Quick hits (part I)

Well, it was get quick hits done in time for you to read it over the weekend or fully enjoy my time at my sister’s house on the Potomac River.  Obviously, I chose the latter.  Good stuff here, though.

1) John Oliver takes on prosecutors!  (About time this part of our criminal justice system got the John Oliver treatment).

2) Yes, having a state-run monopoly on selling liquor is absurd public policy, but whether this will end in North Carolina will not depend on whose policy arguments make the most sense, but which interest groups end up having the most sway with legislators.

3) Of course Republicans want to make it easier for payday lenders to defraud military servicemen.

4) Noah Smith is right, “Domino’s Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign: Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.”

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.

5) Had an interesting conversation earlier this week about my very religious little sister versus her not particularly religious older sister (both my half-sisters).  In looking to explain the difference, I suggested it was likely genetics as much as anything.  SAR went right to the google and found this:

Social scientific research assumes that religious involvement is primarily, if not exclusively, the product of social‐environmental influences There is growing evidence, however, that genetic or other biological factors also play a role Analyzing twin sibling data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), this study addresses this issue by showing that individual‐level variation on four different aspects of religious life—organizational involvement, personal religiosity and spirituality, conservative ideologies, and transformations and commitments—is indeed the product of both genetic and environmental influences Specifically, genetic factors explain 19–65 percent of the variation, while environmental influences account for the remaining 35–81 percent depending upon the aspect of religion under investigation [emphasis mine] Research of this type enhances contemporary social science by providing a new perspective that nicely supplements existing ones, but it also highlights potential implications, including explanatory power deficiencies and potentially bias.

6) Speaking of religion, I saw the Book of Mormon and loved it.  Just super-entertaining.  And, part of the enjoyment was seeing the conventions of musical theater used in utterly profane and taboo ways.  And I did find David Brooks‘ take on the show to be thought-provoking.

7) Great interactive piece from Nate Cohn on the Trump coalition.  Check it out.

8) This was really fascinating from Ed Yong, “An Ancient Genetic Quirk Could Doom Whales Today: After losing an unnecessary gene millions of years ago, marine mammals are now uniquely vulnerable to pesticides that have only existed for a century.”

9) Loved this NYT interactive essay on why all the popular songs of recent years sound the same.  (Max Martin).  Actually, very cool visuals with this one.

10) In a different week, I would have written a nice post on the Trump administration’s appalling proposal on legal immigration.  This week, I’ll just tell you to make sure you read Catherine Rampell:

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health…

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is  everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are U.S. citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their U.S.-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of U.S.-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent…

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish. We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers.

But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

11) Hmmm, lots of great NYT stuff this week.  Here’s a really cool interactive Upshot feature on the “age gap” for new mothers:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

People with a higher socioeconomic status “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career,” said Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies fertility. “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”

12) Whatever the politics of “Medicare for All” even a conservative thinktank admits it saves money (though, they kind of hid that).  Drum doesn’t:

Here’s some good news. The libertarians at the Mercatus Center did a cost breakdown of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and concluded that it would save $2 trillion during its first ten years:

Now, as you might guess, this was not the spin the Mercatus folks put on their study. Their headline is “M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget.” This isn’t really true, of course, since M4A would absorb all the costs of our current health care system but would also absorb all the payments we make to support it. That includes current taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare), premiums paid by employers, premiums paid by individuals, and out-of-pocket costs from individuals. Instead of going straight to doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, it would go instead to the federal government, which would then pay everyone else. It’s a lot of money, but it’s no particular “strain” on anything.

And overall we’d save at least $2 trillion over ten years.

13) Science ways in on “boxers vs briefs” and the answer is “boxers.”  At least if you want to reproduce.

 

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In Florida, you can receive a death sentence for shoving someone

Seriously.  Good God these “stand your ground” laws are truly insane.  No, you should not strongly shove some stranger confronting your family in a parking lot, but, if you do, in Florida, that stranger apparently has the right to then shoot you to death.  And it’s all here on video.  I’ll even give the you the guy drawing his gun (this is America), but after he draws his gun, it is crystal clear the shover is no additional threat.  This is an execution.  And legal in Florida!

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri showed a video of a deadly July 19 shooting in Clearwater, Fla., and explained why Florida law protects the shooter. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)

Britany Jacobs sat parked in the handicap spot, right in the middle of Michael Drejka’s pet peeve.

She had just finished up a nursing shift Thursday, and she and her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, had a car full of children, all under age 6. So she sent McGlockton and their 5-year-old into a Circle A in Clearwater, Fla., for snacks and drinks while she rested in the parked car — or at least tried to.

Also in the lot was Drejka, a regular at the Circle A who regularly took issue with able-bodied people parking in the reserved spot. He circled Jacob’s car, looking for a handicap decal and, finding none, proceeded to forcefully explain to her the finer points of Florida’s disabled parking regulations.

“He’s getting out like he’s a police officer or something, and he’s approaching me,” Jacobs told the Tampa Bay Times.

Jacobs said the conversation grew heated, drawing the attention of other store patrons, including McGlockton, who abandoned his snack run. He came out of the store, then quickly closed the distance between himself and the man confronting the mother of his children and shoved Drejka to the ground.

That action, and the seconds that followed it, have thrust the dispute over the handicap parking spot into the nationwide debate about “stand your ground” laws.

Now seated on the ground, Drejka reached into his pocket, pulled out a pistol and fired a single shot into McGlockton’s chest, an action shown clearly on surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

McGlockton clutched his chest, staggered into the convenience store and collapsed. Later, his girlfriend ran into the store and applied pressure to the bullet wound in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the bleeding.

McGlockton, 28, died a short time later, leaving his family to bury him and the rest of Pinellas County to grapple with the legality of his killer’s actions.

On Friday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that Drejka would not be arrested or charged with a crime, saying that his actions fell within the legal boundaries of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Then, in an expansive 30-minute news conference, he tried to explain how the law connected to what was going through Drejka’s mind when he pulled the trigger.

This is insane!  The idea that because somebody shoves you– and may even come back for another shove– gives you the legal right to a lethal response is just nuts and America and its absolute worst.  Ugh.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice, disturbing NYT feature of pregnancy discrimination in major American companies.

2) I didn’t know you could make ice cream in a plastic bag.  Cool!  That said, I’m pretty happy with the results we get from this.

3) Why do we keep having food-borne illness problems.  Because, unsurprisingly, we need more regulation:

After that, the industry developed the Leafy Green Marketing Association, to start training growers on the best hand-washing and anti-contamination practices. And in 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, compelling the FDA to develop regulations for water safety on produce. It took four years after that, however, for the FDA to enact the regulations—and they only require very large farms, rather than all farms, to sample and test the water used to grow and clean produce. Today, those regulations are still being phased in—meaning some farms have started monitoring programs, and others have not. No farms are required to report their data to the FDA until next year.

While the LGMA insists its member growers go above and beyond to ensure water safety regardless of regulations, Detwiler believes that’s not the case. “Do you know how many corporate officers have gone to prison for flouting health and safety rules that led to people’s deaths?” he asked. “Three—and the largest sentence ever handed down was three months.” That’s why Detwiler believes farmers don’t have enough incentive to ensure water safety. “If I’m a farm owner, I ask myself: Do I pay to have a third party lab to test these water samples on a regular basis for me to use this water? Or do I consider the small likelihood of someone being able to tie the problem back to me, and decide against it?”

4) I liked Yglesias take on how accepting we’ve become of just how radical Republicans have become:

More broadly, the Kavanaugh view that the Constitution grants powerless individuals little in terms of democratic participation but powerful interests much in terms of exemption from regulation is a very normal Federalist Society view.

But that’s exactly the problem. The American constitutional order is very robust against any effort by an eccentric madman to build a personalized dictatorship. But it’s very vulnerable to the efforts of a disciplined minority to entrench itself in power…

But the party has, as a whole, made a collective and unanimous decision that they are all on the same team and fighting for the same cause. It’s a cause they’ve given up on securing majority support for, but believe can be effectively advanced through gerrymandering, filibusters, judicial review, vote suppression, cable news propaganda, etc. It’s high time to take them at their word that, all things considered, they think this is a good way to go.

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is very normal Republican politics, and that’s exactly the problem.

5) This Radley Balko column is so disgusting and depressing and America at it’s worst.  Ugh.  “An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.”

6) Michele Goldberg on Republicans and sexual assault/harassment:

Donald Trump just hired Bill Shine, who was forced out of Fox News in the aftermath of sexual harassment scandals there. He will be deputy chief of staff for communications. As of this writing, seven men say that an influential Republican congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, knew about the widespread sexual abuse of athletes when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, and did nothing to stop it. Jordan has alternately denied any knowledge of abuse and dismissed what he did hear as “conversations in a locker room.” Many of Jordan’s conservative colleagues continue to publicly support him, as does Trump. Last week Trump made a gross, sexually demeaning joke about a female senator, but most of the public seemed too exhausted to make a fuss.

Amid the flood of personal stories of sexual coercion that has marked the #MeToo movement, we learned how often people — particularly women — will submit to sex they don’t want because men wear them out with entitled demands. In the face of men bent on violation, maintaining one’s own boundaries takes energy, and sometimes it flags. It feels as if we’re now experiencing something similar as a nation…

That may be why Jordan believes he can brazen out his own sex scandal. (Some of his allies, taking a page from Trump, are claiming that accusations against him are part of a “deep state” conspiracy.) You might think that Republicans would be wary of a story involving a congressman and the sexual molesting of student wrestlers. It was only two years ago that the former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert admitted to molesting teenage wrestlers when he was a wrestling coach, before going to prison.

But who can remember 2016? Who can remember December? Without the force of law behind it, #MeToo can create change only in institutions that are susceptible to shame, and the Trump administration is shameless. After all, if Trump cared about the American people’s consent, he’d resign.

7) NC State Sociology professor and friend, Sarah Bowen (and her co-authors), with an excellent and important NYT-Op, “If Congress Changes Food Stamp Requirements, Kids Will Go Hungry.”

8) Metformin is a pill that sounds too good to be true, but might also actually be true.

9) Emily Yoffe again brings a sober, thoughtful take to issues of sex and sexual assault and American society in looking at Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual malefactors.

As one viral post by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg put it: “The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Today, as headlines are dominated by stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, a similar phrase comes to mind: ‘It’s the power, stupid.’” Former Vice President Joe Biden reprised the theme in a speech honoring campus activists. “This is not about sex,” he said. “This is about power. Usually fat, ugly men using their power, as you saw with that creep”—a clear reference to Harvey Weinstein…

To leave the sex out of the conversation is to be blinkered about the sexual psychopathology that can upend people’s lives. Abuse of power is indeed intrinsic to the Me Too stories. But power alone does not explain why a man would choose to masturbate into a potted plant in front of a horrified woman rather than have sex with a willing one. Only when we examine the sexual aspect of these violations will we understand fully what is going on—and how to address it.

10) Somebody might want to tell Paul Ryan about this little thing called a veto override.  Damn, I hate that man more than ever.

11) OMG the ATT exec taking over HBO is a moron.  HBO’s value lies in the fact that it has a tremendous reputation for quality discerning viewers subscribe and give it’s shows a chance.  His idea is to make it like Netflix.  Sorry, you simply cannot produce shows at the volume of Netflix and maintain a reputation for consistent

12) This is true and indeed concerning, “The community newspaper is America’s vigilant guardian, and it’s under siege.”

13) Good God Russia’s plan to influence American politics is insidious:

Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news.

The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details.

They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines.

NPR has reviewed information connected with the investigation and found 48 such accounts. They have names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post.

“A not-insignificant amount of those had some sort of variation on what appeared to be a homegrown local news site,” said Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian influence operations and first noticed this trend.

Another example: The Internet Research Agency created an account that looks like it is the Chicago Daily News. That newspaper shuttered in 1978.

The Internet Research Agency-linked account was created in May 2014, and for years, it just posted local headlines, accumulating some 19,000 followers by July 2016.

Another twist: These accounts apparently never spread misinformation. In fact, they posted real local news, serving as sleeper accounts building trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort.

14) Love this takedown on the doctrine of originalism which pretends to be all about judicial humility and consistency, but ends up being about justifying Conservative judicial decisions.

15) Speaking of which, loved John Cassidy on Kavanaugh and why liberals should be angry:

At the risk of giving yourself a headache, consider some counterfactuals. Absent the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling, in 2000, under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, to halt the Florida recount and allow the election of a Republican President who lost the popular vote, John Roberts and Samuel Alito might not be sitting on the Court today. If, in 2016, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, had adhered to precedent and allowed filibusters on the nomination of Merrick Garland, Gorsuch might well not be a Justice, either. And but for the quirks of the Electoral College nullifying Hillary Clinton’s almost three-million-ballot margin of victory in the popular vote, Kavanaugh would still be a relative unknown.

If these points sound like the complaints of sore losers, they are. But Democrats, Independents, and anybody else who cares about the functioning of American democracy have good reason to be sore. There is no majority of voters out there clamoring for a ban on abortion, restrictions on collective bargaining, roadblocks to legal claims against big companies, or the purging from the electoral rolls of voters who skip a couple of elections. These are the concerns of smaller groups, with strong ties to the Republican Party, whose interests will be disproportionately represented…

By slowly fashioning a ruling conservative bloc on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has carefully exploited the biases and shortcomings of the political system. Ultimately, that is what makes the prospect of Kavanaugh’s ascension so objectionable. It wouldn’t just cement in place a reactionary and unrepresentative majority. It would be the latest act in an anti-democratic (small “d”) heist.

16) Finally got around to the Atlantic cover story on how being a gender-confused adolescent can be more complicated than is always portrayed.  I found it thoughtful and fair.  Now that I’ve read the article, I’m especially unimpressed with the line of attack given time on The Gist (though with excellent pushback from Pesca).

Quick hits (part II)

1) Dan Hopkins in 538 on how all politics became national.

2) The best way to have self-control?  Don’t test your self-control.  That’s not a zen thing.  Rather, don’t have brownies in your house and try to resist, just don’t have the brownies in your house.  Soooo true in my experience.

3) Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s husband wisely reflects a year after her death and amazing final NYT essay.

4) Perhaps the real problem with robots and jobs in the future, “Robots Might Not Take Your Job—But They Will Probably Make It Boring.”

5) On-line harassment is the worst and sometimes it is okay to kill birds for science.  What a beautiful bird.

The mustached kingfisher.CreditRobert Moyle

6) It would be great if “Making of a Murderer” led the Supreme Court to revisit false confessions, which it desperately needs to do:

After the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, Dassey’s attorneys filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. In some ways, the issues at stake in the case are overdue for review. The Court has not weighed in on the so-called voluntariness issue since DNA-based exonerations began to reveal just how common false confessions are in our justice system. According to attorneys from the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, more than a quarter of all exonerated people were originally convicted following false confessions. Juveniles are particularly susceptible to offering false confessions, as are people with intellectual disabilities.

Dassey’s case could provide some much needed attention to the subject of police interrogations. When interviewing a suspect, most police officers in the U.S. rely on some version of the Reid Technique—a method that has been denounced by many psychologists and jurists as outdated and coercive, as I detailed in this magazine, in 2013. And, even if the Reid Technique weren’t itself seen as a problem, much of the training that officers receive is informal, and happens on the job. The result is that the quality of interrogation in any given police department depends almost entirely on the individual police officers’ experience.

It’s a fundamental premise in American law that no one should be forced to confess to a crime that he or she didn’t commit. The Supreme Court took up the subject in earnest in the nineteen-thirties, after a federal commission found that police across the country commonly used torture to extract confessions; in 1936, the Court reversed the convictions of three African-American men from Mississippi who confessed to murder after all three were whipped and one hung by the neck from a tree. “The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote. That decision cemented the constitutional protection that only confessions given “voluntarily” could be accepted in court.

In the decades following, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of voluntary confessions to exclude those made after threats or psychological pressure from interrogators. Yet this standard proved subjective.

7) Mantis shrimp are neither mantis nor shrimp, but fully awesome.

8) Dan Gillmor, “Dear Journalists: Stop being loudspeakers for liars,”  Hell, yeah!!

Your job is not to uncritically “report” — that is, do stenography and call it journalism — when the people you’re covering are deceiving the public. Your job is, in part, to help the public be informed about what powerful people and institutions are doing with our money and in our names.

But but but but, you say, we call them out on the lies. We let them lie and then we refute it.

Yes, sometimes you do that, but not consistently. And you almost always refuse to call the lies what they are, resorting instead to mushy words like “falsehood” in order to seem more “objective” even when it’s blatantly clear that the statement was a knowing lie.

But even if you did that every time, and in real time, which you absolutely do not, it wouldn’t be sufficient. Researchers have shown conclusively that repeating the lie tends to reinforce it. There’s some evidence that challenging lies can help in some circumstances, but most of what you’re doing is amplifying lies.

You need to face something squarely: You’re confronted with radical hacking of your own systems of operation. This requires radical rethinking of those systems.

So in a world where powerful people lie so brazenly, how can you stop letting them do it, while still fulfilling your essential role in our society? By hacking journalism to meet the challenge, starting with an announcement to the liars and the public that you’re no longer going to play along. Here are some of the ways you can make that stick:

Stop putting known liars on live TV and radio programs. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, et al, you know for certain that Kellyanne Conway will lie if you put her on TV. Just don’t do it anymore. (This means, of course, that you should never air White House briefings.)

9) Alexis Madrigal on how nobody actually talks on the phone anymore.  Amazing how our culture has changed on this.  I’m even amazed at how much my wife and I rely on texting each other.

10) About 10 years ago I really thought about getting Lasik, but decided that given my really bad vision, -10, the risks were too great even though I was nonetheless a candidate for the procedure.  I’m glad I decided that.

11) We need to find new ways to support local newspapers in the internet age.  They are too important to democracy to seem them wither and disappear:

When local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out. People and their stories can’t find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it’s nobody’s job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn’t know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally.

According to a new working paper, local news deserts lose out financially, too. Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals, say researchers who tracked the decline of local news outlets between 1996 and 2015.

12) Man, poor Venezuela is so screwed up.  It’s amazing how much awfulness a corrupt and incompetent government can accomplish in a pretty short amount of time.

13) Catherine Rampell rebuts the “just like other criminals” claim of Jeff Sessions and all those other xenophobic, Trump-loving, pseudo-Christians:

There are two enormous problems with this “it’s just like how we treat other criminals” claim.

First is that U.S. government is ripping immigrant children out of their parents’ arms even when the parents didn’t actually commit a crime (including the crime of crossing the border illegally).

Second, in some cases the government is refusing to return immigrant children to their parents even after the parents are released from jail.That is not something that happens when parents are released from prison for other, non-immigration-related crimes, unless those parents are otherwise accused of being unfit parents. Which is not happening here.

14) Found this NYT guide to a midlife tune-up full of interesting stuff.

15) Really interesting research on how exercise and standing may both benefit your physical health in very different ways.  Short version– do both.

Over all, the results suggest that exercise and standing up have distinct effects on the body, says Bernard Duvivier, a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University, who led the new study.

Moderate exercise seems to hone endothelial and cardiac health, he says, probably in large part by increasing the flow of blood through blood vessels.

Standing up, on the other hand, may have a more pronounced and positive impact on metabolism, he says, perhaps by increasing the number of muscular contractions that occur throughout the day. Busy muscles burn blood sugar for fuel, which helps to keep insulin levels steady, and release chemicals that can reduce bad cholesterol.

Of course, this study was small and quite short-term, with each session lasting only four days. Over a longer period of time, the biological impacts of both moderate exercise and less sitting would likely become broader and more encompassing.

But even so, the findings are compelling, Dr. Duvivier says, especially for those of us who often are deskbound.

“People should understand,” he says, “that only moderate exercise is not enough and it’s also necessary to reduce prolonged sitting.”

16) The science behind Improv.

17) Fascinating and disturbing maps of highly-localized areas where unsolved murders are particularly common.

18) Charles Blow on Trum’s will to hatred

But it is the language in the body of Trump’s 1989 death penalty ad [in response to the since-exonerrated “Central Park 5”] that sticks with me. Trump wrote:

“Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

He continued:

“Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”

That to me is the thing with this man: He wants to hate. When Trump feels what he believes is a righteous indignation, his default position is hatred. Anyone who draws his ire, anyone whom he feels attacked by or offended by, anyone who has the nerve to stand up for himself or herself and tell him he’s wrong, he wants to hate, and does so.

This hateful spirit envelops him, consumes him and animates him.

He hates women who dare to stand up to him and push back against him, so he attacks them, not just on the issues but on the validity of their very womanhood.

He hates black people who dare to stand up — or kneel — for their dignity and against oppressive authority, so he attacks protesting professional athletes, Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama himself as dangerous and divisive, unpatriotic and un-American.

He hates immigrants so he has set a tone of intolerance, boasted of building his wall (that Mexico will never pay for), swollen the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and attacks some as criminals and animals.

He hates Muslims, so he moves to institute his travel ban and attacks their religion with the incendiary comment that “I think Islam hates us.”

He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.

19) Some fun nuggets in the latest PPP poll:

Associating themselves closely with Trump hasn’t done a lot for either Rudy Giuliani or Roseanne Barr’s image. Giuliani- once a well respected figure in American politics- is now seen positively by only 32% of voters to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. That puts him on only slightly better ground than Roseanne- not once a well respected figure in American politics- who has a 25/52 favorability spread.

-Americans are still pretty down with Canada. 66% of voters see the country favorably to 13% with a negative opinion of it. There is somewhat of a divide between Clinton voters (77/7) and Trump ones (54/19) when it comes to the country but at the end of the day they’re both pretty positive on Canada. Only 5% of voters think Canada should be punished for stuff that happened in the War of 1812 to 82% who are opposed.

-We polled on two great internet debates and settled one while another will rage on. When it comes to who the GOAT is there’s not a lot of division among Americans- 54% say it’s Michael Jordan to only 14% for LeBron James. Much divides us along party lines these days but the belief that Jordan is the greatest ever is one that brings us together as Democrats (60/17), Republicans (51/17), and independents (49/8) alike.

Polling on Laurel vs. Yanny brings no such clarity though. 21% say it’s Yanny, 20% say it’s Laurel…and 49% said they had no clue what we were asking about, perhaps a bit of a reality check on how tuned in most Americans are to the debates that consume people who spend all day on the internet.

20) It’s Yannny ;-).

21) Saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the big screen today for the first time since 1981.  Great stuff.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I thought this title from a John Cassidy post kind of answers itself, “Giuliani’s call for Mueller to be suspended is a moment of truth for the Republican Party.”  Maybe.  But we’ve already had a bunch of “moments of truth” and the Congressional GOP has failed them all.

2) So, this nice PS research on racial bias among Republican legislators was just published, though, it looks like it is four years old.  Either way, very good stuff that somehow I had missed:

Groundbreaking work by two USC researchers has shown that lawmakers who support voter ID laws are more likely to show racial bias against Latino constituents.

“We wanted to find out if we could detect bias among legislators toward certain groups of people affected by voter ID laws,” said doctoral candidate Matthew Mendez, who did the research with Christian Grose, associate professor of political science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Such laws require registered voters to show government-issued ID, such as a driving license, before they can vote…

To test bias among state legislators, Grose and Mendez developed a pioneering field experiment. In the two weeks leading to the Nov. 4, 2012 general election, they sent emails to 1,871 state legislators in 14 states with the largest Latino populations in the U.S. The emails read as follows:

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

My name is (voter NAME) and I have heard a lot in the news lately about identification being required at the polls. I do not have a driver’s license. Can I still vote in November? Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

Grose and Mendez sent one group of legislators the email from a fictional voter they named Jacob Smith. The other group received it from fictional voter Santiago Rodriguez. In each group, half the legislators received emails written in Spanish, while half received emails in English…

The results showed that lawmakers who had supported voter ID requirements were much more likely to respond to Jacob Smith than to Santiago Rodriguez, thereby revealing a preference for responding to constituents with Anglophone names over constituents with Hispanic ones. They also showed legislators were more likely to respond to English than Spanish-language constituents.

Among voter ID supporters, the responsiveness to Latino constituents was dramatically lower than to Anglo constituents. Even within the Spanish-language constituents’ requests, the Spanish speaker with an Anglo name was responded to 9 percentage points more than a Spanish speaker with a Latino name. The latter received virtually no response from the voter ID supporters, with a response rate of just 1 percent.

3) The decision for the AP “World History” course to now focus on post 1450 only has been quite controversial, but, if colleges are only giving credit for college classes that cover that period, than that strikes me as the smart and reasonable approach for the college board.

4) More political science debate on whether Voter ID laws actually suppress turnout.  My take: even if they don’t they are still bad because that is so self-evidently their intent.

5) This American Life had a great story on an actual high school inside a New Orleans jail.  Here’s the Marshall Project version of it.

6) I hate that my wife relies on a lot Uline boxes for her store, because damn are the Uihleins some rich and influential conservatives.

7) Want your kids to eat almost anything?  Sure as hell don’t do what my wife and I have done, but take the advice from this NPR article.

8) Why soccer is the perfect cosmopolitan antidote to Trump (and, damn, hope you saw the Spain-Portugal game yesterday– so entertaining).

Social media, the wildly popular FIFA video game, the ubiquity of international soccer on TV and the marketing of large U.S. companies all increase soccer’s presence in mainstream culture. The degree to which your teenager’s youth soccer is turning him or her into a citizen of the world will vary according to region and other demographic factors (NBC Sports viewership of the English Premier League still skews toward bicoastal elites, for instance). But there’s no question that soccer’s rising popularity is a nationwide phenomenon, and that playing the game and following it represent a sea change in how people are connecting to place and one another through sports: Even casual players and fans are fully aware that the sport doesn’t revolve around the United States. We all know there are better players and better teams elsewhere; that the best a promising young American prospect like Christian Pulisic (a world-class talent) can aspire to isn’t some college scholarship, as it would be in our domestic sports, but to cross the Atlantic at an early age and attach himself to a club like Germany’s Borussia Dortmund — which he did.

America is becoming a soccer power, but we are far from dominant, and this year fans must experience the healthy heartache of the world’s most popular sporting event taking place without the United States, after our national team’s surprising failure to qualify last fall. It’s not always about us.

Think about how subversive all this is to traditional “We’re No. 1” American entitlement or to “America First” isolationism, and the historic suspicion of soccer in some quarters becomes more understandable. Better for Fortress America to play its own games and proclaim its winners “world champions,” lest we end up with a fifth column of rootless cosmopolitans.

9) Speaking of soccer, this is about the best goal I’ve seen in-person (and from pretty much just this angle).  A great goal in any league.

10) Nice Op-Ed on “misguided” legislation (over)protecting NC hog farmers.

11) I’m not too much of an NBA guy, but I did watch some of the finals.  Found this article pretty intriguing about how the under-performance of Kevin Love is actually why the Cavaliers are so much weaker than the Warriors.

12) Of course, NC Republicans did not get any actual input from elections officials or public input before making substantial changes to early-voting hours and requirements.

13) Back to the soccer theme, Man-in-Blazer, Roger Bennett, “Soccer in the U.S. doesn’t need a team in the World Cup. It’s already here to stay.”

14) My first-born (and reader of this blog) graduated from high school on Monday.  How much do I love that Seth Masket analyzed “Donna Martin graduates!” a chant I hear in my head at every graduation I attend, in Mischiefs of Faction.  And, as long as we’re at it, no protest needed for David Greene:

15) First-person account of pediatrician turned lead-poisoning detective in Flint.  So disconcerting how so many warning signs and concerns were ignored.

16) Saw “Incredibles 2” with the family yesterday.  Really, really liked it.  Nice NYT article on how far the animation has come in 14 years.  Also, really enjoyed the Pixar short before the film, Bao.  This led me to recall my favorite Pixar short ever, Knick Knack.

 

17) This was really interesting and surprising– less time for children in the sun may be leading to the world-wide increase in nearsightedness.  (Of course, given my -10 prescription, you’d think I was raised in a cave).

18) So loved the feel-good story of the week about the skyscraper-scaling raccoon in Minnesota.

The reality of mass incarceration

I’ve been meaning to read John Pfaff’s Locked In since it came out last year.  I assigned it for my PS 313 Criminal Justice Policy “book club” to make sure that I finally would.  It was excellent.  I read so much about politics and policy that it is a rare book that opens my eyes.  This one did.  That said, this German Lopez (of course) Vox article is a terrific summary of the key points.  If you think you know mass incarceration, read it.  Short version: mass incarceration is not about non-violent drug offenders.  It’s not about extremely long sentences (though we have too much of those).  It’s mostly about prosecutors becoming far more zealous in prosecuting people for violent felonies.  You want to deal with mass incarceration, you have to deal with 1) prosecutors, and 2) how we think about violent crime.  Some key highlights from Lopez:

There’s a “Standard Story” that many Americans, particularly on the left, believe about mass incarceration: During the 1970s and ’80s, the federal government dramatically escalated its war on drugs. This alone led to millions of people getting locked up for fairly low-level drug offenses, causing the US prison population to spike. This new prison population is predominantly black, leading to massive racial disparities in the criminal justice system. And all of this happened, not coincidentally, right after the civil rights movement — showing the rise in incarceration was a ploy to oppress black Americans just after they made huge gains.

But in a new book, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform, Fordham University criminal justice expert John Pfaff offers a trove of evidence that this narrative is by and large wrong or, at the very least, misses much of the real story.

The “Standard Story” of mass incarceration, as Pfaff calls it, was largely popularized by a 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Pfaff goes through many facts and statistics to show that this Standard Story gets a lot wrong about the causes and realities of mass incarceration, from the types of crime that people are locked up for (in reality, largely violent offenses) to the areas in which reform is truly needed (with a focus on state and local, not federal, reform).

“The core failing of the Standard Story is that it consistently puts the spotlight on statistics and events that are shocking but, in the grand scheme of things, not truly important for solving the problems we face,” he writes. “As a result, it gives too little attention to the more mundane-sounding yet far more influential causes of prison growth.”

The story that Pfaff carefully describes is different from the standard narrative: It’s not drug offenses that are driving mass incarceration, but violent ones. It’s not the federal government that’s behind mass incarceration, but a whole host of prison systems down to the local and state level. It’s not solely police and lawmakers leading to more incarceration and lengthy prison sentences, but prosecutors who are by and large out of the political spotlight.

And an excerpt from a Marshall project article:

Pfaff’s major data epiphany was that, during the 1990s and 2000s, as violent crime and arrests for violent crime both declined, the number of felony cases filed in state courts somehow went up. A lot. “In the end, the probability that a prosecutor would file felony charges against an arrestee basically doubled, and that change pushed prison populations up even as crime dropped,” he writes.

Pfaff suggests several explanations for this. There were tens of thousands more prosecutors hired across the country in the 1990s and aughts even after the rising crime of the 1980s had stalled out, and the position of district attorney simultaneously became a more politically powerful one. Prosecutors’ discretion, always great, was expanded by courts and legislatures. And public defenders, stuck at the same or lower levels of funding, have not kept up with the growing caseload.

Reformers have overlooked the role of prosecutors, Pfaff reasons, in part because there is no good data on how they use their discretion, and in part because they are simply less visible; about 95 percent of cases end in plea bargains worked out behind closed doors. “We see the police every day; no one is more high-profile in the criminal justice system,” he said in an interview. “Then we think of the judge imposing the sentence.” But prosecutors, and how they work, remain something of a mystery.

Pfaff’s plea, then, is for advocates of reform to look for ways to curb the aggressiveness of prosecutors. He offers a tentative menu of options: establish guidelines for charging and plea bargaining, which New Jersey has already done; make prosecutors pay from their county budgets for the bed space they use in state prisons; and provide more funding for public defenders. And, last but not least, attack public complacency. In 46 states, prosecutors are elected — and 85 percent of them run without opposition. But last year, with money from philanthropist George Soros and energy from Black Lives Matter, insurgent district attorney candidates touting reform prevailed in several cities. And the American Civil Liberties Union has mapped out a three-year plan to increase public scrutiny of prosecutors.

And, just because I’m at it, nice summaries in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, too.

I’ve learned a ton just from following Pfaff on twitter.  If you want to better understand criminal justice in the U.S., you should, too.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Wow.  Quite the takedown of Jordan Peterson from a former friend and mentor:

‘I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is.

In the end, I am writing this because of his extraordinary rise in visibility, the nature of his growing following and a concern that his ambitions might venture from stardom back to his long-standing interest in politics. I am writing this from a place of sadness and from a sense of responsibility to the public good to tell what I know about who Jordan is, having seen him up close, as a colleague and friend, and having examined up close his political actions at the University of Toronto, allegedly in defence of free speech. When he soared into the stratosphere he became peculiarly unknowable. There is something about the dazzle of the limelight that makes it hard to see him clearly. But people continue to be who they are even in the blinding overexposure of success. I have known Jordan Peterson for 20 years, and people had better know more about who he is.

There is reason to be concerned.

2) Great NYT Editorial… “If Addiction Is a Disease, Why Is Relapsing a Crime?”  Hell, yeah!

When Julie Eldred tested positive for fentanyl in 2016, 11 days into her probation for a larceny charge, she was sent to jail. Such outcomes are typical in the American criminal justice system, even though, as Ms. Eldred’s lawyer has argued, ordering a drug addict to abstain from drug use is tantamount to mandating a medical outcome — because addiction is a brain disease, and relapsing is a symptom of it.

Ms. Eldred’s case, now before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, has the potential to usher in a welcome change to drug control policies across the country. The case challenges the practice of requiring people with substance use disorders to remain drug-free as a condition of probation for drug-related offenses, and of sending offenders to jail when they relapse.

The prosecution’s counterargument — that the disease model of addiction is far from settled science — is weak.

3) Ummm, so this is bizarre and true.  Medieval obsession with the holy foreskin of Jesus.

4) I was recently talking about the horrible, horrible case of race and the war-on-drugs-gone-really wrong in Tulia, Texas twenty years ago.  If you don’t know about this, you should.

5) Good to know that taxpayer dollars in NC are being used to subsidize religious schools that teach the 6000 year-old earth as science.  Ugh.

6) I like Drum on the gay wedding cake ruling:

Now, sure, the cake store was not a private club. It was a public place of business, and there’s jurisprudence on what kinds of places are covered by the Civil Rights Act and what kinds aren’t. And portraits aren’t cakes, which are merely being used at an event, not necessarily carrying a message of their own. Still, it should be pretty obvious that there are subtle issues here that are all but impossible to decide on a bright line basis. Can a Jewish baker be forced to supply a cake for a KKK rally? Can a Christian sandwich shop be forced to cater a Planned Parenthood fundraiser? Can a gay movie star be forced to sign an autograph for Richard Spencer?

There are rules that would cover all these cases that the Supreme Court could adopt. But why? For the most part they never come up, and when they do they’re generally just ignored because they’re so obviously heinous. So perhaps the better part of valor is just to tap dance for a while. Soon enough, refusing to serve a gay couple will be broadly viewed as equally heinous and the issue at stake will simply disappear. In the meantime, there’s no need to make a potentially disastrous ruling.

I think this is what happened, and even half the court’s liberals decided to go along. They figure it’s basically an ephemeral issue, and both liberals and conservatives have good reason to let it slide since any definitive new ruling would almost certainly hurt everyone in one way or another. Instead the court decided to muddle along until everyone forgets the whole thing, and that was likely a wise decision.

7) The stupidity of our drug and health care policies in one headline, “She paid nothing for opioid painkillers. Her addiction treatment costs more than $200 a month.”

8) This terrific graduation speech is even more reason to love the amazingly awesome Atul Gawande:

Insisting that people are equally worthy of respect is an especially challenging idea today. In medicine, you see people who are troublesome in every way: the complainer, the person with the unfriendly tone, the unwitting bigot, the guy who, as they say, makes “poor life choices.” People can be untrustworthy, even scary. When they’re an actual threat—as the inmate was for my chief resident—you have to walk away. But you will also see lots of people whom you might have written off prove generous, caring, resourceful, brilliant. You don’t have to like or trust everyone to believe their lives are worth preserving.

We’ve divided the world into us versus them—an ever-shrinking population of good people against bad ones. But it’s not a dichotomy. People can be doers of good in many circumstances. And they can be doers of bad in others. It’s true of all of us. We are not sufficiently described by the best thing we have ever done, nor are we sufficiently described by the worst thing we have ever done. We are all of it.

Regarding people as having lives of equal worth means recognizing each as having a common core of humanity. Without being open to their humanity, it is impossible to provide good care to people—to insure, for instance, that you’ve given them enough anesthetic before doing a procedure. To see their humanity, you must put yourself in their shoes. That requires a willingness to ask people what it’s like in those shoes. It requires curiosity about others and the world beyond your boarding zone.

We are in a dangerous moment because every kind of curiosity is under attack—scientific curiosity, journalistic curiosity, artistic curiosity, cultural curiosity. This is what happens when the abiding emotions have become anger and fear. Underneath that anger and fear are often legitimate feelings of being ignored and unheard—a sense, for many, that others don’t care what it’s like in their shoes. So why offer curiosity to anyone else?

Once we lose the desire to understand—to be surprised, to listen and bear witness—we lose our humanity.

9) A prisoner-journalist on the mental health crisis in our prisons.  Yes, it is that bad.

10) Jonathan Bernstein on California’s misguided top-two primary system:

Even if the system avoided each of those problems, it would still be a bad idea because the fundamental concept is to disrupt the ability of parties to choose their own nominees. And that’s a mistake: Parties are necessary to all large democracies. Parties activate and accommodate participation from groups and individuals; they provide critical intermediation between political elites and voters, which in turn makes representation possible; they help organize government and opposition ideas about public policy; and they simplify the often-bewildering choices voters must make.

And what we’ve learned is that parties adapt, no matter how difficult government makes it for them to function. We’ve seen that in California this year, with both Democrats and Republicans finding all sorts of ways to try to get the candidates they want into the November election. However, not all ways of organizing parties are equally healthy or equally permeable, and I worry about the effects of all of this on California’s Democrats and Republicans. Nor does it really make sense to constantly force parties to re-invent the wheel.

It’s a lousy system. The sooner the state gets rid of it, the better.

11) In the latest version of NC Republican legislators know best, they are trying to pass a law that a drink can only be called milk if it comes from a “hoofed animal.”  Hmmm, tell that to babies ;-).  Anyway, supposedly a lot of people are confused that soy milk and almond milk come from cows.  Not sure I buy that.  While I’m at it, it always does mystify me that soy milk has a nutrient profile relatively similar to actual milk, but most of the others are sorely lacking in protein.

12) NYT on the Trump administration, “Grifters gonna grift.”  Forget draining “the swamp.”  How about filling it with pollution and dead bodies.

13) Found this New Yorker article on the science of baldness cures (and maybe some new hope on the horizon) really interesting.  I figure it’s too late for me, but hopefully some new innovations in time for my boys to benefit.  It has always bugged me that somehow baldness is about the one physical characteristic for which it is socially acceptable to make fun of people.

14) This is an encouraging headline, “Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought.”

15) New Yorker post on Elizabeth Warren’s coming anti-corruption agenda (now that’s a damn good idea right now), but what I really loved was this from Warren:

The point seems obvious, but it bears repeating: while much of the press, and therefore the country, is preoccupied by the President’s daily outbursts on Twitter and by the leaks and twists of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have been aggressively rolling back regulations of all kinds. The effects of some of these changes may not be directly felt by the voting public for years, when a major health crisis, a financial collapse, or some other catastrophe suddenly arrives, but the risks are being created right now.

“Let’s talk about real freedom,” Warren said, during her speech. “Done right, strong, clear regulations protect the freedom of every American. How free would you be if companies were allowed to lie to you about their businesses in order to trick you into investing your life savings in their stock? How free would you be if no one had to wash their hands before they handled your hamburger? How free would you be if companies could pass off little white pills as antibiotics, even if they weren’t?” Finally, she said, “Don’t tell me that all rules do is restrict freedom. Good rules empower people to live, work, and do business freely and safely.” [emphasis mine]

16) Radley Balko taking down forensic “science” never gets old for me.  Alas, I wish our damn court system would start paying attention and stop allowing convictions on what might as well be astrology in some cases:

The most problematic fields of forensics are those known as the pattern matching fields. This includes any specialty that requires an analyst to look at one sample and “match” it to another. Think hair and carpet-fiber analysis, bite-mark analysis, shoe-print and tire-tread analysis, blood-spatter analysis and fingerprint matching. The degree to which these fields are problematic vary quite a bit (bite-mark matching is probably on the least reliable end of the spectrum, with fingerprint matching at the other end), but all at their core are subjective. (Fingerprint matching breaks down the moment you start looking at partial prints.) That means they cannot calculate a margin for error. It means analysts will often disagree about conclusions, sometimes in ways that directly contradict one another. And by definition, any method of analysis that results in experts coming to contradictory conclusions about the same piece of evidence can’t possibly be accurate (one of them is obviously wrong) or reliable.

This means that these fields aren’t science. That doesn’t mean they have no evidentiary value at all. But it does mean that analysts need to be extremely careful about how they present this sort of evidence to juries. The language they use needs to be standardized and then explained to juries, so that the amount of emphasis the jury puts on it is based on the evidence’s actual significance and not other factors, such as the charisma or persuasiveness of the analyst. This hasn’t been happening.

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