Quick hits (part I)

This will be an Olympics heavy week– sorry, but I love them.

1) Texas set to execute man who did not kill anyone (nor pay/direct anybody to kill someone).

2) Parenting advice that really works:

If the David Brookses of the world were honest, their parenting advice would begin: Have a healthy kid, live in an affluent area (with low crime and good schools), be from a socially privileged demographic, and make a decent amount of money. From there on, it’s pretty much coasting.

Working so far (though I wonder if my oldest might not be on a better track with better parenting).

3) How Giuliani is ruining his reputation in service to Trump.

4) NYT Editorial says to stop treating marijuana like heroin.  Hell, yeah.

5) The second in Nicholas Thompon and Malcolm Gladwell’s conversations about Olympic track is likewise fascinating.

6) In a similar vein, I was totally fascinated by David Epstein’s discussion of the 800m race.

7) Why the French Burkini ban is stupid and how it fits into very different conceptions of religion and public life in France versus the US.

8) Somebody made up a crazy fake PPP memo (about their secret poll of Trump at 74% in Florida) that a bunch of wingnuts actually believed.  Really good stuff.

9) Have their been occasional sexist comments during network coverage of the Olympics?  I’m sure.  But I’m with Drum.  And, honestly, as you know I love Vox, but sometimes they really go off into SJW territory.

10) The “Carolina Comeback” that wasn’t.

11) Julia Azari asks whether America’s political parties aren’t too resilient for their own good:

Though there’s some benefit to the stability of a longstanding system, the long, rigid reign of two parties also limits the flexibility of American politics, reducing complex national decisions to simple binary contests and yoking together seemingly unrelated ideas—gun control, tax reform and health care, for example—in ways that make it impossible for any of them to move forward

This problem also creates problems for the parties themselves, in ways big and small. On the small side, as the Democratic coalition has become more diverse and reliant on voters who are people of color, Democratic state parties have run into some criticism for celebrating Jefferson-Jackson Day—usually an annual fundraising gala that celebrates two historic, slave-owning Democrats, hosted by a party that now prides itself on embracing racial equality. For the Democratic Party, there’s a point at which celebrating the heroes of its troubled past jeopardizes its political necessities for the future.

For Republicans, the problem is more immediate and profound: The party’s history of ideological unity and organizational continuity will tie future Republicans to the Trump candidacy, regardless of efforts to distance themselves from his positions. The story of parties’ remarkable resiliency gives a sense of how they’ve survived so long, but also how their survival might prevent American politics from representing all citizens and facing modern challenges.

12) Durham, NC is listening to science and not the whiners and moving their high school start times later.  Good for them.  Would love Wake County to do the same (especially as I have 3 high-schoolers to go).

13) This NYT feature on the history and fragility of Michelangelo’s statue of David was so fascinating (if, a little longer than needed).

14) Really, really good piece from Yglesias on the relative role of economic anxiety (very little) versus racial resentment (very much) on support for Trump.

15) Also a nice piece from Yglesias on how Trump’s first campaign ad shows he is doubling down on being Trump:

Donald Trump is running his first campaign ad for the general election, and it offers all the proof you’ll need that, in a fundamental sense, no meaningful change of approach can or will ever emanate from his campaign.

Because this is an ad, it’s professionally done and well-considered in its language — it’s not an off-the-cuff remark or full of anything so crazy that it will make lifelong Republicans cringe. But there’s nothing in here about free markets or traditional family values or America’s role as the world’s indispensable nation and guarantor of liberty.

 Instead it’s a pretty simple proposition — Hillary Clinton will let foreigners kill you and Donald Trump won’t [emphasis mine]

16) And Nate Silver argues that in his shakeup of campaign staff, Trump is doubling down on a clearly losing strategy.

17) Former Baltimore narcotics cop talks about the problem of cops being bad role models for each other.

18) Good for the Chinese Olympic swimmer being willing to discuss her period.  It really is crazy how taboo we treat such an ordinary part of women’s lives.

19) I’m sorry, say what you will, but race-walking is just stupid.  Worse than the breast stroke.  And hurdles are not like a slow swimming stroke, they test your ability to run and jump.

20) Continuing the Olympic roll, I love this 538 chart on how serving affects your chances of winning a point in various sports (especially as my son David was just asking me about this the other day).  You do not want to serve in beach volleyball.

serv

21) Yeah, the Supreme Court is important, but this lifelong Republican ask how you can even consider that when you think about giving Trump control of our nuclear arsenal.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Frum on why the Supreme Court is not a good enough reason for Republicans to vote Trump:

Yet Trump’s supposed commitment to appointing conservative judges is still not reason to support him—and here’s why:

1) It’s a Trump commitment, and Trump commitments are notoriously worthless. The only thing you can be sure you get with Trump is … Trump himself. Every other offer is subject to cancellation without notice.

2) Trump’s lack of understanding and interest in constitutional issues is notorious. This is the man who imagines there are 12 articles in the Constitution, and who believes that generals must obey any order from the commander-in-chief whether it is lawful or not. He wouldn’t be able to identify the next Antonin Scalia if a reincarnation of the great conservative justice were to sing opera in front of him.

3) President Trump’s judicial selections will therefore be driven not by him personally, but by his White House staff. Yet we’ve all seen the kind of people Trump surrounds himself with: incompetent at best, thuggish at worst. Trump chose the reality-TV star Omarosa to direct his outreach to African Americans. Who’s he going to put in charge of judicial selection?

2) At least in one experiment, those with high interest in science are less susceptible to motivating reasoning.  I certainly know that at this point in my life I am more interested in reading things that challenge, rather than confirm, what I think I know.  That’s how you learn new things.  Major caveat, we are talking about the fact-based world (i.e., not going to start reading conservative blogs anytime soon).

3) Fascinating discussion between Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Thompson on Caster Semenya, gender, unfair advantages, and the logic of Olympic competition.  Semenya is a tough case, but I’m with Gladwell:

The physiologist Ross Tucker had a wonderful piece on this issue recently, and it’s worth—I think—quoting from it at length:

We have a separate category for women because without it, no women would even make the Olympic Games (with the exception of equestrian). Most of the women’s world records, even doped, lie outside the top 5000 times run by men. Radcliffe’s marathon WR, for instance, is beaten by between 250 and 300 men per year. Without a women’s category, elite sport would be exclusively male.

That premise hopefully agreed, we then see that the presence of the Y chromosome is thesingle greatest genetic “advantage” a person can have. That doesn’t mean that all men outperform all women, but it means that for élite-sport discussion, that Y chromosome, and specifically the SRY gene on it, which directs the formation of testes and the production of testosterone, is a key criterion on which to separate people into categories. . . .

So going back to the premise that women’s sport is the protected category, and that this protection must exist because of the insurmountable and powerful effects of testosterone, my opinion on this is that it is fair and correct to set an upper limit for that testosterone, which is what the sport had before C.A.S. [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] did away with it.

When Semenya’s testosterone was lowered to “normal” levels, she ran in the two-minute range for the eight hundred metres, which put her comfortably among the best in the world. Now that that restriction has been lifted, she is running six seconds faster. She has gone from being very good to being, potentially, the greatest half-miler in the history of women’s running. No one will beat her in Rio. She could run the last fifty yards backward and still win. How do you think the other women in that race feel about that? …

I used to be something of a doping/natural-advantage skeptic. But the deeper I get immersed in the world of athletics—and the more seriously I take track and field—the more of a purist I’ve become.Sports is the voluntary acceptance of unnecessary obstacles. If athletes can’t accept that fact, they should try another sport—like, say, football, where getting busted for doping apparently makes not a whit of difference to coaches or fans.

4) And David Epstein on the difficult of drawing lines of fairness in sports (and if you are a sports fan and haven’t read The Sports Gene, what are you waiting for?!)

5) Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Hillary’s emails:

Washington right now is in a period of enforced transparency, with Edward Snowden; WikiLeaks; Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee; and the alleged Russian operative, or operatives, Guccifer 2.0. What they have revealed is not some new hidden system of levers beneath the capital but, rather, the same old system that we’ve more or less tolerated all along. Access to governmental power depends too much on personal relationships; rich friends of politicians have too easy a time gaining an audience. “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal,” the journalist Michael Kinsley famously said, during the George H. W. Bush Administration, and for a long time that was regarded as a truth about Washington. As a matter of ethics, it still holds; as a matter of politics, it seems outdated.

6) Kristof thinks Trump is making America meaner.  I think he’s right.

7) We’ve learned less from HM’s brain than you might think.  Brains are complicated.

8) Not surprisingly, planning your meals well ahead leads to much better food choices.  I try and do this as much as I can, but it’s hard to stick with the plan when you are in the moment and confronted with pecan pie, cake, pizza, etc.

9) Interesting article about Facebook fighting back against ad-blockers.  Personally, I never use ad blockers.  Facebook (and all on-line media) is not actually free!  The cost is access to my personal data and my eyeballs on their advertisers ads.  That’s how the world works.  If there were not on-line advertising there would not be all the awesomeness on-line.

10) Reeves Weideman says women’s gymnastics needs better tv coverage.  Hell yes.

Biles is perhaps the greatest gymnast of all time, and these Olympics may be the only time most Americans will get to see her perform. Might they want to know what makes her so good? There is, for instance, the fact that she requires fewer steps and less speed to get into the meat of tumbling runs, enabling her to fit more skills, and score more points, in her routines. Or that her lift off the floor is so huge that Jonathan Horton, a 2008 Olympic medallist, told me that he was embarrassed to work out with her. Or that Martha Karolyi, the American national team’s coördinator, believes Biles could be world-class on the uneven bars, the only event in which she is not the gold-medal favorite, but that for a long time Biles was too scared of the bars to commit to the apparatus. Biles’s toe-crossing on her vault may seem minor, but it’s a tic no less notable than Michael Jordan sticking his tongue out on his jump shot, except that it actually affects competitions—she loses a tenth of a point each time.

11) Rapid advances in battery technology making renewable energy far more cost-effective in the near future?  Maybe.

12) There’s been a lot of pieces of late about “what we learned” about Trump supporters based on a Gallup analysis of 87,000 interviews.  Actually, those paying attention didn’t learn all that much.  Race!

“The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support,” he writes. “His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support.” Rothwell adds that his results do not present a clear picture of the connection between social and economic hardship and support for Trump. The standard economic measures of income and employment status show that, if anything, more affluent Americans tend to favor Trump, even among white non-Hispanics. Surprisingly, there appears to be no link whatsoever between exposure to trade competition and support for nationalist policies in America, as embodied by the Trump campaign…

But Rothwell also found a second factor that correlates highly with Trump support:

This analysis provides clear evidence that those who view Trump favorably are disproportionately living in racially and culturally isolated zip codes and commuting zones. Holding other factors constant, support for Trump is highly elevated in areas with few college graduates, far from the Mexican border, and in neighborhoods that stand out within the commuting zone for being white, segregated enclaves, with little exposure to blacks, Asians, and Hispanics.

In other words, race is important.

13) The Republican war on public universities.

14) Seriously, we need to teach new drivers the zipper merge and have signs on roads telling drivers to do it.  Oh, and Traffic is an awesome book.

15) New research strongly suggests that humans first came to America not by land bridge, but by boat.

16) Okay, Michael Phelps is awesome and amazing.  But swimming has way too many events.  I went on a swimming rant the other day for my friends and thought I’d see if I could find one on-line.  This from 2012 makes almost exactly the same points I did:

It’s long bothered me that swimming hands out so many medals. At the 200-meter distance, Phelps’ specialty, they hand out five individual gold medals. In 2008, three of his medals came at this same distance, as he swam the 200-meter freestyle, the 200-meter butterfly and the 200-meter medley.

For the same distance that Usain Bolt got one medal, Phelps got three…

Phelps has rarely been the fastest person in the pool at any distance. At only one distance in one Olympics was Phelps the fastest person. In 2008, he had the fastest 200m time of any swimmer at any stroke. Why? Because the freestyle is the fastest way to get from point A to point B. Every other Olympic games, he wasn’t the fastest person at any distance.

Do you think if Phelps was trying to evade a great white shark he’d break into the butterfly? Like Dressage in Equestrian, he mastered the form of an artistic swim stroke, and he’s taken advantage of it.

Swimmers will say I don’t understand the sport, that I don’t understand the nuances of each stroke and how difficult it is to master two of them. I understand it just fine. I realize there are different skills, different muscles, used for each event. I understand the butterfly is very different from the backstroke.

But imagine if track and field took swimming’s lead and created distinct ways to get to the finish line, confusing the measurement of simply being the fastest.

We’d have the 100-meter “skip,” where athletes have to skip down the track as fast as possible. The 400-meter “backwards run” would be a crowd favorite, as athletes put their quads – and spatial awareness – to the test, running backwards around the track. My personal choice would be the 200-meter “cartwheel,” where athletes would have to do cartwheels all the way around until they crossed the finish line.

If track and field went the direction of swimming, Carl Lewis would have 30 Olympic medals.

17) Haven’t actually read this NYT Magazine feature on the fracturing of the Arab world yet, but it’s obviously a must read.

 

Quick hits part II

1) My little sister got married at Duke Chapel this weekend so I’m a little behind.  One heck of a site for a wedding.  Here’s my dad, two of the boys, and me (and tux, courtesy of DJC!)

IMG_3813

2) Excellent piece on why it is so hard to reform police departments (not that we shouldn’t damn well try our best).

3) In a similar vein, race, policing, and legitimacy.  Good and important stuff.

4) How Denmark has this American dream thing figured out.

5) Brendan Nyhan on the pervasive myth of in-person voter fraud:

Strikingly, however, a Marquette Law School poll conducted in Wisconsin just a few weeks later showed that many voters there believed voter impersonation and other kinds of vote fraud were widespread — the likely result of a yearslong campaign by conservative groups to raise concerns about the practice. Thirty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters believe that vote fraud affects a few thousand votes or more each election. One in five believe that this level of fraud exists for each of the three types of fraud that individuals could commit: in-person voter impersonation, submitting absentee ballots in someone else’s name, and voting by people who are not citizens or Wisconsin residents.

6) Greg Sargent with a headline that captures it all, “Republicans nominate dangerously insane person to lead America, then panic when he proves he’s dangerously insane.”

7) The huge supply and demand problem for science PhD’s.

8) EJ Dionne on how the Republican party has lost it’s soul.

9) Should we just leave city rats alone?

10) Go ahead and let your baby cry it out to learn to sleep on its own, because… science.

11) This Dave Wasserman piece on the real (rather than pretend, i.e., “rigged!”) problems with our political system is excellent.   I think he is probably right that, as much as anything, we need to re-think how we do primaries:

How do we escape this insidious cycle of polarization? I have no easy solutions. But it might be time for a national conversation about how we can structurally modernize our system of elections to incentivize bipartisanship instead of fringe behavior. I tend to think redistricting reform is a bit overrated and primary reform is underrated. Left untouched, our politics will reach a breaking point — maybe we’re already there. And ultimately, voters get the government they deserve.

12) I’m not sure I’m ready to eat natto, “a stinky, fermented soybean condiment.”  But I’m for thinking more about healthy food being healthy because of its benefits to our microbiome.

13) Brendan Nyhan on how Trump’s claims of “rigged” elections are harmful and dangerous for any democracy:

Despite the public’s tendencies to blame a loss on fraud, no losing presidential candidate has ever endorsed such a claim. The results of a 2002 academic experiment involving a challenge by a losing candidate suggest that the consequences of a candidate endorsement would be substantial. This effect could be intensified by favorable coverage of voter fraud claims in allied media outlets, where Mr. Trump’s claims are alreadybeingamplified by supporters. Research in Europe shows that high news consumption in polarized media environments widens the gap in the perceived legitimacy of the political system between supporters of winning and losing candidates.

Even if he contests a loss, Mr. Trump will not undermine American democracy by himself. The institutions and norms of the system are strong enough to withstand such a challenge. But questioning the integrity of the electoral system could encourage other losing candidates to challenge their own defeats, creating the risk of a more serious crisis of legitimacy in the future.
14) Read books, live longer.  Sounds great to me!

Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.

They found a similar association among those who read newspapers and periodicals, but it was weaker.

“People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale. “And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”

Given all the controls, I really wonder what is really going on here.  For now, I’ll happily keep reading my books (enjoying The Three Body Problem right now).

15) Life-long Republican Max Boot is so done with the Republican party.

16) How think tanks serve the corporate agenda in Washington DC.

Quick hits

1) John Oliver’s post-take of the Democratic convention is great.  I especially love his “bed of nails principle” as applied to Trump.  Never thought of it this way, but totally makes sense.  The whole segment is great, but I marked it for the bed of nails.

2) You know, there really is something to this “Democrats who cried wolf.”  I know I was pretty hard on GWB back in the day (especially on torture, for which I have zero regrets), but I’m pretty damn sure my criticism of McCain and Romney was never near what I have to say about Trump.

3) This seven-roundabouts-in-one Roundabout in Swindon, England is amazing.

4) Serious electoral success for the forces of sanity in Kansas.  Hooray!

5) Man, James Fallows is having a field day with Trump.  Here’s a good one on his horrible recent interview with the Washington Post:

There is no there there. For some reason, Donald Trump agreed to another long on-the-record interview with a major newspaper. The three previous times he has done so—two sessions with David Sanger and Maggie Haberman of the NYT inMarch and July, and one in March with the full editorial board of the WashingtonPost—the result was a long run of negative coverage about the knowledge gaps his comments revealed and the risky claims he had made. For instance, the secondNYT interview was the source of his observation that under a President Trump the U.S. might honor NATO obligations to defend European allies, or might not, depending on whether the country under attack had paid up.

He’s done it again, and this newest one, yesterday with Philip Rucker of the Post, made news for Trump’s studied refusal to endorse either Rep. Paul Ryan or Sen. John McCain in their hard-fought GOP primaries. These are two people who, especially Ryan, have piled their personal dignity up in a pyre and set it alight, through their stance of “rebuking” Trump but still saying he should be Commander in Chief. And Trump says, Meh.

But the real news of the transcript is the utter void of knowledge or ability to maintain consecutive thought it reveals, on any topic other than Trump’s own greatness. Time and again, Rucker shows Trump’s attention flitting away to whatever has caught his eye on a TV running in the background.

6) Okay, about the best essay on why “pro-life” persons should actually be voting Democratic that I’ve read.  Short version: if you genuinely want fewer abortions there is one political party that consistently works towards policies that would actually reduce abortions, and, yes, it’s the Democrats.

7) I like this Seth Stevenson piece on how most Democrats would fall in line if Sean Penn (the “Trump of the left” if you will) were the Democratic nominee.  He’s right.

8) Michael Tomasky on how such speculations are pointless as we would not actually get a Trump of the left:

Democrats have cantered a bit to the left, but the Republicans have galloped to the right like Secretariat on crack. And over these past eight years of birther conspiracies and racially coded barbs at the moocher-class president, they’ve led their voters to the point where those voters thought voting for Donald Trump was a sensible and defensible thing. If I were on the right, I’d spend a lot more time examining why that happened than I would analyzing Hillary’s imperfections.

And, yes, all Secretariat references make me think of Bojack now.

9) It’s funny, given all the craziness from Trump this week, it’s actually easy to forget just how nuts it is what he had to say about Ukraine and Crimea (bed of nails!).

10) NYT has put together a nice page featuring all the “really, really short workouts” they have written about in past years.  I discovered the 10-20-30 workout that Gretchen Reynolds is a big fan of and gave it a try this week on the exercise bike.  If it really is effective as claimed, than wow, that is awesome.  10 seconds of 100% effort out of every minute just isn’t that bad.  I about die from workouts that call for 20-30 seconds of 100% effort (which somehow make me think those have to be better– don’t they?).

11) Interestingly, CBS News had the best story I’ve seen on the new recommendations (or, lack thereof) on flossing.  Of course, there are not actually high-quality studies saying flossing does not provide value.  Rather, there have just not been good studies to definitively show that flossing does provide value.  Ummm, maybe somebody should do these studies?!  As for me, as Seth Masket wrote, “You can have my floss when you pry it from my saliva-and-bacteria-covered fingers.”

12) Seems that Ezra Klein has gotten better at asking interesting questions in his eponymous podcast.  I especially loved the latest with Atul Gawande (I already loved Gawande, and it was great to learn he’s also a Weezer fan).

13) (Big) Steve Saideman with a thoughtful piece on why we should not want our retired generals so involved in politics.

14) Max Boot— foreign policy adviser to McCain, Romney, and Rubio– on how Trump is the creation of the “stupid party.”

In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington…

Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He usesthe vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

 Mr. Trump even appears proud of his lack of learning. He told The Washington Post that he reached decisions “with very little knowledge,” but on the strength of his “common sense” and his “business ability.” Reading long documents is a waste of time because of his rapid ability to get to the gist of an issue, he said: “I’m a very efficient guy.” What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”

Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars…

In a way, the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter. [emphasis mine]

15) Male academics are far more likely to cite their own research than our female academics.  Hmmm, in my case, my co-author Laurel writes pretty much all of our literature reviews where the self-citing happens.  I wonder if we’ve been short-changed because Laurel is writing these instead of me🙂.

16) I’ve been so not looking forward to colonoscopies once I hit 50.  Great news— I don’t actually need one and you probably don’t either.  Turns out, there’s no evidence the procedure is any more effective at preventing cancer than an annual test in which you provide your own fecal sample.  I’ll sure as hell take that.  Of course, I cannot help but wonder if the huge fees (and profits) generated by colonoscopies are not part of the bias for this procedure over the far simpler fecal test.

17) Turns out Trump’s apocalyptic speech writer began his political writing career for the Duke Chronicle and has just been waiting his adult life for a political candidate to actually match his political beliefs.

18) Conor Friedersdorf on why Khizr Khan is Trump’s worst nightmare:

Before, Republicans could always maintain, with at least some veneer of plausibility, that they would of course repudiate a politician who crossed a certain line.

With Donald Trump as their standard-bearer, that line has been shown to encompass a candidate who, feeling attacked by the father of a fallen soldier, finds that his first instinct is to lash out at the man’s grieving wife, the fallen soldier’s mother, impugning both with ignorant, derogatory speculation rooted in prejudice.

In this way, Trump brings shame to everyone and everything his campaign touches. For Ryan and other informed Republicans who back him, the inescapable conclusion is that neither naked racism nor prejudice are deal-breakers for them in the head of their party or their country. It’s an accusation that they would’ve assailed in the recent past. Today, the proposition’s truth is self-evident. And a man with a knack for TV will keep reminding them of their shame.

19) Quite the collection of video clips from Trump supporters at his rallies.  Not surprising, but still.

20) Fecal transplants are amazingly effective.  And gross as hell.  How awesome would it be to get that benefit in a pill which contains all the key bacteria.  Alas, the first such serious effort to make this happen has proven a failure.  Clearly, more work will be done here and I imagine some day there will be success.  But harnessing the microbiome ain’t easy.

21) Oh, just your every day attempts to purge minority voters from voter rolls in Southern states now that the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act.  I’m sure it’s not really about race.

22) Love this… in the face of insufficient and under-funded public defense in Missouri, the director of Missouri’s public defender system assigned the governor to take a case.

23) Corrections remains one of my favorite books ever, so even though I was a little disappointed by Jonathan Franzen’s more recent efforts, I still find him fascinating.  Really enjoyed this interview with Isaac Chotiner.

24) Trump on the NYT, “They don’t write good.”  This guy is practically a living Onion headline.

25) Here’s an analogy I love– Brian Beutler on Trump as the GOP’s Milgram experiment:

Republicans like McConnell and Ryan, and the vast majority of elected members of the party, are the unknowing subjects of their own Milgram experiment in 2016—except in this instance there are real victims, including vital civic norms, and innocent people whose only sin is finding themselves in Trump’s way.

In this metaphor, Trump himself is an increasingly dangerous electrical current, and Republican leaders are allowing it to flow by continuing to support his campaign, making his depredations seem acceptable. The administrator isn’t an individual, per se, as in the Milgram experiment, but the mixture of incentives that impel party actors to do what they believe is necessary to win. No single person is telling Republicans they must enable Trump; lust for power and aversion to loss are motivating them, and in this case, these forces make a toxic brew.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Watched “This is Spinal Tap” with David last weekend.  Very pleased to report he very much enjoyed it.  First time I saw this movie– in college– I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest I’ve ever laughed watching a film.  Somehow, I’ve never seen the full video for Hell Hole.  “Folks lend a hand in a hell hole.”🙂.  Brilliant satire of 80’s music videos.  Nice Mental Floss piece on the movie.

2) Diane Ravitch column bashing the Common Core, but most of her complaints are about standardized testing (which is still the legacy of NCLB) and she doesn’t actually have very much bad to say about the actual standards at the heart of it.

3) Thought-provoking post from Conor Friedersdorf on HRC and working-class white men:

The framework of white privilege can be invoked with insight and subtlety, or with myopia and exaggeration; but either is a lot easier for white people to hear and to assimilate into their worldview if they’re college graduates who anticipate rewarding careers and stable family lives and mostly socialize with the similarly advantaged. They’re told that they ought to be thriving given their race … and they are thriving!

But imagine that you’re a white man from a working-class family who dropped out of college because you couldn’t swing the tuition. You worked construction, but that dried up—you’re presently unemployed, with child-support payments piling up, a sister addicted to pain pills, and a brother who is in jail again for felony drunk driving. You drive a beat up car with a broken turn signal that you can’t afford to fix. You get pulled over regularly, and you’re often harassed by the cops, who hate your tattoos. Would you identify with a coalition that alighted on white privilege as the center of its cultural outlook and that mostly disseminated that worldview through people with more educational, social, and financial capital than you’ll ever have?

Of course you wouldn’t. To do so would seem at odds with all the struggling white people in your familial and social circles. It would seem to imply that failing despite having all the advantages in the world makes you a special kind of loser. It would seem to focus on race to the exclusion of other hugely important factors. And as far as you can tell, when a white family gets their door kicked down and their dog shot in a drug raid, or when a white high school classmate of yours commits suicide, no one in the world of national media much cares.

Then you watch the DNC, where Michelle Obama, Cory Booker, Eva Longoria, and numerous other black and brown people who are much more successful than anyone you know take the stage. This needn’t feel threatening in and of itself to cause alienation. All it takes is being told that you’re the privileged one.

4) I think the season 3, episode 4, “Fish out of Water” of Bojack Horseman may be the single most impressive piece of 30-minute television I have seen.

5) Nice essay on thinking about the changing nature of Hillary hatred and what it all means.

6) Jordan Weissman on Green Party Jill Stein’s anti-science, economically ignorant platform.

7) Toobin in the emails:

Do these e-mails strike anyone as appalling and outrageous? Not me. They strike me as . . . e-mails. The idea that people might speak casually or caustically via e-mail has been portrayed as a shocking breach of civilized discourse. Imagine! People bullshitting on e-mail!

But that is what people do on e-mail. They spout off, sound off, write first, and think later. Of course, people should do none of these things. They should weigh carefully the costs and benefits of each e-mail that they write, and consider the possibility that someone might make the e-mails public someday. (They should also change their passwords regularly and get lots of exercise.) Last year, unfiltered talk on e-mail also got several people in trouble during the notoriousSony hack. But the real question is whether any of these e-mails really matter. Do they reveal deep-seated political or philosophical flaws? Do they betray horrible character defects? In the case of the Democrats, it seems clear that the answer to these questions is no. The vast majority of the e-mails contain normal office chatter, inflated into a genuine controversy by people who already had axes to grind.

8) This Trevor Noah segment on the absurdity of all Christian-based support for Trump is terrific.

9) Great Paul Waldman column on what the Republican backlash to Michelle Obama’s speech says about our disparate takes of race and American history.

10) I don’t suppose Khizr Khan’s denunciation of Trump will change many votes, but damn is it edifying.

11) NBC Headline, “Mike Pence: Politics is No Place for ‘Name Calling.'”  Seriously?  Mike Pence– biggest sellout in political history?

12) Love this– it strikes me as so true– Ray Kurzweil says “the world isn’t getting worse; our information is getting better.”

13) Obviously, one of the great lines from the Democratic convention was, “Imagine—if you dare, imagine—imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”  James Fallows points out that Trumps response the following morning shows just how true this is.

14) From Quartz— what Amazon’s homepage looked like when it was new, 21 years ago.  I don’t remember this, but I was probably on Amazon 20 years ago.

15) Really interesting take from a new book on “hillbillies” on “how the white working class lost its patriotism.”

16) Isaac Chotiner with a great interview on Trump, modern media, email hacks, etc., with Glenn Greenwald— lots of interesting back-and-forth.

17) Former McCain economic adviser sees Trump’s economic plans as disastrous and Hillary’s as pretty darn good:

Moody’s Analytics estimates that if the Democratic presidential nominee’s proposals are enacted, the economy would create 10.4 million jobs during her presidency, or 3.2 million more than expected under current law.

 The pace of GDP growth would also accelerate to an annual average of 2.7%, from the current forecast of 2.3%.

“The upshot of our analysis is that Secretary Clinton’s economic policies when taken together will result in a stronger U.S. economy under almost any scenario,” Moody’s writes in its report.

Moody’s Analytics is an independent research group, but the lead author of the report on Clinton is Mark Zandi, who donated $2,700 to her campaign last year, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics…

Moody’s published a similar analysis of Donald Trump’s plans in June. It concluded that the Republican presidential nominee’s policies would result in an economic downturn that would last longer than the Great Recession. About 3.5 million Americans would lose their jobs, unemployment would jump to 7% and home prices would fall. [emphasis mine]

The reports are based on a forecasting model similar to those used by the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office.

That’s got to make into an ad– doesn’t it?

18) Just in case you didn’t hear about how the NC Republican Party’s official twitter account called Tim Kaine “shameful” for wearing a Honduras flag pin instead of an American flag pin.  Whooops, actually a blue star service pin in honor of Kaine’s son deployed with the US Marines.  What I do appreciate is that the executive director of the NC GOP issued a full-on apology (unlike the tweeter).  We need more of that in American politics.

19) Chait says that Hillary Clinton is running as the candidate of democracy itself.  Whereas Ezra says this election is between normal and abnormal.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Evolution is happening faster than we thought.

2) Kristof asks, “is Trump a racist?”  Yeah, not a hard question.  And there’s way more to this than just his campaign statements:

My view is that “racist” can be a loaded word, a conversation stopper more than a clarifier, and that we should be careful not to use it simply as an epithet. Moreover, Muslims and Latinos can be of any race, so some of those statements technically reflect not so much racism as bigotry. It’s also true that with any single statement, it is possible that Trump misspoke or was misconstrued.

And yet.

Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities, some of them made on television for all to see. While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.

3) Jeffrey Goldberg on the Republican cowards who could have done something to stop Trump, but didn’t.

4) How humans have actually co-evolved with the bacteria in our gut.

5) Yes, high-quality pre-K is awesome.  Too much pre-K, though, is kids standing in line and transitioning all day long.  That needs to change.

6) Robert Frank on the value of finding a job you love (I heartily agree).  I’m reading Frank’s Success and Luck right now and it’s quite good.

There is, of course, no guarantee that you’ll become the best at what you choose to do, or that even if you do you’ll find practical ways to extend your reach enough to earn a big paycheck. But by choosing to concentrate on a task you love, you’ll enjoy the considerable proportion of your life that you spend at work, which is much more than billions of others can say.

Again, you’ll have bills to pay, so salary matters. But social science findings establish clearly that once you have met your basic obligations, it’s possible to live a very satisfying life even if you don’t earn a lot of money.

The bottom line: Resist the soul-crushing job’s promise of extra money and savor the more satisfying conditions you’ll find in one that pays a little less.

7) Katy Chatel writes about how she is raising her child “outside gender assumptions and stereotypes.”  Well, yes, there’s something to that, but somehow pretending that gender in our society doesn’t exist makes for a complicated childhood.  How nice for her to make a political statement with her child’s life.

8) Derek Thompson on how the political vocabularies of Democrats and Republicans have diverged.

9) A nice Op-Ed on Colorado’s successful battle against teen pregnancy.  LARC’s for teens, damn it!  Seriously, you want one single policy change that will dramatically reduce teen pregnancy, poverty, and abortion (hey, bipartisan!) this is it.  This so needs to expand everywhere.

10) Former Reagan adviser, Bruce Bartlett, on how the GOP has become the party of hate.

11) Jeffrey Goldberg on how Trump is doing all he can to help Putin.  Seriously:

The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, [emphases mine] a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.

I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin—though his campaign manager, Paul Manafort,was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.

12) New research finds that those who read Harry Potter (not just watching the movies) are less supportive of Trump.  Presumably, readers are making some Trump-Voldemort connections or learning the values of tolerance that Trump disdains.  After a quick look at the study, I think it reasonably likely they are missing a confound that has nothing to do with HP books in particular, but the types of person who reads HP books.  I’d feel far more confident in these results if there were any other questions on reading habits (fiction reading, YA fiction reading, etc.).

13) New research suggests no benefit of redshirting kids for kindergarten.

14) Great, great post from Ezra Klein laying out all the reasons Donald Trump makes him genuinely (and, appropriately) afraid.  A good one to bookmark.  If my dad starts leaning Trump under the influence of my not-wicked, but very conservative, stepmother, this is what I’m pulling out.  (For now, my dad– a genuine independent– sees Trump for the bully and blowhard he is).

15) Really enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air.  Not exactly light beach-reading for last week, though.  So sad.

16) Mann and Ornstein with a must-read on how Donald Trump is absolutely the culmination of the GOP’s increasingly radical, anti-government philosophy.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Democrats– stop panicking about the polls.  If they look like this in 6 weeks, then you can panic.

2) Big Pharma is fighting legal marijuana because where it is legal for medicinal purposes, there are substantially less opiate prescriptions.

3) I do love this new anti-Trump ad.

4) A new study suggests it’s not how much weight you lift to build muscle, it’s mostly how hard you work your muscles (high weight for less reps; or lower weight for more reps).  The key is working your muscles to exhaustion.

5) Jonathan Ladd on how journalistic norms could actually hurt Trump in general election coverage.

6) As much as I love soccer, a lot of the Euro games were pretty disappointing to watch.  Good take from Franklin Foer.

7) EJ Dionne on Pence:

One could multiply the list of lost opportunities, but one of the biggest stories here is just how many Republicans have decided that their futures will be better served by staying away from Trump.

That left Pence as, in Gingrich’s terms, the best “normal person” option. Plusses for Pence include strong ties to Capitol Hill (including a friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan), an agreeable personality (a Democrats I know in Indiana who has tangled with Pence on issues sees him nonetheless as a nice-guy sort of politician), and an appeal to social conservatives…

And it says something about the doubts so many conservative have about Trump and his need to appease them that he had to go to his right for a running mate. He could not turn instead to someone who might have broadened his appeal to middle-of-the-road voters. Trump received a fair share of the ballots of social-issue moderates in the northeast during the primaries. Those voters and moderate independents will not be reassured by Pence. In fact, social liberals will try to use Pence to tie Trump to the most conservative elements of the GOP.

8) Are conservatives actually serious about ISIS or do they just like to thunder on about how tough they are with no serious solutions to the intractable dilemma?  You know the answer.

9) Slate with a piece on the architectural wonder (Dorton Arena) 10 minutes from my house.

10) Invisibilia is an amazing podcast.  Really nice piece about it from Sarah Larson.  It is simple overwhelming how many incredibly good podcasts are being produced now.

11) White people really want their kids to go to school with other white kids.

12) The biggest challenges facing academic science.

13) I had no recollection of the Judo Olympian disqualified for (inadvertently) eating a marijuana brownie shortly before the 2012 games.  This is so stupid.  As if that would give an athlete any unfair advantage whatsoever.  Meanwhile, you can get roaring drunk every day and it’s all good.  And worst part is all the abuse the guy took.  Seriously, what’s wrong with people.

14) What college sports recruiters can teach your child.

15) I’m so going to start paying my horribly picky kids to eat healthy foods:

The researchers also found that the effects lingered after the experiment ended, though they did subside somewhat. Two months after the end of the experiment, kids who had been rewarded for their health behavior for a period of five weeks were still eating 44 percent more fruit and vegetables than they had before the experiment begun.

16) Title of this Wonkblog post is, “One way to curb police brutality that no one is talking about.”  I guessed the answer– more female cops.

17) George Packer on Nice:

The killer in Nice locked on in his own way. Maybe it happened in the space of a few hours, a few days. We’re a long way from the grand ideologies of Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden. This is jihadism as impulse, as excuse. It hardly matters, because the result is always the same: a pile of bodies, a world of pain and grief.

Liberal democracies like ours seem, for the most part, to have learned how to avoid meticulously planned mass-casualty plots with the complexity and scale of 9/11. But they don’t know how to keep their citizens safe at night clubs and concerts, in supermarkets, on beachfront promenades, from truck drivers. Nor do the leaders of liberal democracies know how to reassure their publics. So citizens, who have a right to demand safety, will turn to leaders offering simpler and more radical solutions—to Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump—who will fail even more spectacularly, inflicting great damage on liberal societies.

No revelations come from the massacre in Nice. There is nothing to be learned. This is what we live with, what we are getting used to living with. None of it is surprising—that’s the most frightening thing of all.

18) Nate Silver on Pence as Trump’s “least worst choice.”

19) Why, yes, we are sending kids (back to) Central American countries to be raped and murdered.  Kristof.

20) Ezra Klein on Trump’s crazy speech announcing Pence and how it is ever more evidence of his extreme unfitness to serve as president.

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