Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I still think my plan of leaving the Raleigh area at 11am on Monday to get into the zone of totality in SC by 1:30 or 2:00 would work (total eclipse about 2:45).  But enough people have told me “are you crazy?!” that I decided to book a hotel room in South Carolina.  A week ago you could still get totally cheap rooms 30 miles north of the zone.  By this weekend, they were jacked-up.  Ended up getting a room right on the NC/SC border leaving us an hour to drive that day.  My current plan is to try and watch in a public park in Sumter, SC.  That way, kids can play some and we should be able to have some shade.  Also, Sumter is supposed to get almost 2 minute of totality (as opposed to my minimalist plan of 1 minute of totality in Turbeville, SC).  Alas, I’m somewhat concerned by the 60-70% cloud cover in the forecast.

2) EJ Dionne calls out the Republicans sticking by Trump:

We are past the time when mournful comments about President Trump’s disgraceful behavior are sufficient. It is no longer defensible for his lieutenants or Republicans in Congress to tell themselves that they’re staying close to Trump to contain the damage he could cause our country.

If their actual goal was to prevent damage, they have failed. True, we have not had a nuclear war and Trump hasn’t shut down our democracy. But if this is the standard, if these are genuine fears, then Trump should have been gone long ago. A man this unstable, self-involved, uninformed, divisive and amoral — a polite word in his case — should be nowhere near the levers of power.

It should embarrass all who work in the White House (except for the genuine extremists) that after Trump’s unhinged news conference Tuesday, they were reduced to insisting, on background, that everything the president said was unplanned, off-script and shocking to them…Every new Trump outrage seems to invite bold declarations that this time will be the end of the line. If this week’s spectacle of moral obtuseness isn’t the breaking point, may God save our republic.

3) Campus sexual assault is a genuine problem.  Those accused of campus assault are too often denied basic rights of due process.  It shouldn’t be so hard to accept that both these things are true.

4) Bill Ayers‘ with the optimistic post-Charlottesville take:

Finally, this is the really key thing that these White Supremacists, neo-Nazis, and various KKK hangers-on don’t yet realize. They’ve already lost. The vast majority of American society – including whites – rejects them, rejects their ideas, and most especially rejects their murderous attachment to violence. To borrow Ronald Reagan’s memorable phrase, they are already consigned to the Ash Heap of History.

They just aren’t smart enough to know it yet.

Let us not forget that it was the forebears of these rampaging rage-monsters that slaughtered 168 Americans, including 19 preschool children, twenty-two years ago in Oklahoma City. The mix of rage, incoherent fear for their white identity, and rejection of government authority has killed before.

I hope that the death of Heather Heyer will serve the same purpose as the deaths of those many innocent victims in 1995: a wake-up call to the nation and the start of another effort to drive this kind of violent hatred back underground. Given the current occupant in the White House, I’m not holding my breath, but I hope at least that his fellow Republicans will see the Faustian bargain they have struck and repent.

Many people have been quoting MLK’s “arc of history” line. In this case, he is absolutely correct. The men (and yes, they are mostly men) who have bought into this violent insanity have been brought out into the light. But they have already lost. The nation unites in horror against their dystopian rage. They cannot win, not even a little bit, anything that they hope to achieve. They can’t even keep the statues they are so keen to protect standing in the public square. All they can do is shriek helplessly as the arc of history leaves them behind.

5) Charles Blow on how the modern GOP has exploited racism:

The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold.

The party itself has dispensed with public confessions of this inclination — at least until Trump — but the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.

If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?

It says that you want the policies without the poison, but they can’t be made separate: The policies are the poison.

6) McSweeney’s on statue removal.  Good stuff:

Thank you very much for coming in today to discuss the tumor currently growing inside your body. Luckily, we caught this fairly early on, so we have a few treatment options available to us. As you can see on this X-ray, the tumor is currently about the size of a baseball in an all-white baseball league. I could surgically remove it as soon as tomorrow afternoon. However, I will not be doing that.

I understand why you’d want to remove the tumor. By removing it, we would stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body and you’d be on your way to recovery. Don’t you think, though, that your body’s fight against cancer should be commemorated in some way? What better way than by leaving the tumor completely intact? Medical Justice Warriors all want to dismantle the very fabric of everyone’s medical history and remove important memorials such as tumors, goiters, and gallstones. I want to celebrate that history and leave a monument to those awful memories inside your body forever.

7) Love this– “Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?”

This investigative method is standard in aviation. When a plane crashes, experts pick through the wreckage to determine the cause and make recommendations to prevent the next accident. The process is so effective that for the last several years, the death rate from crashes of American commercial planes has been zero. But no comparable system exists in policing — and that may help explain why you are far more likely to die at the hands of a cop than to perish in an plane crash. Police officers in the United States now kill about 1,000 people and wound more than 50,000every year…

Police violence is tangled up with racism and systemic injustice. We desperately need to do more to address that, foremost by shoring up the criminal-justice system so that it holds police officers accountable when they kill. But it’s also true that deadly mistakes are going to happen when police officers engage in millions of potentially dangerous procedures a year. What aviation teaches us is that it should be possible to “accident proof” police work, if only we are willing to admit when mistakes are made.

8) Lee Drutman on how “Republican leaders continue to let Trump turn the GOP into the white supremacist party.”

9) As much as I would love to believe I can eat walnuts to suppress my appetite, it is nuts for the NY Times to publish a study based solely on 9 individuals and funded by the walnut industry (I’m far more concerned by the former).  Seriously?!  I love how NYT readers call them out on such matter in the comments.

10) When was America great?  When you were between 10 and 30.

11) I recently ended up explaining Sigmund Freud to my son David due to Freud’s role in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (watched Bogus Journey yesterday– good stuff, but not as good), thus enjoyed reading this review of a new Freud biography as I really don’t know that much about Freud.

12) Really don’t think it will change much of anything that Trump fired Bannon (damn is loyalty a one-way street for Trump).  Trump remains white-supremacist-in-chief.  Jordan Weissman with a nice piece on how there are plenty of other people left at the White House– including Trump– to carry out Bannon’s ideas.  And Peter Beinart:

It would be nice to believe that Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House will end, or least diminish, Donald Trump’s flirtations with bigotry. Alas, that’s almost certainly not the case.

As Trump himself likes to note, Bannon joined his campaign late, in August 2016. By that time, Trump had already called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” falsely accused American Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 attacks, said “Islam hates us,” and declaredthat Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly judge the case against Trump University because was Mexican American. Bannon’s hiring was not a cause of the Trump campaign’s dalliance with Islamophobia, nativism, and white nationalism. It was a result. [emphasis mine]

In fact, Trump has been exploiting bigotry since before he hired Bannon, before he ran for President, before he even entered public life. In 1973, at the age of 27, Donald Trump—then President of Trump Management—was sued along with his father for discrimination against African Americans by the Justice Department. In 1989, when four African American and one Hispanic teenagers (the “Central Park Five”) were arrested for rape, Trump took out newspaper ads declaring that the accused should be executed and “forced to suffer.” When DNA evidence exonerated the young men in 2012, Trump denounced New York City’s decision to compensate them, saying “I think people are tired of politically correct.” As late as 2013, he still tweeted, “Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?” …

Perhaps, on issues on which Trump has no strong beliefs, Bannon’s departure could make a difference. But Steve Bannon did not teach Trump what to think about Muslims, blacks, women, and Jews. When it comes to religion, gender, and race, Trump developed his views long ago. The only way he might change them would be if he grew convinced that they are hurting him politically. And probably not even then.

13) Tom Wheeler’s take on the statues is really, really good:

The statues at the center of today’s debate were erected not to celebrate the loss, but to perpetuate the myth of the so-called Lost Cause. A few decades after the end of the war, as incremental progress towards racial equality was being eked out, some Southerners sought to recast the war of secession as not about slavery, but about protecting a way of life. The fact that life revolved around slavery was conveniently obfuscated, but well understood. Statues to the leaders of the rebellion became a means of keeping its emotions alive…

Six hundred thousand lives later, the war ended. But it did not end the emotion around the war’s root issue. The Lost Cause crusade—including its statue-building efforts—kept that emotion alive, but cloaked it in the garb of historical reverence. There was a simple message to General Lee from a member of Union general Grant’s staff (and a Native American) at the Appomattox surrender: “We are all Americans.” That message, however, was superseded by an organized effort to keep alive in bronze and marble that which had divided the nation.

You’re changing history,” Donald Trump said. No sir, no one is changing history. The South lost; oppression was repudiated. The nation as a whole has tried to move on. The Lost Cause is a myth.

“You’re changing culture,” Mr. Trump went on to say. No again. The culture that motivated the war may continue in the hearts of a few who converged at Charlottesville, but collectively, our nation is better than that. Our culture is one of opposing hate and oppression and our leaders speaking out forcefully against such darkness.

Quick hits (part I)

Had a really busy week getting back from vacation in the mountains and than leaving for the mountains to go on a retreat with the NC State Park Scholars.  It was awesome, but definitely slowed the blogging.  Anyway, plenty of quick hits.

1) I’ve been pretty intrigued by applied rationality since listening to this Ezra Klein interview with Julia Galef.  I must say, teaching people how all the cognitive biases (that Kahneman & Tversky and other have so successfully uncovered) may be influencing their own decision-making seems like a great idea.

2) I’m a fan of Morgan Marietta’s PS research.  Here’s his latest (with some others) on Trump’s rhetoric:

Conventional wisdom suggests that Donald Trump’s rhetoric – aggressive, insulting, often offensive – would be counterproductive to electoral success. We argue that Trump’s surprising victories in both the primary and general campaigns were partly due to the positive effects of his appeals grounded in the intersection of threat and absolutism. The content of Trump’s rhetoric focused on threats to personal safety (terrorism), personal status (economic decline), and group status (immigration). The style of Trump’s rhetoric was absolutist, emphasizing non-negotiable boundaries and moral outrage at their violation. Previous research has shown perceived threat to motivate political participation and absolutist rhetoric to bolster impressions of positive character traits. Trump employed these two rhetorical psychologies simultaneously, melding threat and absolutism into the absolutist threat as an effective rhetorical strategy. Analysis of Trump’s debate language and Twitter rhetoric, as well as original data from political elites at the Republican National Convention and ordinary voters at rallies in New Hampshire confirm the unconventional efficacy of Trump’s rhetorical approach.

3) Like most of my FB friends who posted this, I would not be allowed to immigrate to America based on Trump’s proposed criteria (being over 40 really hurts).

4) There’s just no way$78,000 into debt for a theater degree from Harvard it makes any sense at all to go .

5) I probably posted this before, but just had a good FB conversation with a contemporary about younger adults today changing in bathroom stalls instead of the locker room.  Okay, nudity in a locker room takes some getting used to, but really, changing basically on top of a toilet?  Mark Joseph Stern claims, “If You Are Not Comfortable Being Naked Around Other People, You Are Not an Adult.”

6) Definitely would have been a post about the whole google memo if it wasn’t such a busy week.  So many thoughts.  A few posts I really liked, though.  I think Conor Friedersdorf is right that the memo really was mischaracterized.  I think the author puts way too much emphasis on biology and not enough on culture, but an “anti-diversity screed” this was not.  Also, enjoyed Ross Douthat’s take.  That led me to Slate Star Codex which had the most interesting discussion of gender and academic interests/abilities that I’ve read in years.  This was also a really nice take from a female computer scientist in Vox that put in placed the memo into a context of why it really bothered people so much.  I will say what really bothers me is the idea held by many on the left, that any discussion of biological differences in the intellectual abilities/interests/personality traits of the sexes is inherently sexist.  To me, a fair reading of the science and social science is that there really are differences that are best explained by biology, but, on the whole, those are largely dwarfed by culture in our present society.

7) Ostensibly about CNN firing Jeffrey Lord (should have never hired him), but really about the misguided sense for “balance” that can make CNN (and others) such a poor news source:

False balance, in the way I mean the term, refers to the flawed journalistic impulse to give each side of an argument equal time and weight regardless of each side’s relative standing to facts and truth. False balance is a hallmark of bad journalism, and the unmerited elevation of crackpots’ bad opinions is a hallmark of false balance. I do not mean to suggest that an unpopular opinion is necessarily a bad one. Popular history is rife with Galileo situations where lone truth tellers are thwarted by establishment forces. But Jeffrey Lord is not one of these people. Jeffrey Lord is a marginal gadfly who was free to appear on CNN so often because he literally had nothing else to do…

The problem with Jeffrey Lord wasn’t that he was awful. It was that CNN didn’t care he was awful—or, rather, that CNN said, Our political programming will not be complete until we find an analyst who is really, really awful, and then put him on air constantly in the name of “balance.” This impulse is the most insidious form of, yes, fake news: cable networks’ habit of hiring superficially articulate frauds and fakers to interpret the news, in the process falsely equating their bad opinions with informed people’s good ones and creating a space where nothing means anything and fame is equated with moral standing. Lord spent two years disguising his advocacy as analysis and cashing CNN’s paychecks in the process, and CNN was all too happy to let him do it. Now he’s gone, but not really, because there is an endless supply of Jeffrey Lords out there. There is no real escape. We will never be saved.

8) I’m somewhat of a baby name obsessive myself, so I loved this New Yorker article on the matter.

9) I’ll just go with the headline, “California Crops Rot as Immigration Crackdown Creates Farmworker Shortage.”

10) I generally support the idea that universal healthcare should be a (soft) litmus test for Democrats.  The idea that “Medicare for all” should be a litmus test is moronic.  Alas, that’s what some of the Bernie types are pushing:

Bernie Sanders’s advisers are promoting a “litmus test” under which Democrats who don’t swear to implement single-payer health care would be booted from the party in primaries. Sanders pollster Ben Tulchin penned an op-ed with a colleague under the headline “Universal health care is the new litmus test for Democrats.” Nina Turner, head of the Sanders group Our Revolution, told Politico this week that “there’s something wrong with” Democrats who won’t “unequivocally” embrace “Medicare-for-all.”

11) Personally, I’m a big believer in political pragmatism as the way to actually achieve big goals.  Sure, advocate for Medicare for all, but, realistically, if you want to get all Americans covered, something like expanded Medicaid buy-in seems far more likely to succeed.

The key to making a pragmatic political case for Medicaid starts by recognizing that neither Medicare nor Medicaid is going to replace the nation’s system of employer-sponsored coverage. There is insufficient political appetite for such a sweeping overhaul, whichever federal program is involved. Nor is there cross-national evidence that eliminating private insurance altogether is a worthy goal: Other nations with universal insurance almost always rely on a mix of public and private coverage.

The question then is: Which program is a better fit for an incremental expansion strategy? The clear answer is Medicaid. For more than 30 years, Medicaid has incrementally increased its eligibility criteria while Medicare covers the same group of the elderly and the disabled that it did decades ago.

Medicaid also has the political advantage of dividing its cost among federal, state, and local governments, whereas Medicare is funded entirely by the federal government (and beneficiaries).

Perhaps most crucially, individual states are already free to adopt a Medicaid buy-in approach, so long as they get federal permission to do so. And several state legislatures are considering exploring the Medicaid buy-in strategy. There is no need to wait for a Democratic takeover of the presidency and Congress — both of which are necessary ingredients of a federal Medicare expansion.

12) Your instagram posts may hold clues to your mental health.  Presumably mine show I’m pretty damn happy.

13) Really enjoyed this Vox analysis of “Fox and Friends” in the age of Trump.  They are not just “state media” but have taken to giving him advice.

14) I found Harold Pollack’s argument that we have a problem with having so many old politicians to be pretty compelling.  And I’m definitely for staggered Supreme Court term limits.

15) Hell yes we use way to much solitary confinement and we should dramatically reduce the practice.  NYT with nice editorial on the matter.

16) Nice chart from Kevin Drum on tax rates that shows– like everything else– things are getting easier for the rich:

17) I love the Lula Roe clothing that my wife and daughter have been wearing a bunch of lately.  That said, it’s pretty clear that they (and other similar multi-level-marketers) have a business model that exploits the women who sell it.

18) As a fellow Political Parties guy, I very much agree with Seth Masket: improve our primary process by making it less democratic:

Allowing party delegates to do more deliberation could, in some cases, cause intra-party strife, especially if party insiders pick someone that their activist base doesn’t like. This is arguably what happened to the Democrats in 1968, when the party nominated Hubert Humphrey over the clear preferences of the anti-war activists whose favored candidates dominated the primaries. It was reactions to that nomination that led to the explosion of primaries and the massive increase in intra-party democracy over the past four decades.

This was a defensible shift at the time, but it seems we’ve over-corrected. Picking good nominees for organizations as vast and diverse as our national parties requires not just enthusiasm, but deliberation and compromise. Casting a vote in a primary booth, voters really don’t have the incentive or ability to forge such coalitions. Convention delegates do. And the more we move to disempower those delegates, the worse our nominees are likely to be.

19) And, I’ll close it out with a long read.  You want a case of a presidential campaign unambiguously conspiring with a foreign government to change an election result, look no further than Nixon and Vietnam.  More people should know about this.

Quick hits (part II)

1) German Lopez with a nice post on the Justine Damond shooting and race in America.

2) The hazards of meritocracy— new study find that believing life is fair can lead disadvantaged kids to worse behavior.  Presumably, because life is not fair.

3) NYT article on dogs at the beach.  I love that dogs are allowed at Topsail Island where we go every summer.  This year we spent the whole week without a single bit of evidence of irresponsible dog owners failing to clean up.

4) Love Jane Brody’s take on the fallacy of “better safe than sorry” when it comes to cancer screening.  Largely, because the “better safe than sorry” so often leads people astray:

Few may realize that ill-advised screening tests come at a price, and not just a monetary one that adds many billions to the nation’s health care bill. Every screening test has a rate of false positive results – misleading indications of a possible cancer that requires additional, usually invasive, testing with its own rate of complications…

A primary reason: The widespread belief that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Why take a chance that a potentially lethal cancer will go undetected until it’s too late for a cure? Doing something is often more appealing than doing nothing. Many who think this way consider only the beneficial “what if’s” and not the possible downsides of cancer screening tests.

5) These photoshops of old-school teen book covers are hilarious and definitely NFSW.

6) Sarah Binder with the lessons of the ACA repeal failure.

7) Keith Gaddie in praise of McCain on FB:

Every game theory instructor in the US is delighted with McCain’s maneuver. It conveys timing, information, mover advantage, and shows the iterative nature of true politics — that these are not single play, one-shot events.

And, to the frustration of those who complain about not giving Sens. Murkowski and Collins their due, a gaming approach must contend with crediting McCain. He did vote to advance the bill, but to a point where it could be dealt a fatal blow. He eased leadership concerns. They were banking on a 50-50 whip count with Pence to tie-break.

Then, with every other vote cast, he stuck a political shiv in the ribs of Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and the majority. He held his vote until it had the most power. The leadership would have held the bill if a third Republican woman was a nay, or if McCain was accounted for in the whip count as a nay.

McCain was freaking Russell Case, with one last good rocket, and he punched it where it did the most damage at just the right moment.

8) Rich people are, on average, worse human beings.  Seriously, the evidence is clear.  Our society used to recognize this fact but doesn’t really any more.

9) Nice to see that plenty of police departments recognize just how wrong Trump is on issues of police brutality even if the morons behind him cheering don’t.

10) Nice Julia Azari on partisanship in elections versus governing.

11) Yes, I’m with Sessions and Trump’s DOJ on this.  As much as people may wish that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protected employment based on sexual orientation there’s just no fair reading of the law to make that case.   Words have meaning.  Do I think sexual orientation should be protected?  Hell, yeah, so let’s work to pass a law to do that.  Not pretend that one written in 1964 to protect women (Title VII) part does so.

12) Eight positive thinking skills which social science says will improve your life:

■ Recognize a positive event each day.

■ Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.

■ Start a daily gratitude journal.

■ List a personal strength and note how you used it.

■ Set an attainable goal and note your progress.

■ Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.

■ Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.

■ Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

13) Steven Pearlstein says this is the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency.

14) Paul Waldman on how Republicans treat their voters like morons (because it works so well).

What’s truly remarkable isn’t that a bunch of cynical politicians thought they could ride their base voters’ anger into control of Congress by lying to them about what they could actually accomplish; it’s that their voters actually believed it. And then those voters got even angrier when it turned out that the president had the ability to veto bills passed by a Congress controlled by the other party. Who knew! So instead of looking for a presidential candidate who would treat them like adults, they elected Donald Trump, a man who would pander to their gullibility even more.

15) Steve Benen on how Eric Cantor— now that he’s out of office– admits to how Republican politicians lie to their voters.

16) Jim Newell argues that most Republican politicians didn’t even really want the repeal and replace:

Did any Republicans in Congress actually want to “repeal Obamacare” on the policy merits? Certainly not the moderates, even though they too had villianized the law. The rank and file are just sheep, willing to vote for whichever bill the leadership tells them to. Obamacare repeal was never an animating spiritual force. It was mostly a bloc of conservatives in both chambers—the Freedom Caucus in the House, and Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz in the Senate—who wanted to do away with the policy architecture that Obamacare installed, instead of just reaping the political benefits of opposing it. And that’s just not enough people.

Despite the aura around it, Obamacare, in its individual market reforms, is essentially just the idea that sick people should be able to purchase quality insurance at roughly the same price as healthy people. All of the law’s regulations, carrots, and sticks—guaranteed issue, community rating, essential health benefits, the individual mandate, subsidies, single risk pools, etc.—were put in place to make such a market feasible. To “repeal Obamacare” is to segregate sick people from healthy people, so that the healthy are not subsidizing the sick.

It turns out, most people don’t really want to do this. Which is why, in each chamber, when the conservative bloc would put forth a version of an amendment that would truly “repeal Obamacare,” it was met with a revolt from the rest of the party.

 

Good policy should not be so hard!!

I know, health care anyone, but welcome to America.  You know what policy clear evidence says provides a huge return on investment thereby benefitting all Americans and providing huge direct investment to those who receive it?  Home nurse visits for low-income parents.  Claire Cain Miller in Upshot:

The visits were part of the Nurse-Family Partnership, a program for low-income, first-time mothers that sends nurses on home visits from pregnancy until children are 2, covering things like diet, breast-feeding, safety, parenting skills, age-appropriate toys and mental health. The mothers are typically young and unmarried, with a high school education and a median income of $9,000…

The policy is based on the idea that disadvantage starts in utero and early childhood. Improving parenting skills and maternal and child health, researchers say, has been shown to improve children’s well-being later in life, which could help break the cycle of inequality.

Great!  Let’s do this and do more of it.  Ahhh, not so fast…

Home visiting is an evidence-based policy with bipartisan support that will lose a large portion of its financing unless Congress renews it by the end of September. There has been no action on a House bill to renew the program, and no bill at all in the Senate…

Home visiting programs have received federal funding under administrations of both parties. The Trump budget proposed maintaining funding at $400 million a year. Congress has not yet reauthorized it. Advocates of home visiting programs say they cover only 3 percent of families who need them, and propose increasing the funding.

This shouldn’t be so hard.  Even sensible Republicans recognize this is a good thing.  But, instead of investing even more money (uh-oh, big government!), the program is struggling for re-authorization.  Sad!

A few more

Didn’t quite get to finish last night due to attending a soccer game (local minor league team versus a Premier League team– Swansea City– pretty cool) and then watching UMNT vs. Costa Rica.  Got to use my new Canon SX 730 super-zoom at the soccer game.

And nothing super-zoomy about this, but certainly capture the sunset well.

Anyway…

1) Jack Shafer on Spicey:

The White House attracts all manner of toadies, suckups and flatterers seeking the president’s favor, but never did any staffer demean, degrade and humble himself to the chief executive the way outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer did. Abandoning the arts of both persuasion and elision that have served previous prevaricating press secretaries so well, Spicer flung barb-tongued lies in the service of President Donald Trump…

Reviewing Spicer’s tenure as press secretary, we find no Trump transgression so foul that Spicer would not grovel before it. When Trump praised North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and invited thuggish Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, Spicer dispensed sympathy and understanding upon the despots. No Trump mistake was too mundane for him to correct: He insisted that the word “covfefe,” which appeared in a late-night Trump tweet, wasn’t a typo. When Trump alluded to secret Trump-Comey audio recordings, Spicer dodged all questions about their existence. After the president claimed Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower, Spicer created a diplomatic incident by falsely accusing British intelligence of doing the snooping.

Shall I continue? When Trump made the baseless allegation that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, Spicer defended him. He slammed the media in general for a “default narrative“ that was “always negative” and slammed CNN in specific for calling March for Life demonstrators “demonstrators.” He accused the TV press of working harder to create alluring YouTube clips than “getting factual news,” attempted to marginalize the nonprofit investigative outlet ProPublica as a “left-wing blog,” and berated reporter April Ryan for shaking her head at his evasions during a briefing. “Even Hitler” wasn’t as bad as Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad, because he “didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.” Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, he said, had “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” Hillary Clinton’s Russia ties were more troubling than Trump’s. And so on.

2) The genes that makes dogs so sociable may be related to the gene that causes Williams-Beuren Syndrome in humans.

3) Nine-year old boy discovers million year old fossil in the desert.  My 11-year old is pretty jealous.

4) Pretty interesting take on how modern-day economics bears a disturbing similarity Imperial Chinese astrology.  Seriously.

5) NYT Editorial on the bogus voter fraud commission:

The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam.

It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square.

It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s.

Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.

6) Here’s an idea that strikes me as pretty damn obvious, but now science has clearly demonstrated– babies born addicted to opioids fare a whole lot better (and save the government a bunch of money) when they are actually left with their mothers.  Of course, not so long as people like Jeff Sessions make our drug policy.

7) Kristoff on the absurdity of Kushner still having a security clearance:

For all that we don’t know about President Trump’s dealings with Russia, one thing should now be clear: Jared Kushner should not be working in the White House, and he should not have a security clearance.

True, no proof has been presented that Kushner broke the law or plotted with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election. But he’s under investigation, and a series of revelations have bolstered suspicions — and credible doubts mean that he must be viewed as a security risk.

Here’s the bottom line: Kushner attended a meeting in June 2016 whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin initiative to interfere in the U.S. election; he failed to disclose the meeting on government forms (a felony if intentional); he was apparently complicit in a cover-up in which the Trump team denied at least 20 times that there had been any contacts with Russians to influence the election; and he also sought to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin during the presidential transition.

Until the situation is clarified, such a person simply should not work in the White House and have access to America’s most important secrets.

8) OMG am I glad my tenure-track position does not depend upon obtaining grants.  It’s damn hard out there for the “real” scientists.

9) Good NYT feature on why there are so few women CEO’s.  It’s pretty subtle, but hell yeah there’s still lots of bias:

The parallels with politics are striking. Research in both fields, including some conducted after Mrs. Clinton’s loss, has shown it’s harder for assertive, ambitious women to be seen as likable, and easier to conclude they lack some intangible, ill-defined quality of leadership.

In a Korn Ferry survey in April of 786 male and female senior executives, 43 percent said they thought that continued bias against women as chief executives was the primary reason more women did not make it to the top in their own companies — and 33 percent thought women in their firms were not given sufficient opportunities to become leaders.

At DuPont, Ms. Kullman said, she found that men were being promoted within two years, women in three. “It wasn’t as overt as, ‘She’s too aggressive,’ ” she said. “It came down more to, ‘We’re not sure she’s ready for that job.’ ”

As Wendy Cai-Lee, a banker now running her own investment firm, put it, if she wrote a book about women in business, the title would be “Dependable Back-Up.”

The Lean In survey shows a pervasive sense among women that they face structural disadvantages: They are less likely than men to believe they will be able to participate in meetings, receive challenging assignments or find their contributions valued. The bleakest perceptions are from minority women; only 29 percent of black women think the best opportunities at their companies go to the most deserving employees, compared with 47 percent of white women.

10) This is awesome– North Dakota is embracing Norway’s far more humane, far smarter approach to incarceration:

Warden James Sayler and Joey Joyce, his deputy, were quick to embrace the Norway philosophy. They immediately began devising ways for inmates to earn more freedom—shopping excursions, day passes home, and even the right to wear civilian clothes on-site. They also scaled up an existing work-release program so more men could take real jobs. “Everybody down here is going to be out of here in a short amount of time,” Sayler says. “So how do you want ’em?” This is the crux of Norway’s approach: Once you accept that these people will one day be your neighbors, you might feel more invested in making sure they have the skills to get by on the outside.

This chart shows we’re doing some really wrong

Excellent Vox article on the appalling stats of maternal death in the U.S. and how California has dramatically reduced the problem by taking it seriously, unless the rest of the nation.  Here’s the key and super-disturbing chart:

So, what do the researchers have to say:

Yet other developed countries have seen similar health trends in rising childbirth age and bodyweight — without the accompanying increased death risk for mothers.

That’s led researchers like Boston University maternal health expert Eugene Declercq to conclude that a key driver of America’s maternal mortality problem is that America doesn’t value women.

“The argument we make internationally is that [a high maternal death rate] is often a reflection of how the society views women,” he says. “In other countries, we worry about the culture — women are not particularly valued, so they don’t set up systems to care for them at all. I think we have a similar problem in the US.” [emphases mine]

Policies and funding dollars tend to focus on babies, not the women who bring them into the world…

Still, California has demonstrated that even in our messy and imperfect health care system, progress is possible. They’ve shown the rest of the country what happens when people care about and organize around women’s health. Policymakers owe it to the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and their mothers, to figure out how to bring that success to families across the country.

The difference between Texas and California is that California decided to take on maternal mortality, Boston’s Eugene Declercq told me.

Americans and breasts

A couple things that I couldn’t resist about this story.  First, this lede:

On a sunny day on the boardwalk, with salt on her skin and ocean breezes snapping the American flag behind her, Cynthia Heath did not want her perfect beach vacation ruined by toplessness.

“Not here, Ocean City is not that kind of place, it’s a family place. Absolutely not,” Heath, 55, said, leaving the restaurant where she just had lunch with her husband, her 9-year-old granddaughter and her granddaughter’s friend.

They ate at Hooters.

Welcome to America, land of mixed messages and double standards. Breasts, especially, continue to confound us.

And, also, because when I was a kid my family owned a condo at Ocean City, MD, and went there every summer.  Nice to know that the Ocean City of 35 years ago remains in this description:

Breasts made national news because the all-American summer destination Ocean City was confused about whether women could show them.

And that’s pretty funny.

Because this family-friendly place with “No Profanity” signs along the boardwalk also has guys selling Bongzilla outside its boardwalk shops; T-shirts with pot jokes, sex jokes and drinking jokes on every corner; hotels with giant kiddie pools outside and clouds of marijuana smoke inside; guys lugging suitcases of Pabst everywhere. Also: twerking, thongs and foam dance parties galore.

But please, save the children from breasts.

Actually, there’s also an interesting public policy debate to be had here.  But, mostly, yes, Americans are pretty schizophrenic about female breasts.

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