Quick hits (part I)

1) Endurance about Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated journey across Antarctica is easily one of my favorite books ever.  Incredible, incredible story.  With that as a background, loved David Grann’s (really long, but worth it) New Yorker article on a modern day Antarctic explorer looking to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps.

2) The case of Red Wolves in eastern NC is really a fascinating story about what it actually means to be a species and what efforts government should undertake to protect a species.

3) How Republicans have reshaped public education in NC.  Short version– not for the better.

4) Garrett Epps on Republicans increasing contempt for the judicial branch (i.e., the rule of law), with special focus on PA and NC.

5) Former Congressional Republican staffer sums it up nicely, “Reagan’s ‘Party of Ideas’ Is Down to Just One: Tax Cuts.”

So what do Republicans have left? The tax cut, the sole important legislation from the Republican Congress, shows that catering to its rich contributors is the party’s only policy. The rest of its agenda is simply tactics and trickery.

As the party has become unmoored from positive belief, it has grown manipulative, demagogic and contemptuous of truth. This was foreshadowed in 2004 when a senior adviser to George W. Bush boastedthat “we create our own reality.” It has culminated in the president’s counselor Kellyanne Conway’s appealing to “alternative facts,” meaning lies, on behalf of her boss, who has made an average of 5.6 false or misleading claims a day since his inauguration.

Today’s Republican Party is incapable of honest and coherent governance, with “right” or “wrong” reduced to a question of whether it helps the party. Its agenda is little more than institutional vandalism and a thumb in the eye.

6) You would think you could put up a “resist white supremacy” sign without too much grief.  Not in Trump’s America.

7) Interesting Op-Ed from retired judge who regrets being way too harsh in her judging days.  Good for her.  That said, sad that only know does she seem to realize 16-year olds are not fully formed and responsible.

8) I think the best response to the Snap boxes is Alexanda Petri’s satire.

9) Love Timothy Egan’s take on the “bad parent caucus”

Let me try another take for you bad parents in office. Pretend you live in a pleasant, well-protected community of like-minded people, and you’re in charge. O.K., you don’t have to pretend. And let’s say there was a natural gas leak every three days in one of the homes in that community, a leak that killed entire families.

Your response would be to pray and do nothing. Or to pray and talk about everything except the gas leak. Or to pray and say you’re powerless to act because the gas company owns you. The response of those suffering would be to take control and kick you out. That’s what we have to do, and will, next November.

10) Got to agree with Aaron Blake, it doesn’t do liberals any good to take offense at everything, i.e., the office of sheriff really is an “Anglo-American” tradition.

11) “Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News” or less intelligent people are more susceptible to believing fake news.

12) Utterly fascinated by this story of how people have long believed that Pope Gregory long ago gave a lenten dispensation for eating fetal rabbits as not meat.  He didn’t.  There goes my Friday dinner.

13) Ben Bishin with a nice piece on why we can’t have decent gun laws despite the popularity of the position.  Short version: an intense minority wins every time.

14) Love how German Lopez totally takes apart Marco Rubio’s moronic logic on gun laws:

In short, Rubio said imposing new restrictions on guns would be ineffective.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out, this is basically an argument against having any laws at all. Just imagine Rubio applying this same logic to other policies: People are going to commit murder anyway, so why bother banning it? People are going to use drugs anyway, so why bother making them illegal?…

Rubio has to understand this logic to some extent, because this is the exact same rationale for a war on drugs that he supports.

Rubio is on the record supporting tougher drug laws, previously writing that “when we consider changing the sentences we impose for drug laws, we must be mindful of the great successes we have had in restoring law and order to America’s cities since the 1980s drug epidemic destroyed lives, families, and entire neighborhoods. I personally believe that legalizing drugs would be a great mistake and that any reductions in sentences for drug crimes should be made with great care.”

The argument for prohibiting certain drugs, from marijuana to heroin, is not that it will stop the use of all drugs. The argument, instead, is that prohibition will make these drugs more expensive — a 2014 study by Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested that prohibition multiplies the price of hard drugs like cocaine by as much as 10 times. It also makes these drugs require the extra work of finding an illicit dealer instead of simply going to your local CVS to buy some heroin. That will not stop everyone from obtaining drugs, but it will deter some people.

It is perplexing that in conservative criminal justice politics, people like Rubio — those who support the war on drugs — don’t apply the same logic to guns that they do to drugs.

15) And Paul Waldman:

As Marco Rubio said on Thursday, the day after 17 of his constituents were slaughtered in Parkland, “I’m trying to be clear and honest here, if someone’s decided to commit this crime, they’ll find a way to get the gun to do it.” His colleague Ted Cruz told Fox & Friends, “We have seen that evil can occur whether at Parkland or at a church in Central Texas, or in schools across the country. There are murderers. Evil is, sadly, always present.” What are you gonna do?

Imagine what the response would be if after a terrorist attack, a senator said, “There’s no point in beefing up security at airports. If someone has decided to commit an act of terrorism, they’ll find a way to do it. Evil is, sadly, always present.”

That’s not how we react to terrorism. We don’t treat it as inevitable, we try to figure out how to stop it. And in fact, our representatives made a choice after 9/11 to take all kinds of measures that infringed on civil liberties and were of questionable practical value in order to forestall future terrorist attacks.

It takes about a month for as many Americans to die from gunfire as perished in the 9/11 attacks, yet we make a choice to do nothing.

16) Nicholas Kristoff with a comprehensive piece on how we should be taking a public health approach to gun violence.

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How to experience the Vietnam War second-hand

So, as you might have noticed from a variety of posts, I’ve been on a bit of a Vietnam War kick since Ken Burns’ brilliant documentary (watch it, watch it, watch it!).  I’ve re-watched “Platoon” (still loved it) and “Full Metal Jacket” (still not a fan, though I can appreciate Kubrick’s film-making acumen).  I read something I’ve been meaning to for years, Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam story collection, The Things They Carried.  It was excellent, but made me want to re-up my periodic recommendation for Phil Klay’s terrific Iraq story collection, Redeployment.

But what inspired me to write this post was finally reading Karl Marlantes, brilliant novel of a Marine rifle company in 1969 Vietnam, Matterhorn.  It’s been in my “to read” queue ever since in came out in 2010, but watching Marlantes’ commentary in the Burns’ documentary, I knew I really had to read his book.  So glad I finally did.  So, so good.  In many ways, even though it was fiction, I thought this was pretty much a perfect complement to the documentary.  Burns’ documentary reveals the insanity of the Vietnam war, e.g., losing dozens of Marines to capture a hill in broad daylight only to abandon it days later because it actually has no strategic importance, on an impersonal level, but Marlantes’ novel really brings that insanity home through some terrific characters that you literally slog through the jungle with.  No, I will never experience anything like Vietnam, but many veterans attest that Matterhorn is about as close as you can get without actually being there.  The fact that the novel was 30+ years in the making is also a great story in itself.

 

Quick hits (part II)

0) Happy Birthday to me (46th).

1) Chait on Trump’s absurd comb-over and what it says about him.  And some nice mocking from Comedy Central.

It was the worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life. And it may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss. But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short. He sees his succession of wives as visual testament to his own status. He selects his Cabinet on the basis of their looking the part. He conscripts the military as a prop to bathe himself in an aura of presidential grandeur.

Trump’s absurd hair is of a piece with his lifelong attempt to market himself as a brilliant deal-maker and stable genius. So yes, it is okay to laugh when the ruse is exposed.

2) More on motherhood and the gender wage gap via the Upshot:

Two studies of college-educated women in the United States found that they made almost as much as men until ages 26 to 33, when many women have children. By age 45, they made 55 percent as much as men.

In Sweden, a recent study found, female executives are half as likely as men to be chief executives, and one-third less likely to be high earners — even when they were more qualified for these jobs than men. Most of the difference was explained by women who were working shorter hours and taking time off work in the five years after their first child was born.

As any parent knows, children come with a host of time-consuming responsibilities. Someone has to do the work. In most opposite-sex couples, that someone is the mother.

There are different explanations for this, researchers say. Women may have intrinsic preferences to do more of this work, or couples could decide it’s most efficient to divide the labor this way. It could also be that social norms about traditional gender roles influence men and women to behave this way.

3) And I’ve got to admit to being guilty by giving my daughter totally gendered toys, i.e., My Little Pony, Barbie, etc.  Of course, this is what she asks for (for which we can presumably blame peer influence and all those commercials on Nickelodeon), but, yeah, I probably should try harder to counter-act this.

4) As if we needed more evidence that many on-line degree programs are a joke (I can personally attest that NCSU’s LPS program is not), an on-line student at Southern New Hampshire University failed an assignment in which the instructor argued, quite persistently, that Australia was a continent, but not a country.

5) Just a friendly reminder that the US Constitution largely does not apply in important ways within 100 miles of the US border.  And, yes, this encompasses most of the country’s population.

6) More evidence on getting the human microbiome off on the right foot via vaginal birth and breastfeeding:

Many studies have strongly suggested that the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the human body influence our current and future health and may account for the rising incidence of several serious medical conditions now plaguing Americans, young and old.

The research indicates that cesarean deliveries and limited breast-feeding can distort the population of microorganisms in a baby’s gut and may explain the unchecked rise of worrisome health problems in children and adults, including asthma, allergies, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes and obesity. These conditions, among others, are more likely to occur when an infant’s gut has been inadequately populated by health-promoting bacteria…

For example, a Danish study of two million children born between 1977 and 2012 found that those born by cesarean delivery were significantly more likely than those born vaginally to develop asthma, systemic connective tissue disorders, juvenile arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, immune deficiencies and leukemia.

7) Really interesting NYT piece on what teenagers are learning from porn.  Short version– it’s not good.  Had a great discussion about this with my NCSU students.  Probably also need a discussion about it with my boys.

8) Love this from Dylan Matthews.  Sure, John Kelly may be a relative grown-up in the White House.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t nonetheless represent much of the worst of Trumpism.

 I would go further, though, and say that Kelly, personally, has become an unacceptable symbol of the worst tendencies of this White House. When he was appointed, he was greeted with widespread bipartisan praise, as a “grown-up” capable of bringing order to an anarchic administration. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Kelly was “in a position where he can stabilize this White House.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called him “one of the strongest and most natural leaders I’ve ever known.”

But from his time as secretary of homeland security, when he aggressively stepped up immigration raids, including ones sweeping up non-criminals whom immigration enforcement agents weren’t even targeting, Kelly has aligned himself with the hardline anti-immigrant wing of the Trump administration. Not coincidentally, he has also repeatedly expressed extreme disrespect for Americans who are not white.

It was not a coincidence that both Rep. Wilson and Myeshia Johnson, the war widow for whom she advocated, are black women. It was not a coincidence that Kelly praised Gen. Lee, who fought to prevent the expansion of rights (including the right to not be owned as chattel) to black Americans. It was not a coincidence that he describes unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as children, a group that’s disproportionately Latino, as lazy.

Nor is it a coincidence, now, that Kelly appears to have repeatedly disregarded women and instead protected their abusers. He chose Rob Porter over the three women who accused him, and a Marine officer who admitted to harassing a female subordinate over that subordinate — who was also a fellow Marine, and much more worthy of Kelly’s loyalty, camaraderie, and brotherhood.

The Trump administration recoils from accusations that it does not care about nonwhite Americans or women. Instead of getting defensive, this time it should try to prove its critics wrong by ejecting a man who has exemplified those tendencies, who has repeatedly disrespected black and Latino Americans and shown no concern for the physical safety of women. The absolute least it can do is force John Kelly to resign.

9) Could really do without all the hyperbolic language in Rebecca Shulman’s Slate article on how German parenting is simply better.  That said, I’m inclined to agree that German parenting is simpler better (largely, because they give their kids far more freedom and independence).  Personally, especially love encouraging kids to play with fire.  Hey, I do that!  Must be my German heritage coming through :-).

10) Really enjoyed this NYT feature on the existing border wall with Mexico.

11) Whoa!  Where has all the sex gone?

American adults, on average, are having sex about nine fewer times per year in the 2010s compared to adults in the late 1990s, according to a team of scholars led by the psychologist Jean Twenge. That’s a 14 percent decline in sexual frequency. Likewise, the share of adults who reported having sex “not at all” in the past year rose from 18 percent in the late 1990s to 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the General Social Survey…

Similar trends are apparent among younger men and women. In the early 2000s, about 73 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 had sex at least twice a month. That fell to 66 percent in the period from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the GSS.

Other 18- to 30-year-olds aren’t doing it at all. From 2002 to 2004, 12 percent of them reported having no sex in the preceding year. A decade later, during the two years from 2014 to 2016, that number rose to 18 percent.

Sex is also down among teenagers. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in the share of high school students who said they ever had sex: from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Sexual activity among teenagers fell the most between 2013 and 2015, about the same time that sex took a real dip among 18- to 30-year-old adults…

What’s driving this sexual counter-revolution? It’s too early to offer definitive answers, but a few hypotheses seem especially plausible.

First, while they are not socially conservative, the members of the millennial (born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) and iGen (born since the mid-1990s) generations are more cautious on average than earlier generations, and hence more inclined to focus on the emotional and physical risks of sex, rather than its joys. Raised by helicopter parents, these young adults take fewer risks. As a group, they drink less, drive less, and they also hit the sheets less. Today’s young adults have gotten the message—think MTV’s 16 and Pregnant—that sex and pregnancy can be a threat to them and their future. Tyrone, a 20-year-old man, put it this way to Twenge for her book, iGen: His generation is having less sex “because of fear of pregnancy and disease.” He added, “There’s a bunch of commercials and television shows and stuff trying to teach you a lesson.”

12) Yes, Americans should totally do more babysitting for each other!

13) Jordan Weissman on how the GOP’s deficits are terrible for our politics:

Forget the GOP’s obvious hypocrisy on spending—ever since the Bush era, it’s been clear that elected conservatives do not really care about deficits, except insofar as they make a handy club for whacking Democrats. Instead, worry about the lessons Republicans might draw from this experience. During Obama’s presidency, the GOP’s mania for spending cuts—and its ability to wring budget concessions out of the president—was an anchor on the economy at a critical moment when millions were suffering from the aftermath of a financial catastrophe. Yet, the party suffered precisely zero political consequences. Instead, they’re in power in part because of the slow, post-crises economy at the end stages of a recovery that could help them hold onto Congress in 2018. Moreover, its clear that nobody actually expects them to make good on their rhetoric about fiscal prudence. They’ve abandoned it pretty much without punishment. Pushing austerity during a downturn and priming the pump when the economy is near full health might turn out to be an incredibly canny political strategy, even if it may have been unplanned. If there ever comes another time when sabotaging the economy might work to Republicans’ advantage, they have every incentive to do it again. [emphasis mine]

14) So, I’m going to be reviewing some students for scholarships soon and it really got me thinking about what sorts of character traits a reviewer might want to see.  I thought to myself “intellectual humility.”  Turns out, that is a thing.  It also led me to this nice Tom Friedman column on how to get a job at google:

And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” It is why research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” said Bock.

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ ” You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.

That’s good stuff.  That said, it seems to be hard enough to find in 40-somethings.  I wonder how much you find in high-achieving young adults.

15) Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the sea turns 20.  One of the very best albums ever.

16) Michael Lewis on Trump and Bannon.  So, so much goodness:

Bannon has a favorite line: If I had to choose who will run the country, 100 Goldman Sachs partners or the first 100 people who walk into a Trump rally, I’d choose the people at the Trump rally. I have my own version of this line: If I had to choose a president, Donald Trump or anyone else I’ve ever known, I’d choose anyone else I’ve ever known. Among the revelations of Wolff’s book was just how many of the people in and around Trump’s White House feel more or less as I do…

He just thinks I’m missing the point. “What was needed was a blunt force instrument, and Trump was a blunt force instrument,” he says. Trump may be a barbarian. He may be in many senses stupid. But in Bannon’s view, Trump has several truly peculiar strengths. The first is his stamina. “I give a talk to a room with 50 people and I’m drained afterward,” Bannon says. “This guy got up five and six times a day in front of 10,000 people, day in and day out. He’s 70! Hillary Clinton couldn’t do that. She could do one.” The public events were not trivial occasions, in Bannon’s view. They whipped up the emotion that got Trump elected: anger. “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” he says. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.”

The ability to tap anger in others was another of Trump’s gifts, and made him, uniquely in the field of Republican candidates, suited to what Bannon saw as the task at hand: Trump was himself angry. The deepest parts of him are angry and dark, Bannon told Wolff. Exactly what Trump has to be angry about was unclear. He’s had all of life’s advantages. Yet he acts like a man who has been cheated once too often, and is justifiably outraged. What Bannon loved was the way Trump sounded when he was angry. He’d gone to the best schools, but he had somehow emerged from them with the grammar and diction of an uneducated person. “The vernacular,” Bannon called Trump’s odd way of putting things. Other angry people, some of whom actually had been cheated by life, thrilled to its sound.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Don’t know how I missed this before, but “why conservatives are more susceptible to believing lies” is really good:

The answer, I think, lies in the interaction between reasoning processes and personality. It’s each person’s particular motivations and particular psychological makeup that affects how they search for information, what information they pay attention to, how they assess the accuracy and meaning of the information, what information they retain, and what conclusions they draw. But conservatives and liberals typically differ in their particular psychological makeups. And if you add up all of these particular differences, you get two groups that are systematically motivated to believe different things.

Psychologists have repeatedly reported that self-described conservatives tend to place a higher value than those to their left on deference to tradition and authority. They are more likely to value stability, conformity, and order, and have more difficulty tolerating novelty and ambiguity and uncertainty. They are more sensitive than liberals to information suggesting the possibility of danger than to information suggesting benefits. And they are more moralistic and more likely to repress unconscious drives towards unconventional sexuality.

Fairness and kindness place lower on the list of moral priorities for conservatives than for liberals. Conservatives show a stronger preference for higher status groups, are more accepting of inequality and injustice, and are less empathic (at least towards those outside their immediate family). As one Tea Party member told University of California sociologist Arlie Hochschild, “People think we are not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees. But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.”…

These conservative traits lead directly to conservative views on many issues, just as liberal traits tend to lead to liberal views on many issues. But when you consider how these conservative traits and these conservative views interact with commonly shared patterns of motivated reasoning, it becomes clearer why conservatives may be more likely to run into errors in reasoning and into difficulty judging accurately what is true and what is false.

It’s not just that Trump is “their” president, so they want to defend him. Conservatives’ greater acceptance of hierarchy and trust in authority may lead to greater faith that what the president says must be true, even when the “facts” would seem to indicate otherwise…

Similarly, greater valuation of stability, greater sensitivity to the possibility of danger, and greater difficulty tolerating difference and change lead to greater anxiety about social change and so support greater credulity with respect to lurid tales of the dangers posed by immigrants. And higher levels of repression and greater adherence to tradition and traditional sources of moral judgment increase the credibility of claims that gay marriage is a threat to the “traditional” family.

2) I didn’t think this was actually a new finding, but college professors sacrifice pay– as compared to comparable professionals– for greater flexibility in how they use their time.  A trade I’m grateful for every day.

3) The current flu vaccine market is broken and we need to fix it.  Or more flu.

4) NYT Op-ed on our hackable political future:

Imagine it is the spring of 2019. A bottom-feeding website, perhaps tied to Russia, “surfaces” video of a sex scene starring an 18-year-old Kirsten Gillibrand. It is soon debunked as a fake, the product of a user-friendly video application that employs generative adversarial network technology to convincingly swap out one face for another.

It is the summer of 2019, and the story, predictably, has stuck around — part talk-show joke, part right-wing talking point. “It’s news,” political journalists say in their own defense. “People are talking about it. How can we not?”

Then it is fall. The junior senator from New York State announces her campaign for the presidency. At a diner in New Hampshire, one “low information” voter asks another: “Kirsten What’s-her-name? She’s running for president? Didn’t she have something to do with pornography?”

Welcome to the shape of things to come.

5) I’m so going to start noticing now that cartoon villains often speak with foreign accents.  And, yes, of course that has implications for what our kids learn.

6) Great upshot piece on the “able-bodied” poor in American society:

The “able-bodied” are now everywhere among government programs for the poor, Republican officials point out. They’re on food stamps. They’re collecting welfare. They’re living in subsidized housing. And their numbers have swelled on Medicaid, a program that critics say was never designed to serve them.

These so-called able-bodied are defined in many ways by what they are not: not disabled, not elderly, not children, not pregnant, not blind. They are effectively everyone left, and they have become the focus of resurgent conservative proposals to overhaul government aid, such as one announced last month by the Trump administration that would allow states to test work requirements for Medicaid.

Able-bodied is not truly a demographic label, though: There is no standard for physical or mental ability that makes a person able. Rather, the term has long been a political one. Across centuries of use, it has consistently implied another negative: The able-bodied could work, but are not working (or working hard enough). And, as such, they don’t deserve our aid.

“Within that term is this entire history of debates about the poor who can work but refuse to, because they’re lazy,” said Susannah Ottaway, a historian of social welfare at Carleton College in Minnesota. “To a historian, to see this term is to understand its very close association with debates that center around the need to morally reform the poor.” [emphasis mine]

7) This NYT look at how the two Koreas have diverged since the last Korean Olympics (1988) is truly fascinating.  Here’s one of the amazing charts.

8) Of course rural North Carolinians think that a sexual education curriculum that teaches that everyone is not straight and birth control is a thing is the work of the devil.  Of course, the county gave in and pulled the curriculum.

9) Really interesting piece from science journalist Ed Yong from how he worked assiduously to reduce gender bias in his stories.

10) Academia-twitter lit up this week in response to a tweet suggesting that graduate students should plan on working at least 60 hours a week, since that’s what professors are working.  Ummm, no.  Turns out that the 60 hours upon which the tweeter based this comes from a single study of 30(!!) non-random professors at Boise State.  Please!

11) Love this from John McWhorter on Trump’s linguistic style and his mental fitness:

Two and three decades ago, Mr. Trump spoke to David Letterman and Rona Barrett in the quietly composed phrasing we expect of public figures expressing serious thoughts. So why does the same man now toss off word salad?

Because he can.

The younger Mr. Trump, albeit as self-obsessed as now, was not yet a rock star, and he had a businessman’s normal inclination to present himself in as polished a manner as possible in public settings. Especially as someone who grew up in the 1950s, when old-school standards of oratory were still part of the warp and woof of American linguistic culture, Mr. Trump instinctually talked “up” when the cameras were rolling. To him, cloaking his speech in its Sunday best would have been part of, as it were, being a gentleman.

However, for him this would always have been more stunt than essence. Since he is someone who neither reads nor reflects, his linguistic comfort zone has always been the unadorned.

At a certain point, Mr. Trump became the man who felt – and was comfortable saying publicly – that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and retain his supporters’ allegiance. Someone with that mind-set, especially a sybaritic person unaccustomed to sustained effort, has no impetus to speak in a way unnatural to him in public.

Mr. Trump is equally unmoved by any sense that to speak as a president is a kind of kabuki or performance art, in which one doesn’t so much talk as signal. He has learned that he can just show up and run his mouth, and he’ll be adored regardless.

Some suppose Mr. Trump started talking down deliberately in order to portray folksiness. But this imputes to him a sociological sensitivity, a reflective, outwardly focused theory of mind, that he shows no evidence of otherwise. More likely, Mr. Trump has simply taken the path of least resistance.

12) Trump’s solution for the opioid crisis?  Be really mean to drug dealers.  Jeff Sessions?  Blame marijuana (which evidence indicates, might actually mitigate it).

13) New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino asks, “Is there a smarter way to think about sexual assault on campus.”  You don’t need to read the article to know the answer is, “hell, yes!”  That said, it is worth reading as a thoughtful discussion of the issue.

14) Good Lord, Chuck Todd is an idiot, as Erik Wemple nicely points out.

15) This new mutant crayfish species that reproduces asexually and has taken over Europe in just 25 years is a hell of a story:

Over the past five years, Dr. Lyko and his colleagues have sequenced the genomes of marbled crayfish. In a study published on Monday, the researchers demonstrate that the marble crayfish, while common, is one of the most remarkable species known to science.

Before about 25 years ago, the species simply did not exist. A single drastic mutation in a single crayfish produced the marbled crayfish in an instant.

The mutation made it possible for the creature to clone itself, and now it has spread across much of Europe and gained a toehold on other continents. In Madagascar, where it arrived about 2007, it now numbers in the millions and threatens native crayfish.

“We may never have caught the genome of a species so soon after it became a species,” said Zen Faulkes, a biologist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who was not involved in the new study…

Only about 1 in 10,000 species comprise cloning females. Many studies suggest that sex-free species are rare because they don’t last long.

In one such study, Abraham E. Tucker of Southern Arkansas University and his colleagues studied 11 asexual species of water fleas, a tiny kind of invertebrate. Their DNA indicates that the species only evolved about 1,250 years ago.

There are a lot of clear advantages to being a clone. Marbled crayfish produce nothing but fertile offspring, allowing their populations to explode. “Asexuality is a fantastic short-term strategy,” said Dr. Tucker.

In the long term, however, there are benefits to sex. Sexually reproducing animals may be better at fighting off diseases, for example.

If a pathogen evolves a way to attack one clone, its strategy will succeed on every clone. Sexually reproducing species mix their genes together into new combinations, increasing their odds of developing a defense.

The marbled crayfish offers scientists a chance to watch this drama play out practically from the beginning. In its first couple decades, it’s doing extremely well. But sooner or later, the marbled crayfish’s fortunes may well turn.

16) Really liked this Op-Ed about saying no.  One key is to say, “I don’t” rather than “I can’t.”   I use this on telephone solicitations all the time.

Second, it’s easier to say no when you know exactly how to say it, so come up with a few anchor phrases for different situations. “No, I don’t buy from solicitors” for door-to-door salespeople, for example. “No, I don’t go out during the week” for co-workers who want to go on a drinking binge on a Monday night.

When you have these phrases ready, you don’t have to waste time wavering over an excuse. And you start to develop a reflexive behavior of saying no.

17) So, I thought this InsiderHigherEd piece on making academic conferences more family-friendly to benefit women scholars had some good points, but I feel like it was really remiss to not even discuss the dynamics that make things hard for women scholars with young children, but presumably not male scholars.  Seems we could be expecting more of these female professor’s husband’s/partners to be able to step up for a few days.

18) I really enjoyed this article on one of the very few conservative Democrats remaining in the House, Dan Lipinski, because I knew Lipinski back when he was a political science graduate student at Duke (he was briefly a PS professor before taking over his dad’s Congressional seat).  He is an example of how the time has come to challenge certain Democratic legislators from the left.

Of the 34 Democrats who broke with the party on that most consequential vote eight years ago, just three remain in office. And none have had it quite so easy as Lipinski, a low-key former college professor who in 2005 inherited a Chicago-area House seat that his father held for two decades.

He’s escaped any real threat from Republicans; they defeated most of the other anti-Obamacare Democrats but couldn’t compete in his solidly blue district. And the left has been too busy defending the law and fighting other battles in the years since.

But Lipinski, 51, is now facing a serious primary challenge for the first time in a decade, in what progressives say is a long-overdue political reckoning for a congressman whose voting record has gotten too far to the right of his constituents. Illinois’s third congressional district, which includes a portion of Chicago and suburbs to the south and west, went for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary and backed Hillary Clinton by 15 points in the general election.

19) Rob Schofield on how North Carolina’s legislative politics is increasingly conducted in the dark.

In some ways, of course, this is not a new story. Ever since Republicans seized control of the General Assembly in 2011, there has been a broad and steady decline in open debate and fair process.

Whether it’s cutting off debate on legislation, holding surprise, late night sessions, regularly ignoring the committee process, burying new and controversial laws that were never previously discussed in omnibus budget bills that cannot be amended, holding an endless series of “special” legislative sessions, refusing to record and archive all sorts of important proceedings, or even directly and blatantly punishing lawmakers who dare to speak up during debate, Republicans have evidenced little shame. Much as has been the case with gerrymandering, legislative leaders have not so much invented new tactics and tricks as they have cynically perfected and expanded the use of old ones.

20) Kurt Andersen with an excellent piece on how the conspiracy theory wing of the Republican party took over.

This is not just symbolic wankery. Take Agenda 21, for instance. In 1992, the U.N. held an Earth Summit to start getting everyone on the same page concerning the environment, especially on CO2 emissions. It adopted a voluntary blueprint called Agenda 21, which nobody outside the environmental do-good sector paid any attention to for many, many years. From 1994 to 2006, there was exactly one reference to Agenda 21 in the New York Times.

But then the right discovered it—exposed it!—and refashioned Agenda 21 as a secret key to the globalist conspiracy. By 2012, Americans on the right knew to be scared, very scared, of this vague, 20-year-old international environmental plan. When the Obama administration created the White House Rural Council to promote economic development in places like Appalachia, a Fox News anchor warned that it was “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one-world order.” When Newt Gingrich was briefly the front-runner for the 2012 presidential nomination and mentioned it during a debate, applause prevented him from finishing the thought. At that moment, Glenn Beck had just published his dystopian novel, Agenda 21, and provided a perfect glimpse into the conspiracist mind on his TV show, where one of his Agenda 21 experts said, “You’re not going to find anything that isn’t Agenda 21 these days. … People recognize many, many things that are wrong but they don’t realize that they’re all connected.”

21) As Yglesias put it, “another crippling blow to MS 13.”  The CNN story, “‘Pillar of the community’ deported from US after 39 years to a land he barely knows.”

22) Man, I used to love to read newsmagazines, and subscribed to Time for years and years.  On the demise of Newsweek.

23) Among the many, many stupid and counter-productive prison policies, many prisons now make it absurdly difficult for prisoners to get decent books.  Can’t we even let prisoners have good stuff to read?!

24) The headline says it all, “Military parades are about ego and power. Of course Trump wants one.”

25) So much for my compact disc collection.  Best Buy won’t even be selling them anymore.  Of course, it’s been a long time since I actually listened to a CD, much less purchased one.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Criminal Justice twitter was alight the other day about how it is so wrong for any judge to ever advocate sexual assault against prisoners (as happened in the Nassar case).  Nice post in Deadspin.

2) Taking advantage of the fact that military families move around all the time, researchers have more evidence that your neighbors’ weight impacts your own.

3) Nice article in Wired about all the really cool film-making video essays now available on Youtube.  I’m really going to start digging into these.

4) This joint interview with long-time friends Steven Pinker and Bill Gates was terrific.  Both super-smart, super-thoughtful thinkers.  And I had not realized I should be reading Gates‘ book reviews.

PG The motto of the foundation is: “Every life has equal value.” And in your new book, Steven, there’s the idea that we can’t want something good for ourselves without wanting it for everyone. But in truth, I want better things for my husband and my kids than for you. Is that evil, or human?

BG That’s natural. It’s even predicted by evolutionary logic. What makes Papua New Guinea — where there’s no police and revenge after revenge — different from Western society is that when we give ourselves over to the law, we want it to be executed impartially. We gain stability. But if you could get your son off, of course you’ll try.

SP You left off a crucial piece in framing the proposition, Philip — which comes from Spinoza. He said those under the influence of reason desire nothing for themselves that they do not desire for all humankind. But reason is not a powerful part of human nature. Innately, we favor family over strangers, our tribe over other tribes. It’s only when we’re called upon to justify our beliefs — not consult our gut feelings, but convince others of the right way to act — that we conclude that all lives have equal value.

5) Scientists are starting to get a better idea of what happens in your body when you exercise.  Short version– it’s really complicated.  Additional short version– exercise is really, really good for you.

The study helps to clarify some of the body-wide health effects of working out and also underscores just how physiologically complex exercise is.

For some time, scientists have suspected that the body’s internal organs are as gossipy and socially entangled as any 8th-grade classroom. It is thought that, under the right conditions, fat cells chat with muscle cells, and muscle cells whisper to brain cells and everybody seems to want to be buddies with the liver.

These interactions are especially abundant during exercise, when continued movement demands intricate coordination of many different systems within the body, including those that create cellular energy.

6) This Politico story asks, “By any measure, she was one of the most successful Fed chairs in history. Why didn’t Trump keep her around?”  Ummmm, that’s pretty easy.  Because Obama appointed her and Trump is a moronic sexist pig.

7) Eric Levitz, “Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die.”

8) Love thisAccumulated Winter Season Severity Index” to see how bad your winter is.  Pretty bad in Raleigh.

9) This is pretty infuriating, “How an Arizona couple’s innocent bath-time photos of their kids set off a 10-year legal saga.”  All I can say is– what is wrong with people??!!

10) Ross Douthat and Frum discuss Frum’s Trumpocracy.  

Frum: Instead, they concluded: “What if we shaped the electorate to be a little more friendly to us? Might our formerly unpopular ideas prevail then?” The G.O.P. is complicit with Trump because he delivered a success that finer leaders and better methods could not deliver. Trumpocracy is the fusion of Trump’s authoritarian instincts with the G.O.P.’s plutocratic instincts in the context of a country trending in very different directions.

11) Wonkblog, “Why can’t conservatives just admit they were wrong about inflation?”  Because they cannot seem to admit they’ve been wrong about practically everything on the economy in recent years.  Of course, nobody is good at admitting they are wrong, but conservatives have been wrong about the economy a lot in recent decades.

12) Lee Drutman on how nationalism undermines income redistribution:

The more nationalistic the country, the worse the poor are doing relative to the rich

Shayo’s theory is that if lower-income individuals think of themselves as lower class, they will want more redistribution. If class consciousness prevails, the lower classes will strongly support redistribution and vote accordingly.

But if national identity is more salient than class identity, poorer individuals might instead identify with the nation more broadly, and less with their class.

Basically, humans are not selfish. We are group-ish. We want what’s best for people like us. But “people like us” is a highly subjective category. If “people like us” is “American patriots,” we’ll want what benefits “American patriots.” If we take on a nationalist identity, we can bask in the reflected glow of American greatness, even if our own finances are precarious. Thus, Shayo argues, “a national identity means less weight on class issues and less support for redistribution.”

13) Love this idea from David Plotz and Hanna Rosin— married couples all have one ur-fight that the keep returning to in different guises.  I can’t think of anything like this for my wife and I, but she may well see it differently.

14) In a surprise to no one who cares about good public policy, Trump’s tariffs on solar cells are horrible public policy:

But while the tariffs may help domestic manufacturers, they are expected to ripple throughout the industry in ways that may ultimately hurt American companies and their workers. Energy experts say it is unlikely that the tariffs will create more than a small number of American solar manufacturing jobs, since low-wage countries will continue to have a competitive edge.

Solar manufacturing now represents just a fraction of the overall jobs that have developed around the solar industry. More than 260,000 Americans are employed in the sector, but fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are manufacturing solar cells and modules, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Far more workers are employed in areas that underpin the use of solar technology, such as making steel racks that angle the panels toward the sun. And the bulk of workers in the solar industry install and maintain the projects, a process that is labor-intensive and hard to automate…

But by raising the cost of one all-important ingredient, the tariffs could make solar power less competitive with other sources of energy, like gas and wind, resulting in the construction of fewer solar projects. On Tuesday, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that the president’s action would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments.

At the Wakefield solar farm, the five-megawatt project on the Vinson family’s land, the cells that collect solar energy are imported — they were manufactured by JA Solar, a Chinese company, which makes cells and panels in China and Malaysia.

But the steel frames that the panels rest on are American made, manufactured by RBI Solar, which is based in Cincinnati. The steel that RBI Solar used to make these racks is also American, bought from Worthington Industries in Ohio and Attala Steel in Mississippi.

15) Just came across this essay from November, it’s really good: “Racism May Have Gotten Us Into This Mess, But Identity Politics Can’t Get Us Out.”

One particularly revealing study, by the political scientists Edward Carmines and Geoffrey Layman, suggests that, regardless of their racial attitudes, Republican voters are unlikely to support government programs. But while Democrats in general view such programs more favorably, those who express antagonistic attitudes toward blacks are much less likely to support government programs if they are framed in racial terms.

In other words, racial signaling isn’t likely to have much of an effect on the Republican base — they are already ideologically predisposed to reject government help for the problems of minorities. But it doeshave an effect on those voters who would support progressive policies if not for their racial animus. It’s the “progressive deplorables” in our midst who are the real problem — at least from an electoral perspective…

And yet the tacit prescription offered by some Democrats to remedy the ills of white identity politics is, inexplicably, to double down on identity-based messaging. Some Democrats even take this so far as to argue that the party should not reach out to Trump voters at all because they are racist —- advocating by implication that we cede those voters completely to the right. This is where identity politics, despite its benefits, has the potential to be most dangerous…

And as depressed voter turnout among African-Americans and Latinx voting trends suggest, all Americans, regardless of color, need a principle to vote for, not just an enemy to resist. For those living on the margins, incremental change is a life sentence to inhumane conditions, and Democratic candidates whose biggest selling point is being not as-racist-as-the-next-guy are unlikely to secure the voter investment Democrats need in 2018 and 2020. Simply put, relying on identity alone is a bad bet.

16) Really, really good piece from David Roberts about what it means to be an environmentalist versus a climate hawk.  Not sure I consider myself a climate hawk, more so a pragmatic environmentalist.  Regardless, good stuff:

First, it’s fine if an individual or group chooses to prioritize rivers in Quebec or the safety risks of existing nuclear power plants over the threat of climate change. Sincerely: it’s fine. I don’t personally agree with that ranking, but people are entitled to their own values and priorities.

But an individual or group should not do so while also proclaiming climate change an existential threat. By doing so they are deceiving themselves, their members, or both. There are tradeoffs among priorities, and eschewing 9.45 TWh of carbon-free energy is a big-ass tradeoff. To make that tradeoff is to prioritize being an environmentalist over being a climate hawk. It should be done with open eyes…

One example: environmentalists often cite studies showing that high penetrations of renewables are possible in the US. But those studies all show that achieving high penetrations requires a country-spanning network of new transmission lines. If there’s a study showing how to fully decarbonize without tons of new transmission, I haven’t seen it. So yes, transmission lines connecting zero-carbon power sources and loads might disrupt some people and ecosystems, but systematically opposing them simply isn’t commensurate with being a climate hawk.

Another example: full decarbonization would require, among other things, an enormousindustrial shift. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs in polluting industries would be wiped out and workers displaced. There would be new jobs in clean energy, but the US has not typically handled such workforce transitions well. Being a climate hawk means accepting serious social and economic disruption.

Decarbonization will also involve a mind-boggling amount of manufacturing, building, and retrofitting. Multiple solar and wind gigafactories would be built every year. Renewables would cover every open surface. Every city would be as dense and transit-served as possible. Being a climate hawk means accepting that some natural areas will be turned over to energy production and that “the character of the neighborhood” is going to be disrupted by infill and multi-modal transportation systems.

Quick hits (part I)

Now coming to you at 6:00am sharp, by special request of DJC…

1) I still love my Diet Coke (and so does JP, if he’s reading this), but not so much the rest of America.  And, of course, Diet Dr Pepper is the greatest drink known to humans.

2) Of course Trump has an unqualified 24-year old running the Office of National Drug Control Policy during our opioid crisis.

3) I’m feeling safer already.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/01/16/too-old-for-daca-a-michigan-father-is-deported-after-three-decades-in-the-u-s/?utm_term=.afe95d8e0d15

4) Fake news!

All those media-trust studies have a tendency toward the rote. Yes, we already knew that the public had little trust in the country’s journalistic organs. Yes, we knew that finding credible sources could be a harrowing pursuit for the public. Yes, we knew that an increasing portion of the U.S. public felt that the news was biased.

Yet this nugget from a new Gallup-Knight Foundation survey just about knocked the Erik Wemple Blog out of a decade-long media-research torpor:

Four in 10 [or 42 percent of] Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.” [The corresponding figure for Democrats is 17 percent.]

5) Jennifer Rubin on those who demean themselves for Trump:

For the sake of argument, let’s say she doesn’t personally recall the president’s statements. By now, she is aware that both Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) know what was said. She now has to consider — not from a legal sense, but from an ethical one — whether she wants to serve a president who plainly prefers white Europeans to black and brown people, and is prepared to lie to the public about his statements and views. Public service is honorable, but not when you are enabling elected officials to lie and to pursue racist ends.

In a nutshell, this is why you cannot serve a president who is racist, dishonest or personally corrupt. You inevitably wind up enabling racism, dishonesty and corruption. If you thought you could remain untainted, you were wrong. And now, you need to either quit or face the legal and personal consequences.

6) We keep talking about the importance of investing in pre-school, but meanwhile, we don’t seem to be willing to invest in preschool teachers.

7) I learned about the developmental milestone of your kids lying to you way back when I first read Nurtureshock.  So, yes, you should be happy when your kids start lying to you.  And it’s also worth noting that teenagers lie to their parents all the time and it’s perfectly normal (you almost surely did it way more than you would admit to your kids).  That said, I may be related to a certain teenager who could at least limit his lying to parents about non-school-related topics.

8) Amy Davidson Sorkin on Trump’s willing liars:

Among others present, John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, has not commented; Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security Secretary, said on Fox News on Sunday that she didn’t “recall him saying that exact phrase.” (On Tuesday, in sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she said that she didn’t “hear” the word, but acknowledged that the President had used “tough language.”) They all need to speak more clearly, about shitholes or shithouses, if nothing else so that the public has a good gauge of who is willing to lie, and how blatantly, for the President.

Trump seems to be curious about that question, too. According to the Post, members of his Administration at first thought that the controversy could be settled in the shady realm of “do not recall,” since the President had, again, reportedly talked to others about using derogatory language. They were caught by surprise when he started tweeting about how the accounts of his language were outright false. Indeed, he has said that they were proof that “Dicky Durbin” and other Democrats didn’t care about a deal on Dreamers, and were willing to blow up the negotiations by lying about him. Why the change? It is hard to know what is in the President’s mind. Perhaps he was struck by the vehemence of the backlash. But perhaps he also listened to what the other Republicans were saying, and had an insight that they would, indeed, back him up. It was a bully’s triple play: first, he got to slur whole nations. Then he got his guys to gang up on anyone who called him out for it, which produced the final prize: the acknowledgement that the Republican lawmakers were his guys, subordinate and willing to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

What is notable is that, at first, Cotton and Perdue had tried, in a joint statement, to hedge by saying that they did “not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” But, as his lies escalated, so did theirs, to the point where they were backing up the idea that the media was involved in a fake-news conspiracy. They didn’t need to do so—after their Sunday appearances, Lindsey Graham said, according to the Post and Courier, “My memory hasn’t evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said”—yet they chose that route. But it is, apparently, hard to lie halfway for Trump; he won’t let you. Maybe it’s time for the Republicans to stop lying to themselves about that, too.

9) This is from 2014 (friend recently shared on-line), but this article about the human factor in airline crashes is so good.  Reminds me of one of my favorite podcasts ever (listen, David Greene!), 99% Invisible on the Automation Paradox.

10) Thought this on disappearing hotel “do not disturb” signs and what’s driving it was pretty interesting.

11) Every 1990’s TV commercial ever.  Pretty much.

12) Ezra Klein’s 12 thoughts on the “shithole shutdown.”

2.  Republicans have a natural advantage in a shutdown because they care less how well the federal government works, and the parts of government they care most about — like the military and immigration enforcement — are exempted….

12. Taken in its entirety, the “shithole shutdown” is the perfect encapsulation of governance in the Trump era: dysfunction and chaos driven by anger and fear toward America’s changing demographics, and the congressional GOP’s cowardly acquiescence to Trump’s ever-shifting demands.

13) Naturally, Trump’s appointee to oversee government service programs is an absolutely atrocious human being.

14) Alas, also naturally, prosecutors in New Orleans repeatedly kept on prosecuting people even when it was clear they had the wrong guy.

15) Michael Tomasky on Trump’s shithole enablers.

16) It’s the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive.  Julian Zelizer on how it undermined faith in government. Coincidentally, I r-watched Platoon this week (streaming on HBO Go, for you fellow subscribers) for the first time since 1986 (I think).  Thought it held up pretty well.  David certainly liked it and led to some great discussion about the Vietnam War.

Besides the damage that Tet imposed on Johnson, the surprise attack and the revelation that the administration had vastly oversold the prospects for success were a severe blow to public confidence in American government leaders to tell the truth and to do the right thing.

The right also took its own lessons from Tet and other parts of the increasingly critical wartime coverage, namely that the media could not be trusted. As reporters focused on Tet as evidence of failure, hawkish Democrats and Republicans were quick to note, rightly so, that the U.S. counter-offensive had been successful. Johnson felt this way and tried to hammer away on the point that the media was misrepresenting what happened. For decades, coverage of Tet would remain to conservatives a symbol of why the “liberal establishment” could not be trusted to give the public a realistic assessment of national security issues.

17) Loved this Edutopia piece about how making an extra effort to really get to know students in a Nevada school district is paying dividends.

18) Army National Guard officer analyzes the repeated tactical failures of the Resistance in the Star Wars movies.

19) Sam “I’ll eat a bug” Wang and Brian Remlinger with a great explainer on gerrymanders.

20) How are we not talking at all about the fact that a presidential campaign paid hush money to a porn star during the campaign??!!  This, more than about anything, is a testament to how Trump continuous and shocking bad behavior has inured us to his awfulness.  Michelle Goldberg:

In any other administration, evidence that the president paid hush money to the star of “Good Will Humping” during the election would be a scandal. In this one it has, so far, elicited a collective shrug.

Liberals, in general, can’t work up much outrage, because the encounter between Trump and Daniels was by all accounts consensual. And few social conservatives are interested in criticizing the president, since they’ve talked themselves into a posture of hardheaded moral realism in order to justify their support for him. In 2016, for example, Bennett himself condemned “Never Trump” conservatives for their “terrible case of moral superiority.”

If there’s a significant scandal, it will lie in the origins of the $130,000, or in other encounters Trump has covered up. There’s a sentence in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It comes toward the end, when Steve Bannon is praising Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz: “Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.”

If it turns out there were payoffs to hide non-consensual behavior, there may be an uproar. But sleeping with a porn star while your wife has a new baby, then paying the porn star to be quiet? That’s what everyone expects of this president. [emphasis mine]

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Great David Graham take on the “shithole” countries and how immigration actually works:

His presumption seems to be that other nations are deliberately sending to the United States their least-desirable citizens. That sounds a lot like the Mariel boatlift of 1980, in which Cuba released a number of inmates from jails and mental facilities, dispatching them to the United States as part of a massive refugee exodus. It seems to shape the way Trump views all immigration—he and aides have cited it repeatedly.

But in the vast majority of cases, this is not how immigration works. Governments are not deciding who to send. People are deciding to leave, often at great risk, out of personal motivation. Those who come are the ones “who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a New World of peace and freedom and hope,” as Ronald Reagan once put it.

This entirely different paradigm is one reason Trump, unlike most of his fellow Republicans, wants to limit not only illegal immigration but legal immigration as well; he seems to object not just to illegality, but to much immigration itself.

This zero-sum mentality is why he approaches refugees as safety threats and drains on U.S. government resources, seldom considering the reasons refugees have been driven to leave. There’s a middle ground—there are people who believe that on the one hand, refugees deserve aid but that on the other hand the United States must work within its means, and safety threats must be eliminated—but Trump’s comments, both previously and about Haitians and Salvadorans now, demonstrate this is not his view.

Trump’s decision to label these places “shitholes” is coarse and revolting, but the greater failure is his inability to connect his assessment with what it means for the people who live there. He either cannot see or is not interested in the conflicts and violence and poverty that immigrants are seeking to leave behind, and he is not interested in the extent to which the U.S. has contributed to these problems through interventions in El Salvador and Haiti.

2) Julia Azari makes the case that political amateurs are a threat to democracy.

3) Yes, of course Trump is a racist, but I do think there’s something to the fact that not everybody sees calling non-white countries “shitholes” as inherently racist because how liberals and conservatives see “racism” is different.  Drum: [emphases in original]

And come on, their thinking goes, all those third-world countries really are shitholes. Everyone knows it, but only Donald Trump has the guts to just say it.

Until Donald Trump comes along. He’s basically saying that we all know those fancy words are just the liberal elitist version² of “shithole countries,” and he’s giving Joe permission to say so. Go ahead and use the words you know and ignore the faux gasps from all those liberal scolds who believe the same thing but just won’t say it in plain language. You’re no more racist than they are.

Right or wrong, this is liberating for them. Trump isn’t so much appealing to racism as he is telling people you’re not a racist. J

4) Interesting take on how Facebook is redoing its newsfeed, “Facebook Couldn’t Handle News. Maybe It Never Wanted To.”

5) Female professors are asked for favors more than are male professors.

6) Some rather dispiriting research thusly summed up, “Men Are Destroying Our Planet Because They Don’t Want to Seem Girly.”

A new study from the journal Scientific Americansuggests men are less likely than women to engage in ecofriendly behavior, not because they’re less concerned about the environment, but because they’re worried it might undermine their masculinity. Because nothing makes you seem more like a wimpy little girl than wanting froufrou things like “breathable air” and for “whole continents not to sink under rising seas.”

In seven experiments conducted with over 2,000 American and Chinese participants, researchers found both men and women had a “green-feminine stereotype,” and judged ecofriendly purchases and behaviors as more feminine than their non-green alternatives. For example, individuals who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store were perceived as more feminine than those who used plastic bags. Another experiment found that men who were presented with a pink, floral gift card were more likely to purchase environmentally unfriendly items than men who were given a standard gift card.

Well, this feminine guy is going to stick with his reusable bags, damnit!

7) The scientific controversy over whether lobsters feel pain.

8) This is so good, “A Storm Trooper reconsiders his support for Snoke.”

9) Brett Stephens “shithole” column on immigration may be the best I’ve read yet.

10) Loved this Atlantic article on how pretty much all animals are susceptible to “sleep pressure” and how poorly scientists ultimately understand it:

In particular, this need to make up lost sleep, which has been seen not just in jellyfish and humans but all across the animal kingdom, is one of the handholds researchers are using to try to get a grip on the bigger problem of sleep. Why we feel the need for sleep is seen by many as key to understanding what it gives us.

Biologists call this need “sleep pressure”: Stay up too late, build up sleep pressure. Feeling drowsy in the evenings? Of course you are—by being awake all day, you’ve been generating sleep pressure! But like “dark matter,” this is a name for something whose nature we do not yet understand. The more time you spend thinking about sleep pressure, the more it seems like a riddle game out of Tolkien: What builds up over the course of wakefulness, and disperses during sleep? Is it a timer? A molecule that accrues every day and needs to be flushed away? What is this metaphorical tally of hours, locked in some chamber of the brain, waiting to be wiped clean every night?

In other words, asks Yanagisawa, as he reflects in his spare, sunlit office at the institute, “What is the physical substrate of sleepiness?”

11) Global warming is sending sea turtle sex ratios way out of wack.

12) James Hamblin with one of the more thoughtful and informative takes on whether Trump is mentally ill.

13) That said, also love this, “Maybe Trump Is Not Mentally Ill. Maybe He’s Just a Jerk.”

There is another problem with the current debate over Mr. Trump’s mental condition: It assumes his behavior isn’t voluntary, and that his shocking or “unpresidential” conduct is a symptom of mental illness. This kind of thinking contributes to the stigmatization of mental illness. It’s entirely possible that he simply has certain personal qualities we don’t find ideal in a leader, like being a narcissistic bully who lacks basic civility and common courtesies. That he is, in a word, a jerk. But that alone does not make him mentally unfit to serve.

14) Satirical high school reading list.  Good stuff.

15) Ron Brownstein on voters abandoning Trump:

A massive new source of public-opinion research offers fresh insights into the fault lines emerging in Donald Trump’s foundation of support.

Previously unpublished results from the nonpartisan online-polling firm SurveyMonkey show Trump losing ground over his tumultuous first year not only with the younger voters and white-collar whites who have always been skeptical of him, but also with the blue-collar whites central to his coalition.

Trump retains important pillars of support. Given that he started in such a strong position with those blue-collar whites, even after that decline he still holds a formidable level of loyalty among them—particularly men and those over 50 years old. What’s more, he has established a modest but durable beachhead among African American and Hispanic men, even while confronting overwhelming opposition from women in those demographic groups.

16) My pencil-loving son (i.e., not the one reading this blog post) loved this NYT feature on America’s last pencil factory.  Amazing images.

17) Pretty sure my non-pencil loving son who is reading this blog post will love this terrific video on how the editing made the original Star Wars so much better.  So will fans of Star Wars and those interested in film-making.

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