The president is nuts and it breaks journalistic norms to say so

Very good stuff here from Aaron Rupar.  Any normal person in American listening to last night’s presidential rally would have a reaction along the lines of “what is this crazy old guy talking about.”  He’s somehow obsessed with the change to low-flow showerheads decades ago that work perfectly great these days.  And, seriously, when was the last time Trump used a dishwasher.  But, it breaks strong journalistic norms to say “the president went on a truly bizarre rant about showers, dishwashers, and toilets.”  Rupar:

By almost any standard, President Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee was a bizarre affair. The president went on a lengthy tirade about lightbulbs, toilets, and showers; touted war crimes; joked about a former president being in hell; and said he’d like to see one of his domestic political foes locked up.

I tried to capture some of the speech’s disconcerting oddness in my write-up of the event. In many ways, the remarks the president made were typical of him. And that provides the media with a challenge: Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal. [emphasis mine]

A brief report about Trump’s Milwaukee speech that aired Wednesday morning on NPR illustrates this phenomenon. The anchor’s intro framed Trump’s at times disjointed ramblings as a normal political speech that “ranged widely,” and the ensuing report (which originated from member station WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio) characterized his delivery as one in which he “snapped back at Democrats for bringing impeachment proceedings.”

“Trump was taking on Democrats on their own territory,” the reporter said, when in reality Trump heaped abuse on them, for instance, suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing memory loss.

Listen for yourself:

On Twitter, Georgetown University public affairs professor Don Moynihan noted that NPR’s report about the rally “mentioned specific topics like Iran and impeachment but carefully omit the insane stuff. This is one way the media strives to present Trump as a normal president.”

NPR is far from alone in struggling to cover Trump.

As I wrote following a previous Trump rally in Wisconsin last April, outlets including CBS, USA Today, the Associated Press, and the Hill failed to so much as mention in their reporting that Trump pushed dozens of lies and incendiary smears during his speech.

It is difficult to cover Trump, and it is important to honor the public’s trust in the press by providing fair and balanced coverage. But we also have to pay attention to how much more alarming the unfiltered Trump is when compared to the sanitized version that often emerges in mainstream media reporting.

Yep.  But, in one sense, Trump does do this all the time, so it is “normal.”  But, damn, is it nuts!

Now this is a trigger warning

Damn this is good.  Duke Political Science professor, noted libertarian, and nonetheless all-around good guy, Mike Munger shared this on FB from his latest Capstone in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics syllabus.

Trigger Warning: The explicit purpose of this class is to consider the best arguments for, and against, some highly controversial claims. The debate portion of the class, in particular, exposes students to the risk of being required to argue points of view they may find personally repugnant. Further, a number of the classroom discussions are likely to transgress boundaries of what students find comfortable, especially if your most cherished views are based more on emotion than on reasons and evidence. If there are issues that make you uncomfortable and you find it difficult to encounter arguments you disagree with but cannot refute, you are not temperamentally suited for the PPE enterprise. That certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, but you should NOT take this class.

As J.S. Mill put it, in On Liberty: “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. …if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”
1. So, the warning: All your lives you have been rewarded for twaddle, making arguments that are some version of: “I feel that….”
2. Not here. The course is not about what you feel. PPE requires that you determine what you think, and why. You need reasons, and to express these reasons coherently as arguments in your writing and debate presentations who don’t already think that you are right will be more likely to agree. If all you do is “feel” about the subjects we talk about, you will “feel” unhappy with your grades. What you need to do is to know the best counter-arguments to your own position, and to be able to express them clearly, precisely so that you can refute the best arguments as decisively as possible. You’ll find that understanding the power of counterarguments, but then refuting them, will make actually make you feel better anyway, because you won’t get so upset when someone disagrees with how you feel.
3. On the other hand (and this is another warning), there is no correct answer. If you need final, correct answers, you should probably go to seminary and study sacred texts. Any opinion, no matter how outlandish or offensive, will result in a good grade if you support it well and argue for it persuasively. We care about reasons. It may well be that some arguments are unsupportable, of course. But that is because there are no good reasons for it, not because you feel it is wrong. If your claims are offensive and badly argued, that is the worst possible outcome.

If any of the above is a problem, you should drop this class. It is not for you. That doesn’t make you a bad person; many people have perfectly good lives having memorized a secular ideological catechism and then being offended when anyone disagrees. But if you find disagreement offensive, this class is likely to be uncomfortable for you, and you should probably look elsewhere. Not everyone is interested in knowing the problems with their own positions, especially if some of those problematic counterarguments are unsettlingly close to being persuasive. After all, that would mean you are wrong, and nothing makes you feel more unsafe than realizing that you are wrong.

Climate change in two charts

Another post I meant to do a couple weeks ago.  Drum posted his top charts of 2019.  I found these two on climate change particularly compelling:

1. CO2 Emissions

What’s important about this chart is not that CO2 emissions are rising. What’s important is they’re rising at the same rate as they have for the past 50 years. Despite decades of warnings from scientists and calls to action from activists, the world has collectively done nothing. This is a word I use advisedly. It’s obviously not literally true that we’ve done “nothing,” but given the scale of the problem and the meagerness of our response, we’re so close to nothing as hardly to make a difference. Among other things, this is why I think it’s time to stop kidding ourselves that just a few more warnings will do the trick. They won’t.

Here’s a bonus climate change chart. Back in 2006 Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth and everyone said we were finally having a climate moment. More than a decade later, public urgency about climate change has barely budged. Keep this in mind when someone tries to tell you that Greta Thunberg will finally get us all to pay attention.

Not exactly encouraging.  Nuclear fusion anyone?

Stop drinking so much (water)

I actually get most of my daily hydration most days during lunch time when I have huge amounts of fountain Diet Dr Pepper (I don’t measure, but I’m guessing 48 ounces or more) via refills.  Otherwise, I don’t drink so much and I’ve generally thought worrying about hydration was over-rated.  For the most part, I drink when I’m thirsty.  And sometimes, if it’s not convenient, I even wait a while to drink (i.e., to fill up with DDP instead of from a water fountain).  So, am I ruining my health?  Probably not.  Really liked this Op-Ed in the NYT on what has become the cult/culture of hydration:

Water, in recent years, has been imbued with the powers of a mysterious elixir. The latest “it” celebrity’s skin care secret? Oh, just water. Feeling sluggish? You probably need more water. Uninspired and utterly hopeless about your career and romantic prospects? Well, have you had any water today?

People hydrate as if their reputations depend on it. They dutifully carry water bottles with them wherever they go, draining and refilling them with gusto.

Some go so far as to track their consumption in a journal, or with a mobile app. (There’s one that uses a plant as a metaphor for the user’s well-being. Depending on the volume of water one has consumed, it may appear to be thriving or wilting.)

Hydration is the mark of a well-adjusted, successful person. On Jan. 1, Twitter flooded with resolutions to drink more water, including from Twitter’s brand account…

“There’s no evidence that a little bit of dehydration really impacts anybody’s performance,” said Dr. Mitchell Rosner, a kidney specialist at the University of Virginia who studies overhydration in athletes, in a phone interview.

He said that most recommendations for hydration come from studies of athletes, who lose fluid rapidly during workouts or competitions, and are at a much higher risk for dehydration than the average person.

For those of us who spend all day at a desk, Dr. Rosner said, it’s best to drink only when we feel thirsty.

Overhydrating, he said, isn’t helping anyone. At best, Dr. Rosner said, “You pee it out.” … [emphases mine]

“It’s a popular idea among patients and a popular idea in consumer media that hydration equals healthy skin,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai in New York City.

But that’s not exactly how it works. “It’s a complete myth that eight glasses of water are necessary to maintain hydrated skin,” he said. Still, many consumers treat water like an anti-aging potion

Water appears immune to claims that its benefits are overblown — we need it to survive, after all. Its benefits have even become a meme. There are social media accounts dedicated to berating their followers for not drinking enough water.

But if you haven’t quite hit your quota today, don’t worry: Your 2020 isn’t already ruined. The tasty beverages you thought of as dehydrating, like coffee, tea and beer, are actually hydrating.

“Coffee is a hydrating beverage,” said Ms. Antonucci, the nutritionist. “If you’re drinking it, let go of the guilt. Enjoy it.”

Or, in my case, my guilt-free Diet Dr Pepper.  I’ve always been amused by the fact that people somehow believed that drinking 12 ounces of a beverage with a mild diuretic chemical (caffeine) would actually be worse than drinking 0 ounces of liquid.  Anyway, drink up.  Or don’t.  It’s all good.

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