Quick hits (part II)

1) The NYT with the “myth of the lazy non-voter.  Short version– let’s make it easier to vote!

While many countries greatly simplify the voting process — or make voting mandatory — the solutions here in the United States may not need to be so drastic.

In fact, they are right in front of us. Just as some states that have passed laws restricting access to voting in recent years have seen reduced turnout, states with laws that afford people the greatest access to voting – several states where ID requirements are not onerous, where all residents can register to vote online and registration periods extend to Election Day, and where voters have many options to vote early or on Election Day without losing any income – have experienced high participation. Our democracy depends on the ability to participate freely, without unnecessary barriers. The voters must choose elected officials, and not the other way around.

2) The case for glass as humankind’s most important material.

3) Sperm counts keep falling and scientists can only guess:

Halpern went on to explain that many chemical compounds that are used to make plastic hard (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) or soft (like phthalates) can mimic estrogen in the bloodstream—so men with lots of phthalates in their system are likely to produce less testosterone and fewer sperm (though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated earlier this year, somewhat controversially, that its research continues to support its claim that the authorized amounts and uses of BPA are safe for consumers). Plus, chemicals like BPA and phthalates can alter the way genes express themselves, making some of the conditions these chemicals cause inheritable. “Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors,” Halpern wrote. “That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.”

Sharpe, however, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health, isn’t totally convinced by the BPA-and-phthalates theory. While there’s a much more cohesive consensus throughout the field of reproductive medicine these days than there may have been 10 or 20 years ago that sperm counts are indeed falling, he says, “the controversy and lack of agreement continue regarding what has caused the fall and when in life has the effect been induced.” Though many consider environmental chemicals to be the primary cause of declining sperm counts, Sharpe says he’s “increasingly skeptical” of that hypothesis: “I would favor that it results from our huge dietary and lifestyle changes, both by pregnant women and by young men.”

Studies like the new ones presented by ASRM, in other words, increasingly serve as bolstering evidence to what many scientists already believe. As scientists reach a consensus that something is happening to men’s sperm in the Western world, the next phase will be to figure out exactly what, and why.

4) Frank Bruni, “Lindsey Graham Is the Saddest Story in Washington: His fight for Brett Kavanaugh completed his transformation into Donald Trump’s slobbering manservant.”

5) I tried reading Jane Austen’s Emma with my email book club of graduate school friends.  I gave up about half-way through as I found the novel relentlessly tedious.  How could this be a classic, I wondered.  Apparently, a huge part of the reason is that the narrative style was revolutionary for 1816.  Now that we’re all used to free indirect, though, damn that’s a lot of boring British, elite, country life to slog through.

6) Nice summary of some nice PS research, “Trump Has Made Republicans More Comfortable Expressing Their Sexism Out Loud”

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf on Republicans and the presumption of innocence:

There are principled civil libertarians and their antagonists on the right and left, in both political parties, but here’s what I see when I step back, survey a range of relevant issues, and make educated judgments about who’d be better to advance presumption of innocence and due process (having already granted that Republicans urge more due process on Title IX):

  • If there are law-enforcement figures at the local level who are depriving people of due process, they are more likely to be defended by Republicans, as happened with Joe Arpaio, and more likely to be reined in by the Democratic approach to the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • If there’s a major terrorist attack that inspires renewed calls for racial profiling, elected Democrats are more likely to fight against such proposals while elected and appointed Republicans are more likely to favor the choice that flips the presumption of innocence for some groups.
  • If a president is asserting a lawful ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges or trial, or to torture a suspected terrorist, I expect him or her to have more support on the right than the left, and to be overruled more reliably by Democratic appointed judges (although I would also expect presidents of both parties to transgress in this way).
  • It is the left that has fought to end stop-and-frisk policies that burdened total innocents, and the right that still defends them, even in New York City, where its end caused no rise in crime.
  • If I were placed on a no-fly list and wanted to challenge my status, I’d rather appear before a judge appointed by a Democrat than a Republican, if that’s the only differentiating factor that I had to go on.
  • Were I falsely accused of a crime and ran out of money to fund my own defense, I would rather a Democratic coalition had set the budget for the public defender’s office.
  • Were I mistakenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I would much prefer to go about the attempt to prove my United States citizenship via the due process procedures that the median Democrat favors than the ones that the median Republican favors.
  • If wrongly convicted, I would rather go to a progressive district attorney than a conservative one with new evidence suggesting my innocence.

That is hardly an exhaustive survey. But it should suffice to show partisan Republicans who claim to abhor character assassination and to value the presumption of innocence and due process why they are in no position to be righteously indignant about their coalition or to claim clear superiority to Democrats on these issues. Instead, they ought to feel a moral imperative to push their side to do better.

8) John Pfaff often makes the case that by focusing on for-profit prisons we miss the so-much-wrongness in public prisons (and there’s so much wrong).  That said, for-profit prisons to create uniquely perverse incentives.  Nate Blakeslee with a nice review of Shane Bauer’s first-hand reporting from serving as a guard in an awful, awful for-profit prison.

9) Robert Griffin and John Sides, “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Elect Trump and It May Hurt His Party in the Midterms.”

10) Peggy Orenstein, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys: Locker rooms are not the place to learn about sexual ethics. Neither is the internet.”

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to.

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”…

Rather than a deviant’s expression of pathology, assault among adolescents is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. Boys do it because they can: because they are oblivious, because they are ignorant, because they are impulsive, because they have not learned to see girls and women as fully human. And yes, science has confirmed what common sense presumes: Boys are much more likely to rape when they are drunk. And the more they drink, the more aggressive they are, and the less aware of their victims’ distress. By contrast, sober guys not only are less sexually coercive but also will more readily intervene to prevent assaults by others…

A boy who assaults once in high school may not do it again, which in some ways is good to hear. At the same time, that means a seemingly “good guy” may well do a bad thing. A very bad thing. And afterward it is completely plausible for him to get away without apologizing, facing consequences, making amends. The monster-good guy dichotomy contributes to his denial: He could not possibly really be a rapist because that would make him a “monster,” and he is a “good guy.” So he rationalizes, forgets, goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.

It is natural for parents to think their own sons would be incapable of sexual misconduct, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for educating their boys. Yet according to a survey of more than 3,000 18- to 25-year-olds published last year by the Making Caring Common project, which is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you. A similar share had never been told about “the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.”

Honestly, this is an area of sex education, where, I admit, I could be better.  And, I will be.  But at least one of my sons will be following the above link.

11) I have now watched Rocky I, II,III, and half of IV with said son.  Rocky really was a nice movie.  The others can be ridiculous at times, but qualify as pretty solid entertainment (Rocky V will not be happening).  Also, I turned on the TV last night and with no interesting (to me) college football on, I actually watched a boxing match for the first time in my adult life (I always watched Sugar Ray Leonard as a kid as he was a local hero in the DC area).

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Quick hits (part I)

1) This WP story/essay about a high school rape in Texas 12 years later is like a gut punch.  Just read it.

2) Paul Waldman, “Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP?”

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has a problem, one he shares with a lot of Republicans these days: For some reason, racists are attracted to his campaign and seem eager to give him money and lend their vocal support.

Why does this keep happening to members of the Republican Party who desire nothing but equality and respect for all people? It’s a real mystery…

But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists? People who don’t give neo-Nazis, white nationals and racists any reason to believe that they share their views. [emphases mine]

Now, it’s true that there are Republican elected officials who don’t. But just by virtue of being Republicans in 2018, being lumped in with racists is a risk they run. Their favored news outlets are positively saturated with white nationalist rhetoric. Their party is led by a man who is not only an obvious bigot but who also turned himself into a political figure by advocating the racist lie that Barack Obama is not actually an American, who ran a presidential campaign built on xenophobia and racial resentment, and who, in office, continues to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants. President Trump doesn’t get celebrated on white nationalist websites because they’re laboring under some misimpression about who he is. So, if you’re a Republican standing enthusiastically behind Trump, racists have every reason in the world to think you’re on their side.

3) Normally, Americans, collectively, are not so smart.  So, for Americans to have figured out the truth of the Republican tax cuts, means, damn were they really bad:

“On average, it looks great. We’re as wealthy as we’ve ever been,” Zandi says. “But that’s not representative of many, many American households. The very skewed distribution of wealth is as skewed today as it was five years ago.”

4) Hillary Clinton speaks out on Trump.  And she’s right on the details which are worth your time:

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis…

5) I love the idea that we need to take our “social infrastructure” libraries, public parks, etc., more seriously.

6) This story of a woman who’s 1-year old child was literally ripped from her hands and drowned in post-Florence floods is heart-rending.  Also, sad, is just how cruel people are in their “just world biases” and doing everything they can to blame the mother.  Sorry, sometimes bad stuff just happens and it could happen to you, too.

7) Really liked the NYT’s “how to build strength” guide.  I think I need to modify my routine and start pushing myself a little harder.  On the bright side, this linked site said I have the health of a 32-year old. Yeah, me!

8) OMG, so much wrong with our criminal justice system.  But “felony murder” when you can get a murder conviction without actually taking any actions to kill someone (e.g., you are the lookout for a robbery, but then the robber decides to shoot the victim– sure you should be punished, but murder?!) is often so wrong.

The felony-murder doctrine is “one of the most widely criticized features of American criminal law,” the University of Buffalo School of Law’s Guyora Binder wrote in a 2011 law-review article. “Some have concluded that felony murder rules impose unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment by ascribing guilt without fault, or that they violate conditional due process by presuming malice without proof.”

There’s no shortage of cases where people were convicted of felony murder despite no demonstrated intent to kill. In 1980, 18-year-old Orlando Stewart and nine other teenagers approached a stranger in Pennsylvania, planning to mug him. One of the teens hit the man, knocking him to the ground and causing a skull fracture that led to his death two days later. Stewart was convicted of felony murder and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

And this April in Alabama, Lakeith Smith was sentenced to 65 years in prison, including 30 for felony murder. In 2015, the then–15-year-old burglarized two homes with several friends. When the police approached, one of the teenagers fired and was shot and killed by an officer. Smith was convicted of the felony murder of his friend, based on the felony burglary he was committing when his friend was shot.

Felony-murder rules disproportionately affect young people like Brooks, Stewart, Holle, and Smith, who are more likely to commit crimes in groups and are more impulsive than adults, increasing the chances someone in the group pulls a trigger. A law-review article from 2017 described felony murder as “the quintessential juvenile crime, capitalizing on the developmental vulnerabilities of adolescents.”

9) Is this, maybe, karma for Kavanaugh:

It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat—over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.

Fairness is rooted in the idea of principles, precedent, proportionality. Few people in American life witnessed at closer range than Kavanaugh the modern reality that when things really matter—in the way that the balance of the Supreme Court matters—all these fine notions matter less than the cold, hard exercise of power.

So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.

Few prosecutors, it seems likely, would ever open an assault case—36 years later—on the basis of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being pinned down on a bed by a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, and being aggressively groped until a friend of his physically jumped in.

But few prosecutors in the 1990s would have pursued an extensive criminal investigation over perjury into a middle-aged man’s lies about adultery if that person had not been President Bill Clinton. In his zeal at the time, Kavanaugh, like Starr, may have worked himself into a belief that this was about sacred principles of law, but to many others—and ultimately to a clear majority of the country—it was obvious that the case was fundamentally about political power.

10) Chevy Chase wants to work, but nobody really wants him.  Recently re-watched “Fletch” and “Fletch Lives” with my oldest.  Still love them (much to my wife’s dismay), and to my great pleasure, so did David.  But they are oh-so-1980’s in so many ways.

One chart to explain the pathologies of American politics?

Okay, this is not perfect.  But you could do a lot worse.  Via Drum:

Alex Tabarrok, Michael Makowsky, and Thomas Stratmann have a new paperout that will, unfortunately surprise no one. The subject is civil asset forfeitures, where police get to keep money they find in (for example) your car even if there’s no evidence that it’s drug related and nobody is convicted of a crime. They just declare the money suspicious, and that’s that.

In some states, police departments get to keep the money they seize. These are the states the authors look at. Then they look at one other variable: whether the local government (city or county) is running a deficit. Guess what they find? More civil asset forfeitures! Are you shocked!

There are no increases in arrests for murder or assault or burglary. Just for crimes where the police get to keep the money. But there’s one more thing. A picture is worth a thousand words, so check this out…

The more black (and Hispanic) an area is, the more likely it is that strapped local governments will turn to civil asset forfeitures to raise revenue. But the more white an area is, the less likely they are to increase the use of civil asset forfeitures.

Ugh.  Entirely unsurprising.  And entirely revealing of the pathologies deep in the heart of America.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Reformed right-wing attack dog, David Brock, spent time in the trenches with Brett Kavanaugh and knows him for a hopeless partisan:

But I don’t need to see any documents to tell you who Kavanaugh is — because I’ve known him for years. And I’ll leave it to all the lawyers to parse Kavanaugh’s views on everything from privacy rights to gun rights. But I can promise you that any pretense of simply being a fair arbiter of the constitutionality of any policy regardless of politics is simply a pretense. He made up his mind nearly a generation ago — and, if he’s confirmed, he’ll have nearly two generations to impose it upon the rest of us.

2) Intellectually, I know how bad poll response rates are.  Still, it is something to see that in real-time with this really cool NYT feature.

3) Guns kill people.  With bullets.  Glad California is taking this fact seriously.  And I feel not bad at all for all the “law abiding” hunters and sportsmen who have to be modestly inconvenienced in their purchase of amazingly lethal technology.

4) Person walks into the wrong apartment and shoots someone and a few days later is still not arrested?!  White off-duty cop shoots black person and there you go.

5) This veteran on the flag and anthem kneeling is so good:

But while most veterans have been measured in their responses, one strand of criticism is particularly disturbing: the notion that kneeling during the anthem is a specific affront to veterans and service members. As Kurt Schlichter, a combat veteran and contributor for Fox News, put it, Kaepernick “is targeting us. He knows what this means to us. He knows how insulting it is. He knows how disrespectful it is, and Nike is empowering it.” In a Facebook group for veterans that I belong to, someone wrote: “Anyone not respecting our flag should be deported. Many veterans and servicemen and women have died and suffered grievous wounds for this flag and anthem and constitution. Have some respect.” This argument isn’t new: Last year the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion chastised the protests as disrespectful.

This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.

Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag. [emphasis mine]

If we accept the idea that the military and veterans have authority over American symbols, we enforce a very narrow minority view of America and the American experience. Our cultural fabric is as rich as it is because the American myth has been interpreted, reinterpreted, criticized, praised and challenged by Americans of all backgrounds.

6) Love this– your chances of dying ranked by sport and activity.  I’m going to stay away from hang gliding.

7) On the other hand, tennis seems to be the best activity (good exercise plus a strong social component) for a long life.

8) Ummmm, so this article about how the Gulf Stream current may be changing is kind of scary.

9) Loved this on why you should stop yelling at your kids.  Of the differences I noticed since I started practicing mindfulness, way less yelling at my kids is near the top:

How many times in your parenting life have you thought to yourself, after yelling at your kids, “Well, that was a good decision…”?

It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak. And you’re yelling, let’s be honest, because you are weak. Yelling, even more than spanking, is the response of a person who doesn’t know what else to do.

But most parents — myself included — find it hard to imagine how to get through the day without yelling. The new research on yelling presents parents with twin problems: What do I do instead? And how do I stop?

Yelling to stop your kids from running into traffic is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about yelling as a form of correction. Yelling for correction is ineffective as a tool and merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children. We yell at our kids over the same stuff every day, and we yell at them some more because the original yelling doesn’t work. Put your clothes away. Come down for dinner. Don’t ride the dog. Stop hitting your brother.

The mere knowledge that yelling is bad, in itself, won’t help, said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. Yelling is not a strategy, it’s a release.

“If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” Dr. Kazdin said. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.” There are other strategies, and they don’t involve screaming like a maniac.

Many think of positivity as a form of laziness, as if parents who are positive aren’t disciplining their children. But not yelling requires advance planning and discipline for the parents, which yelling doesn’t.

10) Loved this from an umpire on this whole absurdity of “judges just call balls and strikes” business (I’ll always resent John Roberts for fooling everybody with that):

Then there are the other plays, on the bases and at the plate, that require rule interpretations and judgment calls: catches and no catches, fair and foul balls, safes and outs, and base-running.

For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call…

As an umpire, you learn to position yourself on the field so that you’re in the most advantageous location to observe a pitch or a play. You learn to read cues and make the proper adjustments when something changes. It can take years of experience, an exhaustive understanding of the rules and consistency in your calls to become a credible umpire, and even then, you’re going to be in the middle of a lot of arguments and controversies. As a mentor of mine reminded me when I started: There was only ever one perfect man, and they crucified him, so umpires have to learn how to handle criticism. As with judging, the tough calls are hardly ever obvious. Balls and strikes are elusive creatures.

11) Loved this Atlantic piece on cognitive biases and the human brain.  I’m pretty tempted to read Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinkingbut, then again, I kind of suspect I won’t learn anything.  I may be biased, but I am pretty damn sure that I am way better than the average bear (though far from perfect), at avoiding all these cognitive biases.  Because, damnit, the first step definitely is recognizing them.

12) David Frum, great, as always, on Trump,, “The President Is a Crook The country now faces a choice between the Trump presidency and the rule of law.”

13) Relatedly, Dana Milbank on the amazingly amoral and craven Paul Ryan.

14) Margaret Sullivan with a good take on the New Yorker festival-Steve Bannon controversy:

No one wants a festival of ideas to turn into a cozy chat among like-minded friends. That’s pointless.

But also utterly pointless is the notion that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, might have something new or valuable to offer.

That’s why it was a thoroughly lousy idea for the New Yorker magazine to offer a high-profile perch — an onstage interview by top editor David Remnick — at next month’s annual festival to the deposed Svengali.

There is nothing more to learn from Bannon about his particular brand of populism, with its blatant overlay of white supremacy.

While we’re at it, there is also nothing more to learn from the die-hard Trump voters in what I’ve called the Endless Diner Series — the media’s recidivistic journeys to the supposed heartland to hear what we’ve heard a thousand times before about blind loyalty in the face of all reason.

Yes, it’s time, well past time, to stop lending the media’s biggest and most prestigious platforms to this crowd of racists and liars.

Shut them down — not because of ideology or politics, but because there is no news value there.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this NYT article about how we need to fail and talk about it the right way to enable growth.

We’ve all flopped on a big presentation.

After weeks of careful preparation and practice, you feel ready to knock it out of the park. But the day comes and, for whatever reason, every joke seems to fall flat, you bumble through all your numbers and your technology seems to be working against you.

The embarrassment and blow to your self-worth can manifest in unlimited ways — and sometimes it feels like it’s manifesting in all ways — and our bodies’ response to failure can even mimic that of physical pain, Bradley Staats, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School, writes in “Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself and Thrive.”

“We respond that way, and then we feel bad about responding that way, and so we try to cover it up instead of learn from it,” Mr. Staats said. “We shouldn’t be ashamed of the reaction. It is natural.”

Even though most people prefer to process failure internally and quickly move on for fear of causing a scene or seeming unprofessional, taking the time to reflect on and communicate about unwanted outcomes can go a long way in creating more congenial, trusting and ultimately productive workplaces.

2) NYT again, “An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep.”  To be fair, replace “college” with any number of potential words there.  But, yeah, perhaps a particular problem for college students.  Then again, we aren’t crazy enough to start at 7:30 like they do in HS.

Whatever you may think can get in the way of a successful college experience, chances are you won’t think of one of the most important factors: how long and how well you sleep. And not just on weekends, but every day, Monday through Sunday.

Studies have shown that sleep quantity and sleep quality equal or outrank such popular campus concerns as alcohol and drug use in predicting student grades and a student’s chances of graduating.

3) More research on how sitting for too long is bad for your brain.  This study suggests an advantage to getting up every 30 minutes.  Between my kids always wanting something at home and my frequent bathroom breaks at work, I should be doing pretty well.

4) Really loving Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show (and appreciating the deal I just got on Showtime).  Here’s why it is so hard to win a lawsuit against him (mostly, because he lets people entirely voluntarily make fools of themselves, whether false pretenses or not).

5) Child services launches weeks long investigation for 8-year old walking dog on her own.  Ugh.  It all ended up okay, and I get that child services needs to investigate, but this should have been a 5-minute investigation.

6) NYT’s “Smarter Living” guru argues for the value of life-tracking apps.  I’m mostly with him.  (Big fan of My Fitness Pal).

7) How fun and not surprising that the did Trump or John Gotti say it quiz is not all that easy.

8) It should not take a special counsel investigating the president to hold people accountable for white-collar crimes.  Alas, in 2018 America, it pretty much does.  Sad.

Oh, the audacity of dopes. The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication. The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service. One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely president in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might still be working their frauds today.

But how anomalous are Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen? Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the I.R.S.? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Mr. Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement. The F.B.I. shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of Sept. 11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s. The I.R.S.’s criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition. The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort were so brazen. They must have felt they had impunity.

How could they not? Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.

But the problem goes beyond big banks. The Department of Justice — in Democratic as well as Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drugmakers and so on. Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.

9) NYT NeverTrumper Brett Stephens makes the post-Manafort and Cohen convictions case for impeachment.  Honestly, Trump is so corrupt, but I think campaign finance violations (the whole system is so convoluted and so much of what’s wrong is what’s actually legal) that I really do not think this is the hill upon which to take down the self-dealing, corrupt, incompetent liar in the White House.

10) One area of clear bipartisan agreement?  Not in my backyard.

11) Perhaps you heard about the toppling of the Confederate memorial statue, Silent Sam, at UNC.  Forbes give us, “Scholars Explain The Racist History Of UNC’s Silent Sam Statue.”

12) Just throw some white nationalist chum to Trump (via Fox, of course) and he cannot resist.  Ugh.

13) You really can get addicted to marijuana.  And it’s not great.  That said, cost-benefit wise, I’d still argue almost anything is an improvement over the disaster that is federal schedule I and strict criminalization.

14) An interesting speculation on what if there were a tape of Trump saying the N word:

Let’s play this out for a moment. What would happen if a tape surfaced featuring the president using the N word? History is useful here. For a subset of the country, it would weaken the taboo on using the word. Some of these Americans would likely litigate whether the usage was, in fact, a slur directed at black people, or whether he was merely discussing the word. It was very improper language, and he’s acknowledged that, but I don’t characterize it as a slur.It’s always wrong to use that word. But as the president today he has not used that word. It was a quipLocker-room talka private conversation that took place many years agoTalk and action are two different thingsAlso within this subset would be the vocal contingent of folks—most, apparently, white men—for whom the proscription on saying the word constitutes the last, totemic vestige of racial discrimination. This is part and parcel of the left’s hypocrisy when it comes to the N wordThe question is, will the American people be smart enough to see beyond the manipulation? I expect this group already glories in the usage of the word in private, and if the president used it, they would consider that full license to take their newly desegregated word public, and shout it from the mountaintops. Free at last.

15) Your scientific guide to making friends.

So what should you do if your social life is lacking? Here, too, the research is instructive. To begin with, don’t dismiss the humble acquaintance. Even interacting with people with whom one has weak social ties has a meaningful influence on well-being. [7] Beyond that, building deeper friendships may be largely a matter of putting in time. A recent study out of the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of socializing to go from acquaintance to casual friend, an additional 40 hours to become a “real” friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend. [8]

If that sounds like too much effort, reviving dormant social ties can be especially rewarding. Reconnected friends can quickly recapture much of the trust they previously built, while offering each other a dash of novelty drawn from whatever they’ve been up to in the meantime. [9] And if all else fails, you could start randomly confiding in people you don’t know that well in hopes of letting the tail wag the relational dog. Self-disclosure makes us more likable, and as a bonus, we are more inclined to like those to whom we have bared our soul. [10]

[7] Sandstrom and Dunn, “Social Interactions and Well-Being” (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, July 2014)

[8] Hall, “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?” (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, March 2018)

[9] Levin et al., “Dormant Ties” (Organization Science, July–Aug. 2011)

[10] Collins and Miller, “Self-Disclosure and Liking” (Psychological Bulletin, Nov. 1994)

 

 

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.

 

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.

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