I’m not a picky eater

A number of my friends really like to give me a hard time for being a picky eater (yes, that means you Big  Steve).  After reading this story in today’s N&O about what a truly picky eater is like, Bill Boettcher has already apologized to me.

Nearly 2,200 “picky eaters” are now catalogued in the first national registry of picky eating, a collaboration between Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh. The registry, known as the Food F.A.D. Study (Finicky Eating in Adults), aims to understand a phenomenon that researchers say has long been overlooked in medical and mental health circles.

The database is not looking for those who simply eschew broccoli.

What researchers call adult picky eaters are the handful of people who face an uncontrollable, instinctive disgust reaction to new foods, as if someone were suggesting that they gorge on garbage.

Picky eaters share some striking similarities. The limited assortment of “safe” foods they can tolerate are typically white foods with bland textures. Bread, French fries and pasta are common favorites. And they say they have grappled with their extremely restricted food inclinations their entire lives.

The persons profiled in this story mention the extreme social difficulties that come with their problem.  While I can most definitely relate, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to sit at a meal with an empty plate.  The thing is, I totally relate to the overall mindset of these people.  There are a number of foods which I truly find revolting (not to be mentioned, to keep my friends from chasing me with them; except for mayonnaise, as all my students already know I have a “no mayonnaise” policy in class).  Fortunately, there’s not all that many of them.  In my early 20’s, I realized that there were a lot of foods I simply did not eat, but did not actually disgust me.  I decided I’d give them a try and vastly expanded my diet (which is still pretty restricted by most standards).  I think how I’m more like the people in the article is that there still are those foods which I find completely revolting and others, whether they actually enjoy them or not, find completely normal.

I think I’ll have to save this article for next time somebody criticizes me for being a picky eater.  I can show them what a real picky eater looks like.

Quick hits

1) Jennifer Rubin, “Hillary Clinton is the most exonerated politician ever”

2) This Op-Ed from Peggy Orenstein on teen boys and sex is really, really good.  (I’m pretty sure I linked to her Atlantic piece last month).  I thought about just sending it to my 8th grader to read (I send him a fair amount of good stuff), but realized it would be a parental cop-out if I didn’t make these points myself.  I did– not that either of enjoyed it.  But I’m glad I did.

Yet that silence has troubling implications. According to a 2017 national survey of 3,000 high school students and young adults by the Making Caring Common Project, a large majority of boys never had a single conversation with their parents about, for instance, how to be sure that your partner “wants to be — and is comfortable — having sex with you,” or about what it meant to be a “a caring and respectful sexual partner.” About two-thirds had never heard from their parents that they shouldn’t have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent. Most had never been told by parents not to catcall girls or use degrading terms such as “bitches” or “hoes” — this despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of the girls in the survey reported having been sexually harassed.

3a) Tom Steyer has been talking up term limits.  Jon Bernstein on why they are a “terrible” idea.

He’s for Congressional term limits. That’s a solution in search of a problem. As the scholar of Congress Josh Huder notes, “65% of the Senate and 70% of the House have served 10 years or less.” Today’s Congress is historically weak, and one reason is the relatively short tenure of many members. As it is, short-timers allow themselves to be bossed around by experienced leaders or by the White House. That’s bad enough, but if experienced leaders were eliminated, Congress would find itself bossed by the White House and by large organized interest groups. That’s not just the logic of the situation; it’s also what political scientists who have studied term limits in state legislatures have found.

Politicians who want long careers in Congress tend to work hard to represent their constituents. Politicians who know they’ll be seeking a different job soon won’t have any incentive to care about the people who voted for them — and won’t develop the skills needed to represent them even if they want to try.

3b) Jamelle Bouie is on it, too:

It’s worth saying, to start, that the “problem” of long-serving lawmakers — the problem a term limit purports to solve — isn’t actually a problem at all. The congressional scholar Josh Huder notes that just 35 senators (and less than a third of the House) have served 10 years or more. Likewise, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, average tenure in the past two Congresses sat at roughly 10 years. Long-serving lawmakers are highly visible — often because they occupy key leadership roles — but they aren’t particularly common.

Not that this would be a problem, even if it were true. Time in office doesn’t inexorably lead to poor performance — just the reverse. It’s no coincidence that some of the most effective lawmakers in American history — architects of epochal bills like the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act — served for decades accumulating political and legislative expertise. And if voters want to reward an effective legislator or representative with more time in office, they should have that right. Forced retirement cuts against the idea that voters have an absolute right to choose their representatives.

If the goal of term limits is to bring new faces and fresh ideas to Washington, then the solution isn’t a blanket restriction on all lawmakers. The solution is more competition, to make it easier for interested people to run for office and win. There are ways to make that happen. Nonpartisan redistricting in all 50 states would break partisan gerrymandering and force incumbents to compete for votes. Public financing of campaigns would give challengers a fighting chance in a general election. And if part of the problem is low turnout, you can lower the barrier to voting and increase participation through universal registration and mail-in balloting.

4) What  it takes to hold your breath for 24 minutes (filling up on pure oxygen first, among other things).

5) David Hopkins on whether Democrats have a diversity problem:

But out in the mass Democratic Party, the pursuit of group interest is only sometimes channeled through supporting members of the group for elective office, and most citizens are resistant to—or even offended by—assumptions that they will or should line up behind a particular candidate simply because of shared social identity. Much has been made of Joe Biden’s success among black Democrats so far, persuasively explained as a combination of these voters’ collective ideological moderation, political pragmatism, and affection for Biden’s service under Barack Obama. But even the decidedly non-moderate and non-Obamaite Bernie Sanders was winning substantially more black support than Booker was before his withdrawal, just as Biden, Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren all easily outpolled Castro among Latino Democrats.

Mass-level Democratic voters of all races simply are not currently placing descriptive diversity above other priorities—defeating Donald Trump, achieving policy goals, ideologically recalibrating the party—to the same degree as the disproportionately audible voices of the journalistic and academic left. The historical milestone of Obama’s presidency has removed some urgency, at least in the short term, from efforts to elect another non-white candidate, and perceptions that women face a greater challenge than men in winning the presidency seem to have worked to the disadvantage of the female candidates in the 2020 race—perceptions that some feminist commentators have themselves unintentionally promoted. And the remaining Democratic field is not short on demographic diversity by traditional standards: Warren remains a leading contender, two major candidates are Jewish, and one is openly gay (it is, perhaps, a testament to the recent successes of the gay rights movement that much of the trendy left doesn’t celebrate Pete Buttigieg as a pathbreaking figure but instead mocks him as a square, co-opted incrementalist).

The demographic diversity of the 2020 presidential contenders in fact compares quite favorably to the larger officeholding class in American politics, where severe proportional discrepancies in social group representation remain rampant. (For example, Harris and Booker are two of only three black senators currently in office, and Patrick is one of only two elected black governors in the modern history of the nation.) On this issue, as on many others, the presidency receives excessive attention from American culture at the expense of the rest of the political system. But there is surely a distinction worth making between voters freely choosing across lines of group membership not to support a particular candidate or set of candidates in a large and wide-ranging field, as has occurred so far in 2020, and the more formidable social inequities in electoral politics that continue to shape the composition of the larger pool of political leadership in America.

6) Francis Wilkinson on Virginia and the NRA’s utter nonsense on guns:

The National Rifle Association, which has its headquarters in Virginia, and other gun-rights groups are rallying to fight the proposals, sometimes with a curious inattention to detail. Last month Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, released a 12-page letter to the people of Virginia. Over 12-single-spaced pages, they never quite get around to saying what those proposed regulations are — their broad outlines were debated in the campaign — or what makes them so awful. You will search the document in vain for the phrase “background check” or the word “silencer.”…

“Looking at a map of Virginia,” Pratt and Van Cleave wrote, “it becomes clear that only a few, geographically small, yet heavily populated, jurisdictions have declined to stand up against the current threats to the Virginia and United States Constitutions.” [emphases mine]

In other words, the “heavily populated” parts of Virginia do not have the same view of gun rights as the sparsely populated parts. And since the Virginia legislature was duly elected by popular vote, legislators will likely be more responsive to the interests of the majority than of the minority.

America is a representative democracy. But the gun lobby and other parts of the conservative coalition are increasingly skeptical of that. Armed with an all-purpose Constitution that means whatever they want it to mean, they seek to block popular government action.  

The Second Amendment sanctuaries emerging in Virginia and elsewhere may mark a burgeoning conservative counterculture. Contempt for the “geographically small, yet heavily populated” regions where most Americans reside is becoming a conservative tic. It’s the impetus behind those triumphal MAGA maps depicting countless hectares of American forest, farm and pasture in bold Republican red, while little enclaves such as Brooklyn, with a higher population than 15 states, are dismissed with a tiny blotch of blue.

Densely populated America, in other words, is not real America, and opposing real America is by definition unconstitutional. What the gun sanctuary movement is seeking is not protection from government overreach, but from democracy.

7) I just hate stuff like this, “Fox News goes to desperate lengths to gin up outrage over clip of Vince Vaughn chatting with Trump”  It’s bad enough that some would want to “cancel” Vaughn for talking with the president without Fox News basically pretending there was some widespread liberal reaction that wasn’t actually there.

8) Teaching middle-school sex education in the age of consent.  I’ll be curious to see what my 8th grader gets next semester (so far, it’s been pretty much biology, I think).

9) If 47 is really the most miserable age I’m doing awesome.  (Though, it’s 47.2 and I’m 47.9).

10) Trump’s absurd impeachment defense team (good Lord, is their any more embarrassing hack then Ken Starr?!) recruited from Fox News, of course:

What does this all-star team have in common? Between them, these four have appeared on Fox News over 350 times in the past year, according to Media Matters for America. Which no doubt left Jeanine Pirro asking why she didn’t make the cut.

11) Really liked Anand Giridharadas review of Michael Lind’s entirely class-based (and in some pretty bizarre ways) analysis of Trump’s populism:

Look, writing a book about Trump-era populism without a lens of racial awareness must be hard. Here’s how Lind describes political correctness, for instance: “the artificial dialect devised by leftist activists and spread by university and corporate bureaucrats that serves as a class marker distinguishing the college-educated from the vulgar majority below them.” In this framing, all the new awarenesses and sensitivities and humilities — for which I am profoundly thankful, since these days I’m much less often asked where I’m really from or told my English is impressive (thanks, they teach us well in Ohio!) — are just a ploy by leftists to hold white working-class people down. This understanding portrays the victims as the white working class, and the oppressors as those students who no longer wish to be called “faggots” and secretaries tired of being “sweetie.” I, for one, am grateful for all the thinking and doing that have changed how Americans navigate one another’s identities, and I do not have the luxury of dismissing the improvement in the dignity I am accorded daily as an “artificial dialect.”

Now, if you are going to present Trump as the receptacle of the cries of the unheard, you will need to funhouse-mirror him beyond recognition. Lind is on it. He takes the quintessential racist moment of Trump’s presidency — his famous comments on Charlottesville — and defends them: “Phrases from his remarks were taken out of context, recombined and misconstrued so they could fit into the Trump-is-Hitler narrative.” He also dismisses concerns about Russia’s role in the 2016 election as “mythological thinking.” “Liberal democracy in the West today is not endangered by Russian machinations or resurgent fascism,” Lind writes, describing a world I would love to live in. In fact, get this: Lind believes the “paranoid demonological thinking” represented by worries about Russia and fascism “has the potential to be a greater danger to liberal democracy in the West than any particular populist movements.”…

12) I really enjoy reading contemporary historical takes on Johnson’s impeachment as I got it so wrong in my AP US History paper in 11th grade based almost entirely upon sources which were basically by confederate apologists.  Unsurprisingly, Mike Pence’s history is still in the 1980’s:

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Vice President Mike Pence urging Senate Democrats to follow the example of Edmund G. Ross, who “bucked his party and voted to acquit Andrew Johnson.” Pence praised Ross, who served as a Republican senator during Johnson’s presidency, for resisting “pressure” from his party and staying “true to his own convictions” to “render a fair judgment.” He favorably cites John F. Kennedy’s 1956 book Profiles in Courage, which depicts Ross who resisted “legislative mob rule” and “partisan impeachment.” The vice president draws parallels between Johnson and Donald Trump, asking, “Who, among the Senate Democrats, will stand up to the passions of their party this time?”

Pence’s op-ed is profoundly ahistorical, inaccurate, and oddly reliant upon a view of Johnson promoted by the Ku Klux Klan during its resurgence in the early 20th century. Far from a principled independent, Ross was an unscrupulous politician who exploited his impeachment vote to obtain favors from the president and may well have been bribed to acquit. Historian Brenda Wineapple’s extraordinary book The Impeachers, published in 2019, details the true story of Ross’ corrupt bargain to save Johnson’s catastrophic presidency. We spoke on Friday about the many errors in Pence’s op-ed. Our interview has been edited for length.

13) On the practical value of a liberal arts education:

A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that over the course of a career, a liberal arts education is remarkably practical, providing a median return on investment 40 years after enrollment that approaches $1 million. The results, searchable and sortable by institution, were released Tuesday…

The Georgetown study finds that the return on a liberal arts education is not typically immediate — at 10 years, the median return is $62,000 — but over the decades of a career, it is solid. Only doctoral universities with the two highest levels of research activity, well-known institutions such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fared better in the school’s estimated return on investment. The median 40-year return of $918,000 at liberal arts colleges is more than 25 percent higher than the median for all colleges, researchers found.

Over a long period, the ideal preparation includes education in a field linked to a career, such as engineering, with the addition of general education that allows a person to be flexible and draw on a wealth of knowledge, according to Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the education and workforce center at Georgetown.

14) This is cool on many levels– living concrete:

For centuries, builders have been making concrete roughly the same way: by mixing hard materials like sand with various binders, and hoping it stays fixed and rigid for a long time to come.

Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a rather different kind of concrete — one that is alive and can even reproduce.

Minerals in the new material are deposited not by chemistry but by cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes that capture energy through photosynthesis. The photosynthetic process absorbs carbon dioxide, in stark contrast to the production of regular concrete, which spews huge amounts of that greenhouse gas…

The blocks also have the advantage of being made from a variety of common materials. Most concrete requires virgin sand that comes from rivers, lakes and oceans, which is running short worldwide, largely because of the enormous demand for concrete. The new living material is not so picky. “We’re not pigeonholed into using some particular kind of sand,” Dr. Srubar said. “We could use waste materials like ground glass or recycled concrete.”

The research team is working to make the material more practical by making the concrete stronger; increasing the bacteria’s resistance to dehydration; reconfiguring the materials so they can be flat-packed and easily assembled, like slabs of drywall; and finding a different kind of cyanobacteria that doesn’t require the addition of a gel.

Eventually, Dr. Srubar said, the tools of synthetic biology could dramatically expand the realm of possibilities: for instance, building materials that can detect and respond to toxic chemicals, or that light up to reveal structural damage. Living concrete might help in environments harsher than even the driest deserts: other planets, like Mars.

15) Nature shows are all the rage (and the Greene family is on-board).  I love that I shared watching National Geographic specials, etc., with my mom when I was a kid and now I’m watching David Attenborough with my kids.

16) Interesting, revisionist take on the 100th anniversary of Prohibition:

In reality, the temperance movement was anything but pinky-raising Victorians forbidding society to drink. Temperance was the longest-running, most widely supported social movement in both American and global history. Its foe wasn’t the drink in the bottle or the drunk who drank it, but the drink traffic: powerful business interests — protected by a government reliant on liquor taxes — getting men addicted to booze, and then profiting handsomely by bleeding them and their families dry.

In the 19th century, saloonkeepers across the United States and around the world were seen as parasites on the local community. This wasn’t Ted Danson, the friendly bartender in “Cheers!” There was no sending home a customer for having too much; that was lost profit. And since the saloonkeeper was often also the town pawnbroker, once you had drunk up your last penny, he might take your shirt, hat and watch too — if his hired pickpockets didn’t pinch them first.

Since fleecing customers was often illegal, the saloonkeeper’s profits paid kickbacks to the police, judges and mayor. Pop histories describe the saloon as a “symbol” — of masculinity, of drunkenness, of social ills. But the saloon wasn’t the symbol of some other problem; it was the problem itself.

This is why the powerful prohibitionist organization was called the Anti-Saloon League, not the Anti-Drinking Society. This is why neither the 18th Amendment nor state-level prohibitions ever outlawed drinking alcohol, but instead focused on its sale. It wasn’t taking a drink every now and then that got reformers’ hackles up; it was the idea of the rich getting richer by making the poor poorer through addiction.

One legislator called for prohibition “for the safety and redemption of the people from the social, political and moral curse of the saloon.” That zealot was Abraham Lincoln, rising to support Illinois’s statewide prohibition in 1855. Similar sentiments were expressed by Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, William Jennings Bryan, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many other progressive leaders.

Our inability to comprehend the past comes from taking current worldviews and projecting them backward. And the fact that Prohibition largely failed at the national level, and was later repealed, doesn’t mean that its proponents were crackpots or radicals.

17) The short story, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall sounds interesting and provocative.  A shame that the publisher ultimately had to remove it

At the beginning of this year, the science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld published a short story called “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall. The story, which appears to be Fall’s debut, follows the first “somatic female” to undergo “tactical-role gender reassignment” surgery. She becomes, more or less literally, an Army helicopter. “When I was a woman I wanted my skin to be as smooth and dark as the sintered stone countertop in our kitchen,” the narrator says. “Now my skin is boron-carbide and Kevlar.” The experience of the narrator seemed to reflect the real-world struggles of transitioning. “Severe gender dysphoria,” Fall writes, “can be a flight risk.” The story took the offensive meme, slapped some rotors on it, and flew away to surprising places.

Responses were vehement. Readers who liked it saw an author being intentionally subversive. “I expected the worst when I saw the title,” wrote Reddit user Terminus0. “But I like how it leans into and treats seriously the saying … that people use to dismiss gender fluidity and makes it literal.” Most others in the thread agreed, saying they found the piece gripping, pleasantly surprising, or reminiscent of erotic sci-fi’s preeminent provocateur, Chuck Tingle. “I have been talking for days to everyone I meet about ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,’” @hoverpope tweeted. “It was immediately canonized for me.” Other celebrators of the work included noted author Carmen Maria Machado, who praised the story’s messy boldness. She also called out the critics—of which there seemed to be just as many. “My heart is so crushed and my brain is so angry,” Machado tweeted.

18) I’ll watch pretty much anything from Aardman animation.  And especially if it’s short and for a good cause like saving the oceans.

19) If you haven’t seen this from Buzzfeed, it really is amazing, “Here Are 20 Headlines Comparing Meghan Markle To Kate Middleton That May Show Why She And Prince Harry Are Cutting Off Royal Reporters”

 

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’ve been guilty of blaming robots/automation for a lot of our problems (like lots of other liberals).  Krugman with a strong corrective:

The other day I found myself, as I often do, at a conference discussing lagging wages and soaring inequality. There was a lot of interesting discussion. But one thing that struck me was how many of the participants just assumed that robots are a big part of the problem — that machines are taking away the good jobs, or even jobs in general. For the most part this wasn’t even presented as a hypothesis, just as part of what everyone knows.

And this assumption has real implications for policy discussion. For example, a lot of the agitation for a universal basic income comes from the belief that jobs will become ever scarcer as the robot apocalypse overtakes the economy.

So it seems like a good idea to point out that in this case what everyone knows isn’t true. Predictions are hard, especially about the future, and maybe the robots really will come for all our jobs one of these days. But automation just isn’t a big part of the story of what happened to American workers over the past 40 years.

We do have a big problem — but it has very little to do with technology, and a lot to do with politics and power…

Technological disruption, then, isn’t a new phenomenon. Still, is it accelerating? Not according to the data. If robots really were replacing workers en masse, we’d expect to see the amount of stuff produced by each remaining worker — labor productivity — soaring. In fact, productivity grew a lot faster from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s than it has since.

So technological change is an old story. What’s new is the failure of workers to share in the fruits of that technological change.

I’m not saying that coping with change was ever easy. The decline of coal employment had devastating effects on many families, and much of what used to be coal country has never recovered. The loss of manual jobs in port cities surely contributed to the urban social crisisof the ’70s and ’80s.

But while there have always been some victims of technological progress, until the 1970s rising productivity translated into rising wages for a great majority of workers. Then the connection was broken. And it wasn’t the robots that did it.

What did? There is a growing though incomplete consensus among economists that a key factor in wage stagnation has been workers’ declining bargaining power — a decline whose roots are ultimately political.

2) Oh my is the “gun sanctuary” movement just insanely stupid.  Only in America.  These people should just be flat-out embarrassed.  I love that these people are so frighteningly isolated that they are somehow unaware that most modern nations all over the world have pretty strict gun control and are not exactly tyrannies.

3) John Cassidy, “No, The Republican Party is not Turning on Donald Trump.”

Pause, for a moment, over the pitiful spectacle presented by Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner. In the past few weeks, Tillis, the first-term North Carolina senator, has emerged as a vocal critic of the national-emergency order, and until Thursday afternoon he was indicating that he would support the Democratic resolution. Then, faced with threats of a possible primary challenge, he did a U-turn and voted against the bill. Colorado’s Gardner, another critic of the executive order, also voted against the resolution—prompting the Denver Postto print an editorial saying its endorsement of him in 2014 was a mistake.

Of the twelve Republican senators who defied Trump, just one—Susan Collins, of Maine—is up for reëlection next year. Alexander is retiring. The other ten—Roy Blunt, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, and Roger Wicker—aren’t up until 2022 or 2024. By then, Trump might well be out of office. Even if he isn’t, the dissidents will have had plenty of time to grovel their way back into his good graces.

4) MDG knew I would love these art deco style space tourism posters.  E.g.,

Europa - JPL Travel Poster

5) This LA Times article on the 737 Max is easily the best I’ve read on the matter.

6) Someone might want to tell NC Republicans that harsher opioid sentences is not going to get us out of this problem.

7) I’ve had to use an asthma inhaler at one point or another with all three of my boys.  And I always had them follow the instructions here.  Apparently, a lot of people don’t.

8) Legacy admissions have absolutely got to go.  I was one (based on other classmates at Duke from my high school, pretty sure I would’ve made it anyway), but all they do is perpetuate privilege.  If any of my kids can get into Duke on their own, more power to them (not that I’m paying for it), but I sure wouldn’t want them getting in just because their parents went there.

9) Only in America.  Olga Khazan, “Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick: Doctors’ bills play a role in 60 percent of personal-bankruptcy filings.”

10) How eating crickets can save the lemurs.  Though I’m really picky, I’m all for getting more insect protein into people’s diets as it is such an efficient way to get animal protein.  Turn it into a powder mixed in with other stuff and I’m fine with it.

11) This article on climate change and the Moose Tick in New England is a truly fascinating look at the complex interplay of climate, ecosystems, and species health.  Read the article to find out how, incredibly, shooting more moose may be a key part of the solution.

12) The Little Ice Age is really interesting.  Here’s a new book on it.

13) This is fun, “Oops! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books From The Times’s Archive.”

14) Love, this, “I embraced screen time with my daughter– and I love it.”  Like most anything else, screen time can be great or harmful, it’s all in how you use it.

15) Jennifer Rubin brings the love to Pete Buttigieg.  He really is impressive.

16) Perry Bacon Jr with the six wings of the Democratic Party.  I think I’d but myself with the Progressive New Guard.

17) Okay, looks like now we have “snowplow parents,” too.

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.

Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there…

The bribery scandal has “just highlighted an incredibly dark side of what has become normative, which is making sure that your kid has the best, is exposed to the best, has every advantage — without understanding how disabling that can be,” said Madeline Levine, a psychologist and the author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

“They’ve cleared everything out of their kids’ way,” she said.

In her practice, Dr. Levine said, she regularly sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn’t like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.

“Here are parents who have spent 18 years grooming their kids with what they perceive as advantages, but they’re not,” Dr. Levine said.

Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support the children, and to use their adult wisdom to prepare for the future when their children aren’t mature enough to do so. That’s why parents hide certain toys from toddlers to avoid temper tantrums or take away a teenager’s car keys until he finishes his college applications.

If children have never faced an obstacle, what happens when they get into the real world?

18) Love this story of a really successful college basketball player who owes it all, not to dad, but to mom.

19) Really enjoyed this on why this winter’s polar vortex canceled so many flights– the humans:

“When you get below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts slowing down,” Kohlman says. You may need to start deicing planes, for one thing, which starts to create delays. And while baggage handlers may be able to do their jobs wearing thick gloves, maintenance workers changing out lightbulbs and getting wrenches onto bolts must choose between warmth and dexterity. If temperatures drop to the point where it’s dangerous for workers to stay outside for very long, operations slow down even further. (Airlines have set up temporary heated shelters and doled out hot chocolate and hand warmers at O’Hare, according to theChicago Sun Times.)

Eventually, those delays pile up into cancellations. Remember that the airline system is tightly connected, so problems at one node quickly spread. Passengers start missing their connecting flights in large numbers. Combine them with the folks in the coldest places who may stay home instead of braving the elements, and you can end up flying a half-empty plane. “It might not be the best business decision to do that,” Kohlman says. And airlines only get to make that decision if the crew makes it to the airport.

So, planes—like polar bears and robots—may not mind the cold. But airport workers—like zookeepers and roboticists—do. And they’re the folks who make them fly.

20) Rachel Riederer on the other kind of climate denialism is really good:

In 2008 and 2009, the American Psychological Association put together a task force to examine the relationship between psychology and climate change. It found that, although people said that climate change was important, they did not “feel a sense of urgency.” The task force identified several mental barriers that contributed to this blasé stance. People were uncertain about climate change, mistrustful of the science, or denied that it was related to human activity. They tended to minimize the risks and believe that there was plenty of time to make changes before the real impacts were felt. Just ten years later, these attitudes about climate feel like ancient relics. But two key factors, which the task force identified as keeping people from taking action, have stood the test of time: one was habit, and the other was lack of control. “Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change,” the group stated. “People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.”

Wallace-Wells hits this note in his book, too, writing, “We seem most comfortable adopting a learned posture of powerlessness.” As uncertainty and denial about climate have diminished, they have been replaced by similarly paralyzing feelings of panic, anxiety, and resignation. As we begin to live through the massive dangers imparted by climate change, as one psychologist put it to me, “We are in psychological terrain, whether we like it or not.”

 

Quick hits

1) I feel bad that I had missed this about the futility of persuasive political communication, but a politically-minded friend shared on FB:

Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact tenfold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately—although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

2) The family separation stuff just keeps getting worse and worse— “AP Investigation: Deported parents may lose kids to adoption”– but other than some intrepid reporters it’s like nobody even cares any more.

3) Speaking of not caring, Jack Shafer on how the NYT story basically proving Trump is a tax cheat landed with a thud and is already forgotten.

4) Fortunately, I’ve not run into any #Himtoo in my life.  How pathetic.  Definitely the corollary of “All Lives Matter.”

5) Brian Beutler on the civility trap:

Ironically, the bad faith nature of the GOP’s response to Holder and Clinton underscores just how on point both of them are.

There are two valid and honest ways to assess the notion that Democrats should politick as if Republicans want to “destroy” liberal society, and all it stands for. One is to sort out whether it’s politically wise for Democrats to discuss their opponents in unvarnished terms, and campaign accordingly. The other is to ask whether Clinton, Holder, and others have sized up Republicans correctly. It may be that Democrats will fare better at the polls, at least in some races, if they continue to embrace conciliatory language and politics, no matter how “low” Republicans go. But there is no question that, on the merits, more aggressive Democrats have diagnosed what their party is up against correctly.

There’s almost no sense in belaboring the point at all in the Trump era, but Republicans are no strangers to protest politics or incivility. What they reveal, in treating the Tea Party, and the massive resistance to the Obama presidency, and the Trump campaign as natural expressions of public discontent, and the backlash to Trump as a “mob,” is that they seek to make conservative politics the only legitimate form of politics in America.

Republicans pretend to be galled by “uncivil” political rhetoric, not in order to ease partisan tensions, but to warp public perception of where the dangerous, illiberal forces in the democracy are actually located; to distract the commentariat from arenas full of angry Trump supporters chanting for the imprisonment of various female liberals, and beating up protesters, while convincing those supporters that they’re the ones truly under threat.

Trump isn’t oblivious to the apparent hypocrisy of whining about Brett Kavanaugh’s presumptive innocence and declaring Democrats “too dangerous to govern,” within minutes of leading a “lock her up” chant. But it’s only true hypocrisy if you believe the conservatives and liberals share the rights and privileges of American life equally.

In eras of Democratic rule, Republicans take such an expansive view of resistance politics that they treat the threat of political violence as a legitimate part of protest.

6) Damn, if this case doesn’t bring into sharp relief the racial inequity in our criminal justice system.

7) On the limits of Tsunnami early warning systems and what to do if one is coming.

8) Enjoyed Josh Marshall’s unpacking of the GOP’s theory of Christine Blasey Ford:

Of all the things that have happened over the last two weeks, it’s not the biggest problem. But it has been gnawing at me. I believe it actually is a big deal, albeit in a somewhat oblique way. Let’s start with Senator Susan Collins today on CNN. Collins told Dana Bash: “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom. I’m not certain when.” I focus on Collins only because it is a simple, clear statement. But the great majority of Senate Republicans have made some version of the same argument.

So let’s just say it. This is a preposterous.

It’s possible Blasey Ford is lying about her account. I doubt it, given the evidence we have before us. But it’s possible. What is extraordinarily implausible is that Blasey Ford was attacked, clearly identified the attacker as Brett Kavanaugh, someone she knew reasonably well, and yet somehow confused him with someone else. This isn’t a case where she’d never met Kavanaugh before and picked him out of a line up. That kind of misidentification is plausible and happens. This is different. She already knew him. She knew what he looked like and she has a clear recollection that he attacked her. If someone you know violently attacks you or sexually assaults you, the identity of the person is indelibly fused into the memory because they are inseparable from the act. We don’t have to get overly technical about this. The point is obvious. If you know someone well and they attack you, you’re going to know it’s them and basically be certain about it.

But Collins doesn’t stop here and neither do her colleagues. She is not only sure Kavanaugh didn’t do it. She is also not sure “when” it happened. She and her Republican colleagues suggest that Blasey Ford may have been attacked at some different point in her life altogether – maybe in college? maybe as an adult? – and transposed it back on to her early teenage years.

This is more parlor game hypothetical than anything that is remotely likely to be true.

9) Save the planet, switch to goat meat.  Seriously.  Even notoriously picky me is now open to giving it a try:

“It is difficult to factory-raise goat meat,” said Anita Dahnke, executive director of the AGF, a nonprofit national association representing those who raise goats for milk, meat and fiber, and for pack and grazing services. Dahnke, who also is a partner on a 100-head goat farm in west-central Indiana, explained: “Goats need to get out and ‘browse,’ not graze, so if you’re eating domestic goat, that animal was almost certainly free-range.” She says that most goat herds are definitely not big business in the United States: “The average herd size is 35 head, which is small, so they are not produced at a large-scale level.”

10) Wired on the dangers of us all having our phone number as our universal ID.

11) Interesting essay on “Making Academic Life “Workable” for Fathers.”  Honestly, all I could think about reading this is that Anne-Marie Slaughter is so right that the key is that our society needs to fundamentally re-value how we think about care-giving.

12) Yascha Mounk brings his thoughts on the cultural studies hoax into a nice Atlantic article.

13) Yoni Applebaum on, “How Columbus Day Fell Victim to Its Own Success” was really interesting:

The great irony of Columbus Day, though, is that its struggle for a pluralistic nation succeeded only too well. The ineradicable racial difference of the swarthy Italians faded, over a short few decades, into an indistinguishable whiteness. In 1960, America elected a Catholic president. New waves of immigrants, and other marginalized groups, pressed for an America that would affirm the equality not only of different varieties of white men from Europe, but of all of its varied people. And they proved less likely to recognize themselves in Columbus than in his victims.

The land Columbus encountered was already abundantly peopled; celebrating his voyage as a discovery seemed to confirm a Eurocentric narrative. Many activists pointed to Columbus’ own sins, most significantly his brutal treatment of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. Others broadened the attack to encompass the subsequent centuries of abuse visited upon native peoples, and the varied flaws of the nations created in his wake. His critics transformedColumbus into the paradigmatic dead white male, a symbol of the limits and costs of American opportunity.

Just as the 400th anniversary of his arrival once galvanized celebrations, the 500th anniversary crystallized this opposition. “Columbus represents fundamentally the beginnings of modern white racism and the construction of racial identities in the United States,” charged historian Manning Marable in 1992. In Denver, where the legal holiday began, American Indian Movement activists poured fake blood on a statue of Columbus in 1989, setting the model for nationwide protests. They capped several years of escalating protests by shutting down the cinquecentennial Columbus Day Parade.

As protesters confront paraders today, they might consider that they actually share quite a bit in common. Those who created Columbus Day, like those who now denounce it, were engaged in a struggle to define a more capacious and inclusive nation. That a holiday named for an Italian Catholic is now taken to mark a national identity that is too narrow, rather than too broad, is the ultimate evidence of its success.

15) Never-Trumper Tom Nichols on why he is finally leaving the Republican Party.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The Grenfell Towers fire in London and government regulation.  This is ultimately what the libertarian view of government gets you– people burned alive.

A formal government inquiry into the fire has just begun. But interviews with tenants, industry executives and fire safety engineers point to a gross failure of government oversight, a refusal to heed warnings from inside Britain and around the world and a drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations.

Promising to cut “red tape,” business-friendly politicians evidently judged that cost concerns outweighed the risks of allowing flammable materials to be used in facades. Builders in Britain were allowed to wrap residential apartment towers — perhaps several hundred of them — from top to bottom in highly flammable materials, a practice forbidden in the United States and many European countries. And companies did not hesitate to supply the British market.

2) Damn the anti-democratic hubris and arrogance of the NC Republicans really knows no bounds.  Now they are trying to strip the governor of his power to to challenge unconstitutional laws.  Oh, and they want to re-draw and gerrymander state judicial maps, too.  Beyond shameless.

3) Yes, Democratic urban clustering hurts even if it wasn’t for gerrymandering; but gerrymandering definitely does give Republicans an unfair advantage.

4) People kill people.  With guns.  Some new research:

The 2005 report of the National Research Council (NRC) on Firearms and Violence recognized that violent crime was higher in the post-passage period (relative to national crime patterns) for states adopting right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws, but because of model dependence the panel was unable to identify the true causal effect of these laws from the then-existing panel data evidence. This study uses 14 additional years of panel data (through 2014) capturing an additional 11 RTC adoptions and new statistical techniques to see if more convincing and robust conclusions can emerge.

Our preferred panel data regression specification (the “DAW model”) and the Brennan Center (BC) model, as well as other statistical models by Lott and Mustard (LM) and Moody and Marvell (MM) that had previously been offered as evidence of crime-reducing RTC laws, now consistently generate estimates showing RTC laws increase overall violent crime and/or murder when run on the most complete data.

We then use the synthetic control approach of Alberto Abadie and Javier Gardeazabal (2003) to generate state-specific estimates of the impact of RTC laws on crime. Our major finding is that under all four specifications (DAW, BC, LM, and MM), RTC laws are associated with higher aggregate violent crime rates, and the size of the deleterious effects that are associated with the passage of RTC laws climbs over time. Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13-15% percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law. [emphasis mine] Unlike the panel data setting, these results are not sensitive to the covariates included as predictors. The magnitude of the estimated increase in violent crime from RTC laws is substantial in that, using a consensus estimate for the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of .15, the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.

5) On Canada’s smart immigration policy and how it has helped them resist the anti-immigrant, populist wave.

6) I think there is, actually, a reasonable case for replacing Nancy Pelosi.  Yglesias makes it:

The normal winning political strategy these days is for a party to make a comeback by presenting itself as all new and radically improved, even if the basic ideology and policy framework remains the same. By having Pelosi as their leader, Democrats are essentially asking the voters of swing districts to decide they made a mistake back in 2010 and want to take back their old favorite party again. A new leader would simply let voters decide they’re tired of the GOP and ready to give a new group a shot.

Democratic candidates don’t like to talk about Pelosi

The biggest problem with Pelosi’s status in the leadership is probably seen by the behavior over the years of the Democratic House challengers on whose success she is counting to get elected speaker. Simply put, they don’t want to talk about it.

Of course, there’s still a good case to be made for keeping Pelosi, but I think this–unlike blaming her for Ossof’s loss, etc.– is an actually decent case for replacing her.

7) Grover Norquist’s tweet about his daughter having to pay sales tax on a guitar being how Republicans are made was moronic and truly shows the smallness of his mind and vision.  This article has many of the best replies.

8) The dad who photoshops his young daughter into dangerous situations.  Love this.

9) Richard Hasen on how Gorsuch really is the new Scalia.

10) Hell of a headline, “Man sits in jail when drywall powder is mistaken for cocaine.”  Hooray for the war on drugs.

11) Williams Syndrome— where people are incredibly friendly and sociable– is a pretty fascinating genetic disorder which presents a pretty unique set of parenting problems.

12) Who knew?  How TMZ became a potent pro-Trump media outlet.

13) Josh Barro on the idea that consumers want to take more charge of their health care:

Republicans like to claim that prices will fall because their law will “empower consumers,” which is their code word for the fact that their healthcare bill would saddle consumers with more of the responsibility to pay for their own healthcare. But there is little evidence that forcing consumers to pay more leads to savvier healthcare spending.

It doesn’t push prices down. It does cause people to consume less healthcare. Unfortunately, consumers do not appear to be very good at identifying and forgoing wasteful healthcare instead of useful healthcare — that is, people tend to forgo treatments they actually need but don’t have the money to pay for.

Let me tell you a story about healthcare spending accounts

One of the stupidest aspects of Republican healthcare rhetoric is the idea that consumers want to take charge of their own care by paying routine expenses from special, tax-advantaged accounts.

These accounts have been gradually foisted on Americans over the decades. Your employer most likely asks you whether you want a health savings account or a flexible spending account. I’ve resisted using one because they are such a pain, but I broke down and set up an FSA this year through Business Insider because I decided it was stupid to forgo the tax savings.

So I put $2,600 in the account and ADP sent me a debit card. I started using it at the doctor’s office, at the pharmacy, at the physical therapist. (I threw out my back this spring, which is a reason I’ve been a little crankier than usual.)

Then, after a few months, I got a letter in the mail from ADP saying it needed my receipts. Receipts? I thought ADP got those straight from the providers. It seems it does get them from CVS, but not from the medical providers. I was supposed to be uploading those receipts through a website. Instead, I threw them away.

If I had to upload the receipts, then what was the point of the debit card? If the system requires that much paperwork, I might as well be submitting claim forms and getting checks in the mail.

Anyway, now I have to call those providers’ offices and get duplicate receipts and upload them and allow seven to 10 days for processing. Until I do that, I have been cut off from access to the money in the account — my own money — that got in the account only because Congress chose to offer a tax preference that I could get only by using such an account.

Who wants to deal with this crap?

14) Maine restaurant workers didn’t want their minimum wage raised, because it would be at the expense of tipping.  As we know, tipping sucks.

15) I don’t actually eat tomatoes (you know, picky eater) except as sauce and ketchup.  That said, I found this Smithsonian article on how they lost their good taste pretty fascinating:

But modern farmers aren’t entirely to blame, the genetic study found. “The selection for big fruit and against sugar is dramatic in the modern varieties,” says Klee. “But it goes way back to pre-Columbian days when the Native Americans were already selecting for bigger fruit with lower sugar content.”

Putting more tasty sugar back into mainstream tomatoes may simply not be feasible with today’s production realities, says Klee. That’s because most growers aren’t paid for flavor; they’re paid by the pound. It costs just as much to have a worker pick a small tomato as to pick a huge one, which is a big reason why today’s commercially-produced tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) can be so much more massive than their tiny wild ancestors.

“The breeders have selected plants to produce massive amounts of fruit, all at the same time, and they want bigger fruit on to the plant. The plant just can’t keep up with that, so what happens is you dilute out all of the flavor chemicals,” says Klee.

The study also revealed another surprise in the tomato’s path to blandness. Much of the dilution of tomato flavor over time wasn’t just the necessary result of breeding for larger fruit—it was an accidental side effect. Since breeders aren’t regularly genetically testing their tomatoes, it’s easy for any of the 25 different chemicals involved in tomato aroma to simply drop out one by one over the generations, when the allele for poorer flavor choice is randomly selected.

It seems that, in the case of tomatoes, no one noticed this slow dilution until the cumulative impact of all those lost genes became obvious. “Out of the 25 volatiles 13 of them are significantly reduced in the modern varieties, “ Klee says. “Its almost exactly what you’d predict would occur randomly, but the net effect is that you’ve diluted out flavor.”

16) How legal marijuana makes it harder for police to search your car.  Good.

17) Now NC Republicans are looking to impeach our Democratic Secretary of State.  Nuts!

18) America’s trees are moving West.  And only a small portion can be explained by climate change.

19) Loved this Vox essay from Jimmy Williams, former lobbyist who had to give it up after too much damage to his soul:

Now, before everyone gets their panties in a wad, let me be pointedly clear about something: I support lobbying and believe it’s an essential part of our constitutional right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Everyone in this country, from the left to the right, deserves a voice, and they should be heard loud and clear. If that means hiring a lobbyist to represent your point of view before Congress, awesomesauce. If that means you take to the streets, demand meetings and town halls with cowardly members of the House and Senate, or, better yet, run against them, I’m your biggest advocate.

But what I don’t support are Supreme Court rulings that have repeatedly told us money is an absolutely protected form of speech. A string of cases like Citizens United and others has opened the barn door to unlimited “dark money” campaign spending. Cases like Citizens gross me and most everyone else out because the result is the money in your politics becomes the voice in your politics. Americans’ right “to redress” comes at a cost, and if you don’t have the cash, chances are you’ll be ignored. [emphasis mine]

Bottom line: Those with the most money have the largest voices. Those with the least are rarely part of the process. That makes the legality of the practice of lobbying less relevant because it’s an uneven playing field.

20) Professors getting in trouble for saying what they really think on social media.  Also, if you are only an adjunct, be really careful!

21) Re-assessing Thomas Jefferson.  Here’s my handy approach– judge a person by the standards of their times.

22) Harold Pollack is right, “Trumpcare Will Probably Kill Thousands Each Year: And it is neither alarmist nor uncivil to say so.”

23) Yep, so Republicans are content to keep the status quo in NC where it’s not a rape if the woman said yes before withdrawing consent.

24) Count me as on-board with the plan for Americacare (i.e. public option on steroids) as the new Democratic approach to health care.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Saletan on Trump and his speech:

On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency. Instead, Trump railed against foreigners and “a small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards of government.” In place of Bush’s praise for mosques, Trump spoke of Islam only as a source of terrorism. The man who ran on a platform of “take the oil” fumed that American wealth had been “redistributed all across the world.” He accused countries of “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.

2) This sentiment from Bryan Caplan (author of my oft-cited Selfish Reasons to have more kids) makes a good point:

3) Running might actually be good for your knees.

4) Dana Milbank’s favorite signs from the DC Women’s March.

5) Jack Shafer argues that Trump has actually liberated journalists to produce better journalism.

6) Don’t usually read sponsored content, but this piece on middle school versus junior high (which I attended) was pretty good.

7) Extreme picky eating has made the DSM V.  I don’t think Evan is quite there, but not too far off:

At age 12, after Brendan started showing signs of malnourishment, the family took him to Walden Behavioral Care, an eating disorder treatment center in Waltham, Mass., where he was given a diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or Arfid. The eating disorder was added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s reference manual, in 2013.

While many kids go through periods of being picky, or selective, eaters, Arfid is picky eating taken to the extreme. A Swiss study of 1,444 children ages 8 to 13 found that 3 percent were affected by the condition, which often starts in childhood.

Those with Arfid avoid specific colors, textures, tastes or smells of foods, or are afraid of choking or vomiting. Others may have no interest in eating at all.

8) Great NYT photo essay on an innocent bystander improbably killed by a bullet shot a good distance away.

9) On a highly-related note, Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court’s next gun battle.

10) A FB friend recently posted about the principal about her kids’ middle school being way over-punitive.  Sadly, we don’t take good principals very seriously and principal quality really matters.

11) German Lopez’s headline gets it, “Trump: crime and gangs are ruining the country. Actual statistics: that’s not remotely true.”

12) Fallows:

The message will be stated and restated this day: For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.

The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.

13) Concussion is, obviously, very serious, yet quite difficult to accurate diagnosis.  Now, technological advancement means we may be able to accurately diagnose with a finger prick.

14) Samantha Bee takes on Kellyanne Conway. Oh man is this good.

15) Alvin Chang with a nice chart and comic look at how white America is increasingly self-segregating.

16) Trump’s putative EPA head cannot even admit lead is bad for children.  Ugh.  Drum:

If Pruitt had been asked about the effects of zirconium dioxide on Alzheimer’s disease or something, then sure. Nobody knows everything, after all. But lead paint has been in the news for something like 50 years now and Flint’s water pipes have been in big, bold headlines for the past two. You’d have to work pretty hard not to be aware of what lead does.

 Still, if you’re bound and determined never to regulate anything, no matter how dangerous, then I suppose it pays to aggressively shut your eyes to environmental dangers of all kinds. Welcome to the New Model EPA, folks.

17) Chait on yesterday’s marches:

It matters that Trump drew a sparse crowd to inaugural festivities that he had billed beforehand as a historic, Jacksonian uprising of The People. And it matters much more that millions of Americans came out on a Saturday to register their protest. It is not only catharsis, though catharsis is better than depression. The message has been heard by the political class, Republican and Democratic alike.

It might be easy to assume that Trump and his allies feel insulated from accountability. It is not quite so simple. Republicans in Congress have thus far given Trump near-total cooperation of the assumption that they could move quickly and with little resistance to implement their agenda. Democrats did not really wake up from their late-Clinton slumber until the middle of Bush’s term, after which a lot of legislation had already passed. Republicans assuming they could rush through Paul Ryan’s agenda, while allowing Trump to obliterate long-standing governing norms, will rethink. The kind of backlash Democrats eventually mounted against Bush, which drove landslide victories in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 election, is a plausible possibility. In those elections, many seemingly safe red states turned blue.

One of the great weaknesses of American liberalism is a congenital tendency toward depression when their party holds power. The demobilization of the Democratic base is over. The prospect of a Democratic wave may not stop Republicans, and it may not even give them pause. But the governing party had probably assumed the clock would not start for months on the liberal backlash. Now the clock is ticking already.

18) My favorite sign at the protests:

19) And love this NYT photo feature of protests around the US and the world.

20) Yglesias argues that the GOP is sabotaging itself by confirming such weak nominees like Betsy Devos:

But while trying to hide DeVos from public view may be a service to her personally, it’s a disservice to both the Trump administration and the larger Republican Party. Presidents, after all, need Cabinet secretaries who can be effective public spokespeople for administration policy. The education secretary represents the administration on Capitol Hill, in the media, to university administrators and state and local officials, and as an interface with civil society groups that care about education. Even the heads of the second-tier agencies are important people in American politics and society, and having good people fill the roles is important.

In some ways this is especially true when the secretary deals with an issue that isn’t an important personal priority of the president, like education. State and local governments employ more than 10 million education workers who collectively teach more than 50 million kids. That Donald Trump’s coal-and-steel vision of American prosperity is relatively indifferent to educators’ work only heightens the responsibility that will fall on DeVos as she acts as the administration’s face on an issue that matters to many people, even if it doesn’t matter that much to Trump…

At the end of the day, there is going to be an education secretary, and that person is going to be a member of Trump’s administration. It’s in the Republican Party’s interest, more than anyone else, that that person be an effective member of the team. Shielding DeVos’s flaws from public scrutiny by scheduling an unusually brief hearing with limited questions at an odd time works well if your goal is to spare her embarrassment. By the same token, nobody can stop congressional Republicans from hustling Tom Price into office before anyone’s taken a rigorous look at his stock trading. The obviously unqualified Ben Carson seems to be a shoo-in at HUD.

But the GOP is only sabotaging itself by allowing Trump to draft this C-list roster. The president can’t be everywhere simultaneously — an effective Cabinet is how he extends his reach, influences more people, and gets more done. Rushing weak candidates through is a good way to put points on the board, but only weakens their own administration in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump vs. media; Trump is winning

The recent episode regarding the House Ethics committee is doubly disturbing.  First, on it’s substance, of course.  Right, as if Congress needs to take Ethics less seriously.  I’ll save the substance for later, as the House GOP has backed down for now.  Secondly, the horrible, irresponsible media coverage of the matter.  I actually had to explain the reality to my wife yesterday, who can absolutely be forgiven for getting the wrong impression just by seeing headlines.

The media has particular narratives they like.  Among these, conflict!  And, President acts, others respond.  The problem is when the facts don’t really fit these reality and are shoehorned into it anyway, giving the average news consumer and absurdly misleading sense of reality.  Greg Sargent is all over this (all emphases in original):

A little while ago, House Republicans reversed course on their plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, after a loud outcry from critics and the public. Trump tweeted about this plan today before Republicans made their decision. Here are some of the headlines and tweets that resulted:

* CNN: “House Republicans pull plan to gut independent ethics committee after Trump tweets.”

The Washington Post: “House Republicans back off gutting ethics watchdog after backlash from Trump.”

* Politico: “Trump tweets disapproval of GOP move to gut congressional ethics office.”

* Bloomberg: “House GOP reverses on ethics change after Trump criticism.”

* Business Insider:  “House GOP reverses course on gutting ethics office after Trump takes a whack at them.”

* NPR: “After backlash, including from Trump, House GOP drops weakening of ethics office.”

* The New York Times’ main account tweeted: “House Republicans reversed their plan to gut an ethics office, after intense criticism from Donald Trump and others.”

* The CNN story claimed that Trump “dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line.”

All of these strongly imply or state outright that Trump criticized House Republicans for the act of gutting the ethics office, or strongly imply that, in reversing course, they were bringing themselves into line with what Trump wanted on the substance of this dispute. But that’s not what happened. Here’s what Trump tweeted:

The careful reader will note that Trump actually described the current ethics arrangement as “unfair” — signaling support for criticism of it — and then only questioned House Republicans’ decision to make reversing it their first priority. He questioned not the act of gutting the office, but rather the timing of it.

Indeed, subsequently, a Trump spokesperson confirmed this reading, according to Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery. “It’s not a question of strengthening or weakening,” the spokesman, Sean Spicer, said, “it’s a question of priorities.”

Now, many of the above headlines were narrowly accurate in the sense that the House GOP decision to reverse course did come after Trump’s tweet, chronologically speaking. And it’s certainly possible that House Republicans reversed course in part because of Trump’s criticism of their timing.

But nonetheless, these headlines and tweets create a highly misleading impression. Any casual reader would come away from them convinced that Trump had taken a position in the underlying dispute that is counter to that of House Republicans who sought to gut the office — that he had criticized Republicans for the act of weakening ethics oversight.

But that just did not happen. Trump spokesman Spicer confirmed that as clearly as you could want: “It’s not a question of strengthening or weakening.”

Among other things, what is totally ignored in most of these stories is that there was plenty of actual, substantive, backlash, rather than Trump’s tweeted criticism of the timing.  Given that the House GOP reversed course, I’d like to think that the substantive response mattered.  But, apparently, that’s a less interesting story.

Sargent proposes a rule of thumb that is, sadly, so not followed:

Today, I’d like to ask for your indulgence as I propose another rule of thumb: If a casual reader would come away from your headline persuaded that Trump has adopted a clear stand that he hasn’t really adopted, then the headline is misleading and something is wrong. The threshold question here should be what impression a headline would leave with a reader who is skimming it. If it risks leaving a misleading impression, then it risks misinforming people. Trump often takes extremely slippery positions, making it more important to exercise care to avoid this.

In this particular case, this is not a narrow, nitpicky criticism. It’s central to understanding the situation.

I must say, the nature of this episode does not give me a lot of confidence in how well the media will fare in covering Trump for the next four years.  They seem far more interested in fitting Trump’s tweets into pre-existing narratives than in actually covering the reality of the world.  Ugh.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Democrats– stop panicking about the polls.  If they look like this in 6 weeks, then you can panic.

2) Big Pharma is fighting legal marijuana because where it is legal for medicinal purposes, there are substantially less opiate prescriptions.

3) I do love this new anti-Trump ad.

4) A new study suggests it’s not how much weight you lift to build muscle, it’s mostly how hard you work your muscles (high weight for less reps; or lower weight for more reps).  The key is working your muscles to exhaustion.

5) Jonathan Ladd on how journalistic norms could actually hurt Trump in general election coverage.

6) As much as I love soccer, a lot of the Euro games were pretty disappointing to watch.  Good take from Franklin Foer.

7) EJ Dionne on Pence:

One could multiply the list of lost opportunities, but one of the biggest stories here is just how many Republicans have decided that their futures will be better served by staying away from Trump.

That left Pence as, in Gingrich’s terms, the best “normal person” option. Plusses for Pence include strong ties to Capitol Hill (including a friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan), an agreeable personality (a Democrats I know in Indiana who has tangled with Pence on issues sees him nonetheless as a nice-guy sort of politician), and an appeal to social conservatives…

And it says something about the doubts so many conservative have about Trump and his need to appease them that he had to go to his right for a running mate. He could not turn instead to someone who might have broadened his appeal to middle-of-the-road voters. Trump received a fair share of the ballots of social-issue moderates in the northeast during the primaries. Those voters and moderate independents will not be reassured by Pence. In fact, social liberals will try to use Pence to tie Trump to the most conservative elements of the GOP.

8) Are conservatives actually serious about ISIS or do they just like to thunder on about how tough they are with no serious solutions to the intractable dilemma?  You know the answer.

9) Slate with a piece on the architectural wonder (Dorton Arena) 10 minutes from my house.

10) Invisibilia is an amazing podcast.  Really nice piece about it from Sarah Larson.  It is simple overwhelming how many incredibly good podcasts are being produced now.

11) White people really want their kids to go to school with other white kids.

12) The biggest challenges facing academic science.

13) I had no recollection of the Judo Olympian disqualified for (inadvertently) eating a marijuana brownie shortly before the 2012 games.  This is so stupid.  As if that would give an athlete any unfair advantage whatsoever.  Meanwhile, you can get roaring drunk every day and it’s all good.  And worst part is all the abuse the guy took.  Seriously, what’s wrong with people.

14) What college sports recruiters can teach your child.

15) I’m so going to start paying my horribly picky kids to eat healthy foods:

The researchers also found that the effects lingered after the experiment ended, though they did subside somewhat. Two months after the end of the experiment, kids who had been rewarded for their health behavior for a period of five weeks were still eating 44 percent more fruit and vegetables than they had before the experiment begun.

16) Title of this Wonkblog post is, “One way to curb police brutality that no one is talking about.”  I guessed the answer– more female cops.

17) George Packer on Nice:

The killer in Nice locked on in his own way. Maybe it happened in the space of a few hours, a few days. We’re a long way from the grand ideologies of Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden. This is jihadism as impulse, as excuse. It hardly matters, because the result is always the same: a pile of bodies, a world of pain and grief.

Liberal democracies like ours seem, for the most part, to have learned how to avoid meticulously planned mass-casualty plots with the complexity and scale of 9/11. But they don’t know how to keep their citizens safe at night clubs and concerts, in supermarkets, on beachfront promenades, from truck drivers. Nor do the leaders of liberal democracies know how to reassure their publics. So citizens, who have a right to demand safety, will turn to leaders offering simpler and more radical solutions—to Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump—who will fail even more spectacularly, inflicting great damage on liberal societies.

No revelations come from the massacre in Nice. There is nothing to be learned. This is what we live with, what we are getting used to living with. None of it is surprising—that’s the most frightening thing of all.

18) Nate Silver on Pence as Trump’s “least worst choice.”

19) Why, yes, we are sending kids (back to) Central American countries to be raped and murdered.  Kristof.

20) Ezra Klein on Trump’s crazy speech announcing Pence and how it is ever more evidence of his extreme unfitness to serve as president.

Quick hits (part I)

So much goodness this week. Let’s go:

1) Yglesias on Trump and 9/11

2) Interestingly, among other things replacing Scalia may give some hope for the Supreme Court actually doing something about extreme partisan gerrymandering.

3) Speaking of which, lots of big doings on the matter here in NC.  Rick Hasen on the latest.

4) Richard Posner’s epic takedown (from a few years ago) of the folly of Scalia’s much talked bout originalism.

5) Jedidiah Purdy’s new takedown of originalism:

Constitutional law is always controversial because judges encounter gaps in giving meaning to terms like “liberty,” “equality,” or “arms.” They must fill those gaps by deciding whether constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality offer same-sex couples the right to marry, as the Court did last year, in a ruling that seemed simple decency to many observers, outraged others, and would never have occurred to the people who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. It is up to the Justices to discern whether the Second Amendment’s provision for armed state militias implied a frontier right to armed self-defense—and whether that right should survive the long-ago abolition of the militias to override municipal handgun laws today. Scalia’s severe originalism was a way of denying the interpretive gaps involved in deciding these questions…

Neither of these ideas would have been definite enough for Justice Scalia, who never gave a persuasive account of how his originalism could support the Brown decision. But they point to questions that have been too easy to ignore in the days since his death. Much of his jurisprudence protected the powerful, such as corporations with money to spend on elections, and white plaintiffs against affirmative action. And when he gave the Constitution a meaning taken from recent politics, such as the echoes between his Second Amendment jurisprudence and the National Rifle Association’s propaganda, his method concealed it. His originalism promised to hold the Constitution above politics, but his judicial opinions reinforced the impression that his judging was only politics by other means. The country is now entering a mess that bears his mark.

6) Interesting take on poor children and picky eating (on the personal downside, I have no poverty excuse for my kids’ crappy eating).

7) Jonathan Ladd with a really good take on the Scalia vacancy.  I thought this was an interesting (and apt) conclusion:

6)  As usual, everything is in the hands of Janet Yellen and the Fed

Scalia’s sudden death and the 4-4 partisan deadlock it creates reduces the importance of this Supreme Court term, while adding even more significance to the outcome of the fall presidential election. The most important thing that we know predicts presidential election outcomes is economic growth during the election year. Right now, economic growth is decent, but not fast enough to ensure that Democrats will hold the White House comfortably. Adding to the uncertainty, the Federal Reserve has recently begun pulling back the measures it took to prop up the economy after the 2008 financial crises. If tighter fiscal policy from the Fed slows growth, a Republican presidential victory in November will become likely. The power to possibly fill this Supreme Court vacancy and/or several others in the near future hangs in the balance.

8) 538 tells us that, interestingly, the same four operas (I’ve seen them all!) are performed over and over.

9) No, Donald Trump, torture does not work.  And even if it did, that would not make it a good idea.

10) Dahlia Lithwick on Obama’s ideal Supreme Court justice:

What Obama described then, time and time again, was a judicial capacity to look outside of one’s own life experience and to use the levers of the law and Constitution to help the voiceless and afflicted. Despite the many accolades we are hearing about Justice Scalia this week, that is simply not what he was about. As Peter Shane put it in Washington Monthly, Scalia could be known for “punching down.” And whatever the glories of textualism, originalism, and judicial humility, the unvarnished truth is that women, minorities, workers, LGBTQ Americans, immigrants, voters, capital defendants, and many others did not live in a world that was better for Justice Scalia’s brilliant mind. And in that sense, Obama could have been describing his ideal jurist as the polar opposite of Scalia.

11) In defense of seeing movies alone.  I do it fairly often.  It’s not actually a communal experience; my wife is not so big on movies; and some are still too adult for David.

12) Seth Masket on the whiteness of Sanders’ supporters.

13) Literally everything Ted Cruz said about Obamacare recently was untrue.

14) Max Ehrenfreud on what kind of a Democrat Hillary is:

Social Security is running out of money, and it will have to stop paying beneficiaries in full in less than 20 years, projections indicate. On the other hand, the Democratic base wants to see the program expanded. They feel that benefits aren’t generous enough, and that many elderly Americans who are living on Social Security can’t get by.

In the past week, Clinton has made clear that she is choosing principle over compromise, taking reductions in benefits off the bargaining table and talking in Thursday’s debate about expanding benefits for vulnerable groups.

To be sure, activists won’t be satisfied with her position, and Sanders will continue to criticize her as insufficiently liberal on the issue. Despite that, and although she has cast herself as the pragmatic, sensible alternative who could get things done in the White House, Clinton is actually running as a progressive, liberal Democrat, not a dealmaker.

15) A look on why scientists cannot agree on whether salt is killing us (count me firmly in the “it’s not” camp).

16) Drum on liberals heading down the hyperbolic path of Fox News conservatives.  Actually, I don’t think it’s new, I just think he’s noticing it more.

17) The case for doing away with the daily pledge of allegiance.  Honestly, whenever I’ve been in the kids’ school when this happens, it just strikes me as silly and archaic:

Frequently the teacher will answer that question by saying that nonparticipation is disrespectful of the troops, as if any student not taking a daily loyalty oath—something no other developed country expects from its youth—is thumbing her nose at America’s military men and women. Here we see how the pledge is a tool of American militarism, with the clear message: stand each day and pledge allegiance, kids, because our fighting men and women are out there protecting your freedoms. Not surprisingly, no public school offers a daily analysis of the country’s foreign policy to offset this not-so-subtle message of nationalism and militarism…

George Orwell, an authority on groupthink if ever there was one, wasn’t fond of nationalism. In his essay on the subject he warned against “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” Nationalism distorts one’s sense of reality, Orwell wrote, as well as one’s sense of right and wrong. “There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it.”

18) Here’s an idea, let’s arrest people for failure to repay student loans.  Yay America!

19) Depression screening should be part of primary care.

20) I find this theory for the Little Ice Age (which I first came across in 1493) so fascinating.

On the other hand, others argue that we’ve already been shaping the planet on a vast scale for much longer. Last year, a controversial study identified a surprisingly early date—1610—as a possible start for the Anthropocene for a truly haunting reason: That’s roughly when depopulation of Native Americans began reached its peak after initial prolonged contact with European missionaries. Depending on how many people were already here before the Europeans arrived with their guns, germs, and steel, as many as 50 to 90 percent of Native Americans perished over a span of little more than 100 years—that’s tens of millions of people.

That paper, and others, assert that this happened so suddenly that a continent’s worth of forests regrew, shifting weather patterns and reducing global carbon dioxide levels to the point of possibly triggering the “Little Ice Age”—a period of cooler temperatures concentrated in Europe that began around 1550 and lasted for about 300 years, though other dates are also used to define it—not long after Europeans first arrived in 1492. The resulting decline in carbon dioxide from the regrowth of America’s forests was detectable as far away as ice cores in Antarctica.

21) What exercise is best for the brain (of rats, at least).  I’m not telling, you have to click.  Okay, it’s running.

22) Love this idea for turning an old laptop into a Chromebook.

23) Loved Charles Pierce on last week’s Republican debate:

Well, there it was, on a stage in South Carolina, the prion disease that has been afflicting the Republican party since Ronald Reagan first fed it the monkeybrains almost 40 years ago broke out into the general population. During the ninth debate of the Republican candidates for president, we saw actual facts booed (by my count) three times before the first commercial break. We saw two sons of Cuban emigres duke it out over who can make the lives of Hispanic immigrants more miserable. We saw a vulgar talking yam dare to tell the truth about C-Plus Augustus while standing next to his brother, and we later saw the vulgar talking yam call Ted Cruz the biggest liar he’s ever seen. And still, after it was over, serious people got on the electric teevee machine to talk about who had the best night, and who won and who lost, and not one of them mentioned the obvious fact that one of our two major political parties suffered a complete mental meltdown on national television. The big winner was either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Rodham Clinton. The big loser was participatory democracy all the way back through history to Pericles. No wonder Ben Carson kept nodding off into the Western Isles. He was safer there.

Tell me truly—how does that spectacle not destroy the credibility of the Republican Party for at least a decade?
24) Time to call Kevin Bacon– dancing ban in Sweden.

25) Love the proposal for 18 year term limits for Supreme Court Justices with a new appointee every two years in odd years.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Excellent Josh Marshall on the declining marginal value of crazy in the Republican Party:

In a crowded field, for almost everyone but Bush, it’s critical to grab hold of the mantle of anger and grievance. But the Huckabees and Cruzes simply cannot compete with Trump, who is not only willing to say truly anything but also has – whatever else you can say about his nonsense – a talent for drama and garnering press attention honed over decades. With a mix of aggression, boffo self-assertion and nonsense, Trump has managed to boil modern Republicanism down to a hard precipitate form, shorn of the final vestiges of interest in actual governing.

2) Actual scholars of international conflict are way more skeptical of war than the American public.

3) The research on small class size is not quite what you think it is and certainly should not be used to eliminate teaching assistants in early grades.

4) What not to say to people who struggle with infertility.  Definitely good advice.

5) In general elections, debates really don’t matter all that much.  They are surely more important in primaries (where voters don’t have the Party ID cue to rely upon) and Thursday’s was probably especially important for shaping the Invisible Primary.

6) On why it is a good idea to make college education available to prisoners.

7) Inkjet printers are one of the biggest scams in the marketplace (the ink is priced like a precious metal).  Fortunately, we switched to a laser ages ago.  David Pogue on a new Epson that actually charges you what the printer costs but doesn’t horribly screw you over on ink prices.  The big question is whether consumers are smart enough to think beyond the initial purchase price.

8) People complain about teacher’s unions, but seems to me that police unions create way more problems.  Seems like they believe police never do wrong.

9) You’ve probably seen all the reporting on how the formula for setting workplaces too cold in the summer is based on 1960’s men.  I appear to have a metabolism similar to women and I hate the workplace in the summer.  I’ve been known to use my space heater in July.

10) This is from a while back, but new to me: how gothic architecture took over college campuses.  As a Duke alum, I found this particularly interesting.  I was always told a story that they purposely used stone in the stairways that would wear away extra fast from foot traffic to make it all appear older.

The American college campus, and its Gothic filigree, seem timeless, pristine constructions. Nothing could be farther from the truth: They are historical eruptions, made possible by philanthropic economics, continental envy and racism. That doesn’t detract from their inherent beauty: Rather, to think more clearly about colleges, we should recognize and adapt ourselves to their history and their contingency.

11) A friend recently shared a Richard Thaler graduation speech it’s good stuff.  Especially on the economics of doing what you enjoy.

12) I get so tired of the “Democrats did it, too!” you hear from NC Republicans.  I’m not alone.

13) Yes, lawns are evil.  Especially when you live in west Texas where it rains less than 20 inches a year (my previous home) or you live somewhere with a bunch of rain, but your soil is clay and all covered up by big oaks which provide great shade (now).  I could have a nice lawn if I wanted to spend hours every single week on it.  I don’t.

14) Having health insurance is great.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually save the country money on overall health expenditures.  That said, the non-dollar benefit of peace of mind and better health that come from actually having health insurance seem plenty worth the added cost.

15) Loved this Ezra Klein on the absolute shamelessness of Trump.

16) Picky eating among children is linked to adult anxiety and depression.  When I think about the psychology of picky eating, I’m not all surprised.  I guess I’m unusual for being a picky eater but as psychologically stable as they come.

17) Nice Op-Ed on school vouchers and the enemies of public education.

18) Maybe teenagers hanging out on social media all the time isn’t really so bad.

Where is the doom and gloom?

A new report on “Teens, Technology and Friendships” from the Pew Foundation puts an unusually positive spotlight on the online lives of teenagers as they build friendships and connections in a digital world. Teenagers aged 13 to17 are finding ways to strengthen their relationships with real-world friends as well as making new friends through social media, video gaming, messaging apps and other virtual connectors.

This is not the usual story of teenagers in the online realm. Where are the dire warnings about how the online world is depriving our teenagers of their opportunity to learn the skills needed to interact with people instead of screens while exposing them to all manner of bullying and cruelty, and tempting them to fritter away endless hours playing video games?

19) I don’t like beer.  At all.  American or otherwise.  That said, I did find this article on why American beer is so weak to be fascinating.

20) After listening to a Fresh Air interview with Sarah Hepola, I realized that I didn’t truly understand an alcohol induced blackout.  You are conscious and functioning (though, impaired), but stop laying down long-term memories.  Freaky.  That means a person can say “Sure, I want to have sex with you” and climb into bed, but then “wake up” under somebody else and have absolutely no idea how they got there.  Of course acquaintance rape is a real and genuine problem, but I cannot help but wondering how many times a blackout is mistaken for a lack of consent.  And here’s the Salon piece on Hepola’s memoir of excessive drinking.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) We could use a solitary confinement case at the Supreme Court.  Maybe we’ll get one.  And Dahlia Lithwick on how Anthony Kennedy’s writing on solitary could (and should) be applied to the death penalty.

2) For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that the best evidence says we are way over-using statins.  Well, if I’m going to follow the science, maybe time to reconsider.

Two studies published Tuesday lend support to controversial new cholesterol guidelines that could vastly increase the number of Americans advised to takecholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.

One study suggests that the new guidelines are better at identifying who is truly at risk of a heart attack and should be given statins than the older guidelines are. The other suggests that treating people based on the new guidelines would be cost-effective, even with the tremendously increased use of statins.

Still not going to catch me on Lipitor anytime soon.

3) Really enjoyed this discussion of the Iran deal in the Atlantic.  The quote below is from Jeffrey Goldberg:

But on the matter at hand, the putative weakness of the current deal, well, I’m not so sure. No arms-control agreement is perfect—no arms-control agreement with the Soviet Union was perfect—but if this deal is properly implemented, it should keep Iran from reaching the nuclear threshold for at least 10, if not 20 years. I’m aware of the flaws, and I hope they get fixed. The lifting of the international arms embargo is a particularly unpleasant aspect of this deal. But I’m not going to judge this deal against a platonic ideal of deals; I’m judging it against the alternative. And the alternative is no deal at all because, let’s not kid ourselves here, neither Iran nor our negotiating partners in the P5+1 is going to agree to start over again should Congress reject this deal in September. What will happen, should Congress reject the deal, is that international sanctions will crumble and Iran will be free to pursue a nuclear weapon, and it would start this pursuit only two or three months away from the nuclear threshold. My main concern, throughout this long process, is that a formula be found that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs without having to engage them in perpetual warfare—which, by the way, would not serve to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs. War against Iran over its nuclear program would not guarantee that Iran is kept forever away from a bomb; it would pretty much guarantee that Iran unleashes its terrorist armies against American targets, however.

4) Surely you’ve read about Trump’s asinine comments about McCain’s war records.  What most struck me though about this article is how totally clueless he is in talking about religion.  Never going to work for a GOP candidate.

“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump told an audience of nearly 3,000 conservative Christian activists. “I pray, I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”

Mr. Trump also struggled to answer if he had ever sought forgiveness from God, before reluctantly acknowledging that he had not.

“If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

And Mr. Trump raised eyebrows with language rarely heard before an evangelical audience — saying “damn” and “hell” when discussing education and the economy — while also describing the taking of communion in glib terms.

“When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

Just wow.

5) A former Marine on the real barriers facing women marines.

6) Seattle is trying to aggressively enforce its recycling rules.  That means looking into people’s trash cans.  That’s where things get messy.

7) The best age to get married and avoid divorce follows a U-shaped curve.  Sweet spot is in the mid-to-late 20’s.  I’ve done well for getting married at 22.

8) Sure Trump is a joke and a clown, but Josh Vorhees makes an important point on why he does deserve substantial political coverage:

Trump’s candidacy is destined to fade away just as countless other novelty candidates have in primaries past.

None of that, however, is any reason for the media not to seriously cover Trump’s campaign today. The Donald may be a Twitter troll in a $5,000 Brioni suit, but he’s also the avatar of choice for a significant subset of the American electorate who sees themselves in his particular brand of belligerence. That view and those voters won’t disappear when Trump does. The press ignores that fact at its own peril—and at the public’s own loss.

9) Surfing as an Olympic sport?  What think you surfer friends?

10) I never eat raw tomatoes (part of my picky eating), but I certainly appreciate the dilemma that growers and supermarkets seem entirely uninterested in growing tomatoes that actually taste good.  The author doesn’t mention it, but when you look at how the Red Delicious apple has become completely overtaken by apples that taste good, I think that gives some hope for tomato lovers (the tomatoes are now out there– the trouble is getting the big growers and supermarkets to buy them).

11) And the long one… multimedia NYT feature on the lawlessness faces by stowaways on the high seas.

Quick hits (part I)

Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans.

1) Say what you will about MLS, but, wow, is this one hell of a goal.

2) Can the bacteria in your gut explain your mood?  Of course they can.

Given the extent to which bacteria are now understood to influence human physiology, it is hardly surprising that scientists have turned their attention to how bacteria might affect the brain. Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Last year, for example, a group in Norway examined feces from 55 people and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients.

3) A little appreciation for the public defenders who push back against our incarceration nation.

4) Tenured LSU professor fired for using bad language.  I’m not big on bad language (as you have probably realized), but by these standards I would definitely not want to be working at LSU.

I have long thought decrying “political correctness” was a politically-correct way of saying I wish to be unimpeded in my racism and sexism, and it infuriates me when this isn’t the case. Now I’m not so sure.

5) I especially enjoy reading about the ordinary-guyness of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) because he spent his HS years in my hometown of Springfield, VA.

6) John Cassidy on Chris Christie.

7) Supreme Court looking to completely eliminate race in college admissions next year?  And all for a white student who probably would not have gotten in anyway.

8) How television won the internet.

9) Companies keep using drug testing despite any evidence it leads to a safer or more productive workforce.

10) Expect plenty of Republicans attacking the Supreme Court (and really, the legitimacy of the entire judiciary) in 2016.

11) I’m all for using more insect-based protein in our diets, so long as it is finely ground-up like in Wayback Burgers milkshakes.  As picky as I’m, so long as it did not affect the taste, I’d happily have this.  When one considers the huge cost to the environment that comes from our dependence on meat protein and the abundance insect protein, we really need more of this.  Count me in.

12) Scalia has really just become an anti-intellectual embarrassment.  Jon Stewart gives him the treatment.

13) Bill Ayers on the false dichotomy presented in pro-gun, self-defense arguments.

14) David Frum on how Obamacare should be modified to make it work better.  Reasonable suggestions, of course, Frum has been tossed out of the conservative movement for choosing to live in the real world and say things like:

Yet it’s simultaneously true that the Affordable Care Act meets some real national needs. It did provide insurance to millions who lacked it. It did put an end to some outrageous practices by health insurers. It does seem to be slowing the growth of per-person healthcare costs. If it vanished tomorrow, potentially as many as 23 million people would lose their coverage: the 11.2 million added to the Medicaid program since 2010, the 10 million in the state and federal exchanges, and the 5.7 million young adults under age 26 enrolled in parental healthcare plans.

15) I had never heard of “p-hacking” until I came across a mention last week.  Alas, it turns out I am very guilty of engaging in it.

16) James Surowiecki on why the future of Obamacare is now secure.

17) Who needs clean air anyway?  Certainly not NC Republicans.

18) Should we really be making it so hard just for female prisoners to attend their monthly hygiene?  And, as long as I discovered attn, we really shouldn’t make it so damn expensive for prisoners to make phone calls.

They charge up to $17 for a 15-minute phone call (although the FCC recently voted to limit rates to 25 cents per call for interstate calls). prisoners families’ only option is to pay the rate or not speak to their loved one.

Here’s why that’s totally backwards: Studies show that prisoners who are able to maintain a connection with friends and family are less likely to commit crimes while in prison and less likely to end up back in prison after release.

 

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