Dogs are mostly not yellow,” what you were really thinking was that “No dogs anywhere are yellow” — that that whole Dogs are mostly not yellow shtick was a cover for your dumb true feelings about no dogs being yellow, which as we all know is a ridiculous and offensive position, and which, as soon as I hit Publish on this, will gain me attention for having called you out on your asininity. All without me having had to pick up the phone, send an email, or learn anything new about the world!

So that’s part of it. But there’s also, I would argue, an ideological component: a movement within certain segments of the left to downplay the importance of intentions more generally…

It’s good that Goldberg pointed out that there is a strong case to be made that sometimes the intention to not have hurt someone isn’t enough. This is a point worth lingering on for a moment rather than blowing past — of course it’s true that “I didn’t mean to” isn’t always a wholly exculpatory utterance.

But it’s also obviously true that intentions do at least matter somewhat in many situations, and maybe more than somewhat when we expand the discussion past whether someone intended to be offensive and into the realm of whether they even intended to mean something very specific. [bold is mine; italics in original] I don’t think Neeson intended to imply that racism always goes away with time; I don’t think Templer intended to imply India is some sort of Disneyland East that exists solely for Western amusement.

There’s power, though, for some people, in promoting a norm in which writers can interpret in such a fast and loose way. It opens the door to all sorts of wild, imaginative interpretations of what figures — usually controversial ones the internet is eager to dunk on — said or meant. It opens the door to ever more takes, to ever more outrage…

The solution here isn’t complicated: Writers (and editors) should give themselves a bitless license to mind-read, to interpret acts of speaking and writing in overly imaginative ways. That isn’t real criticism or journalism, anyway, and writers should want to do real criticism or journalism.

Great stuff.  Obviously, no one is arguing that we need to ignore the consequences of actions/statements and whether they are harmful or hurtful.  But to argue that intent does not matter is to fundamentally undermine the basis of how humans successfully interact with each other and navigate the social world every day.  And liberals ignore this at their peril.

Don’t forget what we already know

Really like this Greg Sargent take on the Mueller report:

Savvy reporters are telling us the attorney general’s report to Congress on Mueller’s findings will disclose disappointingly little.

So let’s reconnect ourselves with two very fundamental realities that this whole affair has already brought to light:

  1. It has already been established that Trump himself committed very serious and extensive misconduct, and possibly crimes as well, and it has already been confirmed that multiple top Trump associates committed extensive wrongdoing and numerous crimes. Trump repeatedly lied to the American people about this misconduct.
  2. It has already been established that a foreign power engaged in a wide-ranging effort to corrupt our democracy for the purpose of electing Trump president, and that Trump and his associates eagerly benefited from and actively tried to participate in this scheme. Trump lied to the American people about this, too. And he engaged in extensive efforts to prevent a full accounting of all of it from taking place…

Extensive wrongdoing has already been established

All this will be another reminder, from Trump’s former personal lawyer, of just how much wrongdoing — and possible criminality — has already been established.

“Cohen’s testimony will cause a national audience that may be accustomed to Trump’s behavior to confront the wide range of lies he has told to cover up misconduct,” Bob Bauer, the White House counsel under President Barack Obama, tells me, including “his denial he had anything to do with hush-money payments, that he had any business dealings with Russia during the campaign, that he has nothing to hide in his business or tax history.”…

As Brian Beutler observes, all of these things go to the core of “our understanding of how Trump came to power” and just how infused that was with criminality and deception, an understanding that is enormously important to arrive at but is “still developing.”

Yes, a limited disclosure of Mueller’s findings will be a setback. It will deny us information we need to better understand the full scope and range of misconduct on both the collusion and obstruction fronts. Democrats should and will try to rectify this.

But whatever is to be in that regard, we already know a great deal about what happened here. No amount of fake claims of vindication from a cramped Mueller disclosure can make all of that disappear.

The socialist menace

A couple really good columns on this a couple weeks ago.

First, Jamelle Bouie:

Next came the president’s address to Congress. And this week at a rally in El Paso, Tex., Trump went after the “radical left,” blasting a caricature of progressive climate policies. “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’” he said, bizarrely adding that under the Green New Deal resolution introduced by liberal Democrats, “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.”

The clear expectation is that many or most Americans will recoil at any hint of “socialism,” either on principle or because of its association with Venezuela, which the administration has tried to elevate as a major adversary. That might have been true in Trump’s cultural and political touchstone, the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s hard-line anti-Communism defined American foreign and domestic policy. But in 2019, the Cold War is long over. The Soviet Union is a memory. And there is no comparable global ideological struggle over economic systems that might give weight to Trump’s rhetoric. There’s not much fear to monger. Instead, the president’s decision to make “socialism” his opponent might have the opposite effect, potentially bolstering the movement and its ideals…

Making the ground even less fertile for the “socialist” charge is the fact of the 2008 recession, which produced worsening views of capitalism, especially among young Americans, who showed growing receptivity to views such as “basic health insurance is a right for all people” and “basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them.” In truth, these ideas fit well into the modern history of capitalist governance. But the politics of the past 10 years have given them a left-wing tinge…

Specifically, in their vehement opposition to the Obama administration, conservatives narrowed “socialism” down to virtually any attempt to intervene in the economy on behalf of the broad public. The effort to save the American car industry? Socialist. Regulated markets to purchase health insurance? Socialist. Market-based measures for reducing carbon emissions? Also socialist. [emphases mine]

This aggressive labeling coincided with a rise in favorable attitudestoward socialism among Democrats…

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. At this moment, the proposed policies of the Democratic Party — from modest initiatives to incentivize savings to expansive programs for guaranteed employment — aren’t socialism. Even if they were, Americans are less afraid of the label than one might think: 37 percent say they have a positive image of socialism, a two-point increase from 2016…

If anything can put socialism in a more positive light, it is Trump raging against it. Which means conservatives and Republicans may want to think a little harder before they embrace a campaign strategy that relies on him for messaging. If “socialism” is like every other idea Trump has attacked and disdained, then the Republican Party should prepare for even more Americans embracing the term — and the ideas that come with it.

And EJ Dionne:

“We socialists are trying to save capitalism, and the damned capitalists won’t let us.”

Political scientist Mason B. Williams cited this cheeky but accurate comment by New Deal lawyer Jerome Frank to make a point easily lost in the new war on socialism that President Trump has launched: Socialism goes back a long way in the United States, and it has taken doses of it to keep the market system alive.

Going back to the late 19th century, Americans and Europeans, socialists and liberal reformers, worked together to humanize the system’s workings and to find creative ways to solve problems capitalism alone couldn’t…

But there would be no social reform, ever, if those seeking change were too timid to go big and allowed cries of “socialism” to intimidate them…

But attacking socialism isn’t the cakewalk it used to be. During the Cold War, it was easy to frighten Americans with the s-word because the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics offered a powerful example of the oppression that state control of all of the means of production could unleash.

The Soviet Union, however, has been dead for nearly three decades. China is communist on paper but a wildly unequal crony capitalist dictatorship in practice. Young Americans especially are far more likely to associate “socialism” with generous social insurance states than with jackboots and gulags. Sweden, Norway and Denmark are anything but frightening places

Nonetheless, Jerome Frank was right: Those slurred as socialists really do have a good track record of making capitalism work better and more justly. The s-word is not now, and, in its democratic forms, never should have been, an obscenity.

Short version: if “socialism” is the government undertaking programs to take off the sharpest edges of capitalism and ensure basic standards of equality and human welfare in the most prosperous society on the planet, sounds pretty damn good.

Climate change costs and benefits

Meant to do a post on this a few weeks ago, but climate change and how we deal with it is not going anywhere, so…

Anyway, really interesting piece from Carolyn Kormann in the New Yorker that asks us to re-think how we look at climate change mitigation policies in terms of costs and benefits:

A modest carbon tax of the sort Nordhaus proposed decades ago—one that was then palatable to conservatives—will therefore no longer bring us anywhere near the Paris Agreement targets. But it’s one of many weapons in the arsenal that policymakers need to employ. “The real challenge is finding ways to reduce emissions and maintain economic growth on the timeline demanded by the nature of climate change,” Kenneth Gillingham, an associate professor of economics at Yale University, told me. But, as much as the costs of climate mitigation will undoubtedly increase, the question is whether the benefits of mitigation exceed those costs. “It’s a straw man—and terrible economics—to just point out the costs while ignoring the benefits,” Burke said. He and two co-authors published a paper in Nature last May that shows that the economic benefits of mitigation are going to be much larger than previously believed. Cooler temperatures would help maintain and grow productivity, and reducing carbon emissions means reducing air pollution—specifically particulate matter, or soot—which brings immediate health benefits. They found that keeping global warming to one and a half degrees Celsius (which is nearly impossible at this point), as opposed to two degrees Celsius, would potentially save more than twenty trillion dollars around the world by the end of the century, and significantly reduce global inequality. Beyond two degrees, they wrote, “we find considerably greater reductions in global economic output.” [emphases mine] If nations met their commitments under the Paris Agreement, the world would still see the average global temperature rise by two and a half to three degrees Celsius, which, according to Burke’s paper, would result in a fifteen-to-twenty-five-per-cent reduction in per capita output by 2100. “To just complain about the costs of this transition and ignore the benefits, as is common in the discussion from this Administration,” Burke said, “is some pretty poor cost-benefit analysis from an Administration that prides itself on economic savvy.”

Of course, there’s lots of uncertainty in all this and this is just one set of estimates.  That said, I do think it makes a fundamental point to be emphasized whenever skeptics argue that it is just too expensive to really do anything about climate change and that is that is almost surely far more expensive to do nothing and cost/benefit-wise we’ll likely come out way ahead by trying to tackle this problem.

Photo of the day

Love this Atlantic gallery looking back at photos from 1969

A wide view of the Moratorium Day demonstration in Washington, D.C., on October 15, 1969. The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a broad single-day protest calling for the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. 


Genetically modified foods will kill you!

If you eat so much of them that you become obese and develop really bad cardiovascular health.  Otherwise, you’re probably okay.

So, we’ll stick with a food misconception theme here this morning.  I doubt anybody’s done any good work on diet soda misconceptions (hey, maybe that should be me!), but some very good work on GMO misconceptions and I kind of love the findings (via Jesse Singal).  The headline pretty much nails it:

People Who Are Most Fearful Of Genetically Modified Foods Think They Know The Most About Them, But Actually Know The Least

And some of the details:

There are few subjects where a larger gap exists between public opinion and expert opinion than people’s views on foods, like corn or wheat, that have been genetically manipulated to, for example, increase crop yields or bolster pest-resistance. Experts generally view so-called GM foods as totally safe to consume, while the public is suspicious of them — and this divide is massive. One Pew Research Center survey found that just 37 per cent of the American public believed GM foods are safe to eat, compared with 88 per cent of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [emphases mine] (public attitudes are similarly negative in the UK, with a 2014 poll finding that 40 per cent of adults felt the government should not promote GM foods, compared with 22 per cent in favour, and the rest unsure).

Unlike some subjects where this divide between layperson and expert opinion is heavily mediated by politics, such as climate change caused by human activity — in the U.S. and elsewhere, conservatives are far less likely to believe in it than are liberals and climate scientists — the GM-food divide doesn’t really have a political dimension: Liberals, centrists, and conservatives are all about equally likely to have what are, from the point of view of experts, unfounded fears about the safety of GM foods…

This can be seen as a subject-specific version of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or people’s tendency to be ignorant about their own ignorance. The finding held across the samples in different countries…

This can be seen as a subject-specific version of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or people’s tendency to be ignorant about their own ignorance. The finding held across the samples in different countries…

As Fernbach and his colleagues note at the end of their paper, even for less-politicised issues like GM foods, their findings suggest that improving public awareness of basic scientific consequences might be more complex than previously realised, since those holding onto the most severe forms of misinformation are also least likely to seek out more facts or be open to hearing the other side. “This suggests that a prerequisite to changing people’s views through education may be getting them to first appreciate the gaps in their knowledge.” Which is a whole other task — and a very important one.

So, eat up those GM foods while consuming your diet soda :-).

Hydrate with caffeinated diet sodas!

That is, if you like soda.  Don’t take up the habit.  I’m not so motivated-reasoning here (can I use motivated reasoning as a compound verb?) on this issue that I would ever argue against the idea that just plain water is best.  But damn am I sick of hearing from everybody about how the diet soda is going to kill me.  “But chemicals!!”  Anyway, I actually had to put up with hearing somebody going on about the cancer link.  Yeah, yeah, come back to me when I consume half my body weight in artificial sweetener.  Here’s what the national cancer institute says on the matter:

Is there an association between artificial sweeteners and cancer?

Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer arose when early studies showed that cyclamate in combination with saccharin caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. However, results from subsequent carcinogenicity studies (studies that examine whether a substance can cause cancer) of these sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans. Similarly, studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.

As those who eat lunch with me know, I generally consume massive quantities of Diet Dr Pepper (and Diet Coke if its an okay day and on sad days, the damnable Diet Pepsi).  So, there I am drinking 40 ounces or more of liquid which is 99% or so water and people telling me that I am actually dehydrating myself because of the caffeine.  Oh please!  Maybe drinking 40 ounces of caffeinated is like drinking 38 ounces of non-caffeinated, but the idea that I would have a net loss of water?!  Of course, there’s science on this, too:


The available literature suggests that acute ingestion of caffeine in large doses (at least 250-300 mg, equivalent to the amount found in 2-3 cups of coffee or 5-8 cups of tea) results in a short-term stimulation of urine output in individuals who have been deprived of caffeine for a period of days or weeks. A profound tolerance to the diuretic and other effects of caffeine develops, however, and the actions are much diminished in individuals who regularly consume tea or coffee. Doses of caffeine equivalent to the amount normally found in standard servings of tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks appear to have no diuretic action.


The most ecologically valid of the published studies offers no support for the suggestion that consumption of caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle leads to fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested or is associated with poor hydration status. Therefore, there would appear to be no clear basis for refraining from caffeine containing drinks in situations where fluid balance might be compromised.

I know, I know, recent research on elevated stroke risk and older women; possible impact on the microbiome, etc., but people really need to stop treating diet soda like I’m drinking turpentine.  I’ll keep taking my chances here.

(Just a few more) quick hits

Some more good links from lasts week I couldn’t let die:

1) Love this on letting your child have their own inner life.

As my children get older, I’m realizing how profoundly my instincts have been shaped by this culture of constant supervision, which wants to believe that it’s the same thing as intimacy. I still prefer it, over all, to the enormous distance that I sometimes felt as a teen-ager toward my parents. But I want to ask: Who is speaking up, today, for a young person’s right to a private life, to secrets, unshared thoughts, unmonitored conversations and relationships?

2) Really like what Drum has been writing about climate change lately:

I don’t have such a plan in mind, of course, but I do have a few guidelines that I think could help someone win this game:

  • Think international. Yes, yes, the Republican Party is hopeless right now and that makes America a non-player. But you shouldn’t obsess about America anyway. Any plan that’s worth the paper it’s written on will focus on things that are most likely to work all around the world.
  • Focus on getting the biggest bang for the buck. “Biggest bang” is pretty obvious: it just means reducing carbon emissions as much as possible as fast as possible. But “for the buck” means more than just the lowest possible price tag. “Price” should be seen as both dollars and as personal sacrifice. The more sacrifice you ask of people, the bigger the cost. The lower the sacrifice, the better chance you have of getting widespread buy-in.
  • Forget the free market. There’s no profit in addressing climate change. In fact, the profit is almost entirely on the other side. This means that any plausible plan has to include lots of government subsidies: subsidies for solar, subsidies for wind, subsidies for electric cars, subsidies for reforestation, etc. Basically, you should accept that virtually every policy you support will happen only to the extent that the government subsidizes it.
  • Lots of shared R&D. We could address climate change solely with existing technology. The problem is that even with truckloads of subsidies, it would demand more sacrifice than people are likely to accept. That means that we desperately need new and better technology on all fronts as soon as possible. This should be a Manhattan Project kind of thing, and in this case it’s OK to be America-centric. Obviously other countries do scientific research as well, but America does the most. What’s more, a project like this really would motivate other countries to get on board with R&D of their own.

And how will all this be paid for? The obvious answer is a whopping big progressive carbon tax. This would provide plenty of money for all those subsidies and would provide a tailwind for all the other carbon-reduction policies you come up with. However, a whopping tax means a big sacrifice, and that probably dooms it to fail. A carbon tax that starts small but steadily increases is one compromise that might work. A carbon tax that pays for more than just climate change might also reduce opposition.

There are plenty of other possibilities. The main thing is to be rigidly realistic at all times. If you ask too much of people, they won’t support your ideas no matter how great they are. And even if they do, they aren’t likely to respond appropriately to the scale of the problem on their own. I haven’t, after all. Neither have you. But that’s OK: climate change won’t be affected much by personal action anyway. It’s too big. Like a war, it requires action on a governmental scale. Unlike a war, however, it has no human enemy to spur citizens to accept the sacrifice it takes to win. It’s up to us to come up with an alternative. [emphasis mine]

3) Charles Pierce on McCabe, Trump, and supine Republicans:

All weekend, the president*’s defenders pounded away at McCabe’s 60 Minutesinterview as proof of the “deep state” conspiracy to undermine the administration*. On Tuesday, McCabe told Today that he had informed the so-called “Gang of Eight”—the bipartisan congressional intelligence chiefs—that he was launching the investigations and that none of them raised any objections. From Politico:

On Tuesday, McCabe disputed the insinuation made by some of his critics that he had made the decision to investigate Trump on his own, arguing that the decision was not a spurious one. “Opening a case of this nature, not something an FBI director — not something that an acting FBI director would do by yourself, right? This is a recommendation that came to me from my team,” he added. “I reviewed it with our lawyers. I discussed it at length with the deputy attorney general… and I told Congress what we’d done.”

The former FBI deputy director warned that just because investigations had been opened it did not mean the agency had drawn any conclusions about them thus far.But, he argued, “you have to ask yourself, if you believe the president might have obstructed justice for the purpose of ending our investigation into Russia, you have to ask yourself why. Why would any president of the United States not want the FBI to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election?”

The Gang of Eight is made up of the Democratic and Republican leadership in both houses of Congress, plus the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. In 2017, at the time McCabe requested the investigation, these would have included Senator Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, Richard Burr, and White House lawn ornament Devin Nunes from the House. According to McCabe, even Nunes didn’t object to the investigation. This is just a bit astounding, considering the supine performance of congressional Republicans once the president* got sworn in.

They all know. That’s the main thing. They all know and they’ve done nothing. Historians one day will fall out of their anti-gravity chairs.

4) This is good, “Stop Using the Word “Collusion”—How to Frame the Critical Question at the Heart of Trump-Russia.”

5) CNN’s hiring of a totally unqualified Republican hack to be a “political editor” is do disappointing.  “Liberal media” my ass.  Margaret Sullivan:

In early 2017, Isgur was summoned to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, where she needed to pledge her loyalty to be named the Justice Department’s spokeswoman by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Now CNN has hired Isgur — who has no journalism experience and once slammed her new employer as the “Clinton News Network” — as a political editor.

The network, under heavy fire for the move, was insisting by Tuesday night that she wouldn’t be directing political coverage, although that surely is what a political editor might be expected to do.

That sounds a lot like damage control.

But why CNN made this move to begin with is the deeper and more troubling question.

It strongly suggests that the network’s big thinkers — including head honcho Jeff Zucker — are aiming for a kind of false fairness: a defensive, both-sides-are-equal kind of political coverage that inevitably fails to serve the voting public.

This approach is not guided by what’s good for citizens, but by a ratings-first effort to position the network in the middle of Fox News Channel on the right and MSNBC on the left…

If you’re trying to deepen understanding, bridge the divide or do excellent journalism, this is one of the last moves you’d make.

6) NYT with a “how self-compassionate are you quiz.”  Very.  Honestly, I am probably too self-compassionate :-).

7) Among things I will never feel guilty for– struggling to use “they” as a personal pronoun for a single person.  Sorry, decades of linguistic use wires the brain pretty hard.  I think Virginia Heffernan needs more self-compassion.  Also, I think person who really don’t want to use he or she need to find an entirely new pronoun.  We already have a they and it means more than one person.  And, yes, I accept that languages evolve in change, but not typically in ways that are almost impossible to organically adapt to.

8) Why the Catholic priesthood needs women.  My views on the role of women in the Catholic Church are an area where keeping an open-mind (and some good impetus from my progressive, feminist mother) allowed me to undergo as dramatic a change of opinion as on anything.

9) Interesting research on how the number of push-ups you can do is more predictive of future heart health than a treadmill test.  The best category was 40+ push-ups before muscle failure.  Much to my dismay, I can get into the 30’s, but not quite 40.

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