Satanic daycare workers are coming to harm your children

Sounds like a joke or a really absurd Onion headline– right?  Sadly, in the late 1980’s and early 90’s all sorts of people actually totally fell for obvious nonsense.  Bad enough, the worst part is the dozens of people who’s lives were literally ruined by what amounted to a modern day witch hunt.  Seriously, our criminal justice system functioned as embarrassingly poorly as if it were the Salem Witch Trials.

Here’s a great story in the Intercept about a Texas couple recently exonerated after 25 years (and 20 years in prison) for acts such as, “The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.”

It’s not crazy that suggestible pre-schoolers might make this stuff up.  What is crazy is all the adults in the criminal justice system who would then consider these pre-schoolers credible witnesses and zealously prosecute the poor Kellers.  And people are so committed to believing that they are good people and wouldn’t put innocent people in jail, that, even now, many in the criminal justice refuse to admit their mistakes.  Anyway, you should so read this story.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Greg Sargent on the hidden health care consensus:

Yet in a strange twist, the GOP debate over repeal has actually revealed that there is a surprising amount of hidden consensus on health care.

In a nutshell, what the debate has really shown is that the passage and implementation of the ACA has given rise to a latent majority in Congress — or at least one in the Senate — that has more or less made peace with the ACA’s spending and regulatory architecture and its fundamental ideological goals, either for political or principled reasons, or for some combination of the two. The debate has forced this basic reality out into the open. And this, I think, is one key reason it is proving so hard for the GOP to repeal it.

2) Is Connecticut an example of failed liberal policies?  Or something else?

3) Of all the dumbness from our NC Republicans, it seems like they are against renewable energy— in this case wind– just on principle.  Ugh.

4) Kris Kobach is clearly evil and clearly intelligent (and far more personable than Ted Cruz).  That’s a nasty and scary combination.

5) One Ohio sheriff would just prefer addicts die from overdose rather than get Narcan to save their lives.

6) Pretty fascinating story about a convicted murderer (still in prison) and his new novel.

7) Really interesting look at how society thinks about the roles of men and women (adding this to the next Gender & Politics syllabus):

Women may not be moving as fast into male-dominated worlds as feminists would like, but they have moved much faster than men have into female-dominated ones. To understand better this asymmetry, we need to look more closely at the relative value we place on masculinity and femininity.

Most people assume that gender is simply a scheme for classifying differences or a template for guiding the behaviour of children. The reality is more pernicious. We typically prize the attributes we associate with men, such as competence, strength, virility and stoicism, and underestimate the qualities we associate with women, like warmth, tenderness and compassion. We usually see masculinity in terms of power and dominance and femininity in terms of softness and subservience. We defer to men and indulge women. In other words, gender is not merely a bunch of traits embodied by individuals, but a subtle stratification system that often advantages men and disadvantages women. [emphasis mine]

All of this means there are far more incentives for women to act masculine than there are for men to act feminine. Women who behave like their male colleagues may be disliked for being “pushy” or “bitchy”, but these penalties are offset by the fact that they are also likely to enjoy more power and greater financial rewards. When men adopt the jobs and behaviours associated with women, however, they typically experience a loss of status with fewer perks and more social sanctions, especially from other men. “It’s seen as an unknowable crisis if men want to step down,” explains Barbara Risman, head of the department of sociology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “It’s not just being more like women, it’s seen as being less than men. Because women are seen as less than men.”

8) Which I had seen this before my recent post.  Robert Frank with a nice explanation of why Single Payer saves money.

9) Personally, I’m happy to call myself “liberal.”  I didn’t realize it was now also a bad word among those on the far left:

Over the last few years, though — and especially 2016 — there has been a surge of the opposite phenomenon: Now the political left is expressing its hatred of liberals, too. For the committed leftist, the ‘‘liberal’’ is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class. The liberal is pious about diversity but ready to abandon any belief at the slightest drop in poll numbers — a person who is, as the folk singer Phil Ochs once said, ‘‘10 degrees to the left of center in good times, 10 degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.’’ The anonymous Twitter account ‘‘liberalism.txt’’ is a relentless stream of images and retweets that supposedly illustrate this liberal vacuousness: say, the chief executive of Patagonia’s being hailed as a leader of ‘‘corporate resistance to Trump,’’ or Chelsea Clinton’s accusing Steve Bannon of ‘‘fat shaming’’ Sean Spicer.

10) How do you know when your knee doctor is either 1) a glorified con-man, or 2) essentially incompetent?  Whey they recommend arthroscopic surgery for regular wear-and-tear on the knee:

Serious questions are now being raised about the benefits of the arthroscopic procedures that millions of people endure in hopes of delaying, if not avoiding, total knee replacements.

The latest challenge, published in May in BMJ by an expert panel that systematically reviewed 12 well-designed trials and 13 observational studies, concluded that arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee arthritis and meniscal tears resulted in no lasting pain relief or improved function.

Three months after the procedure, fewer than 15 percent of patients experienced at best “a small or very small improvement in pain and function,” effects that disappeared completely within a year.

As with all invasive procedures, the surgery is not without risks, infection being the most common, though not the only, complication…“Arthroscopic surgery has a role, but not for arthritis and meniscal tears,” Dr. Reed A.C. Siemieniuk, a methodologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and chairman of the panel, said in an interview. “It became popular before there were studies to show that it works, and we now have high-quality evidence showing that it doesn’t work.”

11) Trump supporters just don’t care that he’s lying.

12) The problem with self-driving cars is not just the cars, but really the technology-human interface.  Trying to decide how much– if any at all– controls humans should have is key.  Nice story in Vox.  Also reminded me of this terrific 99% Invisible episode from last year on how automation can make humans less safe.

13) Excellent summary of the placebo effect from Vox’s Brian Resnick:

A 2010 systematic review looked at 202 drug trials where a placebo group was compared to patients who received neither placebo nor active drug. And it found that placebos seem to move the needle on pain, nausea, asthma, and phobias, with more inconsistent results for outcomes like smoking, dementia, depression*, obesity, hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety. (*Separate literature review on depression meds does find an effect of placebo compared with no treatment.)

“It seems like placebo taps into a family of psychological and brain processes that’s very much something we evolved for,” says Tor Wager, a University of Colorado Boulder neuroscientist who has co-authored many of the key papers on the neuroscience of placebo. “Take pain as an example. If you step on something sharp, there’s pain in your foot. Now, how should you respond to it? Well, if you are running from an attack, you don’t even want to feel that. You keep going.”

Another way to think about it: Placebos tweak our experience of symptoms, not their underlying causes.

14) New book explores why today’s high-powered white-collar criminals seem to so easily get away with their crimes.

15) Had a blast setting off fireworks this past week, as always.  You will not be surprised to learn I did a ton of this– and far less safely– as a teenager.  The headline for this Vox chart is, “The people going to the hospital for fireworks injuries are exactly who you think.”

 

16) I did very much enjoy watching Okja on Netflix last week (though, I would not go so far as to call it “fantastic” as this review does).

17) More Chait on Republicans and health care:

Conservatives cannot point to any real-world examples of a country or even a state that has successfully implemented the sort of health-care system they desire. (Some of them mistakenly cite Singapore, whose health-care system relies on massive state intervention American conservatives could never accept.) That’s because there’s no electorate in any industrialized country that would tolerate it.

Is that because a conservative health-care plan with catastrophic coverage and high deductibles is technically impossible to design? No, it’s because such a plan is politically impossible to sustain. People don’t want insurance coverage that only protects them against rare disasters. They want to be able to go to the doctor and get treated. In the English vernacular, comprehensive coverage is called “good insurance” and high-deductible insurance is called “bad insurance.”

18) And Ezra, “The Republican health bill is stuck in a valley of incoherence” and that’s putting it generously:

Political parties tend to agree on the goals of their major legislative efforts even if they disagree on means. The GOP’s various tax reform efforts begin from the premise that taxes should be lower. The Democratic Party’s health care push began with the premise that there should be fewer uninsured people. The fight over how best to achieve those goals was fierce, but everyone was clear about what they were trying to achieve, and so it was clear how to evaluate different policies.

That’s not the case here. The GOP’s health care effort began with the premise that Obamacare is bad and must be repealed and replaced. But repeal and replace is a means to an end, not an end itself. The end, in theory, is the post-replacement health care system — a system that aligns with the GOP’s vision of how health care should work. But that vision is absent. When we asked eight Republican senators to tell us what the health bill was meant to achieve, we got eight different answers, and most of them were incoherent…

Now, however, a Republican Party that only knows what it is against has to decide what it’s for — and it’s failing. The result is a chaotic legislative process wherein no one knows how to evaluate the proposed policies except on the crudest tactical dimension. Bills are unveiled and amendments offered wherein the only evident goal is getting something passed. At times, Republicans have been shockingly honest about this. Asked what problems the bill was meant to solve, Sen. John McCain replied, “They’re trying to get to 51 votes.” …

McConnell is trying to find a compromise between the wing of his party that wants to cover the poor and the wing of his party that doesn’t; between Republicans who think a 22 million increase in the number of uninsured Americans is a moral blight and those who think it’s a win for freedom. There is no sensible policy that splits the difference between perfectly opposed goals. And so the Kentucky Republican, in his purely tactical way, has found a compromise: a bill that could cover the poor, but won’t.

This is what happens when you make policy from deep inside a valley of incoherence. You mistake means for ends, you find yourself crafting policies with no clear sense of what they’re meant to achieve, you mistake something that might pass for something that will work. Aside from being able to say they repealed and replaced Obamacare, Republicans don’t know what they want their bill to achieve, and so at this point, it doesn’t achieve anything, save cutting taxes. [emphasis mine]

 

19) The horror that is Jeff Sessions as Attorney General pretty much knows no limits.  Anybody who pays the slightest attention knows that much “forensic science” is deeply, deeply flawed and not actually science at all.  That’s a huge Sessions problem if one is concerned about minor things like, you know, fairness, accuracy, and justice in our criminal justice system.  Alas, it’s not really clear at all that cares about any of these things.

The dumbest war ever

Just some recent research that should not actually surprise those of us living in reality regarding the war on drugs.  NBC reports:

Sending more people to prison for drug offenses won’t have an effect on drug use and deaths, according to a new analysis released this week.

Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trusts crunched state-by-state data on drug imprisonment, drug use, overdoses and drug arrests and found no evidence that they affected one another.

That lack of a pattern shows the flaw in a central philosophy in the war on drugs: That doling out harsh penalties makes people less inclined to use drugs or join the drug trade, said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s public safety performance project, which works to reform state-level drug policies.

“There seems to be this assumption that tougher penalties will send a stronger message and deter people from involvement with drugs. This is not borne out by the data,” Gelb said.

Ahhh, data, schmata.  Drugs are bad!

Quick hits (part I)

1) Obviously I don’t know much about China and North Korea.  But I do know that if Evan Osnos thinks something is our least bad option, there’s a good chance it actually is:

At the G-20 meeting in Hamburg this week, the world’s attention will focus largely on Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. But Trump’s meeting with Xi will have more immediate relevance in dealing with the Korea crisis. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Jake Sullivan and Victor Cha, foreign-policy advisers in the Obama and Bush Administrations, respectively, proposed a new approach to getting China invested in freezing the North Korean missile tests. Instead of threatening North Korea with cutting off trade, they propose, in effect, paying it to cut off missile tests. “The basic trade would be Chinese disbursements to Pyongyang, as well as security assurances, in return for constraints on North Korea’s program. . . . If North Korea cheated, China would not be receiving what it paid for. The logical thing would be for it to withhold economic benefits until compliance resumed.” The Times outlined a similar idea in an editorial of its own this week.

This approach is no silver bullet, but, in the “land of lousy options,” as diplomats call the North Korea problem, it is as good as any, in part because it does not rest on a false understanding of the other party. The relationship between Xi and Trump–leaders of the world’s two largest economies, a rising power and an addled power, straining to coexist—may well prove to be the most consequential diplomatic liaison of its time.

2) Emily Yoffe on Trump’s TV addiction.

3) Linda Greenhouse in Gorsuch:

Whether out of ignorance or by deliberate choice, Neil Gorsuch is a norm breaker. He’s the new kid in class with his hand always up, the boy on the playground who snatches the ball out of turn. He is in his colleagues’ faces pointing out the error of their ways, his snarky tone oozing disrespect toward those who might, just might, know what they are talking about. It’s hard to ascribe this behavior to ignorance — he was, after all, like three of his colleagues, once a Supreme Court law clerk. But if it’s not ignorance, what is it? How could the folksy “Mr. Smith Goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee” morph so quickly into Donald Trump’s life-tenured judicial avatar? …

And while liberals have every reason to gnash their teeth over the justice who holds the seat that should have been Merrick Garland’s, they can perhaps take some comfort in the unexpected daylight that has opened between him and two of the court’s other conservatives, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. My concern when Justice Gorsuch joined the court was how like Chief Justice Roberts he seemed in demeanor and professional trajectory. I could see him as a natural ally who would bolster the chief justice’s most conservative instincts. It now seems just as likely that Neil Gorsuch’s main effect on John Roberts will be to get on his nerves.

4) I had not heard of the Charlie Gard case till I read about it in Vox.  I don’t think it all unreasonable that a health system without unlimited resources (British NHS) does not want to spend millions of dollars on an unproven treatment for a single child.

5) Amusingly enough, Americans pretend to order their steak less cooked than data suggests they actually do.  I make no apologies for being a medium-well person.  Not big on blood in my food.  Here’s a chart based on orders at Longhorn Steakhouse:

how americans order steak

6) Surprise, surprise, immigrant farm workers are not actually taking the jobs of Americans:

Before they can hire workers through the program, farmers must first try to recruit locally. But many say they don’t have much luck.

“We just don’t have the local labor here to work the farms,” Wooten said. “We wouldn’t be able to run without immigrant labor. It’s that simple, and it’s a lot more than just agriculture.”

A 2013 study by the Center for Global Development analyzed more than a decade’s worth of data from North Carolina farms and found that “no matter how bad the economy becomes, native workers do not take farm jobs.”

7) In other unsurprising news, internet trolls tend to test high in psychopathy.

8) Headline I was not expecting to see, “FBI investigated complaints that Bobby Knight groped women at U.S. spy agency.”

9) Good news for the con artists who pose as “scientific” experts based on fraudulent “forensic science.”  They are protected from lawsuits even in cases of gross negligence.

10) This very computer I’m typing on used to use Kasperky anti-virus until NC State decided to go with another vendor.  Apparently, national security types are so hot on the idea of a Russian company providing key cyber-security.

11) I watched a ton of TV as a kid and safe to say I turned out fine.  My kids have lots of screen time and I’m pretty sure they’ll (well, most of ’em) will turn out fine, too.  Loved this NYT essay:

But the ability of parents to limit screen time, like the ability to limit unwholesome food, has become more than a matter of health. It has become a statement of class, order, purity and parental authority.

We are told that tech billionaires, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, limited screen time strictly for their own children. The internet is awash with articles linking screen time to depression, A.D.H.D., even psychosis…

Perhaps my writing this is just an attempt to wash away guilt, but I have even made peace with our love of poor-quality screen time, so long as we are still doing the other things that make up a good life. There are too many problems in the world worth worrying about for bourgeois parents like me to waste energy and resources perfecting and regimenting our little worlds.

And what is this teaching my children? I hope it is teaching them that it is O.K. to waste some of the 24 hours in a day. I hope it is teaching them that there is value in making space in your life for laziness and pleasure, for the purposeless passing of time.

12) Enjoyed Dana Goldstein’s article on the growing trend of campus common reading.  I’ve  been a discussion leader for NC State’s program for at least 8 years or so now.  NC State even got the shout-out for this year’s Between the World and Me, which I’ll be starting soon.

13) Hollywood sure does have a bad movie problem.  Maybe there’s hope that Chinese viewers will stop paying for any American crap with a bunch of explosions and this can get better.

14) This John Roberts graduation speech is so good.  It’s honestly hard to believe that the person who could say these words takes some of the SC positions that he does.

15) I’d noticed some Axios links in my various feeds, but didn’t realize it was basically dumbed-down Politico.  Don’t expect a lot of Axios links here.

16) Ezra’s excellent July 4th essay:

We are diminished when our president lies, and even more so when we begin taking his habitual lying for granted. The New York Times published a comprehensive list of falsehoods Trump told since taking office and found it wasn’t until March that Trump went a full day without saying something flatly untrue. The absence of public dishonesty, for Trump, is usually driven by an absence of opportunity to be publicly dishonest. “On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing,” the Times found…

We are diminished when our president spends his time and energy — and thus the nation’s time and energy — on the wrong issues. At Axios, Mike Allen notes Trump has tweeted the words “opioid” or “opioids” just once — but “loser” 234 times, and “dumb” or “dummy” 222 times. Political capital is finite, and our future is harmed when it is squandered.

We are diminished when the president knows nothing about the issues he faces, and does not try to learn more. It is embarrassing that the president’s staffers have taken to writing his name as often as possible in briefing documents for fear that he will lose interest otherwise, that they fill his press clips with sycophantic praise in an effort to distract him from Twitter, that they fight to appear on Fox & Friends because they know he takes advice from the television better than from his own advisers. We have a president who was not humble enough to realize health care and North Korea are complex problems, and who has not responded to that realization by seriously studying the issues.

17) The science of why bird eggs have different shapes.

18) Among the crazy and horrible things the U.S. does, sending kids adopted from foreign countries as young children back to their “home” country via adult deportation is pretty up there in the wrongness.

19) Texas seems to think that the court system should be fair and merciful for police officers.  Others, not so much.

20) A friend shared something on Facebook about glysophate being responsible for the rise in Celiac and gluten problems.  And it’s based on a study in Interdisciplinary Toxicology.  Well, that sounds good.  Not so much.  Turns out it’s a Slovakian pay to publish journal.  And worst, part, there is not actually Roundup-resistant GMO wheat, upon which the whole idea is predicated.

21) Chait’s been really excellent on Republicans and health care lately:

And today McConnell himself made the same point again. Only this time, he didn’t phrase it quite like a threat. “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement,” heannounced, “then some kind of action with regard to private-health-insurance markets must occur.”

This is, of course, a comical admission that the entire premise of the Republican onslaught has always been a lie. Republicans have insisted for seven years the law was totally beyond repair, and that the entire thing must be repealed, including its Medicaid expansion. The truth is that the marketplaces have largely stabilized, and they face long-standing challenges providing competition in rural areas, but nothing like the death spiral Republicans have claimed. Even Trump’s own health-care experts have admitted the Obamacare exchanges are healthy. [emphasis mine]

If Republicans want to give up their long-standing boycott of any tinkering with the bill and instead pass some simple patches, they might anger some conservatives, but they will also steer clear of inflicting humanitarian disaster on their own constituents, who might not appreciate it.

22) Very nice piece in Upshot about how Republicans are all for local government.  Except when local government is controlled by liberals who want to pass, you know, liberal policies.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Garrett Epps with an interesting take on the church/state issues in the SC’s recent decision.

2) Love this take on insurance from Adrienne LaFrance— “good health never lasts.”

Good morning, fellow mortals!

At this pivotal moment in American policymaking, I’m here to remind you of our individual and collective doom. Wellness, like youth, is temporary. In the end, you either get sick, then die—or you die before you can get sick in the first place. It bears repeating, apparently, at a time when the health-care debate in the United States has become so partisan as to imply the population of sick people and well people is just as cleanly divided as Americans are politically split. But this isn’t the case.

You can’t choose to be healthy or ill the way you can choose to be a Republican or a Democrat. You can’t choose for your babies not to be born with medical problems.

You can do everything right to stay in good health. You can be one of “those people who lead good lives,” as the Alabama Republican Representative Mo Brooks put it in a television interview, explaining why healthy people should get to pay less for insurance than sick people. And you’re still likely to find yourself facing unexpected medical costs at one point or another.

3) Tennessee legislature condemns porn as a public health crisis leading to a decline in marriage.

4) Gorsuch’s anti-gay dissent is really pretty pathetic.

5) Yglesias on the conservative health care vision:

Having worked out a few of the rough kinks in the House plan, conservative wonks are in fact on board for a program that reduces taxes on high-income households by hundreds of billions of dollars and pays for it with hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to health care for lower-income households. The bill leaves Medicare unchanged (indeed, it keeps in place Obama-era reforms that Republicans opportunistically denounced) and it leaves in place the employer-based framework that serves the majority of middle-class Americans.

But it cuts taxes for the rich, cuts taxes for insurance industry players, cuts taxes for some employers of low-wage workers, and it pays for it all by stripping low income people of their coverage without thinking too hard about what happens next. That’s not an absence of vision for what the country should look like, it’s what the vision is.

6) The Art Pope-funded John Locke foundation has this handy “analysis” titled, “Want Affordable Health Insurance? Scale Back on Benefit Mandates.”  Of course, a more apt title might be, “Want Affordable Health Insurance? Scale Back on requiring insurance benefits that people actually need to be healthy.”

7) Love this take from Bill Ayers on the nature of expertise:

But there’s another aspect to expertise that actually contributes to its widespread rejection. The nature of expertise is that people who are experts see things that non-experts can’t see. They perceive things in the universe that are, quite literally, invisible to the rest of us.

This phenomenon has been well-documented in all sorts of arenas. Elite athletes, for example, have been studied extensively. It turns out that, while they tend to be in excellent health and have certain physical gifts, they’re not especially more physically gifted in general than the rest of us. It’s that the tens of thousands of hours of practice they put in have rewired their brains so they can perceive things other’s can’t. That’s why the best hitters in professional baseball actually stand a good chance of hitting a baseball thrown by a professional pitcher, traveling at more than 95 miles per hour. He can see things about that ball that are invisible to the rest of us.

The same is true in medicine. An experienced doctor will see in a list of symptoms, or the way a patient answers a question, possible diagnoses that we know nothing about. Nor can we understand the connections between those little bits of information and the much larger issue. Doctors carry around a whole world of knowledge in their heads that is inaccessible to non-experts.

So it goes for nearly every field of human endeavor. Architects see things in buildings that the rest of us miss. Musicians hear things in music we can’t hear. Engineers, lawyers, designers, auto mechanics – in almost any human endeavor involving expertise, experts are privy to a world out of reach of the rest of us…

I encounter this all the time in my own area of expertise – politics – because, as John Stewart Mill put it over 100 years ago, politics “is a subject which no one, however ignorant, thinks himself incompetent to discuss”. In the political realm, we all think that we can see everything there is to see. And when “experts” come along and try to point out what we can’t see, we often dismiss them because, well, we can’t see what they’re pointing at. We think they’re just making it up.

8) Meant to have this last week.  Trevor Noah on Philandro Castille.  Good stuff.

9) NC State doing its part for breeding better blueberries.  It turns out the real trick is finding tasty blueberries that hold up to machine-picking.

“Right now, 20 percent of blueberries are harvested mechanically, while 80 percent is handpicked,” he said. Because handpicking is expensive, he said, “We want to reverse that – we want 80 percent to be mechanically harvested and 20 percent handpicked.”

I’m all for more affordable blueberries.

10) Kevin Williamson post in National Review about Trump is so good.  Read it.

Trump may have his problems with women, but it is his unrequited love of the media that is undoing him.

“I always tell the president, ‘You don’t need them,’” says Sean Hannity, the self-abasing monkey-butler of the Trump regime. The president, Hannity says, can reach more Americans via Twitter than he could through the conventional media. That isn’t true, of course: Only about one in five Americans uses Twitter. Hannity might be forgiven for not knowing this, a consequence of his much more general habit of not knowing things. But he actually does know the president. How could he possibly believe that this man — this man — does not need them?

He needs them the way a junkie needs his junk.

Donald Trump cares more about how he is perceived in the media than he cares about anything else in the world, including money. Trump is a true discipline of Bishop Berkeley, professing the creed of the social-media age: Esse eat percipi— “To be is to be seen.” Trump is incapable of enjoying anything — money, success, sex — without being perceived enjoying it.

11) How forgetting is the key to learning.

12) Good Jelani Cobb piece on militarizing the minds of police officers:

For the past two decades, David Grossman, a former Army Ranger and self-described product of a law-enforcement family, has been conducting police-training seminars on the use of deadly force. Policing is a complex job that at times requires split-second decision-making. More often, though, it requires a reservoir of knowledge about social interaction and human behavior, and the ability to read situations that may become violent. Officers are granted a great degree of latitude in their work, partly because interacting with the public requires more nuance than any rigorous set of codes could possibly hope to encompass. Grossman’s “Bulletproof Warrior” philosophy, however, dispenses with these gray areas. Here the war on crime is not metaphorical; police are a kind of domestic militia tasked with subduing a potentially lethal enemy. Danger is ambient, ever present, and unpredictable. (Grossman did not respond to a request for an interview.) Grossman’s seminar exists at the opposite pole of the current drive for criminal-justice reform. While progressives emphasize police training to de-escalate conflict, Grossman’s seminar pushes officers to become more comfortable with the use of deadly force. As Grossman informs one group of attendees, “only a killer can hunt a killer.” Killing is a central theme of Grossman’s seminars but is only a fractional portion of law enforcement’s responsibilities. The vast majority of police in this country never use deadly force in the course of their careers. [emphasis mine]

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, in Minnesota, last year, belongs not only to the small percentage of officers who have killed civilians but also to the much larger group of officers who have attended Grossman’s seminars. He reacted quickly, interpreted an otherwise calm moment as the paramount danger, and fired seven times into a vehicle with a four-year-old girl in the back seat. A jury determined that Yanez had not committed any crime, but, at the very least, no reasonable person would understand his handling of the situation as good policing.

13) Richard Hasen on the absurd fraud that is Trump’s voting fraud commission.

14) How Netflix is trying to be the new HBO.

15) Headline says it all category, “Syrian doctor caught in travel ban gives up, moves to Canada.”  I’m sure he was, in actuality, a potential terrorist wanting to destroy America.

16) It’s nice to be reminded that Harry Potter books were not always a phenomenon.

17) Good piece on the Republicans’ “uncertainty strategy” on Obamacare.

18) How Illinois became a poster child for fiscal mismanagement.

19) I think you know the answer to the question in this Guardian headline, “Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?”

The core of Elsevier’s operation is in scientific journals, the weekly or monthly publications in which scientists share their results. Despite the narrow audience, scientific publishing is a remarkably big business. With total global revenues of more than £19bn, it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable. In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year.

But Elsevier’s business model seemed a truly puzzling thing. In order to make money, a traditional publisher – say, a magazine – first has to cover a multitude of costs: it pays writers for the articles; it employs editors to commission, shape and check the articles; and it pays to distribute the finished product to subscribers and retailers. All of this is expensive, and successful magazines typically make profits of around 12-15%.

The way to make money from a scientific article looks very similar, except that scientific publishers manage to duck most of the actual costs. Scientists create work under their own direction – funded largely by governments – and give it to publishers for free; the publisher pays scientific editors who judge whether the work is worth publishing and check its grammar, but the bulk of the editorial burden – checking the scientific validity and evaluating the experiments, a process known as peer review – is done by working scientists on a volunteer basis. The publishers then sell the product back to government-funded institutional and university libraries, to be read by scientists – who, in a collective sense, created the product in the first place.

20) Some places in America have too many jobs and not enough workers.

21) Another great take on Republican Medicaid cuts, “Plan on Growing Old? Then the Medicaid Debate Affects You.”

These are the stories we tell ourselves: I will never be poor. I will never be disabled. My child will develop normally. They stand a decent chance of being true, even.

There is one tall tale, however, that ought to inspire a great deal of skepticism: I will be able to pay for myself in my old age.

In fact, a majority of people cannot and do not. One in three people who turn 65 end up in a nursing home at some point. Among the people living in one today, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 62 percent cannot pay the bill on their own.

And when that happens, Medicaid pays. The very Medicaid program that stands to have hundreds of billions of dollars less to spend if anything like the health care bills on the table in Washington come to pass.

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic candidates don’t like to talk about Pelosi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me tell you a story about healthcare spending accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who wants to deal with this crap?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice Pew report on gun ownership and attitudes.  A large majority of gun owners believe owning a gun is “essential to their freedom.”  Newsflash: it’s not.

2) Heaven forbid people in North Carolina drink alcohol before noon on a Sunday.  The pathetic, backward, explicitly right-wing Christian justification for this law is just embarrassing.

3) Oh my is this one hell of a summer reading list from an Alabama social studies teacher.

4) As if our criminal justice system wasn’t already shameful enough, it’s really unconscionable how the system tries to extract exorbitant profits from criminals and their families.

5) I like Josh Barro’s column on how the Democratic party needs to follow Elizabeth Warren’s approach– unrig the system.  It came to me via a critical posting from a middle-aged white male political science professor who questioned how we could ever expect a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white person to lead the current Democratic party.

6) Pretty amazing what British campaigners did with Tinder to get more Corbyn voters.

7) I liked this “5 reasons it’s hard so to think like a scientist.”  I don’t actually find it hard, but that’s because of years of excellent training.  I especially liked this conclusion as my mom was really, really smart, but the fact that she had never had any science or social science training was clear:

Being smart isn’t enough
Even expert researchers suffer from the human foibles that undermine scientific thinking. Their critical faculties are contaminated by their agenda, by their ultimate motives for doing their experiments. This is why the open science revolution occurring in psychology is so important: when researchers make their methods and hypotheses transparent, and they pre-register their studies, it makes it less likely that they will be diverted, even corrupted by, confirmation bias (seeking out evidence to support their existing beliefs).

Take the example of systematic views in psychotherapy research: a recent analysis found that the conclusions of many are spun in a way that supports the researchers’ own biases. Other times, the whole scientific publishing community, from journals editors down to science journalists, seem to switch off their critical faculties because they happen to agree with the message to emerge from a piece of research.

In their chapter, Shah and her colleagues point out that raw cognitive ability (IQ) is not a good predictor of a person’s ability to think like a scientist. More relevant is mental attitude, such as a person’s “need for cognition” and their ability or motivation to override gut instinct and reflect deeply. On a positive note, these mental dispositions may be more malleable, that is more trainable, than basic intelligence. But we’ll need plenty of solid evidence to test that.

8) Naomi Klein makes the case for identity politics as preeminent for the left.  Interesting interview, but I remain unpersuaded.  And I think her critique of the center-left on climate change is a massive and willful mis-representation.

9) There is no #9 :-).

10) Yglesias on Trump’s America and passing the Senate health care bill:

The watchwords of Trump-era politics are “LOL nothing matters.” If you’re in a jam, you just lie about it. If you’re caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.

11) This tweetstorm on Philandro Castille and what we expect out of police versus ordinary citizens is so good; please read it.

12) This NPR story on the “driving life and death of Philandro Casttille” is very good.  If you think a similar white man would get pulled over half this much, you are part of the problem.

13) Okay, a little too liberal preachy, but I really did enjoy this, “Christian: you are upset about the wrong things”

If you become upset when people use the greeting “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” but you are less upset at the wasteful use of resources during this season and the rampant shallow consumerism while many live in poverty: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset when the government uses its power to make corporations protect their workers and protect the environment, but you are less upset when those workers are exploited, injured, or the environment is critically harmed: You are upset about the wrong things.

If you become upset at the grocery store when you see someone pay for their food with vouchers or food stamps, but you are less upset with the institutional and cultural structures that often create the very need for such help: You are upset about the wrong things.

14) This is important— how the Senate bill creates a sneaky, but effective, backdoor for essentially removing protection for those with pre-existing conditions.  Read this, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

15) NC State senator refers to “jihad media.” NC State PS professor actually says what he really thinks:

“It is exactly the type of loaded, symbolic term one might use preaching to the choir of the Republican base, which is presumably very much Bishop’s audience on Twitter,” Greene said in an email. “This seems of a similar intellectual vein of President Trump referring to the media as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Complaining about the ‘bias’ of very middle-of-the-road mainstream media has been a trope of the Republican right wing for years; this is just taking it to a new level. That said, when one considers the absolutely fundamental role of free media in a properly functioning democracy, this is not the type of rhetoric which should be a part of reasoned political debate.”

16) Excellent NYT Editorial on the psychologist/torturers.

17) Jordan Weissman on the media’s short attention span and McConnell’s evil brilliance:

But whether or not the GOP’s bill ultimately passes, McConnell has already pulled off a frightening coup by showing how easily you can get away with legislating by dark. Even worse, you might be rewarded for it by a media that doesn’t like to harp on the same old story about congressional minutiae day after day when it could be focusing on something with intrigue and a dramatic narrative arc, like James Comey and Trump’s Russia scandal.

U.S. democracy functions thanks to dull rules created by dull men in dull institutions. McConnell has shown that nobody bothers to tune in when a dull man smashes them.

18) Former Reagan administration official, Bruce Bartlett rips Trump and today’s GOP like nobody’s business.  Read it.

And if those policies weren’t enough, conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.

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