Quick hits (part I)

1) Good stuff on uncertainty around Omicron, “Why It Could Take ‘Two Weeks’ To Learn If Omicron Impacts COVID-19 Vaccines”

Why two weeks? A fortnight is a weirdly specific timeframe?

The main reason behind the wait is that a legion of virologists need this time to tease apart omicron’s attack patterns. This new variant’s large amount of mutations has made this work harder than it typically is. Omicron has about 50 mutations — twice as many mutations overall as delta.

Also contributing to the delay is the lag time between catching the virus and being hospitalized. It typically takes about seven to 12 days. Most of the early omicron cases were spotted in college students who developed mild disease, according to their doctors. But younger adults are way less likely to experience severe COVID, and wave after wave has taught us that these youths also tend to be on the leading edge of surges. So, these early cases do not offer much clarity on omicron’s severity.

2) This is important and the best reason to temper the truly alarmist takes, “A reason for optimism on Omicron: Our immune systems are not blank slates”

The new SARS-2 variant, known as Omicron, may more easily sidestep some of the immunity of some vaccinated and previously infected people. But there’s good reason to think people who already have some immune protections may avoid the worst of what Covid infections can do to immunologically naïve people.

“Dealing with naïve people is never the same as if you have some memory. It’s never like [being back at] square one,” Ali Ellebedy, an associate professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told STAT. “The virus is going to not find it as easy compared to the situation in January 2020 or December 2019. It’s just completely different now.”…

The new variant may well erode some of the protection induced by vaccines, or by prior Covid infection. If Omicron takes off, there may be larger numbers of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated and more reinfections among the previously infected. But a smaller portion of those infections may develop into cases of serious or severe disease.

“One would think that even if now at the get-go you don’t have a neutralizing antibody response, there might still be a safety net there. And that safety net may be relatively stable when we talk about infection,” said Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

There are real worries that some of the mutations in the spike protein of Omicron variant viruses will undermine the efficacy of the neutralizing antibodies generated after vaccination. While the correlates of protection for SARS-2 — the types and amounts of immune system weapons needed to be protected against it — aren’t yet fully defined, neutralizing antibodies clearly play an important role in protection. And their waning seems to presage a rise in the risk of breakthrough infection.

Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute, is among those worried about how big a dent Omicron may put into SARS-2 acquired immunity.

“I think we’ll see very significant degradation of immune protection, whether that be by infection-induced immunity and possibly also via vaccine-derived immunity, especially as it comes to the ability to protect against infection and transmission,” Andersen said.

He acknowledged other immune system weapons — T-cells and other types of antibodies — will recognize and respond to the virus. “But the concern is that we don’t really know the role of T cells. For example, exactly how much are they or are they not protecting against disease, infection, transmission, all these different things? Because it really does seem like our level of neutralizing antibodies correlates really well with the ability to protect,” he said.

Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said T cells — which have been trained by vaccine or infection to look for and attack a particular pathogen, in this case SARS-2 — may not be enough to prevent infection with the Omicron variant, but should help shut down the disease it triggers, if infection occurs.

3) Some of the best twitter threads of the whole pandemic have been from Muge Cevik.  This one on Omicron joins the list. 

4) Okay, some non-Covid, “Garry Kasparov on Resisting Authoritarianism” in Persuasion:

Mounk: When I was a grad student at Harvard University, you came to speak there to present one of your books. I think this must have been around the time that Barack Obama ran for reelection, and it was striking because at this point you were in political exile from Russia. You were warning about Putin being a dictator, but also about Russia having expanded ambitions to be a spoiler on the international scene. This was around the time Obama had announced the reset with Russia.

Kasparov: In my book, Winter Is Coming, I talked about all the top American officials who became aware about the threat coming from the KGB and Putin after they left office. It’s amazing. You read their memoirs, whoever—Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, a long list. They all knew, but somehow when they were in office, they acted differently. 

From my previous life, I already knew what the KGB was. I read enough books, and I saw the growing threat of Putin to the free world, not only to Russia, but also to neighboring countries, the rest of Europe, and eventually to America. And Putin was not shy in using his resources to bribe politicians. The fact is that he could buy former German Chancellor Schröder and many other politicians, though few of that caliber. Former Prime Minister of Finland Paavo Lipponen and now former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon are on a long list of politicians who decided to sell their souls and principles—if they had any—for Putin’s cash. That was a clear and present danger. Putin attacked the Republic of Georgia—technically Medvedev was in power, but I have no doubt that it was Putin’s push—to punish Saakashvili for his independent politics. It was not rocket science: Any country that tried to escape from the sphere of influence of the Kremlin would be subject to an attack. Thank God the Baltic states were under the NATO umbrella—though, these days, probably even NATO doesn’t offer full protection. But Ukraine was a clear target of Putin’s aggression. I had no doubt that he would look for any opportunity to spread chaos around the world, because that’s what he needed. You can’t blame him with hiding his intentions. You just had to follow what Putin had been saying all along. His speech in Munich in 2007 was a clear message to the world that he was going to depart from the arrangements of the post-Cold War and would restore Russian imperial power. Today, in 2021, we still have people saying that maybe we shouldn’t take these types of words at face value. We must, because with every success they become more emboldened. Dictators never ask “why?” It’s always “why not?”

Mounk: Tell us how you took some of the insights you developed in Russia, seeing the rise of Vladimir Putin, and applied them to the candidacy of somebody like Trump.

Kasparov: I think of Donald Trump’s ascent, and the KGB operations to help him get elected. I saw the Russian propaganda machine fully supporting Trump, and using the newly-built troll factories and fake news industry to help Trump to be elected. And whatever Trump’s relations with the KGB were in the past—I believe there were—it was clear that Putin thought that was a time to go for this final blow to divide America, to create in American democracy a friction it couldn’t heal. Trump was an ideal agent of chaos. It’s like an icebreaker, destroying the American political system. I don’t think Putin expected Trump to win, but I think he thought that Trump could do what he is doing now [sowing division].

Now, the new administration that needed to heal the damage caused by Trump demonstrated its impotence, or some would say incompetence, with the clear and present danger in dealing with Putin. The summit in Geneva was a disaster beyond imagination.

5) Director commentary and featurettes? “Why Do DVDs Still Exist?”

It all begs the question: Why do DVDs and Blu-rays still exist? And why does Technicolor expect to print and ship 750 million discs this year? The answer is simple: Some people still buy them—though not necessarily who you’d think. While pop psychology would suggest that older generations are clinging to their love of the physical disc, those over the age of 60 make up a smaller proportion of the disc-watching population than their share of the total US population. Instead, those aged 25 to 39 are more likely than most to watch DVDs, according to the MPAA. And they’re often collectors, locked into building out their collections. “I think the term ‘legacy format’ plays into this,” says Tony Gunnarsson, principal analyst of TV, video, and advertising at Omdia. “We have people who have been buying and renting DVDs for so long that they continue to do so.”

That includes Jeanne Sager, a social media marketer from New York state, whose DVD and Blu-ray collection covers four shelves in her family home. Many of the discs in the collection were bought for her child when they first got into movies. “We also tended to collect along the way, as we live in the middle of nowhere, so going to the movies is a bit harder when your town has a theater with just one screen,” she says. Now she doesn’t know what to do with the collection. They take up space—but she fears that getting rid of them could make it much harder to watch her favorite movies or TV shows. “I’m wary of getting rid of them because when you do want to watch something, even with 37 different streaming services out there, it seems the one thing you really want to watch isn’t on them,” she says.

Also, they work even when the internet doesn’t.  And, as I’ve mentioned I’m still on the Netflix DVD plan because online rentals are never more than 48 hours, and often, still just 24.

6) Harry Enten, “Why we need to stop with the 2024 predictions”

For those tempted to look at these polls or the current political environment to try to glean something about the next general presidential election, I have only one thing to say: Stop it. Neither the current presidential polling nor the current political environment tells us much about what will happen in the 2024 general election.

Let’s start with the horserace polling (i.e. the matchup between two candidates). There have been seven previous election cycles prior to this one where polling was taken between an incumbent and their eventual challenger at about this point in the cycle.

When you match up the polling and the ultimate margin, the relationship is statistically insignificant.

7) Interesting piece from Mark Allan Smith, “The Rise of Do-It-Yourself Religion: Secularization was supposed to make people more rational. Instead, it made us more polarized and superstitious.”

The share of Americans holding no religious affiliation has risen from 6% in 1991 to 28% in 2021, while weekly attendance at worship services has dropped by more than a third.

When we dig more deeply into the data, however, the simple label of “secularization” does not adequately capture these trends. Most Americans unaffiliated with a religion nevertheless believe in some type of a God or universal spirit. Research from the University of Kent in the U.K. indicates that even atheists do not consistently uphold the scientific rationality many intellectuals anticipated as a replacement for religion. Specifically, the research finds that most atheists in the U.S. and several other countries embrace at least one from a set of beliefs encompassing astrology, karma, supernatural beings, and a handful of other supernatural and mystical phenomena.

The other side of the religious spectrum is also internally inconsistent. In a development that would make any fundamentalist preacher want to scream, one-fifth of evangelicals now believe in reincarnation. Other evangelicals draw religious sustenance from online sources with a dubious connection to any historical Christian teaching. Works in political science and sociology show that Christians of all stripes often read their political allegiances into the Bible rather than using the Bible to guide their political stances.

Instead of pure secularization, then, we have seen a shift toward what could be called Do-It-Yourself religion. Some people still attend worship services, but they mix and match their beliefs and practices according to personal taste. It’s not just “cafeteria Catholics”—we have cafeteria evangelicals, Muslims, and Jews. Meanwhile, the people who have abandoned organized religion entirely often explore the paranormal even as they retain a belief in God…

What has changed in modern America is not the existence but rather the prevalence of DIY religion. The twentieth century was a high point for organized religion, which not only structured lives but also wielded cultural influence. Today, with religious adherents attending services at lower rates, and with many Americans claiming no religious affiliation, there are greater possibilities for people to blend ideas from different sources. The remaining churchgoers who seem conventional nevertheless often combine the instruction of their pastors and priests with the endless stream of unorthodox material they encounter online.

This movement is heightened among young people. Many social trends gather steam initially in the young, and that is certainly true with respect to religion. Within Generation Z—generally defined as people born after the mid-to-late 1990s—the percentage who do not affiliate with a religion has reached an all-time high. Among those who do hold a religious identity, attendance at worship services has fallen off a cliff.

Young people are also disproportionately represented among the enthusiasts for astrologyTarot cards, and various forms of New Age mysticism. They frequently pair their excursions into the paranormal with standard religious activities such as prayer. To put it simply, DIY religion has meant for young people a substantial retreat from religious participation in an organized community but no major withdrawal from religious and mystical belief.

8) This school is about a mile from my house. Nice to have my negative priors about local charter schools confirmed, “Cary principal says charter school fired him over diverse hiring, COVID mask mandate”

A principal of a charter school in Cary who was fired after less than two months in charge is suing the school’s parent company in federal court. Brian Bauer was hired by Charter Schools USA to lead Cardinal Charter Academy, a tuition-free, K-8 public charter school in Cary, in mid-July, according to a civil complaint originally filed in Wake County in late October. He was fired around Sept. 2, shortly after the start of the school year. Bauer accuses school officials of firing him “for his hiring of racially diverse staff and/or his insistence on enforcement of the school’s Reopening Plan,” which included a school-wide mask mandate and quarantine requirements for students in certain circumstances.

9) Really, really good article on the quest (it really does seem like we’re getting close) for a universal flu vaccine.  A must read for the science-minded among you.

10) Loved this from Graeme Wood  so much, “‘Land Acknowledgments’ Are Just Moral Exhibitionism”

The practice of “land acknowledgment”—preceding a fancy event by naming the Indigenous groups whose slaughter and dispossession cleared the land on which the audience’s canapés are about to be served—is one of the greatest associate-producer credits of all time. A land acknowledgment is what you give when you have no intention of giving land. It is like a receipt provided by a highway robber, noting all the jewels and gold coins he has stolen. Maybe it will be useful for an insurance claim? Anyway, you are not getting your jewels back, but now you have documentation.

Long common in Canada and Australia, land acknowledgment is catching on in the United States and already de rigueur in certain circles. If you have seen enough of these—I have now watched dozens, sometimes more than one at the same event—you learn to spot them before the speaker even begins acknowledging. In many cases the tone turns solemn and moralizing, and the speaker’s posture stiff, as if preparing to read a confession at gunpoint. One might declare before, say, a corporate sales retreat: We would like to respectfully acknowledge that the land on which we gather to discuss the new line of sprinkler systems is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. The acknowledgment is almost always a prepared statement, read verbatim, because like all spells it must be spoken precisely for its magic to work. The magic in this case is self-absolution: The acknowledgment relieves the speaker and the audience of the responsibility to think about Indigenous peoples, at least until the next public event.

Maybe it is a victory for Indigeneity to have the name Muckleshoot even mentioned at a Microsoft conference. By far the most common defense of land acknowledgments is that they harm no one, and they educate Americans about a hidden history that took place literally where they stand. Do they not at least do that?

No, not even a little. It is difficult to exaggerate the superficiality of these statements. What do members of the acknowledged group hold sacred? What makes them unique and identifies them to one another? Who are they, where did they come from, and where are they going? The evasion of these fundamental questions is typical. The speaker demonstrates no knowledge of the people whose names he reads carefully off the sheet of paper. Nor does he make any but the most general connection between the event and those people, other than an ancient one, not too different from the speaker’s relationship with the local geology or flora…

Some people argue that land acknowledgments are “gestures of respect.” I’m not sure one can show respect while also being indifferent to a people’s existence. The statements are a counterfeit version of respect. Teen Vogue put it well, if unintentionally: “Land acknowledgment is an easy way to show honor and respect to the indigenous people.” A great deal of nonsense about identity politics could be avoided by studying this line, and realizing that respect shown the “easy way” is just as cheap as it sounds. Real respect occurs only when accompanied by time, work, or something else of value. Learning basic facts about a particular tribe might be a start.

Most of these acknowledgments are considered (by the speakers, anyway) moral acts, because they bear witness to crimes perpetrated against Native peoples and call, usually implicitly, for redress. If you enjoy moral exhibitionism, to say nothing of moral onanism, land acknowledgments in their current form will leave you pleasured for years to come.

Damn that was good. And, oh man, “moral onanism,” I’ll have to use that some time.

11) Lots of reasons (I blame mostly the mumbly actors), but this is really, really interesting, “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)”

12) Terrific Dahlia Lithwick.  Read it! “SCOTUS Will Gaslight Us Until the End: Oral arguments today made clear that this court will overturn Roe—and that they’ll insist on their own reasonableness the whole time.”

Perhaps it would be refreshing if the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court no longer felt the need to lie to us. The lying, after all, is becoming nearly untenable—especially for an institution that relies on public confidence. After confirmation hearings in which they promised that stare decisis was a deeply felt value and that Roe v. Wade was a clear “precedent of the court” and “the law of the land.” there’s something sort of soothing about knowing the lying to our faces will soon be over. They were all six of them installed on the Supreme Court to put an end to Roe v. Wade after all, and that is exactly what they intend to do. There will be no more fake solicitude for women making difficult choices, no more pretense that pregnant people really just need better medical advice, and no more phony concerns about “abortion mills” that threaten maternal health. There is truly something to be said for putting an end to decades of false consciousness around the real endgame here, which was to take away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy—rape, incest, abuse, maternal health no longer being material factors. At least now we might soon be able to call it what it is.

But somehow, even still, only some of the six conservatives seem brave enough to admit to the real project. That became clear as oral arguments progressed this morning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Evaluating the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that prohibits virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a pre-viability ban on its own terms that quite deliberately violates Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, some of the justices continued to pretend that what was being proposed—the overturning or hollowing out of a precedent on which generations of pregnant people had relied—was a teensy little tweak, a long-overdue tug of the constitutional sheets in the right direction.

13) What a brilliant synthesis of science, journalism, and graphic design.  Here’s a gift link, so make sure you check this out, “The Coronavirus in a Tiny Drop”

14) Catherine Rampell is right with this frame, “Red states are now paying people not to get vaccinated”

Once upon a time, states debated whether to pay people to get vaccinated. Now, some red states are paying people not to get vaccinated, by cutting checks to workers who quit or are fired because they refuse covid-19 shots.

All spring and summer, Republicans cried bloody murder about how too-generous unemployment benefits were supposedly discouraging Americans from returning to work. Expanded jobless benefits were creating welfare queens, they argued, and driving labor shortages and hurting small businesses.

As I wrote at the time, it seemed reasonable to believe that at least for some workers, jobless benefits were a factor weighed when deciding whether to accept or reject available jobs. But lots of other factors mattered, too — including child-care availability, fear of getting ill, transit problems, changing family priorities, the wages offered and burnout.

Ultimately, those other factors seemed to matter more. Expanded pandemic benefits ended, first in a few GOP-controlled states (over the summer) and eventually nationwide (in September). Their lapse appeared to have little impact on job growth.

That didn’t stop some Republican politicians from continuing to blame labor shortages on unemployment benefits even after the offending federal programs had expired nationwide. Their talking point long outlasted its plausible relevance.

Now, Republicans are expanding these laziness-inducing benefits once again — but only for workers who refuse shots.

At least four states — FloridaIowaKansas and Tennessee — have recently extended benefits to workers who are fired or quit over their employers’ vaccine requirements. For context, workers who are fired for cause or who quit voluntarily are usually not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. With limited exceptions, only those laid off through no fault of their own have been able to receive such aid.

15) Definitely don’t agree with all his artistic takes, but this (as usual), was a fun and thought-provoking read from Freddie deBoer, “Nü-Metal and Twilight Are the True Outsider Art, the Only Rebel Poets: you only get to be an outsider artist if everybody hates you, now”

Anyway, the documentary mostly functions in the culture as an excuse for aging millennials to make fun of nü-metal again, which is a thrill for them because they haven’t had an opinion about relevant music since back when they would constantly tweet that Bon Iver is boring. (And then quietly cry in front of their laptops while they watched the “Holocene” video.) It’s interesting to me to see such naked artistic classism at hand in artistic opinion again; the content industry derives an awful lot of clicks from pretending to oppose that sort of thing. I don’t mean classism to say that nü-metal was poor people music, but rather that it was and is perceived to appeal to base and populist tastes – in other words, the kind of tastes that the entire critical edifice has been championing for at least 15 years. This is the era of poptimism, as much as the poptimists like to pretend that isn’t the case, and we are now to understand that any preference for the experimental or challenging or niche is not just the hand of elitism but probably of racism and sexism as well. Yet Limb Bizkit et al were the epitome of a certain kind of shameless populism, and they are again coming up for mockery. I guess rules are meant to be broken.

It’s interesting, to me if to no one else, to consider the collective disdain for nü-metal in light of the stunning dominance of the lowbrow today. That pop culture is superior to whatever tiny avant garde still exists is a matter of holy writ on the internet, these days, and the properties that have spread to the masses from what was once nerd culture are the most protected of all. I’ve written many times about the bizarre place we’re in when it comes to “fandom” and pop culture. You are familiar with the genres and properties that fall under the fandom heading, like super heroes, fantasy, video games, and sci fi. The very weird condition we’re in is that these properties are commercially dominant, suck up the vast majority of critical attention and analysis, and increasingly succeed with awards shows and critics – and yet their fans never stop bitching and moaning about being disrespected. Our culture simply could not have rolled out a red carpet more welcomingly, even grovelingly, for the “fandom” fans than it has, and yet they still spend 80% of their time talking about how they are an oppressed minority struggling under the yoke of marginalization.

Since I’ve been writing about this subject, the reality of nerd domination has become so stark and obvious that the defensive fans have taken to changing their tune. Instead of continuing to claim, ludicrously, that their tastes are marginal, they now claim that there is no alternative, so no one should complain…

This is, in fact, just factually untrue – adult dramas were huge box office successes for decades after Jaws’s release. Philadelphia is a movie about watching a man slowly die from AIDs; it went to number one in the box office in 1994. City of Angels, a turgid romance about Meg Ryan falling in love with an angel played by Nicolas Cage, was the top grossing film for two weeks four years later. That same year, Patch Adams – Patch Fucking Adams – was also the top earner, despite/because it’s about a sad clown failing to save the lives of dying children. Why, this very millennium saw Erin Brockovich, a movie about investigating the health effects of environmental pollutants that mostly takes place in law offices, go to number one. Burn After Reading went to number one just thirteen years ago, and that’s a Coen brothers movie! Schindler’s List, a movie about watching many Jews painfully die, made the equivalent of $620 million in today’s dollars. The Passion of the Christ, a movie about watching one Jew painfully die, made the equivalent of $880 million in today’s dollars.I’m sorry, but the notion that it was ever thus and R-rated films made about adult themes and for adult sensibilities never made money is simply untrue. And dramas didn’t just do big box office on random February weekends when the big movies weren’t competing, either; these films were able to go up against blockbuster movies and hold their own. Now “hit drama” is almost unheard of. Go through the historical lists of number one films and you’ll see movie after movie that today would be put out by A24, get respectful reviews, and earn like $12 million.

You can read reams about this, of course; once studios realized that “children+adults” resulted in a bigger number than “just adults,” it was all over. But I do think that another aspect of this is simply that there was a sense of adult responsibility to consume adult art that used to exist and no longer does. Back then, you could still appeal to people’s sense that you couldn’t eat candy all the time, that everyone needs a little more substance sometimes and that it’s important to balance dumb fun with deeper concerns. But today’s tentpole movies have a shield that their predecessors don’t, which is a culture industry that’s become obsessively concerned with showering lowbrow fare with respect. Nerd culture is a grievance culture; nerds don’t know how to win and don’t enjoy it when they do. So when their beloved properties became economically dominant, they shifted their complaints away from being stuck in a small niche and towards vague but bitter feelings of status anxiety.

For a long while fandom justified their self-righteous grievance culture by insisting that their favorites were commercially successful but critically disdained. (The fear that someone somewhere is looking down their nose at you is one of the most powerful of all human feelings.) The trouble is that this claim simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The Return of the King, part of the granddaddy of all nerd franchises, won Best Picture and a mountain of other Oscars almost 20 years ago. The MCU movies are often discussed as critically derided, which is just objectively untrue – their average Rotten Tomatoes score is like 85%, and by that metric Black Panther and (lol) Avengers Endgame are two of the ten best-reviewed films of all time. If you don’t like Rotten Tomatoes, just read the reviews those movies get in the New York Times and other snooty places. The MCU shows got twenty-eight Emmy nominations this year! The Harry Potter films received very strong reviews, on the whole. So did Rogue OneThe Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi. (The Rise of Skywalkergood lord.) The DC movies have been made fun of a lot, principally because most of them are terrible, but Wonder Woman and Aquaman received a lot of praise, in part because critics get off on writing about “a newfound respect” for what they have made fun of in the past. If you pick a nerd property at random you may not find the universal critical lionization these fans seem to want, but you will almost invariably find an aggressively open critical mind and an effort to find things to praise.

16) Wow, this story, “They trusted a coach with their girls and Ivy League ambitions. Now he’s accused of sex abuse.”  But what really gets me is that well before they knew he was a sexual abuser, they knew he was a complete bully, but nobody seemed to care as long as the girls got college scholarships.

Now, three days after their graduation from Whitman, the seven rowers decided to send a missive to the parent board, a group of mothers and fathers who volunteered to oversee the program. In just a few weeks, one girl was headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; at least three others had earned scholarships to row in college. None of them wanted other students to have the same experiences they’d had with Shipley.

The coach, the seven warned in the letter they sent June 15, “has taken advantage of his role on the team and used his position to create a toxic, competitive atmosphere that fosters negativity and tension among the athletes. … He very clearly plays favorites, and when athletes spoke up or criticized his actions, their boat placement was often affected. This could be seen all three years we were on the varsity team.”

An excerpt of a June 2021 letter sent by seven Whitman High School rowers to the parent board about the way Kirk Shipley treated them. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

They detailed the times he’d pitted girls in different boats against each other, called them names, asked probing questions about their boyfriends and delved into their personal lives in ways that felt invasive and inappropriate. After one of their teammates attemptedsuicide, they told the 14-member parent board, Shipley had bluntly asked her, “So, how did you try to do it?”

This wasn’t the first time Shipley, who declined an interview request through his attorney,had been the target of a complaint about the way he operated. He’d been investigated in 2018 after being accused that spring of creating a toxic culture — a claim he denied, arguing in an email to the complaining parent that it was just “the competitive nature of the Women’s program at Whitman.”

A human resources consultant hired by the parent board said in a report that she found “quite a lot of bitterness” over Shipley’s perceived favoritism toward “his chosen rowers” and described a “potentially polarizing, unapologetic style” of coaching. But she didn’t recommend any drastic changes to the program.

17) I’m loving working straight through Seinfeld on Netflix.  More convinced than ever that it is the greatest comedy in the history of television.  It hits its stride so damn strongly in season 3.  I watched “The Boyfriend” parts I and II last night.  Just so many great scenes, but you just can’t beat, “and you wanted to be my latex salesman.”

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

8 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Jim Danielson says:

    5) Digital content tied to DRMA can be taken away without notice and recompense. You are not buying a copy, you are always and forever ‘renting’ (licensing) it. If your computer OS needs to be reinstalled, if a hard drive fails, if your internet provider goes out of business and you lose your email address you could lose part of your collection and have to pay to get it back.
    Or if the company has its own licensing problems with the content you could lose access. This has happened in the music industry.

    With DVD and Blu-ray (and CD-Roms) this is not a problem. At least, at this time.

    You could rip the digital content and back up on cd-rom, DVD or blu-ray but this often requires additional hardware to capture the signal. Ever run afowl of iTune’s ‘Your high definition monitor is not compatible’ due to lack of high definition DMCA electronics’ gone rogue? I have, even on a fully compliant monitor. I believe it was because the computer’s digital certificates expired and couldn’t get updated.

    Burned digital media often aren’t compatible with players and unless you use high quality discs or M-Disc, just five years on you could find the discs are degraded. While the disc format has error correction eventually the degradation will be beyond what can be corrected. Eventually the disc will become unplayable.
    Discs we burn ourselves use a chemical layer and laser to create changes in dye color. The dye spots can slowly migrate or dissipate.
    Commercial optical media on discs use physical indentations, a little like pressing records. They have a very long life.

    I use M-Disc and a good fire safe for archival storage of important digital documents and downloaded software.
    To be clear I don’t burn digital copies of movies/shows/music. I buy the physical discs.

    7) Atheism means you don’t accept peoples proposition for God or don’t believe in God (soft vs hard atheism).

    That is all it means.

    It doesn’t mean they are rational in all things. It can’t, nobody is. It doesn’t mean they are even trying to be rational.

    Atheism doesn’t mean the person is not religious. There are religions that do not propose gods.
    Nor does Atheism propose secularism. Atheism is the response to the question of “Is there a God or gods”. Nothing else.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #12 I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the conservative justices questioning not mentioning rape and incest but why didn’t the liberal judges ask questions about why a 12 year old impregnated by her father should go through a pregnancy at risk of physical and mental harm or why, adding insult to injury, the idea that mothers could just put the child up for adoption at birth is just to the mother or to the child? If I missed the liberal judges questions, I apologize but I haven’t heard any reports of these issues being discussed.
    I could not believe that a mother (Ms. Barrett) could say or imply that going through a pregnancy was not such a big deal and neither was the decision to give up the child for adoption.

  3. Mika says:

    #17 Yeah that is a good one. I just love this one: “You see kid, you’re being bamboozled. These capitalist fat cats are inflating the profit margin and reducing your total number of toys.”

    Some links:
    #6 https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/28/politics/2024-trump-biden-early-predictions-analysis/index.html

    #7 https://www.persuasion.community/p/the-rise-of-do-it-yourself-religion

  4. Ridge says:

    I’ve also been rewatching Seinfeld lately (albeit sporadically with my roommate rather than sequentially). SO GOOD! Really sucks me in and puts me in a good mood more than any other show.

  5. samhbrewer says:


    #10 I have a secret plan to address this. I think it will make America great, but we’re not quite ready for it. Politically, it would have to follow getting the filibuster out of play. If we can pass the Right to Vote Act then the possibility might open up.

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