Quick hits (part I)

1) Benjamin Wittes (who really knows what he’s talking about) gives 10 reasons “it’s probably too late to stop Mueller.”  I think he’s right, but I’d be happier without the “probably” in there.

2) Nice Monkey Cage analysis from Political Scientist Charles Smith III on why we have to wait so long for election results now.  This is the new reality we just need to get used to:

his slow process of counting ballots has produced considerable controversy. But it shouldn’t. Both state laws and sheer logistics make it impossible to finish counting ballots on election night or even within a day or two. Here’s why that is — and why newly counted ballots seem to favor Democratic candidates.

Why the counting isn’t done on election night

The election night tradition of gathering around the television to see the votes come in and news organizations “call” the winners gives us a false impression: All the votes that need to be counted can, and should, be tallied in the minutes after  the close of polls.

But this is wrong. For one, in almost every state, provisional ballots will have been cast on Election Day by voters whose registration cannot be verified.  In 2016, 2.1 million voters cast a provisional ballot, 71 percent of which were eventually counted after the registration was verified. States are currently in the middle of verifying the registration status of those who cast provisional ballots in 2018, and decisions are being made about whether to count those ballots in this election. Moreover, millions of ballots have been mailed in, which now need to be opened, have voters’ signatures compared to the signature on record and then scanned.

In some states, this means that a large number of votes are counted after Election Day. In 2016, California and Washington counted less than half their votes within a day of the election. Three other states, Alaska, Arizona and Utah counted only about 60 percent. Another six states had counted only 90 percent of their ballots.

In Arizona, ballot-counting takes extra time because three-quarters of Arizona’s voters cast ballots by mail. Many of these are returned in person on Election Day. Processing mail ballots is labor-intensive and can take days if not weeks to complete…

What’s happened in Florida and Arizona is nothing new. In fact, it’s entirely consistent with current trends in election law and election administration. Voters across the United States have demanded greater flexibility in how and when they cast their ballots. This greater flexibility comes with a price: a delay in counting ballots.

Of course, one must guard against shenanigans that could occur during the counting of these additional ballots.

But to date, nothing about the vote-counting in Arizona and Florida suggests that the growing number of votes or their Democratic tilt are due to electoral improprieties.

3) I loved learning all about how the kilogram is being redefined to a universal standard.  It’s wild that until know our basic unit of weight is based on a piece of metal sitting in France.

4) I love NC State basketball and certainly understand the desire to name things after Jim Valvano, but this name is ridiculous: Kay Yow Court at James T. Valvano Arena at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum

5) Good Krugman piece on how the general failure of the Republican tax cuts undermines much of the rationale of Republican economics:

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?

The answer, I’d argue, is that business decisions are a lot less sensitive to financial incentives — including tax rates — than conservatives claim. And appreciating that reality doesn’t just undermine the case for the Trump tax cut. It undermines Republican economic doctrine as a whole. [emphasis mine]

About business decisions: It’s a dirty little secret of monetary analysis that changes in interest rates affect the economy mainly through their effect on the housing market and the international value of the dollar (which in turn affects the competitiveness of U.S. goods on world markets). Any direct effect on business

6) Drum’s headline captures this well, “Military Experts Say We Should Cut Medicare to Fund Bigger Military.”

7) Nice piece from the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer on the difficulty of controlling California’s wildfires:

Fires in the United States are getting larger, and the country is rapidly losing the ability to deal with them. During President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the federal government spent a couple hundred thousand dollars a year fighting fires, according to Williams. This year, it plans to spend $2.25 billion just battling fires; its full budget for managing them can exceed $5 billion. Yet forest-fire damage has ballooned nonetheless. Since the early 1980s, the land area burned by wildfires every year has increased by 1,000 percent.

“Fires are outrunning us. We’re trying harder than ever to put them out, and they’re continuing to win, more and more, every year,” Williams said. “And it really isn’t for lack of effort. Even when we know it’s been stupid policy to fight every single fire, we’re still trying as hard as we can to do that.”

It’s a message he wishes he could drill into the head of every American. As the California fires have dominated the news, Williams has been asked by friends and journalists why we can’t just fix wildfires, why we can’t just put them out. We have solved all sorts of complex environmental-engineering problems. Why not wildfire?

The question illustrates “the root problem that got us into this mess,” Williams told me. “We think that we as humans should be able to dominate this phenomenon of wildfire. And in reality, we can’t. Even though we can put a person on the moon, and even though we can create this global computer network, we can’t. This is a natural phenomenon that is similar to the ocean in that it is really big, that it is much larger than us when it really gets going

8) Oh, so much wrong with this news story:

9) Hat tip to my wife (and amateur linguist) for this cool article on how your language affects your color perception:

There wasn’t an English word for the color “orange” until 200 years after the citrus fruit of the same name arrived in Europe. Before then, the color was called by the two other colors that, when mixed, make orange: “yellow-red.”

This is just one striking example of the ways in which color categories are shaped by culture. Ancient languages, including Greek, Chinese, Hebrew, and Japanese, didn’t have a word for blue. And Russian speakers have two distinct category words for light blue vs dark blue: Something is never “blue,” in Russian, it’s either “siniy” (dark blue) or “goluboy” (light blue.)

These words don’t simply reflect what we see, but multiple experiments suggest they influence our perception. In one recent study, published in Psychological Science and reported by the British Psychological Society, researchers showed groups of Greek, German, and Russian speakers (103 people in total) a rapid series of shapes, and were told to look out for a grey semi-circle. This semi-circle appeared alongside a triangle in different shades of blue and green, and participants later reported whether they saw a complete triangle, a slight or strong impression of the shape, or didn’t see it at all.

Researchers found that Greek and Russian speakers, who have dedicated words for light and dark blue, were more likely to see a light blue triangle against a dark blue background (and vice versa), than they were to identify green triangles against green backgrounds. Speakers of German, which has no such distinction, were no better at seeing shades of blue triangles than green.

10) I loved this youtube video on why Led Zeppelin’s John Bohnam was such an amazing drummer.  I’ve long-believed that having a great drummer is an under-appreciated fact of why some very good rock bands are great rock bands.

11) Connor Friedersdorf on the folly of blaming “white women” for Trump and Republican victories.

12) I’ve long thought the Post’s Charles Lane responsible for some of the most fabulously inane columns.  He’s so convinced himself of his “both sides!” sensible centrism that he writes columns like, “Voters took on gerrymandering. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to.”  I don’t need to explain to you how utterly short-sighted that is.

13) Interesting piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on helping college students confront their biases.  My more simplistic approach– start ever single class with Ezra Klein’s “How politics makes us stupid.”

14) Found this article about big box stores trying to cut property taxes via “dark store theory” pretty interesting.

15) Dana Goldstein writes, “Voters Widely Support Public Schools. So Why Is It So Hard to Pay for Them?”  My theory is that it has something to do with the fact that there is a political party committed to telling voters that taxes are bad and no matter what and encouraging delusional thinking like we can have good schools without paying for them.  I won’t name that political party.

16) Wild stuff (literally).  Escaped-from-a-theme-park Rhesus macaques in Florida carry a deadly herpes virus.

17) Somehow I missed this story last week about a man who died from eating a slug.  I brought it up today when I told my kids not to eat the slug in the front yard.  My wife told me this was so last week.  Umm, also, real.

18) This graphic of what treatments are effective for the common cold in children and adults is awesome!  I’m a big fan of the ibuprofen plus pseudoephedrine plus caffeine approach (caffeine does not directly address the basic symptoms, but in my experience when combined with the others really helps with the “generally feeling like crap” symptom).

19) I found the new/recent Peter Rabbit movie (currently on Netflix) unexpectedly charming.

20) I had seen all week that this piece on Larry Nassar (the gymnast-molesting-physician) was amazing and after yet another recommendation, finally read it yesterday.  Just read it.

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Quick hits (part I)

1a) Political Scientist Hans Noel and former-Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin in clear agreement (and me too, for that matter) on how Democrats should proceed on Trump’s malfeasance.  Noel:

If I were giving advice to Democrats, I’d say impeachment is not a good move, unless you’re sure that the Senate is going to convict. The worst thing would be for Trump to appear vindicated by the process.

But that’s not an argument you’re going to be able to make to activists who are demanding that Democrats move forward. So, for sure, there is going to be impeachment material that is discussed in committee. It’s a question of whether the Democrats can slowly manage all of that — have hearings, subpoena the president’s tax returns, and spread it out over the course of two years. Better to have all the material that you would use for impeachment and then let the voters decide in 2020.

1b) Rubin:

Back inside the Beltway, House Democrats will have the power to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and documents, and hold non-complying witnesses in contempt. Shining a light on the administration’s skullduggery will strengthen the hand of those resisting improper order and give underlings pause about cooperating. Moreover, the House will slowly build the case for removing — by election in 2020, most likely — Trump and his Senate enablers. That worked well in the midterms, and a campaign built around the inarguable proposition that Trump is abusing his power may help reassemble a winning coalition for Democrats.

The Trump resistance, including groups such as Nobody Is Above the Law, also continue to protest peacefully, both laying down a marker in defense of democratic norms and keeping their own voters engaged and enthusiastic. Trump remains the Democrats’ best organizing tool.

What is not, in all likelihood, going to be possible is to impeach and remove Trump. The Senate will remain in GOP hands, making removal (requiring a two-thirds majority) almost inconceivable. Impeaching without removing Trump undoubtedly would fire up his cult and provide weird vindication. Better to investigate, embarrass and — after he leaves office — prosecute him for any crimes (e.g. obstruction of justice) taken in office.

2) The futility of trying to stop mass shooters while we have a country awash in guns:

While retrospective analyses about where laws failed, or might be strengthened, are certainly worthwhile after such tragedies, they can also start to feel futile. The challenge, as Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Duke University School of Medicine, told me on Friday, is that the risk factors for gun violence are widely varied, complex, and nonspecific. “They tend to apply to many more people who are not going to do what you’re trying to prevent,” he said.

Balancing the rights of those with mental-health issues and the desire to safeguard the public is, arguably, the most vexing dilemma in the gun-control debate. The vast majority of people with histories of mental illness will never be violent. Yet studies, including research by Swanson, have shown that people with serious mental illnesses do pose an increased risk of violence compared to those without, and the problem is made far worse when coupled with substance abuse. The puzzle for lawmakers is that predicting violence is maddeningly inexact.

As long as the discussion about gun control continues to center on an individual’s right to bear arms, finding solutions that make an actual dent in the number of mass shootings will remain elusive. The starting point of America’s debate about guns is the idea that every person should be able to have one for self-defense.  As a result, access to guns is far easier in the United States than in any other wealthy, industrialized country. A recent study estimated that there are three hundred and ninety-three million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, making the country’s firearms-ownership rate twice that of the second-highest nation, Yemen.

“Gun control in our country is not really gun control anymore—it’s people control,” Swanson said. “We have to figure out the people who are so dangerous that it’s justified to limit their Second Amendment right. That’s really hard to do.” [emphasis mine]

3) It’s the damn guns.  German Lopez, “America’s easy access to guns is enabling all these mass shootings: It’s the guns. The guns are the problem.”

4) “Appearance is political” and the Georgia governor’s race.  Good stuff.

5) What if everyone voted?

Many political scientists say that policies that make voting easier would also make American democracy more representative and less likely to favor the interests of wealthier, older and white voters who typically turn out at higher rates. Broader participation, proponents say, could ease polarization, lift faith in government and dampen criticism that politicians representing the views of a minority of Americans wield the majority of power in Washington.

6) The amount of problems in actual voting is truly ridiculous in a prosperous, modern country.  Conor Friedersdorf:

Tuesday’s problems were not unforeseeable––they were explicitly foreseen. In 2014, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration warned of an “impending crisis.” The report inspired a nationwide survey conducted by the Brennan Center. In 2015, it produced America’s Voting Machines at Risk. Its authors later warned in The Atlantic, “The problem of aging voting technology reaches nearly every corner of the United States. Unlike voting machines used in past eras, today’s systems were not designed to last for decades.”

Wired emphasized that 43 states “use systems that are no longer manufactured. Some election officials have resorted to scouring eBay for decommissioned equipment they can cannibalize to extend the life of machines. Georgia was in such dire straits over the lack of parts for its voting machines that it hired a consultant to build customized hardware that could run its Windows 2000-based election system software.”…

The 2014 report was a warning. The 2015 survey was a warning. Glitches in 2016 and 2018 were confirmation of a forewarned problem. And in 2020, when voting machines in many jurisdictions will be two years older than they are now, a glitch that alters the outcome of a race or significantly undermines faith in democracy will count as a preventable catastrophe. Acting now—spending now—is the likeliest way to prevent it.

Of course, the Republicans seem to have little interest in improving this.

7) Drum on why we should not trust the results of cherry-picked scientific studies:

Is this because scientists are under pressure from pharmaceutical companies to show positive results, and before 2000 they did exactly that? Or is it because scientists just like reporting positive results if they can? After all, who wants to spend years of their life on a bit of research that ends up being a nothingburger? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing we do know: we need to keep as sharp an eye on scientists as we do on anyone else, especially if there’s a lot of money at stake. When we don’t, they’re just as vulnerable to pressure and hopeful thinking as anyone.

8) I think Brian Beutler nails it on Jeff Sessions, “Sessions was a rotten figure, who got fired for doing one thing the right and decent way.”  Jonathan Blitzer with an extended take:

But, as the Trump Administration adopted increasingly draconian policies, it became clear that, for Sessions, orchestrating the most systematic and wide-reaching assault on immigrants in modern history was well worth enduring near-constant humiliations from the President. As the government’s top lawyer, Sessions was responsible for, among other things, cancelling daca, spurring family separations, trying to defund sanctuary cities, dismantling the asylum system, reshaping the immigration courts, and retooling multiple travel bans. To the extent that the President has styled himself as an anti-immigration crusader, it’s with a script written entirely by Sessions.

9) Chait on coming Democratic investigations of Trump:

The list ranges from Trump’s tax returns (which Republicans had voted to keep hidden) to his acceptance of undisclosed payments from foreign and domestic interests while in office to more routine incompetence and sleaze, like lavish expenses by Cabinet members and the hurricane response in Puerto Rico.

In public, Republicans are warning that investigating any of these matters will backfire on Democrats. “The business of presidential harassment,” offered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “which we were deeply engaged in in the ’90s, improved the president’s approval ratings and tanked ours.”

It ought to be self-evident that McConnell is not actually expressing sincere concern for the political fortunes of the party with which he is engaged in zero-sum competition. Alas, it isn’t self-evident. The notion that rigorous oversight amounts to “harassment,” and can backfire on the congressional party, has taken hold in Establishment Washington. “There is scant evidence of a mandate for a scorched-earth pursuit of Trump,” two senior editors at Politico wrote the day after the election. In the Times, Nicholas Kristof warned that “Democrats jockeying for the presidential nomination in 2020 will tug the party toward impeachment talk or a blizzard of subpoenas — in ways that may help Trump.”

Yes, sometimes aggressive congressional oversight can backfire, like when Republicans fanatically pursued conspiracy theories like Benghazi and “IRS targeting” during the Obama years. The Republican investigation of Bill Clinton also created some blowback, although even that famous episode has a much less straightforward denouement than is widely understood. While hounding Clinton over his affair, Republicans lost the 1998 midterms, an outcome that suggests that there can be a price for going overboard in the pursuit of a scandal that is palpably unrelated to job performance. But the atmosphere of scandal and dysfunction still clung to the Clinton presidency, and it was that stink that allowed George W. Bush to make a case for change in 2000 in what was otherwise an atmosphere of peace and prosperity. As Fred Barnes reported at the time in The Weekly Standard, impeachment “played a historic role, holding Clinton accountable, seeking just punishment, and, not least, shaping the 2000 race and paving the way for a likely Republican victory.” A Bush adviser told him, “There are 13 people who are responsible for where we are now. They are the House impeachment managers.” The lesson seems clear: Even if Congress somehow overreaches in its pursuit of Trump — a prospect that is almost logistically impossible, given the staggering list of misconduct already in plain sight — it would still probably help the Democrats’$2 2020 presidential candidate run against the mess in Washington.

From the very beginning, when Donald Trump and his father ignored demands from the Nixon Justice Department that they stop discriminating against African-Americans, through his repeated tax fraud and financial scams, legal impunity has formed the through-line of his career. Holding him accountable serves not only Democrats’ self-interest but the rule of law. That process begins now.

I’m in inclined to think that impeachment itself is probably not wise, politically, but all the investigations exposing real and pervasive corruption.  Hell yeah.

10) Ezra on Republican claims of fraud,etc., on these close elections:

11) Let’s just share another good tweet on a different topic, while I’m at it:

12) Marc Hetherington goes beyond fluid/fixed voters to propose a solution for UNC’s “what do do about Silent Sam” problem.

13) Drum on media coverage of the caravan.

14) I’m still looking for more definitive accounts on youth turnout in 2018 but this study suggests midterm youth turnout was up dramatically:

15) I was so disappointed in the widely-loved novel, Annihilation.  The movie was so much better.  Mostly because, things actually happened.

16) EJ Dionne on the “mystery” of Evangelical love for Trump:

White evangelicals are not “voting their values” nearly as much as they are voting other aspects of their identity. This group is older than the average American. Its members are disproportionately southern. And, by definition, they are white.

Older white southerners are overwhelmingly Republican and conservative. They have been voting for conservative Republicans since 1980, and their drift toward the GOP began in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of civil rights led so many white southerners to abandon the Democratic Party.

Let’s look first at the demography. The average white evangelical is older than the average American: In a survey by PRRI in cooperation with the Brookings Institution released last week, 45 percent of respondents were over 50 years old, while fully 60 percent of the white evangelicals surveyed were over 50.

Politically, white evangelicals speak with a distinct drawl: Half of the white evangelicals surveyed live in the south, compared to only 28 percent of all other whites.

And it should not surprise us that white evangelicals are somewhat more conservative on issues related to race. Let’s just look at two of many examples from the PRRI survey. Respondents were asked to assess the impact of the rise of non-white groups to majority status in the United States by 2045. Among white evangelicals, 54 percent said the demographic change would be negative, compared with 39 percent of other whites.

Asked if “recent killings of African-American men by police are isolated incidents or are they part of a broader pattern of how police treat African-Americans,” 71 percent of white evangelicals said they were isolated incidents compared with 51 percent of white non-evangelicals.

To be clear, nothing we say here is designed to denigrate the faith of evangelicals or to deny its authenticity. But it is important to recognize what these numbers suggest: In politics these days, religious convictions seem to be taking a back seat to identity, partisanship and ideology. While this is by no means unique to white evangelicals, it is certainly important to understanding their current commitments.

17) My great friend Richard Clerkin had his research written up in the NYT.  Awesome!

Many issues seem to divide Democrats and Republicans, and new research has found one more: philanthropy.

Red counties, which are overwhelmingly Republican, tend to report higher charitable contributions than Democratic-dominated blue counties, according to a new study on giving, although giving in blue counties is often bolstered by a combination of charitable donations and higher taxes.

But as red or blue counties become more politically competitive, charitable giving tends to fall.

“There’s something about the like-mindedness where perhaps the comfort level rises,” said one of the authors of the study, Robert K. Christensen, associate professor at the George W. Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at Brigham Young University. “They feel safe redistributing their wealth voluntarily. It also matters for compulsory giving.”

The study was conducted by four research professors who set out to explore how political differences affect charitable giving. It was published on Oct. 20 in the academic journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. The other authors were Laurie E. Paarlberg of Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Rebecca Nesbit of the University of Georgia and Richard M. Clerkin of North Carolina State University.

18) Still looking for a good take on why Florida largely refused to move left while most of the rest of the country did.  I really enjoyed this conversation with NYT polling guru, Nate Cohn, which does not have an answer, but also discusses the issue.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait on GOP and the crazy bomber dude:

The left certainly has illiberal, paranoid modes of thought. The difference is that the left-wing version resides outside the boundaries of two-party politics, because the Democratic Party is fundamentally liberal not radical. Coulter’s examples of “liberal” violence inadvertently bear this out: the Haymarket Square bombers were anarchists, and the Unabomber developed an idiosyncratic hatred of technology that did not connect to other nodes of left-wing politics. The street-fighting cult antifa lies outside of, and is primarily hostile to, Democratic politics. Left-wing violence from the 1960s likewise came out of radical groups who viewed the Democratic Party with contempt.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has followed a course that has made its rhetoric amenable to extremism. Republican radicalism enabled the rise of a conspiratorial authoritarian president, and that president has expanded the bounds of the party’s following farther out to the fringe. It is getting harder and harder to distinguish the “normal” elements of conservatism from the “kook” parts. That some of those kooks would resort to violence is not an accident but a statistical likelihood. Trump’s party is a petri dish for diseased minds.

2) As a candy lover, I loved this cool NYT magazine candy feature.  And I had no idea that Japan loves Kit-Kat’s so much (me, too).

3) Jennifer Finney Boylan on the stupidity of judging as “calling balls and strikes” (something pretty much only conservative judges argue):

There was a lot of talk during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing about the proper role of a judge, comparing his or her ideal approach with that of an umpire. It was Chief Justice John Roberts, in fact, who — during his own hearing in 2005 — most famously used the metaphor. “Umpires don’t make the rules,” he said. “They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

A few years later, during Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she agreed with much of what Chief Justice Roberts had said. But she also noted that the metaphor might suggest to some people that law is a kind of robotic enterprise, that “everything is clear cut, and there’s no judgment in the process. And I do think that that’s not right, and that it’s especially not right at the Supreme Court level, where the hardest cases go.”

Judges, like umpires, have to decide what kind of philosophers they will be: empiricists, realists, pragmatists — or something else entirely.

If you “call them the way you see them,” you’re accepting that your role is to incorporate your own wisdom and research into the making of decisions — because “the way you see them” is influenced by your own experience of being human.

If you believe “they ain’t nothing until I call ’em!” you’re not just a pragmatist — you’re an activist, or so conservative legal scholars would have you believe.

And if you “call them the way they are,” you’re suggesting that the law exists independent of human experience — that the business of judging should be like the job of a robot. The realist’s world is a black-and-white one, with no shades of gray.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the world of grays that often presents the greatest challenge for conservatives; they don’t like it when things fall outside the bright lines originally imagined by our 18th-century founders — men whom, we should note, agreed that African-Americans should count as only three-fifths of a human and that the right to vote should be reserved for white men who owned land.

But the passage of time ensures that a changing world surely contains shades of gray. Most of the cases coming before the Supreme Court call not for the application of black-and-white rules but for an understanding of the complexity of human experience.

4) US Fertility rates are way down in just the past decade.  That’s not good (below the 2.1 replacement level is a problem).  And there’s a variety of theories as to why.

5) I’ve beenn waiting and waiting for Terry Gross to get on the Bojack Horseman train and finally interview it’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.  Finally

6) And the Guardian with a relatively spoiler-free review of the terrific 5th season I just finished watching.

7) Great Jack Shafer column on the need to stop giving attention to everything Trump says:

The rule that everything the president says is newsworthy was established in those days when presidents 1) were less omnipresent that Trump 2) were more circumspect in what they said and 3) in which there was no cable news. [emphases mine] Nobody ever claimed that the president had a right to massive mindshare every time he opened his mouth, but that’s where we’ve landed. When Trump denounced kneeling NFL players—over whom he has no control—the press made a big deal out of it. When he claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners“ have joined the migrant caravans, we elevated it. When he described well-reported news stories as “fake news,” we gave it big play. But why? The press long ago established that Trump lies with such frequency that it might be easier to count the number of true statements he’s made than false ones.

Like winter rain in Seattle, Trump’s lies, his incessant name-calling, and his baseless rabble-rousing have become so common they merit almost no recognition as “news.” I’m not suggesting that the press ignore Trump when he refers to the “Democrat mob” or makes off-the-cuff threats to impose new tariffs. Reporters should still record his remarks for analysis. But they should abandon the default news-sense setting that dictates that any Trumpian riff deserves top-news treatment. As I brainstormed this idea with my editor, I suggested that newspapers could run columns (buried inside the front section) titled “Shit Trump Says” that would list Trump’s arbitrary policy pitches and verbal berserking. My editor said, no, that would only encourage him to fill the column with the sort of vituperation that would make it destination reading.

For once, my editor was right. The threshold for what constitutes news from Trump’s mouth should be reset. Unless his statements are true or his proposals have some chance of advancing, Trump’s loose talk belongs in concise and dismissive stories in the middle pages of the newspaper where we can skim them and move on. The press corps’ new motto should read: “Just because the president said it doesn’t mean it’s news.” Put the president’s boombox on mute.

8) Really interesting Jay Rosen piece on the defensiveness of the NYT.

9) I didn’t know that they made clothes from plastic bottles until last week when I got some new pants with an “I’m made from plastic bottles label.”  And then Vox has something on it the same time.

10) Some good PS research from Gregory Martin and Steven Webster on geographic sorting:

Political preferences in the United States are highly correlated with population density, at national, state, and metropolitan-area scales. Using new data from voter registration records, we assess the extent to which this pattern can be explained by geographic mobility. We find that the revealed preferences of voters who move from one residence to another correlate with partisan affiliation, though voters appear to be sorting on non-political neighborhood attributes that covary with partisan preferences rather than explicitly seeking politically congruent neighbors. But, critically, we demonstrate through a simulation study that the estimated partisan bias in moving choices is on the order of five times too small to sustain the current geographic polarization of preferences. We conclude that location must have some influence on political preference, rather than the other way around, and provide evidence in support of this theory.

11) Not quite sure what to make of this Post piece on Northerners who love the confederate flag.

12) OMG this ad in Arkansas is unreal.  I played in class this week and one kid literally just dropped his jaw and kept his mouth agape in shock for the whole ad.  I then got to show them this jaw-dropping NC ad from 12 years ago that was basically from the same guy.

13) I take probiotics every day because Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG has actually shown some efficacy in real double-blind trials.  But its probably not doing as much as I hope.  The proven benefits of probiotics are pretty limited.  Aaron Carroll:

Given all of this, what are the benefits? The most obvious use of probiotics would be in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, given that they are focused on gut health. There have been many studies in this domain, so many that early this year the journal Nutrition published a systematic review of systematic reviews on the subject.

The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 reviewshowed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.

Those somewhat promising results — for very specific uses of very specific strains of bacteria in very specific instances — are just about all the “positive” results you can find.

Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrheaThree reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.

14) So, this seems so wrong that it can still happen.  NYT: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: Women in strenuous jobs lost their pregnancies after employers denied their requests for light duty, even ignoring doctors’ notes, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

15) I have to confess, I did not read all of the NYT’s big story on Trump’s massive life-long tax fraud.  But this Fresh Air interview with the authors was great and so worth a lesson.  Rather than focusing on the tax fraud, the real story is about just what an incredible con man Trump is and how he has been conning pretty much everybody (notably of late, credulous Republican voters) about his wealth for pretty much his whole adult life.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Atlantic with a nice summary of scientific findings on the impact of siblings.  Some good; some bad.

2) I love this idea of letting the size of the Supreme Court fluctuate and saying that each president gets two and only two appointments per term.  This could be done by simply passing a law and is so much more fair than our current system which is overly senstive to surprise deaths, retirements, etc.

3) Time cover story on how Trumpism will outlast Trump.

4) Political Scientist Hans Noel takes on the wrongness of the Senate:

But of course, the fact that the Constitution does something isn’t the same as that something being good. We continue to debate the Constitution itselfand specifically the disproportional Senate. If our intuition tells us that there’s something wrong when a minority has that much power, we should pay attention. The Senate’s equal representation of states — not people — should be discussed on its merits.

I don’t think it stands up…

We have come a long way since the founding. Political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins, in his new book, The Increasingly United States, traces how America has gone from “all politics is local” to a world in which national issues dominate even local conflicts.

Hopkins devotes an entire chapter to the question of whether people think of themselves as Americans or as citizens of their states. Across a wide range of measures, he shows that Americans see themselves as Americans first, citizens of their states second. As he puts it: “Compared to their attachment to the nation as a whole, their place-based attachment is markedly weaker. What is more, the content of state-level identities is typically divorced from politics.”

That finding doesn’t mesh well with the idea of people being represented in government through their states. And citizens, politicians and parties have all long realized that. Political strategies for all national offices involve coordination across geography. If you live in a deep red state, you can donate to a candidate running in a purple one. If your district is safe for the Democrats, you can travel to canvass for a candidate in a swing district.

It is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute money to a US electoral campaign. It is neither illegal nor uncommon for citizens to contribute to electoral campaigns in other states. Some candidates receive sizable portions of their resources from out of their own state.

When Americans are hacking the Constitution to get around the geographic nature of our representation, that should be a red flag.

5) Thomas Edsall on Democrats’ shift to the left:

The dominant role of well-educated, relatively upscale white Democrats in moving the party to the left reflects the declining role of the working class in shaping the party’s ideology…

Politically speaking, there are clear pluses and minuses to this trend.

On the positive side for Democrats, more educated whites are expected to play a key role in the party’s efforts to retake control of the House, especially in suburban districts. Women, in particular, have shifted by the millions toward favoring Democratic congressional candidates.

In 2014, women voted for Democratic congressional candidates, according to exit polls, by a 4-point margin; the Oct. 2 2018 Quinnipiac poll shows women supporting Democratic candidates by 18 points. Women this year are also the most active constituency driving Democratic mobilization.

On the negative side, conservatives are already seeking to capitalize on the ideological shift. President Trump has taken to portraying his critics as “an angry left-wing mob.” This headline in the right-leaning Investor’s Business Daily nicely catches the spirit of this effort: “It’s Official: Democrats Are the Extremists Today.”

According to Gallup, the leftward shift among Democrats is more pronounced on social issues involving race, gender and sexual identity than it is on economic matters.

In a detailed analysis, Gallup found that the lion’s share of the increase in support for socially liberal positions

has occurred among non-Hispanic whites. Whereas just 39 percent of white Democrats said they were liberal on social issues back in 2001-2005, that has risen to 61 percent since 2015-2017. By contrast, blacks’ views have hardly changed: 34 percent in the 2001-2005 period vs. 37 percent in 2015-2017.

In addition, according to Gallup, social liberalism grew substantially more among Democratic women than it did among men and more among college-educated Democrats than among those without degrees.

6) I don’t care for this WP story about Republicans rhetorical embrace of protecting people with pre-existing health conditions, “Growing number of Republicans sounding a lot like Democrats ahead of elections.”  It’s talk!!!  Real journalists should not pretend it is anything otherwise.

7) Jon Cohn characterizes it more accurately, “Republicans Are Still Rewriting History On Pre-Existing Conditions.”

8) Bad week for Elizabeth Warren, but I somehow just came across Chait’s September take on her.  He’s bullish:

Warren has taken the opposite tack, defending her agenda as a plan to save capitalism from its excesses. She has called herself “a capitalist to my bones” (or, at other times, her “ankles.”) “There are so many people right now who argue against these reforms and other reforms, who claim they are pro-business,” she told Franklin Foer, “They’re not. They’re pro-monopoly. They’re pro–concentration of power, which crushes competition.” It is also notable that Warren has directed some of the messaging for her early moves at economic liberals like Foer and Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, who would have a more skeptical view of Sanders-style socialism. She even touted her plans in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Warren is shrewdly co-opting that appeal to openness and authenticity, and the importance liberal voters place on appearing to have nothing to hide…

Warren is running on a progressive platform that, if enacted, would sharply curtail political and economic inequality. But unlike Sanders, she is building a profile designed to compete for swing voters also, rather than solely to inspire progressive activists. The distinction can be seen in her rhetoric, policy substance, and choice of emphasis. [emphasis mine]

9) Julia Louis-Dreyfuss‘ comedic brilliance.

10) I do buy so much stuff I never intended to when I go to Ikea.  Here’s why.

11) Max Boot, “Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill.”

Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it. This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulatedRecep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it. This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

The only thing that matters to this intensely solipsistic president is how other rulers treat him; how they treat their own people or even their neighbors is irrelevant.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that Trump has shown so little outrage about the fate of Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for an American newspaper who was reportedly murdered in a NATO country. Trump’s threat of “severe punishment” is undercut by his willingness to accept at face value Saudi denials of complicity — just as he accepted Putin’s denial of hacking the Democratic Party. Trump even speculates, echoing a possible Saudi cover story designed to protect the crown prince, that “rogue killers” could be responsible. How long before he claims that Khashoggi could have been killed by a 400-pound couch potato who somehow waddled into the heavily guarded Saudi Consulate?

If the Saudis carried out this grisly crime with high-level authorization, as the evidence would indicate, they did so at least in part because they anticipated that the American president wouldn’t care about the disappearance of another “enemy of the people.” Other dictatorships are equally emboldened by America’s abdication of authority. This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident. Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill without worrying about the U.S. reaction. Because, in all likelihood, there will be none.

12) The opioid overdose obituary that went viral.

13) The basis of the U.S.- Saudi relationship has roots in the Cold War and US dependence on Saudi oil.  Those situations are now history.  Yglesias on time to re-think the relationship.

14) Best use ever of this meme.

 

Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so tired after a long day at the NC State Fair.  But I know how much DJC enjoys his bright-and-early quick hits part I on Saturday’s, so here’s a start.  And a Ferris Wheel, because I love them.

1) Really enjoyed this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on the “Interdisciplinary Delusion.”

One direction our thought might take us is to the nature of disciplines themselves. A discipline is an academic unit. It is neither a naturally occurring category nor an arbitrary relic of the history of higher learning. Rather, a discipline is an evolving body of skills, methods, and norms designed to explain parts of the world worth knowing something about. To recognize the importance of disciplines — to fight for their survival — is therefore to advocate for a picture of the world, an ontology. It is to insist that the world does not have a single order that is adequately captured by, for example, biology or physics or computation.

2) David Brooks makes the case for multi-member districts and ranked choice voting.  I’m on board with that.

The way to do that is through multimember districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.\

This system makes it much easier for third and fourth parties to form, because voting for a third party no longer means voting for one with no chance of winning. You get a much more supple representation of the different political tendencies that actually exist in the country.

The process also means that people with minority views in their region have a greater chance to be represented in Congress. A district in Southern California, for example, might elect a Bernie Sanders-type progressive, a centrist business Democrat and a conservative.

The current system — wherein a vast majority of seats are safely red or blue and noncompetitive, with only a handful of fiercely contested districts — disappears. Every district becomes a swing district, each vote much more important. Congress begins to work differently because with multiple parties you no longer have stagnant trench warfare — you have shifting coalition-building.

There’s a reason voters in proportional representation countries are less disenchanted with politics than we are. Their systems work better.

3) And Lee Drutman with the really thorough and compelling case for proportional representation.

4) Was Gary Hart, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business all a set-up by Lee Atwater?!  Just maybe.

5) I’m enjoying read The Power.  Interesting speculative fiction has to how the world might change if women were physically dominant (in this case because of a gender specific ability to generate electricity that emerges).  Really interesting ideas.  Though, lately I’m frustrated by the intellectual laziness of the suggestion that most all sexual dynamics (e.g., now women are the pursuers and the objectifiers) would just do a 180 switch.

6) The Senate doesn’t look all that much better for Democrats in 2020 either.  And, its pretty simple.  The Senate dramatically over-represents rural voters and rural voters have become ever more Republican:

Some Democrats are hopeful that the sharp red shift in predominantly smaller, whiter, more rural states will be counterbalanced as diversifying states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas turn blue. But those smaller, whiter, more rural states have already completed their shift to the right; the others have a long—in some cases, really long—way to go before they can be considered “blue” in the way that we consider, say, Arkansas “red.” The Democratic frustration of living under minority rule isn’t exactly subdued right now. But it’s about to become one of the biggest political stories of the next decade

7) And love this from David Leonhardt: “The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People.”

The biggest racial preferences in this country have nothing to do with college admissions or job offers. They have to do with political power. And they benefit white Americans, at the expense of black, Asian and Hispanic Americans.

These racial preferences are the ones that dictate the makeup of the United States Senate. Thanks to a combination of historical accident and racism, the Senate gives considerably more representation to white citizens than to dark-skinned ones. It allows a minority of Americans — white Americans — to wield the power of a majority.

The anti-democratic tendencies of the Senate are well known: Each citizen of a small state is considered more important than each citizen of a large state. It’s a deliberate feature of the Constitution, created to persuade smaller states to join the union. Over time, though, the racial edge to the Senate’s structure has become much sharper — for two big reasons.

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

They are, of course, the residents of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Almost half of Washington’s residents are black, and nearly all of Puerto Rico’s are Hispanic.

8) Ross Douthat argues that Elizabeth Warren played Trump’s game and lost with her DNA results release.  Given that most elite media seems to agree with him, that kind of makes him right.  Presidential politics is 90% media perception.

9) The Post, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.”  Here’s a crazy idea– let’s make these (truly) low cost reinforcements the building code.

10) I have noticed that “birthday cake flavor” is everywhere now.  And I love it!  Who needs pumpkin spice (though, I like that a lot, too).

11) This from a conservative PS professor is true, “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.”

Today, many colleges and universities have moved to a model in which teaching and learning is seen as a 24/7 endeavor. Engagement with students is occurring as much — if not more — in residence halls and student centers as it is in classrooms. Schools have increased their hiring in areas such as residential life and student centers, offices of student life and success, and offices of inclusion and engagement. It’s not surprising that many of the free-speech controversies in the past few years at places like Yale, Stanford and the University of Delaware have concerned events that occurred not in classrooms but in student communal spaces and residence halls.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incrediblyliberal group of administrators.

12) I had no idea I was being tracked as to whether I open my emails or not.  I am and so are you.

13) Via Drum, this was really interesting.  Women and men are more divergent in wealthier countries:

In every case, people who live in richer countries have stronger gender preferences. Looking at the top row, women have greater altruism, more trust, and higher levels of positive reciprocity (i.e., returning a favor with another favor). Looking at the bottom row, men have greater levels of negative reciprocity (i.e., returning an eye for an eye), more tolerance for risk, and greater patience.

This is basically it. This is a study showing associations, but that’s all:

Our findings do not rule out an influence of gender-specific roles that drive gender differences in preferences. They also do not preclude a role for biological or evolutionary determinants of gender differences. Our results highlight, however, that theories not attributing a significant role to the social environment are incomplete….Greater availability of material resources removes the human need of subsistence, and hence provides the scope for attending to gender-specific preferences. A more egalitarian distribution of material and social resources enables women and men to independently express gender-specific preferences.

In other words, being richer provides more opportunity to act the way you want to, and it turns out that this means men and women are more likely to take on gender-specific roles. However, this study merely notes these differences, it doesn’t try to explain them.

14) Early childhood education may not have long-lasting academic benefits, but the evidence suggests it is still totally worth it.

15) Microplastics are found in 90% of table salt.  Sometimes I think, just maybe, we’ll look back on this era and wonder how we so thoroughly poisoned our environment with plastic.

16) Read Ezra Klein’s big think-piece this week, “The rigging of American politics: Political systems depend on legitimacy. In America, that legitimacy is failing.”

American politics is edging into an era of crisis. A constitutional system built to calm the tensions of America’s founding era is distorting the political competition between parties, making the country both less democratic and less Democratic.

Since 2000, fully 40 percent of presidential elections have been won by the loser of the popular vote. Republicans control the US Senate despite winning fewer votes than Democrats, and it’s understood that House Democrats need to beat Republicans by as much as 7 or 8 points in the popular vote to hold a majority in the chamber. Next year, it’s possible that Republicans will control the presidency and both chambers of Congress despite having received fewer votes for the White House in 2016 and for the House and Senate in 2018.

Kavanaugh now serves on a Supreme Court where four of the nine justices were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote in his initial run for office, and where the 5-4 conservative majority owes its existence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary decision to deny Merrick Garland a hearing. This Court will rule on the constitutionality of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, union dues, campaign finance, Obamacare, and more; that is to say, they will rule on cases that will shape who holds, and who can effectively wield, political power in the future.

“The party that is trying to keep minority rule is also going to be the party that has less interest in true democratic representation,” says Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “You have to break some rules of democracy in order to keep minority rule.”

If these dynamics were at least split — if the geography of the House boosted Democrats while the Electoral College leaned toward Republicans — perhaps the dissatisfaction would be diffused, or the dueling interests of the parties would permit a compromise.

But that’s not the case. America’s growing zones of anti-democracy buoy Republicans, who, in turn, gain more political power to write the rules in their favor. As the left realizes it’s playing a rigged game, it’s becoming determined to rewrite those rules itself. If they succeed, the right will see those rewritten rules as norm-defying power grabs that need to be reversed, matched, or exceeded. It is difficult to imagine, from here, the construction of a political system both sides believe to be fair.

An ocassional movie endorsement

I usually save movie plugs for quick hits, but damn did I like “First Man” so much that I wanted to write a brief post on it.  Great writing, great directing, great cinematography, great performances.  I loved the epic human achievement of putting a man on the man largely through the perspective a single individual, Neil Armstrong.  So well done in every way.  After listening to Terry Gross’ interview with the director, I was pretty sure I’d really like it, but it even still exceeded my high expectations.  I think this Richard Roeper review nicely captures it:

Damien Chazelle’s glorious and beautiful and alternately operatic and intimate moon-mission film “First Man” is a master class in how to find dramatic intensity in a story with one of the most well-known endings in the history of human adventure.

Spoiler alert! Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. This is the story of how he got there, what it took to get him there, and what it felt like once he WAS there.

From an engrossing, full-throttle, dizzyingly visceral opening sequence in which Armstrong pilots an X-15 that dances above the Earth’s atmosphere before coming precariously close to fatally spinning out of control; through the geeky, period-piece, procedural interludes; to the sometimes heartbreaking domestic sequences; to the stunning and breathtaking climactic voyage to the moon, “First Man” achieves authenticity and greatness.

Put it right up there with “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13” in the ranks of the best movies ever made about NASA.

Also, I have to say that those morons who complained that the movie didn’t feature a scene of the planting of the American flag are just complete morons who either did not watch the movie, or obviously, do not understand filmmaking in the least.  Ugh.

Anyway, I loved it and so glad I saw it on the big screen.  If you see it, I’d love to hear your take.

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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