Gender and views on gender (and Donald Trump)

Really interesting Gallup report recently on views on gender (by gender).  This chartstrikes me as pretty amazing.

Basically, both women and men– but especially women– have come to recognize that women’s treatment in society needs to be better.  And, that’s obviously what’s going on because it’s pretty hard to argue that the treatment of women has actually gotten worse in the last five years.  Gallup gives most of the credit to the MeToo movement:

Over the past two decades, Americans’ satisfaction with the treatment of women in society has ranged from the current 53% low to a 72% high in 2002 and 2003. The sharpest decline in satisfaction — 10 percentage points, from 63% to 53% — occurred in 2018 in the wake of the #MeToo social movement in the U.S. that raised awareness about harassment and violence against women. Since then, satisfaction has remained steady at that level.

Women’s satisfaction dropped 15 points spanning the emergence of #MeToo, while men’s fell five points. The latest reading among women, 44%, is the lowest on record, although it is not statistically different from the 46% readings in 2018 and 2020. At the same time, men’s satisfaction with the treatment of women has remained flat at 61% to 62% since 2018.

Looking at that chart, though, there’s no measurement in 2017.  I can’t help but wonder how much of this is actually attributable to Trump’s presidency.  Alas, pretty hard to know as MeToo started in 2017, coinciding with Trump’s presidency.  But, the social scientist in me wants to find more data and try and tease this out.  Maybe, we at least can appreciate that Donald Trump helped shine light on gender inequality in society.  

Quick hits (part II)

1) Shark attacks (great whites!) are way up at Cape Cod.  And it’s, kind of, a good thing as its a sign of a restored ecosystem (the sharks are following the seals, which have nicely recovered thanks to federal protection).  Pretty fascinating story.

2) Geoffrey Skelley analyzes Biden’s approval:

Recent polling suggests that Hispanic approval of Biden’s handling of the pandemic and the economy has fallen sharply. The latest poll from The Economist/YouGov found just 45 percent of Hispanics approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, compared with 65 percent in early June. And Politico/Morning Consult’s new survey found Hispanic approval of Biden’s handling of the economy has dropped to 42 percent, compared with 60 percent back in June. Hispanics are also frustrated with how Biden has dealt with immigration — long one of Biden’s weakest issues in the public’s eyes — and although it isn’t the most important issue for Hispanic voters, it is often a highly salient one. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac University found that only 23 percent of Hispanic Americans approved of Biden’s work on immigration, down from 49 percent in late May. Even if that might be on the low end for Biden, the new Politico/Morning Consult survey also found him performing more poorly on the issue among Hispanic voters, as just 40 percent approved, compared with 51 percent in June.

Biden has lost ground among almost every single demographic group over the past few months, but independents and Hispanics stick out as two key groups where Biden’s standing has especially faltered. For Democrats looking ahead to the 2022 midterms, Biden’s overall approval rating is concerning enough, but if Biden is struggling to win independents and Hispanics, that could snuff out any hope Democrats have of holding either chamber of Congress. After all, independents backed Democrats in the 2018 midterms and Biden last November, and even though Republicans made gains with Hispanics in places like Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Hispanics still largely backed Biden and helped him win in key swing states, like Arizona. But if Republicans can capitalize on Biden’s weakness among these groups, that could be their ticket back to controlling Congress next year.

3) Michele Goldberg on Angela Merkel and refugees:

The climax of Kati Marton’s captivating new biography of Angela Merkel, “The Chancellor,” comes in 2015, when the German leader refused to close her country’s borders to a tide of refugees fleeing civil war and state collapse in the Middle East and Africa.

“If Europe fails on the question of refugees, then it won’t be the Europe we wished for,” Merkel said, calling on the other members of the European Union to take in more people as well. “I don’t want to get into a competition in Europe of who can treat these people the worst.” For the usually stolid and cautious chancellor, it was a great political leap, a sudden act of moral heroism that would define her legacy.

By the end of the year, a million refugees had come. Many observers predicted disaster. According to Marton, Henry Kissinger, ever callous, told Merkel, “To shelter one refugee is a humanitarian act, but to allow one million strangers in is to endanger German civilization.” Marton quotes my colleague Ross Douthat writing that anyone who believes that Germany can “peacefully absorb a migration of that size and scale of cultural difference” is a “fool.” She describes former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s fear that the refugees would be Merkel’s “political undoing.”

For a while, it seemed like some of this pessimism was warranted. Douthat’s column was inspired by a hideous outburst of violence in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, in which a mob of largely Middle Eastern and North African men sexually assaulted scores of women. The refugee influx fueled the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, known as the AfD, which in 2017 won 94 seats to become the largest opposition party in Parliament. Some blamed Merkel’s policy for spooking Brits into supporting Brexit. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump seized on it. Though Merkel retained the chancellorship after the 2017 elections, her party, the Christian Democratic Union, lost 65 seats.

But six years later, the catastrophes predicted by Merkel’s critics haven’t come to pass.  [Funny how that never happens]

In the recent German election, refugees were barely an issue, and the AfD lost ground. “The sense is that there has been comparatively little Islamic extremism or extremist crime resulting from this immigration, and that on the whole, the largest number of these immigrants have been successfully integrated into the German work force and into German society overall,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller, an expert on Germany and trans-Atlantic relations at the Brookings Institution.

“With the passage of time,” Marton told me, Merkel “turned out to have chosen the absolutely right course for not only Germany but for the world.”

4) I’m pretty persuaded the biggest problem with our ports is a huge influx of imported goods.  And this Cato report may well blame unions too much, but a pretty interesting look at long-standing, systematic policy explanations for the mess we’re in now. 

The Long‐​Term Problems at U.S. Ports
At the same time, however, many of the problems at U.S. ports today result from intentional decisions made years ago—decisions that have caused our port system to badly lag much of the world. According to the 2020 World Bank/​IHS Markit “Container Port Performance Index,” for example, not one U.S. port ranked in the top 50 global ports in terms of getting a ship in and out of a port (see flowchart below), using either a “statistical approach” measuring efficiency and finances or an “administrative approach” reflecting expert knowledge and judgment. The highest ranked U.S. port (statistically) was Philadelphia at 83, with Virginia close behind at 85 and NY/NJ at 89. Oakland came in at 332, while LA/LB ranked a dismal 328 and 333, respectively. (Things are even a little worse using the “administrative approach.”)…

Summing It All Up
On the surface, the pandemic is the main cause of the “shipping crisis” and the related pain to the U.S. economy. And given the wild swings in global supply and demand—and players’ inability to snap their fingers and add new ships, warehouses, trains, or maybe even workers—these pressures will continue for the next several months, if not a little longer. But dig a little deeper, and we see that much of the current mess in the United States was decades in the making, reflecting systemic labor and trade policies that decrease the efficiency and flexibility that U.S. ports — and the economy reliant on them—enjoy in the best of times and desperately need in the worst. Sure, these same policies undoubtedly enrich a handful of U.S. workers and companies, but the shipping crisis has revealed some of their much bigger, usually‐​unseen harms—and the necessity of reform.

Broader lessons abound.

5) Science! “Scientists just broke the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in a lab”

Scientists just broke the record for the coldest temperature ever measured in a lab: They achieved the bone-chilling temperature of 38 trillionths of a degree above -273.15 Celsius by dropping magnetized gas 393 feet (120 meters) down a tower. 

The team of German researchers was investigating the quantum properties of a so-called fifth state of matter: Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), a derivative of gas that exists only under ultra-cold conditions. While in the BEC phase, matter itself begins to behave like one large atom, making it an especially appealing subject for quantum physicists who are interested in the mechanics of subatomic particles…

Near absolute zero, some weird things start to happen. For example, light becomes a liquid that can literally be poured into a container, according to research published in 2017 in the journal Nature Physics. Supercooled helium stops experiencing friction at very low temperatures, according to a study published in 2017 in the journalNature Communications. And inNASA’s Cold Atom Lab, researchers have even witnessed  atoms existing in two places at once.

In this record-breaking experiment, scientists trapped a cloud of around 100,000 gaseous rubidium atoms in a magnetic field inside a vacuum chamber. Then, they cooled the chamber way down, to around 2 billionths of a degree Celsius above absolute zero, which would have been a world record in itself, according to NewAtlas

But this wasn’t quite frigid enough for the researchers, who wanted to push the limits of physics; to get even colder, they needed to mimic deep-space conditions. So the team took their setup to the European Space Agency’s Bremen drop tower, a microgravity research center at the University of Bremen in Germany. By dropping the vacuum chamber into a free fall while switching the magnetic field on and off rapidly, allowing the BEC to float uninhibited by gravity, they slowed the rubidium atoms’ molecular motion to almost nothing. The resulting BEC stayed at 38 picokelvins – 38 trillionths of a Kelvin – for about 2 seconds, setting “an absolute minus record”, the team reported Aug. 30 in the journal Physical Review Letters. The previous record of 36 millionths of a Kelvin, was achieved by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado with specialized lasers.

6) David Epstein takes a recent reversal on aspirin to revisit the medical statistic we should be more familiar with, Number Needed to Treat:

A whopping 29 million Americans — that’s the entire population of Texas — take aspirin every single day in order to prevent heart disease. Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued draft guidelines saying that most of those people should probably stop, because the potential harms outweigh the benefits.

That’s a big friggin’ deal. Medical recommendations change all the time, as knowledge is updated. But I think this case is a particularly teachable moment, highlighting the importance of comparing costs and benefits on the same scale. And there’s an important concept in medicine that can help with that — namely: NNT.

NNT is an abbreviation for “number needed to treat.” In other words: How many patients must be treated with the drug in order for a single patient to get the desired benefit?

When you read about drugs in the news — or even in most medical journals — you will almost never be explicitly given the NNT (which I will explain in more detail below). Instead, you’ll get relative risk reduction, a metric that a Michigan State med school dean once told me “is just another way of lying.” Why would he say that?

Relative Risk Reduction

Here’s a fictional example:

You read that a new drug reduces your chance of dying from Ryantastic syndrome by 40 percent. Here’s what that means in practice: if 10 in 100,000 people normally die from Ryantastic syndrome, and everyone takes the new drug, only 6 in 100,000 people will die from Ryantastic syndrome. Now let’s think about it from an NNT perspective.

For 100,000 patients who took the new drug, four deaths by Ryantastic syndrome were avoided, or one per 25,000 patients who took the drug. So the NNT is 25,000; that is, 25,000 patients must take the drug in order for one death-by-Ryantastic to be avoided. Ideally, you also want to know the NNH, or “number needed to harm.”

Let’s say that 1 in 1,000 patients who take the new drug suffer a particular grievous side effect. In that case, the NNH is 1,000, while the NNT is 25,000. Suddenly, the decision seems a lot more complicated than if you’re just told the drug will lower your chance of dying from Ryantastic syndrome by 40 percent.

Now let’s move to the real world: aspirin. Nearly five years ago, the NNT and NNH of aspirin caught my eye, so I included them in an article about medical evidence:

For elderly women who take it daily for a year to prevent a first heart attack, aspirin has an estimated NNT of 872 and an NNH of 436. That means if 1,000 elderly women take aspirin daily for a decade, 11 of them will avoid a heart attack; meanwhile, twice that many will suffer a major gastrointestinal bleeding event that would not have occurred if they hadn’t been taking aspirin.

And so why did the recent task force make the new recommendation? According to the New York times:

The U.S. task force wants to strongly discourage anyone 60 and older from starting a low-dose aspirin regimen, citing concerns about the age-related heightened risk for life-threatening bleeding.

They looked at the same kind of data that I did and saw that the tradeoff between the NNT and the NNH didn’t look so good. As a doctor I once interviewed on this topic told me: when a massive group of people who don’t have symptoms take a drug, the chances of harm will often outweigh the chances of help. That certainly is not to say that this is always the case, but as the old medical adage goes: it’s hard to make asymptomatic patients better.

Once I started looking at NNT and NNH data instead of relative risk, one of my main takeaways was that most drugs don’t do anything significantly good or bad for most people who take them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile, it’s just a different — and, I think, important — perspective. Here’s a graphic illustration of what I mean, from my 2017 ProPublica article:

WYSIATI: “What You See Is All There Is”

The larger point I really want to hammer home is that a statistic like relative risk reduction — which is far and away the most common one you’re getting — is not the statistic that you need in order to make an informed decision.

7) Michele Goldberg again, “When a Miscarriage Is Manslaughter”

Brittney Poolaw, then 19 years old, showed up at the Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Oklahoma last year after suffering a miscarriage at home. She had been about 17 weeks pregnant. According to an affidavit from a police detective who interviewed her, she admitted to hospital staff that she had recently used both methamphetamine and marijuana.

A medical examiner cited her drug use as one of several “conditions contributing” to the miscarriage, a list which also included congenital abnormality and placental abruption. Poolaw was arrested on a charge of manslaughter in the first degree, and because she couldn’t afford a $20,000 bond, jailed for a year and a half awaiting trial.

The trial finally took place this month and lasted one day. According to a local television station, an expert witness for the prosecution testified that methamphetamine use may not have been directly responsible for the death of Poolaw’s fetus. Nevertheless, after deliberating for less than three hours, a jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to four years in prison.

From the detective’s affidavit, it seems possible Poolaw’s entire ordeal might have been avoided had she had access to decent reproductive health care. Poolaw, the detective wrote, “stated when she found out she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.”

Poolaw’s case is an injustice, but it is also a warning. This is what happens when the law treats embryos and fetuses as people with rights that supersede the rights of those who carry them. And it offers a glimpse of the sort of prosecutions that could become common in a world in which Roe v. Wade is overturned, one we could be living in as soon as next year.

Abortion opponents often insist they have no intention of imprisoning women who end their pregnancies. When, as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump said that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, he was widely denounced by mainstream anti-abortion activists: Peggy Nance, head of Concerned Women for America, called him “the caricature that the left tries to paint us to be.”

But for years now, the anti-abortion movement has been working to change state laws to define embryos and fetuses as “people” or “children.” This has resulted in women being punished for things they do, or don’t do, while pregnant. Often, these prosecutions target women who take drugs; ProPublica reported on a case in Alabama in which a woman was charged with “chemical endangerment of a child” because she twice took half a Valium when she was pregnant.

8) This “Do you know how to tip? Test your knowledge about tipping while traveling in America ” actually really annoyed me (even though I did really well) because it just took all this tipping as a given, instead of pointing out just how absurd it is on so many levels.  

9) Here’s the thing about this story, “A woman won a million-euro Spanish literary prize. It turned out that ‘she’ was actually three men.”

The work of one woman was, it turned out, the equivalent of the labors of three men.

That was at least the case for Spain’s top writer of crime thrillers, a professor and mother who wrote under the pseudonym Carmen Mola, supposedly to maintain her anonymity.

But on Friday night, at a ceremony to award the 1 million euro (about $1,160,000) Planeta literary prize to Mola for her historical thriller “The Beast,” three men ascended the podium and claimed the award instead.

Mola’s gripping, often-gory novels starring strong female protagonists have been likened to the work of Elena Ferrante, a pseudonym for a widely popular Italian writer.

Mola is best known for a trilogy starring a “peculiar and solitary” female police inspector “who loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs,” according to publisher Penguin Random House. That trilogy has been translated into 11 languages and is being adapted for television.

Good art speaks to the human condition and that knows no bounds of race, gender, geography, etc.  So, of course three men can write stories with strong and fully-realized female protagonists.  And women can write amazing male characters.  And white people can write rich, complex black people and vice versa.  So enough with the race and gender essentialism. 

10) I love online shopping.  I hate the massive waste this creates with returns.  Good stuff from Amanda Mull:

We can dispatch now with a common myth of modern shopping: The stuff you return probably isn’t restocked and sent back out to another hopeful owner. Many retailers don’t allow any opened product to be resold as new. Brick-and-mortar stores have sometimes skirted that policy; products that are returned directly to the place where they were sold can be deemed close enough to new and sold again. But even if mailed-in products come back in pristine, unused condition—say, because you ordered two sizes of the same bra and the first one you tried on fit fine—the odds that things returned to a sorting facility will simply be transferred to that business’s inventory aren’t great, and in some cases, they’re virtually zero. Getting an item back into a company’s new-product sales stream, which is sometimes in a whole different state, can be logistically prohibitive. Some things, such as beauty products, underwear, and bathing suits, are destroyed for sanitary reasons, even if they appear to be unopened or unused…

Perfectly good stuff gets thrown away in these facilities all the time, simply because the financial math of doing anything else doesn’t work out; they’re too inexpensive to be worth the effort, or too much time has passed since they were sold. Fast fashion—the extremely low-cost, quick-churn styles you can buy from brands such as Forever 21 and Fashion Nova—tends to tick both boxes, and the industry generates some of the highest return rates in all of consumer sales. Imagine a dress that sold for $25 and was sent back without its plastic packaging at the end of the typical 30-day return window. Add up the labor to pick, pack, and dispatch the item; the freight both coming and going; the labor to receive and sort the now-returned item; the cardboard and plastic for packaging; and the sorting facility’s overhead, and the seller has already lost money. By one estimate, an online return typically costs a retailer $10 to $20 before the cost of shipping. And in the space of a month, the people who might have paid full price for the dress have moved on to newer items on the seller’s website. At that point, one way or another, the dress has got to go…

Now is usually when people start wondering why more returns aren’t just donated. Don’t lots of people in the U.S. need winter coats and smartphones and other crucial tools of everyday life that they can’t afford? Wouldn’t providing those things be good PR for retailers? Wouldn’t it be a tax write-off, at the very least? Donation would be the morally sound move. But companies have little incentive to act morally, and many avoid large-scale domestic donations because of what is politely termed “brand dilution”: If paying customers catch you giving things to poor people for free, the logic goes, they’ll feel like the things you sell are no longer valuable.

Some of the largest retailers, such as Amazon and Target, have begun to quietly acknowledge that it doesn’t even make sense for them to eat the cost of reverse logistics to get back many of the things they sell. They’ll refund you for your itchy leggings or wonky throw pillows and suggest that you give them away, which feels like an act of generosity but, more likely, is really just farming out the task of product disposal.

 

Chapelle– what we need is context and charity

So, I finally decided I’d watch Chapelle for myself tonight and make up my own mind on things (and take a break from my one-a-day Ted Lasso binge).  I’m so glad I did.  Mostly, because I was entertained as hell.  I’ve always said that something that actually makes you laugh out loud when you are alone is really funny.   And I did… a bunch.  I’ve honestly never had much more than a vague awareness that Chapelle was a super-popular comedian and I almost never watch stand-up comedy, so I was not expecting all that much.  But, I mostly loved it.  As Yglesias points out, Chapelle is, in large part, an equal-opportunity offender and he had pretty offensive things to say about women, white people, black people, poor people, Jewish people, Asian people.  But, and this is actually his point– somehow only the trans stuff draws this crazy, disproportionate flack.  Honestly, a lot of time I was laughing of the “omg I cannot believe he actually said that!” type of laughter.  Some people just choose to focus on the offense, but, the offense is telling us something about ourselves and our society.  It is eminently clear that Chapelle is not trying to be malicious.  But, sometimes, I forget, for the cancel crowd, “intent doesn’t matter!” (Just tell that to our legal system)  

Hence, the title of my post.  In full context, Chapelle is actually deeply humane and really wants us to all just relate to others as people all sharing in the human condition.  I came away quite convinced he has no animus at all towards trans people.  He does, however, have great animus towards trans activists who want to take cancel people and take their livelihoods away for saying anything they consider transphobic.  From my perspective, if you choose to ignore the full context and choose to be uncharitable, Chapelle says awful things about a lot of people, including trans people.  But if all you choose to hear is him is intentionally mis-gendering a transwoman in a joke without the full context or voicing support for TERF’s, you are missing the point– and for many of the Chapelle wannabe cancelers, intentionally so.  

Anyway, in one my rare substantial disagreements with Drum, he didn’t find the special funny at all.  But, we are, as usual, very much in agreement on some key take-aways from the whole controversy:

But now Netflix is in trouble with the trans community, which is hardly a surprise. In the same way that all labor unions are aggressive but police unions are really aggressive, the trans community is probably the most ruthless identity group out there. You really don’t want to mess with them if you have a choice.

I’ve always wondered how well this works for them. On the one hand, a reputation for combativeness is an obvious asset. On the other hand, it can also put off people who would otherwise be allies. For example, I’ve never been comfortable with the ease with which they insist that even light criticism means you’re teaming up with people who want to murder them. Likewise, in the workplace they’ve mastered the art of claiming to “feel unsafe” because that’s a code phrase that gets HR involved and can cause real trouble for people. Emily VanDerWerff pulled this crap on Matt Yglesias a while back and I haven’t read a word she’s written since. It was a vile and baseless attack.

Beyond that, there’s the trans community’s problematic relationship with scientific and medical evidence about transitioning, especially among children and teens. Their attacks on working scientists who happen to produce inconvenient results are legendary…

Looping back to Chappelle… he’s a wildly famous and popular comedian, and my take is that he crossed no boundaries that make him unfit for public consumption. Netflix was right to air his show because that’s the business they’re in. The critics are wrong to launch a nuclear war against Netflix over this.

Meanwhile, Yglesias gets really into the practical political implications of all this.  Not quite on my earlier points, but I’m not doing two posts on this.  It’s a free post so you can also read the whole thing, if you choose:

All things considered, it’s a useful case study in the value of checking things out for yourself rather than just reading takes. I don’t know that a person outraged about Chappelle’s jokes about trans people would feel better about them knowing that the special also oozes contempt for working-class white people and tars all police officers as trigger-happy racists, but it does create a somewhat different context. Most of this stuff, to be clear, is also kinda funny. There’s a really witless and homophobic joke about Mike Pence being gay that’s the kind of thing I like to think I outgrew in eleventh grade but that made me chuckle — Chappelle is a very good performer. But again, the fact that one of the most straightforwardly homophobic things in the special is just using “Mike Pence is gay” as a diss on Mike Pence is a sign that this is something other than right-wing politics.

Similarly, I actually think the toughest political hit in the whole special is two brief jokes about “space Jews” that haven’t gotten much attention outside of the Jewish press. The joke is basically that Israel is equivalent to a freed slave who turns around and enslaves other people (to make Zionists everywhere mad), but he then also attributes this to “Jews” (to make Israel-critical Jewish people mad). This is one that I, personally, was kind of upset about. Though, again, to be clear — I laughed at the joke. Chappelle is good at his job…

Well, obviously a lot of people — especially transgender people — do care, and they want this routine labeled harmful and taken down off Netflix. And to be clear, I am not asking anyone to enjoy him or praise him or watch his specials. These people at the Economist hailing him as a great hero for daring to piss off trans activists are being ridiculous.

But I’ll say roughly the same thing I said in “Joe Rogan and the Doomed Politics of Shunning” — I don’t think trying to arm-twist people into shunning everyone who expresses a widely-held viewpoint that trans activists disagree with is going to accomplish anything useful. Unlike a standup routine, this is political action, and it deserves to be judged based on whether or not it makes sense as political action. And the answer is that it does not; it serves to narrow the progressive coalition and make everything — including tangible progress on trans rights — harder…

My point here is that there are probably a lot of Dave Chappelles out there voting for Democratic Party candidates, and you need to think about the implications of that before you decide something is worth throwing people out of the coalition…

Indeed, I think it’s noteworthy that the one time Chappelle actually addresses a specific piece of trans-related legislation — the North Carolina bathroom bill — he says it’s bad and takes the pro-trans view. He also says a bunch of other stuff that is genuinely hurtful and against activist preferences. But on the concrete policy topic, he says the bill is bad.

Trans rights are a mixed bag in public opinion

Just because an idea is unpopular doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with people fighting for unpopular causes.

But I do think that in politics you need to know the difference between when you’re fighting for an unpopular cause and when you’re trying to spike the football with a popular one. The progressive internet often makes it seem as if trans activist claims are commonly held views being resisted by only a small number of extreme conservatives.

In truth, it’s very much a mixed bag…

Politics requires some chill

If you want to consider “The Closer” a wise political text, you need to incorporate the shots at cops, at women, at Israel, at low-income white people, at #MeToo, and a million other things.

Here from another Chappelle special is a bit about how Ohio is full of poor white people and all poor white people love heroin…

You can enjoy these jokes as jokes or you can not enjoy them. But that’s what they are — edgy jokes, not a serious analysis of social problems (at the time this special came out, the NIH was reporting a 45% increase in opioid overdose deaths among Black people in Ohio).

But what you don’t want to do, as a political movement, is run around looking for reasons to exile people from your political coalition. A non-trivial number of rank-and-file Democrats have a range of views on LGBT issues that put them at odds with the bulk of progressives. It is very important that those people keep voting for Democrats, or else Donald Trump is president again and progress on things like military service becomes impossible. If you put out the message that some of these statements are such profound line crossing (unlike jokes about Space Jews or heroin-addled poor white people) that they are worth yanking episodes from the Netflix library, that is what you are saying.

On some level, every activist wants to say that their pet issue is the most important issue in the world. But depending on what you’re talking about, having more people see it that way can be counterproductive. If you seriously tell every Black person with conservative views on gender roles to take a hike, you’re going to lose.

(The return of full) Quick hits (part I)

You’re regularly scheduled quick hits are back for your Saturday reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

1) Ruy Teixera, “There Just Aren’t Enough College-Educated Voters! You Can Ignore the Working Class If You Like, But That Would Be Very, Very Unwise”

Education polarization is increasing election on election in the United States. In 2012, the difference in Democratic support between college-educated and noncollege (working class) voters in the Presidential election was about 4 margin points (Catalist data, two party vote), with college voters being more favorable to the Democrats than noncollege voters. In 2016 that difference ballooned to 18 points. And in 2020, it went up again to 22 points.

Democrats seem remarkably relaxed about this polarization, despite liking to style themselves as the party for “working people”. One reason for this is the general perception that the college-educated population is growing while the working class is declining. True as far as it goes but the fact remains that noncollege voters far outnumber college voters. In the 2020 Catalist data, the tally was 63 percent noncollege/37 percent college. That means that any given shift among noncollege voters is significantly more consequential than a similarly-sized shift among college voters. This situation will continue for many election cycles, as the noncollege voter share is likely to decline only gradually.

Another reason for Democratic complacency is the firm belief that Democrats’ working class problem is solely confined to whites and that white working class voters are so racist/reactionary that it is a badge of honor to ignore them. This is highly questionable as a matter of political strategy and arithmetic, given that they are 44 percent of voters and a lot more than that in key swing states and districts.

But there is a deeper problem. The perception that nonwhite working class voters are a lock for the Democrats is no longer tenable. In the 2020 election, working class nonwhites moved sharply toward Trump by 12 margin points, despite Democratic messaging that focused relentlessly on Trump’s animus toward nonwhites. According to Pew, Trump actually got 41 percent of the Hispanic working class vote in 2016. Since 2012, running against Trump twice, Democrats have lost 18 points off of their margin among nonwhite working class voters…

More broadly, as Matt Yglesias noted in a recent article documenting the growth and extent of education polarization:

[H]aving society sharply polarized around occupational categories and educational attainment is going to make it very difficult for us to function effectively as a country… [S]tark education polarization is really bad for Democrats’ prospects of winning a Senate majority….[M]athematically, Democrats cannot govern in the long term without increasing their appeal to less-educated voters…..For some people, of course, the current system works great. Culture wars and skewed maps help Republicans win elections, after which they cut taxes for rich people and multinational corporations while doing nothing to satisfy their base’s resentments — resentments that fuel the fire for the next campaign.

In short, Democrats should not be complacent about education polarization. College graduates are neither numerous nor reliable enough to underpin a dominant coalition. Their party’s fate—and that of the country’s prospects for effective governance—depends on reducing this polarization as much and as rapidly as possible.

2) This is a hell of a tale.  A little long, but pretty good and everybody’s talking about it.  As for “who is the bad art friend?”  Both of them, damnit.  1) Person #1 needs to get over herself for donating a kidney and accept that other people can take a kidney donation as the inspiration for their own fiction and person #2 needs to not actually plagiarize and then get out of it by claiming “racism!” 

3) Leonhardt on mandates:

Many vaccinations, few firings

We are now living through this cycle again. The deadline for many workplace mandates arrived this week, often requiring people to have received a Covid-19 vaccine or face being fired. In California, the deadline for health care workers is today.

As was the case with Washington’s army, the mandates are largely succeeding:

  • California’s policy has led thousands of previously unvaccinated medical workers to receive shots in recent weeks. At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, about 800 additional workers have been vaccinated since the policy was announced last month, bringing the hospital’s vaccination rate to 97 percent, according to my colleague Shawn Hubler.
  • When New York State announced a mandate for hospital and nursing-home staff members in August, about 75 percent of them had received a shot. By Monday, the share had risen to 92 percent. The increase amounts to roughly 100,000 newly vaccinated people.
  • At Trinity Health, a hospital chain in 22 states, the increase has been similar — to 94 percent from 75 percent, The Times’s Reed Abelson reports. At Genesis HealthCare, which operates long-term-care facilities in 23 states, Covid cases fell by nearly 50 percent after nearly all staff members had finished receiving shots this summer.

Often, the number of people who ultimately refuse the vaccine is smaller than the number who first say they will. Some are persuaded by the information their employer gives them — about the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety, compared with the deadliness of Covid — and others decide they are not really willing to lose their jobs.

A North Carolina hospital system, Novant Health, last week suspended 375 workers, or about 1 percent of its work force, for being unvaccinated. By the end of the week, more than half of them — about 200 — received a shot and were reinstated.

Of course, 175 firings are not nothing. (A Washington Post headline trumpeted the story as “one of the largest-ever mass terminations due to a vaccine mandate.”) United Airlines said this week that it would terminate even more employees — about 600, or less than 1 percent of its U.S. work force.

These firings can create hardship for the workers and short-term disruptions for their employers. But those disruptions tend to be fleeting, because the percentage of workers is tiny. “I’m not seeing any widespread disruptive effect,” Saad Omer of the Yale Institute for Global Health told The Times.

And the benefits — reducing the spread of a deadly virus and lowering the chances it will mutate dangerously in the future — are large.

4) Scott Lemieux summarizes the mandate success in Washington state:

Also nice to see a story that focuses on the big picture rather than unrepresentative outliers:

Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for 63,000 state workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has drawn broad outcry from conservatives, large protests from state workers and legal challenges by employees who stand to lose their jobs under the mandate.

But if Washington’s biggest agencies are any indication, state employees are largely complying with the mandate that they be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs.

The Washington Department of Corrections, (DOC) which oversees the state’s 12 prisons, has verified that 89% of workers have been vaccinated as of noon Thursday, according to a spokesperson. That’s a steep rise from a few weeks ago, when individual prisons reported vaccination rates among staffers as low as 39%.

The Department of Social and Health Services — Washington’s largest state agency, with nearly 16,000 employees — had verified 91% of its workers as vaccinated as of Thursday.

The state Department of Transportation meanwhile is at 93% verified vaccinated as of Friday morning, and the Washington State Patrol announced Wednesday that 93% of its workers had been vaccinated.

At the Department of Children, Youth and Families, that number stood at nearly 87% as of Wednesday — up from around 50% three weeks ago.

5) Sad story with a 20-year old local kid (unvaccinated, of course) who had a Covid death like none I’ve heard of– somehow is Covid led to a fatal sinus infection. that got into his brain.

6) I think one of the clearest indications of the degradation of our democracy is that we’re hardly even talking about it.  Adam Serwer a couple weeks ago, “Trump’s Plans for a Coup Are Now Public: Some of the plots to overturn the election happened in secret. But don’t forget the ones that unfolded in the open.’

7) I meant to write a post on this back in August(!) but it’s still really relevant.  Alec MacGillis, “What Philadelphia Reveals About America’s Homicide Surge”

The video of George Floyd’s death was appalling to Joe Sullivan, who spent 38 years with the Philadelphia police department, much of it overseeing the unit that handles large demonstrations, eventually rising to deputy commissioner. He retired from the force in early 2020, after Outlaw’s arrival as commissioner. Sullivan could stomach watching the video of Floyd only once, but immediately texted his former colleagues on the force that they needed to see it. “My heart just sank,” he said. “I knew right then and there that bad things were going to happen, because it just was so egregious.”

The protests in Philadelphia commenced the following Saturday, with hundreds of people gathering at the art museum and City Hall. As the crowds swelled, someone set a police car on fire, and others started breaking into stores near Rittenhouse Square, carrying out clothes and electronics. Mayor Kenney ordered an 8 p.m. curfew; by day’s end, more than 100 people had been arrested and more than a dozen officers were injured.

Overnight, action shifted to the 52nd Street commercial strip in a heavily Black section of Southwest Philadelphia. Early on Sunday morning, four people looted a clothing store, and that afternoon and into Monday morning, others emptied a jewelry store and a pharmacy, set fire to a uniform shop and damaged a day care center, a tax-preparation business and a seller of hijabs, among others. It was just a couple of blocks from where Tyffani Rudolph had lived before she entered foster care. “It was heartbreaking to see, because it was my own people doing it,” she said. “It was upsetting because it’s like we’re destroying our own home.”

Sullivan, too, watched with dismay, aghast that things unraveled to the point where officers felt the need to take a step he had avoided in many years of crowd control: releasing tear gas. In Philadelphia, protests and looting continued for days, as did the use of tear gas. The police department redeployed officers from across the city to the protests and looting, leaving swaths of the city underpatrolled.

The shift in police focus was immediately discernible in the data: from late May to mid-June last year, police vehicle and pedestrian stops plunged by more than two-thirds. This was driven by more than staffing shifts, said Sullivan. Even officers still on their usual patrols were increasingly opting not to engage with the frequency they had before, which he attributed partly to the firing and arrest of two officers during the protest, one for pepper-spraying protesters on Interstate 676 and another for striking a Temple student in the head with his baton. (Charges were dropped in the first case, and the second officer was later acquitted.) “Officers are saying, ‘Man, if they’re getting locked up that easily, I don’t really want to get involved in this. I’ve got a mortgage to pay and tuition to pay,’” Sullivan said. “I’m sure that some officers have pulled back.”

It was a seeming replay of the dynamic observed in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown, in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, and in Chicago following the death of Laquan McDonald. In those cities, arrests dropped sharply in the weeks following protests over the deaths. What made this latest iteration so unusual was that it was playing out in cities across the country, not only in the city that had experienced this particular death at police hands, Minneapolis. Some combination of the extremity of the Floyd video and the release of emotions pent up during the lockdowns had elevated the protests into a national event, reproducing nationwide the dynamic seen in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago several years earlier.

There is another side to the dynamic, many criminologists agree. In the wake of high-profile deaths at police hands and the often heavy-handed police response to the ensuing protests, community trust in the police plummets. This leaves many people even less likely to report a crime or offer a tip or testify, further depressing case closure rates that were already barely 50% for homicides in Philadelphia, and much lower for nonfatal shootings. “The murder of George Floyd really reactivated this deep sense of mistrust and cynicism in many disadvantaged communities,” Abt said. “And when that happens, there’s multiple bodies of evidence that suggests that when people don’t believe in the system, they don’t comply with it and they don’t use it.”

Instead, they resolve disputes themselves — sometimes with violence…

That could be seen as self-preservation, a response to a rise in shootings that in turn would beget more shootings, abetted by the loss of confidence in the police. “There certainly are young men and women carrying guns on the street because they don’t believe the police can protect them,” said Sullivan, the former deputy commissioner. “They’ve been led to believe that police won’t protect them, and they feel they need to carry guns. And that means more guns on the street.”

One could also consider it from the supply perspective: There had been a surge in legal gun sales nationwide early in the pandemic, amid all the apocalyptic talk of food and supply shortages. Some weapons were inevitably making their way onto the black market, via theft or resale. And, in Philadelphia and other cities, many people now had extra means to buy their own guns on the black market. For all the economic stresses caused by pandemic-related job losses, the $1,200-per-person stimulus payments and expanded unemployment benefits of the CARES Act had injected cash into many neighborhoods. An 18-year-old member of YEAH Philly, who also didn’t want his name used because of his open criminal cases, said, “Everybody had a lot of money, and everybody started buying guns. When everybody started buying guns, everybody wanted to be tough.” Johnson, the councilmember, found this dynamic worrisomely plausible: “The easy access to money, and some people who never had this kind of money before, is playing a role in purchasing guns.”

There’s also the other side of personal risk calculus: the odds of repercussions for carrying. After all, police were making fewer stops. And even before the pandemic and the Floyd protests, those getting caught with illegal firearms were facing fewer consequences. Krasner’s office had launched a diversion program for some defendants, under which those who had purchased firearms legally but lacked the permit to carry them could have their arrests expunged after probation. (The office argued that it was unfair that Philadelphians face more stringent gun rules than residents of other parts of Pennsylvania, as the state requires gun permits for city residents but not for those elsewhere.) And the overall conviction rate for illegal gun possession cases was falling, too. It dropped to 49% in 2019 from more than 60% in the four years before Krasner took office, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

8) Good stuff from Freddie DeBoer, “Anatomy of a Bad Idea: Affirmative Consent”

My primary objection to affirmative consent is pretty simple, really. I don’t, in fact, think that most cases of sexual assault are a matter of mixed signals and misunderstandings. I think most rapes are committed by rapists who don’t care if women say no and are perfectly happy to lie about whether they did. (In fact I remember in the 90s that the feminist position was to ardently assert that sexual assault is very rarely a matter of mixed signals.) And this is the immediate, existential problem for affirmative consent: a rapist can just as easily say “she said yes” as he previously would have said “she didn’t say no.” Right? So what problem is being solved here? It’s still a matter of disputing what communication took place in a world where we generally have no evidence about those communicative facts. The condition that vexes a lot of people is that it’s genuinely very difficult to establish the truth if the question at hand is not whether sexual acts took place but whether they were consensual. We live in a rule-bound society where due process has to exist, as unpopular as that sentiment has become in liberal circles, which means that we will frequently be locked in he said-she said scenarios. Affirmative consent is often represented as some sort of salve for this problem but it simply replaces one type of dispute about who said what with another.

And because of the nature of sex affirmative consent activists are forever introducing ambiguity into the picture when the entire purpose of affirmative consent was to reduce ambiguity. You say to people, “you know, it really doesn’t seem like two people who have been dating for five years are going to robotically be saying ‘may I touch your breast now?’ every time they have sex.” And they say “oh no no, of course not, you see there can be implied consent between partners.” Which, one, is no longer affirmative, and two, seems like a disturbing concession – of course people in long-term relationships can commit sexual assault against their partners, so isn’t the notion of such implied consent pretty problematic? Or they’ll say “well, consent can be affirmative without being explicit, it can be a touch, a look in the eye.” Again, this completely torpedoes the very clarity that affirmative consent was designed to achieve. That notion simply empowers rapists; “I read that consent doesn’t have to be explicitly voiced to be affirmative, and she had that look in her eye….”

A common defense of the standard, when this debate was raging, was to say that no one would make an allegation if no sexual assault had occurred, therefore it wouldn’t matter if most people usually don’t follow the standard. Which is bizarre enough on the face of it; what do we make of a policy whose defenders reassure us that it usually won’t be followed? But it’s especially perverse here because it presumes an entirely different standard than the one it’s advocating. If affirmative consent means anything at all, it must mean that someone who does not proactively give consent has been sexually assaulted regardless of whether they believe that they have been. Otherwise it makes no sense, nothing’s changed from the old standard. If what rules is not the victim’s actually expressed consent but their feeling towards whether or not they have consent, then there is no standard of affirmative consent at all! We’re right back where we started. It’s completely unworkable and would appears to solve no problems. It’s just a way to look busy…

The problem was always this: the affirmative consent standard required the participation of a large and diverse group of young adults who, like most of us, find constantly stopping to ask permission of every discrete “sexual act” dehumanizing and unnatural. They’ve told us so. This seems like an entirely predictable outcome, yet when this was being debated in around 2014 or 2015, criticism of the policy was muted. Why? Well, it’s obvious: to appear to be against a law represented as a victory for women’s sexual and bodily autonomy is very risky in the social media era, regardless of how ineffective and bizarre that law actually is and regardless of what you’re actually objecting to. Who, in the era of cancellation, is going to be particularly vocal about opposing laws that some people represent as an impediment to rape, even if everyone knows that they’re a fig leaf? Should this post escape from my regular readership onto Twitter, surely someone is going to claim that I’ve said that consent is dehumanizing and unnatural, and many more people will then amplify that claim without bothering to read what I actually wrote. Most writers are too emotionally delicate and professionally vulnerable for that, so everybody halfheartedly got on board the way they did with Defund the Police and other bad ideas.

So you get this huge policy change at hundreds of universities that does effectively nothing to stop sexual assault, infringes on the rights of the accused, and functions as a make-work program for overpaid “consultants” and liberal writers, all while most people quietly recognize that nobody follows it, and support for that empty policy is enforced with missionary zeal not by true believers but almost entirely by people who are too scared to ask whether any of it makes any sense. Perhaps creating an oppressive culture of fear of permanent ostracism and professional exile in liberal media was a bad idea.

9) Katherine Wu on the possible future evolution of Covid:

In the worst-case scenario, a variant could arise that would “make it like the vaccines did not exist,” Hanage said. But at the moment, “there is no such variant like that.” And it would probably be extraordinarily difficult for one to manifest. Even the most evasive variants we know of—the ones that have stumped certain antibodies—aren’t fully duping vaccinated bodies, which harbor a slew of other immunological guards. Hanage also pointed out that many people’s immune systems have been trained on different triggers—distinct brands of vaccines, unique variants, or some combination thereof. A new version of SARS-CoV-2 would find skirting all of those blockades at once to be nearly impossible.

Viruses aren’t infinitely mutable; sometimes, to keep themselves in contention, they must make sacrifices. Several experts told me they’re hopeful that the coronavirus might struggle to max out both transmission and immune evasion at once, requiring some sort of trade-off between the two. Some of the most powerful anti-coronavirus antibodies target SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, which the virus uses to unlock and enter our cells. If the virus altered the protein to sidestep those antibodies, it might make itself less recognizable to the immune system. But it could also hurt its ability to infect us at all.

That might help explain why Beta has, so far, remained only a supporting character in the coronavirus’s ensemble cast. Another hint comes from Alpha, which didn’t seem to benefit all that much when it acquired an antibody-eluding mutation last spring, despite widespread fears. There is, in other words, probably a limit to just how bad SARS-CoV-2 can get: Even the most careful dog breeders cannot turn a bulldog into a bear…

Vaccines, however, aren’t just reactive. They are also proactive interventions that curb the number of times the virus gets to roll the evolutionary dice, cutting down on the number, intensity, and duration of infections, and the chance that they’ll pass to others. A more vaccinated world creates a more hostile global environment for SARS-CoV-2. Mutations will still occur, but fewer of them will be of consequence; lineages will still splinter, but they’ll do so less often. “The overriding effect of vaccination should be to reduce the rate of [virus] adaptation,” Cobey told me. Variants, after all, can’t adapt when they’re starved of hosts to infect.

Glimmers of early evidence suggest that this slowdown has already begun. One recent study, not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, found that SARS-CoV-2’s shape-shifting rate is lower in highly immunized countries, the expected outcome of a virus knocking up against new immune walls. Gupta, of the University of Cambridge, also hopes that we’ll someday cook up vaccines that can stamp out infection and transmission to an even greater degree—or ones that direct immune cells to hit the virus in spots that can’t mutate without hamstringing it. “That will force the virus into a corner,” he told me. We’d need those types of inoculations less often, too. “I don’t envision a constant cat-and-mouse game.”

10) Wildfires aren’t just destructive, expensive, and potentially deadly– they’re also really bad for human health. “Breathing wildfire smoke can affect the brain and sperm, as well as the lungs”

10) Terrific New Yorker article on Kathryn Harden and her research into the genetic bases of intelligence.  To their profound discredit, many liberals just cannot ideologically admit the obvious– of course there’s a genetic basis to intelligence.  

11) And good stuff from Drum on the matter:

But lots of things are impossible until suddenly they aren’t. Readers with very good memories may recall that a few years ago I wrote about Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS, pronounced jee-wass). These do the impossible: they allow genetic researchers to find single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced snips) that are associated with cognitive traits. At the time, I linked to a paper that claimed to have found SNPs that explained about 5% of the variance in intelligence. But work was ongoing, and the latest studies have gotten up to 20% or so. There’s no telling where this number will eventually end up, but it’s almost certain that within a few years we’ll get to one that’s high enough to prove to all but the most recalcitrant that genes do in fact have a considerable effect on human intelligence.

Why mention this? Because in its current issue the New Yorker has a profile of Kathryn Paige Harden, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin who has written a new book, The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality. Harden has been doing GWAS work of her own and her conclusion is unsurprising: both genes and environment play significant and intertwined roles in most cognitive traits. But there’s a depressing coda:

In my conversations with her colleagues, Harden’s overarching idea was almost universally described as both beautiful and hopelessly quixotic….James Tabery, a philosopher at the University of Utah, believes that underscoring genetic difference is just as likely to increase inequality as to reduce it. “It’s truly noble for Paige to make the case for why we might think of biological differences as similar to socially constructed differences, but you’re bumping into a great deal of historical, economic, political, and philosophical momentum—and it’s dangerous, no matter how noble her intentions are, because once the ideas are out there they’re going to get digested the way they’re going to get digested,” he said. “The playing board has been set for some time.”

“Hopelessly quixotic” is a fancy way of saying that no matter what the science says, Harden will never convince people on the left. As Harden puts it, the life of a behavior geneticist resembles “Groundhog Day.” Always the same arguments no matter what.

In fairness, the reason for lefty intolerance of cognitive genetics is obvious and righteous: It’s been violently misused for a very long time as a way of proving that certain kinds of people are inferior to others. As Tabery says above, the playing board has been set, and it’s almost certain that any new results, no matter how carefully explained, will be used as an excuse by some people to dismiss the possibility of ever improving the lives of the poor, the black, and the oppressed.

But as understandable as this is, it has a big problem: it looks as if we’re getting close to a genuine understanding of how genes affect cognitive traits—and the answer is not going be “they don’t.” At that point the left had better have an argument to make, because they’re certain to lose if they just bury their heads in the sand.

The funny thing is that I’ve never entirely understood lefty opposition to the notion that genes have a significant impact on cognitive abilities. My view has always been close to Harden’s: if genes do have an impact, then it makes the case for social safety nets incomparably stronger. It becomes impossible to argue, for example, that poor people are merely lazy if you can point to SNPs that have a clear association with poverty. At that point, it’s provably the case that being poor is mostly a matter of bad genetic luck. So what argument is left for leaving anyone in poverty?

Beyond that, as Harden points out, if you know the genetic foundations for a particular trait then it’s easier to disentangle its genetic and environmental causes. This makes it easier to accurately identify the environmental causes, which in turn makes it more likely that you can construct social interventions that actually work. In other words, knowledge of genetics is a key part of the liberal project of doing everything we can to improve lives via social programs that are truly effective.

But most people don’t see it that way. And beneath it all lurks the deep fear that someone doing GWAS research is eventually going to find SNPs associated with both race and intelligence. I continue to think that’s unlikely in anything more than a trivial sense, but I may be wrong. And if I am, what are we going to do?

12) And how about this for some interesting social science research, “Cognitive ability is a powerful predictor of political tolerance”

Abstract

Objectives

Despite the broad appeal of abstract notions of political tolerance, people vary in the degree to which they support the political rights of groups they dislike. Prior research highlighted the relevance of individual differences in the cognitive domain, claiming the application of general tolerance ideals to specific situations is a cognitively demanding task. Curiously, this work has overwhelmingly focused on differences in cognitive style, largely neglecting differences in cognitive ability, despite compelling conceptual linkages. We remedy this shortcoming.

Methods

We explore diverse predictors of tolerance using survey data in two large samples from Denmark (N = 805) and the United States (N = 1,603).

Results

Cognitive ability was the single strongest predictor of political tolerance, with larger effects than education, openness to experience, ideology, and threat. The cognitively demanding nature of tolerance judgments was further supported by results showing cognitive ability predicted tolerance best when extending such tolerance was hardest. Additional small-sample panel results demonstrated substantial 4-year stability of political tolerance, informing future work on the origins of political tolerance.

Conclusions

Our observation of a potent role for cognitive ability in tolerance supports cognitively oriented accounts of tolerance judgments and highlights the need for further exploration of cognitive ability within the political domain.

13) This was quite an interesting story, “One Woman’s Mission to Rewrite Nazi History on Wikipedia: Ksenia Coffman’s fellow editors have called her a vandal and a McCarthyist. She just wants them to stop glorifying fascists—and start citing better sources.”

14) Apparently library e-books are a massive rip-off (of us taxpayers who fund libraries).  When it comes to your library, you really should stick with the physical books if you can.  New Yorker:

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before.

There are a handful of popular e-book venders, including Bibliotheca, Hoopla, Axis 360, and the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America. But OverDrive is the largest. It is the company behind the popular app Libby, which, as the Apple App Store puts it, “lets you log in to your local library to access ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines, all for the reasonable price of free.” The vast majority of OverDrive’s earnings come from markups on the digital content that it licenses to libraries and schools, which is to say that these earnings come largely from American taxes. As libraries and schools have transitioned to e-books, the company has skyrocketed in value. Rakuten, the maker of the Kobo e-reader, bought OverDrive for more than four hundred million dollars, in 2015. Last year, it sold the company to K.K.R., the private-equity firm made famous by the 1989 book “Barbarians at the Gate.” The details of the sale were not made public, but Rakuten reported a profit of “about $365.6 million.”…

To illustrate the economics of e-book lending, the N.Y.P.L. sent me its January, 2021, figures for “A Promised Land,” the memoir by Barack Obama that had been published a few months earlier by Penguin Random House. At that point, the library system had purchased three hundred and ten perpetual audiobook licenses at ninety-five dollars each, for a total of $29,450, and had bought six hundred and thirty-nine one- and two-year licenses for the e-book, for a total of $22,512. Taken together, these digital rights cost about as much as three thousand copies of the consumer e-book, which sells for about eighteen dollars per copy. As of August, 2021, the library has spent less than ten thousand dollars on two hundred and twenty-six copies of the hardcover edition, which has a list price of forty-five dollars but sells for $23.23 on Amazon. A few thousand people had checked out digital copies in the book’s first three months, and thousands more were on the waiting list. (Several librarians told me that they monitor hold requests, including for books that have not yet been released, to decide how many licenses to acquire.)

The high prices of e-book rights could become untenable for libraries in the long run, according to several librarians and advocates I spoke to—libraries, venders, and publishers will probably need to negotiate a new way forward. “It’s not a good system,” Inouye said. “There needs to be some kind of change in the law, to reinstate public rights that we have for analog materials.” Maria Bustillos, a founding editor of the publishing coöperative Brick House, argued recently in The Nation that libraries should pay just once for each copy of an e-book. “The point of a library is to preserve, and in order to preserve, a library must own,” Bustillos wrote. When I asked Potash about libraries and their growing digital budgets, he argued that “digital will always be better value,” but he acknowledged that, if current trends continue, “Yes, there is a challenge.”

15) Highlights from a Barred Owl nestcam.  “Who cooks for you?”

16) Very good stuff from Yglesias on homelessness and it’s a public post, so read it. “Homelessness is about housing, not addiction or mental health”

17) It’s crazy that there’s so much evidence on how to best teach reading (phonics!) that so many places aren’t following.  Drum:

John McWhorter says we should quit arguing about how to teach reading and just accept that we already know perfectly well how to do it:

In a word, phonics….Phonics works better for more children. Project Follow Through, a huge investigation in the late 1960s led by education scholar Siegfried Englemann, taught 75,000 children via the phonics-based Direct Instruction method from kindergarten through third grade at 10 sites nationwide. The results were polio-vaccine-level dramatic. At all 10 sites, 4-year-olds were reading like 8-year-olds, for example.

….However, there is a persistent disconnect between the world of reading science and the world of people teaching children to read. Only 15 percent of programs training elementary-school teachers include actual instruction on how to teach children to read. There remain people who favor the whole word method, or a combination of whole word and phonics, or even no particular “method” at all.

There’s a wealth of research that confirms this, but unfortunately reading instruction has become part of the culture wars, with conservatives taking the side of phonics while university education departments tend to favor other methods.

This is unfortunate. Phonics works, and to the extent that you can invent add-ons that are potentially a little bit better it’s really not worth the effort. DI-based phonics instruction is so good that we’d be a lot better off simply making it universal since it works well with both poor and affluent children. In addition:

There is a racial angle to this….We have known how to teach Black children, including poor ones, how to read since the Johnson administration: the Direct Instruction method of phonics. In this case, Black children don’t need special materials; districts need incur no extra expenses in purchasing such things. I consider getting Direct Instruction to every Black child in the country a key plank of three in turning the corner on race in America (the other two are ending the War on Drugs and sharply increasing funding and cultural support to vocational education).

Liberals should get on this train. Stop resisting just because conservatives have been pushing this for decades. In this case, they’re right.

18) What the heck, one more on IQ (sometimes, I go down rabbit holes), “Complicated links between IQ and prejudiced views”

There’s a long-standing and somewhat uncomfortable finding in psychology: that low IQ, conservative social beliefs and prejudice — including anti-gay attitudes and racism — are all linked. Many studies have found this relationship — so much so that a 2015 meta-analysis of the research suggested that researchers who conduct studies of people’s ideology and prejudice should take participants’ cognitive ability into account.

New research, though, suggests that there’s more to the story. When the definition of prejudice is expanded beyond its usual meaning — that is, holding negative attitudes toward historically powerless minority groups — it turns out that people all along the IQ spectrum show prejudiced attitudes.

In other words, intelligence doesn’t determine if you’re prejudiced, but rather the target of that prejudice, the study found. Both the smart and the dumb have biases, but those biases are toward different groups of people, according to the new study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

19) And the limits of robot intelligence, “Why Robots Can’t Sew Your T-Shirt: Machines can print textiles, cut fabric, and fold clothes. But it’s hard to train them to sew as fast and precisely as humans.”

The length of time it has taken to get to this point isn’t surprising. Machines have proved adept at many steps in making clothes, from printing textiles to cutting fabric and folding and packaging finished garments.

SoftWear’s robots overcame those hurdles. They can make a T-shirt. But making them as cheaply as human workers do in places like China or Guatemala, where workers earn a fraction of what they might make in the US, will be a challenge, says Sheng Lu, a professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware.

20) Interesting, “Alcohol Is the Breast Cancer Risk No One Wants to Talk About”

According to a 2020 analysis of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, only about one in four women ages 15 to 44 knows that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer. Priscilla Martinez, who is leading the Drink Less campaign, would like to change that. “My goal was to prevent a young woman of today who uses alcohol, like many women do, from finding out in 20 years that she has breast cancer and wondering why,” says Martinez, a public health researcher who typically studies racial and ethnic health disparities related to alcohol at the Alcohol Research Group, a nonprofit based in Emeryville, California. “To me, it’s also an equity issue. Society has this information about a potential consequence of this behavior, and the women at risk don’t know about it.”

In a 2021 paper published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, calculated a “global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption” based on prior research on alcohol-linked cancer risk, per capita alcohol consumption, and country-specific data on cancer cases. By their estimate, 14,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the US in 2020 could be attributed to prior drinking.

Research shows that overall cancer risk rises with heavier drinking, even for women who don’t drink every day. Binge drinking—four or more drinks at one sitting—is, in itself, associated with higher breast cancer risk.

University of Wisconsin oncologist Noelle LoConte has long felt that the link doesn’t get enough attention—even among oncologists. She is the lead author of a 2017 statement on alcohol and cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which calls on these specialists to take the lead in addressing “excessive exposure to alcohol” through education, advocating for policy changes, and research.

Alcohol raises the risk of head, neck, esophageal, liver, and colorectal cancers, in addition to breast cancer, likely due to the way it is metabolized, the statement explains. Ethanol undergoes a biochemical reaction that produces acetaldehyde, which is then broken down by another enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase and excreted from the body. Some people, particularly those of East Asian descent, have a less active form of the enzyme, which allows the acetaldehyde—a probable human carcinogen—to circulate longer in the body, potentially putting them at greater risk of cancer. Acetaldehyde can damage DNA, causing changes that can lead to cancer.

Can your personality (and an algorithm) predict your gender

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big fan of Clearerthinking.org that takes social science research to come up with ways to help people think more clearly– and has lots of fun, social-science-informed, quizzes, etc.  They’re latest is a quiz on 18 personality traits that they then use to predict your gender with 80% accuracy.  (They predicted I was male, with 85% likelihood).  It was pretty fascinating to see on which traits the gender differences existed and where they were largest.  I’d just tell you here (okay, I’ll tell you one– interest in sex), but it’s more fun to do their quiz to see if you can actually predict which trait differences go with which gender (I got 100%!)  Importantly, they point out there’s literally hundreds of psychological traits where they find no difference.  Of particular note in my case, I came out closer to the typical male on 9 of 18 and closer to the typical female on 9 of 18, but my overall pattern (they use a Logit model) strongly predicted me to be a man. 

Anyway, you really, really should spend a few minutes with it– it’s really worth your time.  And definitely report back your results and discuss here.  

Why are abortion attitudes so stable?

Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger!  Part of the explanation is that I was busy with a Political Science conference last week (and still catching up on everything after returning).  I figured the least I could do is tell you about the PS I was up to.  Here’s the abstract of my paper with Melissa Deckman and Mary-Kate Lizotte.

In recent decades, America has undergone dramatic change in public opinion on a religiously-oriented social issue—attitudes towards same-sex marriage. Yet, at the same time, attitudes about another prominent religiously-oriented social issue—legal abortion—have barely budged. In fact, in 1975, Gallup found support for legal abortion “under certain circumstances” at 54 percent and support for a ban in all circumstances at 21 percent. Those figures in 2021 were 48 percent and 19 percent respectively. While there’s been, of course, modest fluctuations over time, the notable feature of public attitudes towards abortion is its amazing stability. And, yet, this stasis has persisted during a period of dramatic change in American politics and public opinion from the dramatic polarization of the parties, to the geographic and demographic realignment of the parties, to the strong left-ward shift on LGBT and related cultural attitudes, to the increasing secularization of Americans. In our analysis, then, we attempt to explain this surprising stability of abortion attitudes by exploring these attitudes over time among politically-relevant sub-groups based on party, ideology, race, gender, age, religious affiliation, etc., in order to uncover the underlying shifts taking place that are being hidden by the overall stability. Using GSS data, we find evidence of increasing party polarization over time including significant differences between Democratic and Republican women, which underscores the political implications of contemporary debates and controversies about abortion policy.

You can see the powerpoint that goes along with it here.

And from the take-aways slide:

  • Growing secularization of public almost perfectly counter-acted by rightward shift among Evangelical Christian

  • Shift among Democrats to left pretty much perfectly counter-acted by rightward shift of Republicans.

  • Impact of partisanship grows substantially over the past 50 years, especially since 2000.

 

Is this how legal abortion ends? Not with a bang, but a whimper?

Legal abortion is almost completely outlawed in Texas as of today.  That’s not hyperbole, but the actual reality.  States pass laws banning and severely curtailing abortion all the time, but heretofore they have always been struck down by federal courts for being in clear violation of existing precedent from Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (most prominently).  Until yesterday.  In work that I think honestly might best be described as legal evil genius (honestly, regardless of one’s take on abortion, the way in which this was crafted to try and avoid judicial scrutiny deserves that appellation), a Federal Appeals Court and, now the Supreme Court, has essentially let Texas ban abortion without even making a ruling.  It’s complicated, but Ian Milhiser has a great explanation of exactly what’s going on in Vox (really, you should just read the whole thing):

In one sense, the fight over Texas’s anti-abortion law, known as SB 8, is familiar. A Republican-led state enacted a restriction on abortion that violates existing Supreme Court precedents. Pregnant people in the state lost access to reproductive health care — in this case, many clinics had already reduced abortions even before SB 8 took effect. Meanwhile they, and the rest of us, had to wait to see if an increasingly right-wing judiciary will enforce its past decisions or continue to chip away at that precedent.

The anti-abortion law, which is before the Supreme Court in a case called Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, presents a maze of procedural complexities that are rarely seen in even the most complicated litigation. The law appears to have been drafted to intentionally frustrate lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. And Texas, with an assist from a right-wing appellate court, has thus far manipulated the litigation process to prevent any judge from considering whether SB 8 is lawful.

The stakes in this case are astronomical. Six weeks into a pregnancy is often very soon after a pregnant person misses their first menstrual period. So they may not even be aware that they are pregnant until it is too late. According to the abortion providers who are suing to block SB 8, at least 85 percent of abortions in Texas take place after the sixth week of pregnancy. Those abortions are now illegal under SB 8.

And the stakes in Whole Woman’s Health stretch far beyond abortion. SB 8 was drafted to frustrate judicial review before the law took effect. Now that the Supreme Court appears to have embraced this tactic, other states could copy it, potentially allowing states to enact all kinds of unconstitutional practices that can’t be challenged until after an unconstitutional law takes effect.

But by refusing to stop a law that violated decades-old precedent protecting the constitutional right to an abortion, the Court effectively did change that precedent…

SB 8 was drafted to prevent courts from reviewing it

SB 8 is a truly bizarre law.

The way it’s written, a Texan who objects to SB 8 may have no one they can sue to stop it from taking effect.

For one, abortion rights plaintiffs can’t sue their state directly. The ordinary rule is that when someone sues a state in order to block a state law, they cannot sue the state directly. States benefit from a doctrine known as “sovereign immunity,” which typically prevents lawsuits against the state itself.

But they also can’t really follow the same path that most citizens who want to stop laws do. That path relies on Ex parte Young (1908), a decision in which the Supreme Court established that someone raising a constitutional challenge to a state law may sue the state officer charged with enforcing that law — and obtain a court order preventing that officer from enforcing it. So, for example, if Texas passed a law requiring the state medical board to strip all abortion providers of their medical licenses, a plaintiff could sue the medical board. If a state passed a law requiring state police to blockade abortion clinics, a plaintiff might sue the chief of the state’s police force.

Part of what makes SB 8 such a bizarre law is that it does not permit any state official to enforce it. Rather, the statute provides that it “shall be enforced exclusively through . . . private civil actions.”

Under the law, “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state,” may bring a private lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, or against anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” Plaintiffs who prevail in such suits shall receive at least $10,000 from the defendant.

SB 8, in other words, attempts to make an end run around Young by preventing state officials from directly enforcing the law. Again, Young established that a plaintiff may sue a state official charged with enforcing a state law in order to block enforcement of that law. But if no state official is charged with enforcing the law, there’s no one to sue in order to block the law. Checkmate, libs.

Here’s how crazy this gets:

If the justices continue to do nothing in this case, they are effectively choosing to rewrite the nation’s abortion jurisprudence without receiving full briefing, hearing oral argument, or taking more than a couple of days to even consider the case.

Just as significantly, they will bless a tactic that could be used to undermine virtually any constitutional right. Imagine, for example, that New York passed an SB 8-style law allowing private individuals to bring lawsuits seeking a $10,000 bounty against anyone who owns a gun. Or, for that matter, imagine if Texas passed a law permitting similar suits against anyone who criticizes the governor of Texas.

Procedural rules exist for a reason. They ensure that every litigant has an opportunity to have their case heard, even if the litigant ultimately does not prevail. They also ensure that courts do not hand down haphazardly decided cases that could impact millions of people.

Talk about a Pandora’s box!  And this is not hyperbole.  These are the exact same legal principles.  A couple of law professors had a great Op-Ed on this (I quick-hitted it, hope you paid attention) back in July:

Not only has Texas banned virtually all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, a point at which many women do not even know they’re pregnant, it has also provided for enforcement of that ban by private citizens. If you suspect that a Texan is seeking to obtain an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, not only will you be able to sue the provider to try to stop it, but if you succeed, you’ll also be entitled to compensation. (And what’s known as the litigation privilege would likely protect you from a defamation claim even if you’re wrong.) The law, known as S.B. 8, effectively enlists the citizenry to act as an anti-abortion Stasi.

All of that would be problematic enough, but enlisting private citizens to enforce the restriction makes it very difficult, procedurally, to challenge the bill’s constitutionality in court. A lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin last week tries to get around those roadblocks. We believe that it should succeed. But if it fails, not only would that leave the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country impervious to constitutional challenge, it would also encourage other states to follow Texas’ lead on abortion, as well as on every other contested question of social policy.

California could shift to private enforcement of its gun control regulations, never mind the Second Amendment implications of such restrictions. Vermont could shift to private enforcement of its environmental regulations, never mind the federal pre-emption implications. And the list goes on…

In the abstract, allowing citizens to help enforce the law is nothing new. Many states have so-called citizen suit or private attorney general provisions that allow people to help enforce a range of laws and rules governing consumer and environmental protection, government transparency and more. The federal government authorizes citizens to help bring certain fraud claims on behalf of the United States — and allows those citizens to share in any damages that the government receives. The critical point in both of those contexts is that citizens are supplementing government enforcement.

The Texas law, by contrast, leaves private enforcement as the only mechanism for enforcing the broad restrictions on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. It specifically precludes the state’s attorney general or any other state official from initiating enforcement. Under this new law, private enforcement supplants government enforcement rather than supplements it. If this seems like a strange move, it is. And it appears to be a deeply cynical one, serving no purpose other than to make the abortion ban difficult to challenge in court.

That last sentence gets bold and italics because that’s a real key here.  This is extraordinarily bad faith.  I’m actually quite okay with people thinking abortion should be legal and trying to influence policy that way through open and good faith political means.  Turning our whole notion of laws upside-down (only enforced through civil suits?!) or writing transparently bad faith laws– e.g., arguing abortion clinics need really wide hallways for women’s safety, not so that it will close abortion clinics– is just not how policy should happen in a democracy. 

Milhiser has more about how this is definitely not over.  But, for now, conservatives get their way, there’s almost no legal abortion in Texas, and there’s not even been a SC hearing on the issue.  That’s nuts.  Also, it’s just a super-stealthy way to enact a massive policy change.  NYT actually has this as the lead story, but due to the way it happened, check out the CNN and WP coverage as of 10p last night (I had to shrink the Post to get down that far)

 

A state successfully outlaws abortion for the first time since Roe v. Wade and it’s basically below the metaphorical fold.  The Political Scientist in me is going to be fascinated to see how this develops and it may well be a major, major issue in 2022 that has serious electoral impacts.  

Oh, and just before publishing, came across this tweet from Steve Vladek, one of the Op-Ed authors, that is spot-on:

(Really) Quick hits (part I)

So, I spent a lot of time on Friday night preparing for the season’s first soccer practice Saturday morning rather than queuing up quick hits.  But, I know a lot of you are counting on your Saturday morning reading.  So, you’ll mostly just have to follow the links to good stuff.

1) As you know, I’m almost nothing in Political Science without Laurel Elder, with whom I’ve published a ton on parenthood and politics.  Laurel, however, manages to do some kick-ass publishing on her own.  She’s got a new book out and a nice summary of key findings in the Monkey Cage, “Why aren’t there more Republican women in Congress?”

2) Brian Beutler really good on Democrats, Afghanistan, and media coverage.  Just read it.

3) This has been obvious for a long time, but now, some solid evidence, “Those Anti-Covid Plastic Barriers Probably Don’t Help and May Make Things Worse: Clear barriers have sprung up at restaurants, nail salons and school classrooms, but most of the time, they do little to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

4) Really intrigued by this. I need to step up my fermented foods game.  I used to eat yogurt for breakfast, but gave it up when I went to my 16-8 fast.  But, I really want to find a way to bring fermented foods into my diet, ,”How Fermented Foods May Alter Your Microbiome and Improve Your Health: Foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha increased the diversity of gut microbes and led to lower levels of inflammation.”

5) This is interesting: “Ability-related political polarization in the COVID-19 pandemic”

In two large-scale longitudinal datasets (combined N = 5761), we investigated ability-related political polarization in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We observed more polarization with greater ability in emotional responses, risk perceptions, and product-purchase intentions across five waves of data collection with a diverse, convenience sample from February 2020 through July 2020 (Study 1, N = 1267). Specifically, more liberal participants had more negative emotional responses and greater risk perceptions of COVID-19 than conservative participants. Compared to conservatives, liberal participants also interpreted quantitative information as indicating higher COVID-19 risk and sought COVID-related news more from liberal than conservative news media. Of key importance, we also compared verbal and numeric cognitive abilities for their independent capacity to predict greater polarization. Although measures of numeric ability, such as objective numeracy, are often used to index ability-related polarization, ideological differences were more pronounced among those higher in verbal ability specifically. Similar results emerged in secondary analysis of risk perceptions in a nationally representative longitudinal dataset (Study 2, N = 4494; emotions and purchase intentions were not included in this dataset). We further confirmed verbal-ability-related polarization findings on non-COVID policy attitudes (i.e., weapons bans and Medicare-for-all) measured cross-sectionally. The present Study 2 documented ability-related polarization emerging over time for the first time (rather than simply measuring polarization in existing beliefs). Both studies demonstrated verbal ability measures as the most robust predictors of ability-related polarization. Together, these results suggest that polarization may be a function of the amount and/or application of verbal knowledge rather than selective application of quantitative reasoning skills.

6) The media has been really bad in their Afghanistan coverage.  And Eric Boehlert is on it.  

7) Maybe we’ll get a new Lyme Disease vaccine after all in a few years!

8) Okay, I’ve haven’t even read this, but I follow Steven Vladek on twitter, so I know what he’s been thinking and I know this is good, “I live in Texas and I am really angry”

9) I do not love the coming advertising on hockey jerseys.  OMG do I love the name of this blog, though.  From Chaotic Neutral Zone.

10) I don’t think I realized just what wonderful progress we’d made with Cystic Fibrosis.  This is great, “For years, I feared that I’d outlive my daughter. And then science did something amazing.”

11) We need to do better on this, “Monoclonal antibodies are free and effective against covid-19, but few people are getting them.”

12) Talk about overdue news, “The F.D.A. is aiming to give full approval to Pfizer’s Covid vaccine on Monday.”

13) I just discovered Shane Crotty’s twitter and so far already learned a lot.  Really good thread on boosters here 

 

And this sub-thread on the science of boosters is really, really good:

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Good stuff on why some people are more resilient than others.  Short version– have good parents:

An individual’s resilience is dictated by a combination of genetics, personal history, environment and situational context. So far, research has found the genetic part to be relatively small.

“The way I think about it is that there are temperamental or personality characteristics that are genetically influenced, like risk-taking, or whether you’re an introvert or extrovert,” said Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Professor Koenen studies how genes shape our risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. “We all know people that are just very even-tempered,” she said. “Some of that is simply how we’re built physiologically.” Yet it isn’t true that some people are born more resilient than others, said Professor Koenen, “That’s because almost any trait can be a positive or negative, depending on the situation.”

Far more important, it seems, is an individual’s history.

The most significant determinant of resilience — noted in nearly every review or study of resilience in the last 50 years — is the quality of our close personal relationships, especially with parents and primary caregivers. Early attachments to parents play a crucial, lifelong role in human adaptation.

“How loved you felt as a child is a great predictor of how you manage all kinds of difficult situations later in life,” said Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine who has been researching post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. He is the founder of the Trauma Research Foundation in Boston.

2) Greg Sargent on what Tucker Carlson’s lovefest for the Hungarian dictator reveals about Republicans:

An ugly tension sits at the core of Carlson’s conversation with the Hungarian leader. Carlson fawns over the “free” nature of Hungarian society — contrasting it favorably with the supposed repression of widespread anti-liberal yearnings in American society — while saying little to nothing about the autocratic nature of Orbanism.

In this lurks a sort of dream combination: ethno-nationalism secured via autocracy.

The interview’s central feature is Carlson gushing over Orban’s virulently anti-immigrant policies and demagoguery. Orban describes these as urgent to defending national identity, defined as his country’s “population” and “culture” and “language” and “tradition” and “land,” a right of defense dictated by “God” and “nature.”

Throughout, Carlson treats this vision of national identity as fundamental to Hungary’s success. He even suggests that in Hungary, people are freer than in the United States.

Here, Carlson says, you’ll be silenced by Silicon Valley or hounded from your job if you dare criticize the “orthodoxy” of liberal internationalism and social liberalism — that is, if you yearn for association with a national identity that is culturally insulated and unsullied by socially liberal threats (like “transgender athletes”) to traditional conservative values.

“Who’s freer?” Carlson asks. “If you’re an American, the answer is painful to admit.”…

Though Carlson won’t say it this way, autocratic rule is preferable to democracy because the former, he imagines, is the only route to the closed, ethno-nationalist, culturally reactionary society he wants for the United States. What Carlson and his ilk cannot accept, and are fighting their rearguard action against, is that open, liberal internationalist societies are and can be legitimately democratic creations.

3) Thanks to BB for this, “Undercounting of Covid-19 deaths is greatest in pro-Trump areas, analysis shows

4) More of this, please! “CNN fires three employees who went into the office unvaccinated.”

5) Yglesias with a good take (public post if you want to read the whole thing) on the Hungarian silliness:

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Hungary, of course. Budapest is a beautiful city that used to be the secondary metropolis of a vast cosmopolitan empire — a sort of Habsburg Los Angeles. And in those days, Hungary was an open society that assimilated Slovenes and Ruthenians and Romanians to Hungarian culture. But the legacy of European ethnic nationalism has been felt very strongly in Central Europe — it sparked multiple world wars, multiple genocides, rounds of ethnic cleansing, and now we have lots of itty-bitty, fairly homogenous countries there. And of them, Hungary is the most overtly gender traditionalist and xenophobic, and that’s what some American conservatives have decided they envy.

Cosmopolitan America is very successful

The problem with this is that the parts of America that the populist right has decided it hates are precisely the parts that make the United States richer than Hungary.

Our big tech companies dominate the global market capitalization listings. Our entertainment industry dominates global popular culture. Our universities dominate global higher education rankings. The foreign-born scientists and entrepreneurs are coming here, not Hungary. And it’s not just immigrants from the non-shithole countries that Donald Trump approves of — Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian Muslim and Jeff Bezos’ adoptive father was a refugee from Cuba.

There are a lot of perfectly reasonable critiques one could make of existing immigration policy in the United States.

And if you want to argue for changes to the asylum system or for a reduced emphasis on family ties and more on labor market skills, that’s fine. But you don’t see Tucker Carlson making pilgrimages to Ottawa to meet with Justin Trudeau, and nobody is publishing Canadian Conservative magazine here in the United States. That’s too bad, though, because Canada is actually an example of a successful country, all things considered. And Stephen Harper probably could teach American conservatives some useful lessons in how to have less ridiculous opinions about healthcare policy.

What makes you reach for Hungary as an example is a desire to live in a country with very few immigrants of any kind, very little internal ethnic diversity, and lots of overt hostility to people with non-traditional ideas about gender roles.

But it’s worth saying that the United States already has places like that, and there’s nothing stopping anyone from moving there. One reason the non-diverse, non-cosmopolitan, highly traditionalist parts of the United States are much wealthier than rural Hungary is that they are connected to and subsidized by the much richer and more successful parts of the United States where you can find drag queen happy hour at the public library and the headquarters of big multinational corporations.

I don’t necessarily want to make a strong causal argument that if the United States adopts reactionary authoritarian policies it will kill the golden high-tech goose. But particularly in a world of increasing remote work, I would not entirely count out the possibility that the innovation moves to Vancouver or Amsterdam or wherever else. Mostly, though, I’m just saying that on an aesthetic level, the parts of America that conservatives have decided they hate are the parts that make us rich and successful.

6) Zaid Jilani on teaching racialism to kindergarteners:

If you want to know how this new racialism manifests in the real world, look no further than Oregon’s Kindergarten 2021 Social Science Standards, which have been updated to integrate “ethnic studies.” Standards like this one lay out the knowledge, skills, and understandings that educators are expected to impart to their students, and teachers use them as a rough guide for composing their lessons for the year. Although Oregon schools are not required to implement these new standards until 2026, they have been approved for classroom use as of March of this year. 

The Kindergarten 2021 standards definitively step away from colorblindness and towards racialism. For example, students are expected to be able to “engage in respectful dialogue with classmates to define diversity,” which includes “comparing and contrasting visible and invisible similarities and differences.” Teachers are tasked with making sure that students “develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability.”

Furthermore, students should be able to “make connections identifying similarities and differences including race, ethnicity, culture, disability, and gender between self and others,” “identify examples of unfairness or injustice towards individuals or groups,” and “identify possible solutions to injustices that demonstrate fairness and empathy.”

Reading over these standards, you have to wonder if the people who composed them have actually ever met your average five-year-old. Of course, kids do notice skin color. But skin color is distinct from race. The notion of race carries with it a set of preconceptions about someone’s culture, social class, and history based on whatever categorization we sort them into. The new approach encourages students to reify these stereotypes and groupings rather than treat their classmates as individuals…

Although there isn’t a lot of research on the impact of preaching racial categorization to such young children, we do know that viewing people as individuals is one of the best ways to counter stereotypical thinking. The Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, who studies stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, told me exactly this when I reported on her research in 2019. “It’s just much harder to view someone through the lens of a stereotype—good or bad—when you start to imagine their individual mind,” she said. 

Oregon’s approach does just the opposite: It encourages students to see others as members of certain identity groups rather than as individuals.

7) More good stuff on masks from Katherine Wu:

By limiting the virus’s access to human airways, masks can set vaccinated immune systems up for success. And they help protect vulnerable people in the vicinity, by corralling the problem and curbing its spread. “I’ve always thought the real strength of vaccines is keeping you from getting severely ill,” Chu told me. “Masks work on the other end of the spectrum.” Their return to the pandemic front lines makes logical sense.

Still, some vaccinated people can’t help but feel a bit like “suckers,” Chapman said. Many people covered up dutifully while awaiting their shots, then tossed their masks aside because the government said they could—only to reel from the whiplash of last week’s switcheroo. The guidelines for the unvaccinated (that is, keep masking) haven’t changed, while the immunized are once again being called upon to act. “Asking people to mask up again is triggering a lot of emotional stuff,” Lindsey Leininger, a public-health-policy expert at Dartmouth, told me. “You can’t tell people that those feelings are invalid.”…

 asked nearly a dozen infectious-disease experts this week if they had set a new benchmark—the next bellwether to signal to the vaccinated that they can divorce themselves from pandemic-level masking. Everyone agreed on only one thing: There isn’t a clear-cut answer, not yet.

At this stage of the pandemic, the goal isn’t to stop all infectionsbut to prevent as many cases as possible from turning into life-threatening or chronic illnesses. “The outcome here is to prevent people from dying in large numbers, and figure out who those [highest-risk] people are, and to keep our health-care systems ready,” Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric-infectious-disease physician and vaccine expert at Stanford, told me. Meeting that goal might mean reaching a “low” transmission rate, such as 10 new coronavirus cases for every 100,000 people over a seven-day period, as the CDC stipulates. Or it could mean sky-high vaccine uptake—a percentage well into the 80s or even 90s, to account for Delta’s eagerness to spread. (That last option is contingent on expanding immunization eligibility to the 50 million Americans younger than age 12.)

But too much remains in flux to pin down those statistics. Immunity is neither uniform across people nor static in individuals. Even though vaccine efficacy seems to have taken a bit of a hit since Delta’s rise, experts still don’t know how often immunized people are catching the virus and passing it on. It’s also unclear when, or how quickly, our immune cells’ memory of the virus will start to fade. If people are slipping back toward vulnerability, the threshold for “high enough”vaccination will be hard to defineThe virus, too, will keep changing, and could one day bamboozle even bodies whose immune safeguards remain intact. As bad as Delta is, “it’s not the scariest thing you could imagine,” John Moore, a virologist at Cornell, told me.

Humans could sharpen their weapons too. Some experts, including Kanta Subbarao, a virologist and infectious-disease expert at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, are hopeful for a next-generation vaccine that could be delivered not as a shot to the arm but as, say, a nasal spray. That could better marshal local, airway-specific immune defenses to head the virus off at its point of entry, potentially making infection and transmission even less likely.

8) I haven’t read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article yet, but this Fresh Air interview is really good (and disturbing): “‘Dark Money’ Is Funding The 2020 Election Challenge — And Could Challenge 2024”

9) Good stuff from Brian Beutler:

Here’s a maxim I just made up that I think would have served elected Democrats well over the years, particularly the last seven months: The only thing you know for certain about the future is that Republicans will make things worse to hurt you…

Back in January, we might not have been able to anticipate Delta variant per se, but we did know that coronavirus was prone to mutate into more transmissible forms, that uncontrolled spread (both here and internationally) created ideal conditions for mutation, that a large unvaccinated population would thus leave the whole country vulnerable to risk, and that Republicans were already fomenting vaccine resistance. I know we knew it, because Chris Hayes and I discussed it at length on an episode of Rubicon that I think holds up depressingly well. 

If you understood the implications of all that as painting a pessimistic-but-plausible scenario, yet didn’t apply the maxim to it, the Democratic approach makes a lot of sense: address the problems we face today, and if we face different problems in the future, we’ll address those then. They might even have imagined that Republicans would lend a hand. But if you accept at the outset that Republicans will exploit problems as they arise—and even manufacture new ones—for political gain, then you start thinking about ways to fortify your policies and strategies against predictable sabotage. 

If the only thing you know for sure about the future is that Republicans will make things worse to hurt you, you might design your rescue plan to phase in and out automatically on the basis of economic and public-health benchmarks: Provide regular checks and enhanced jobless benefits until unemployment falls below X, ban eviction and pay out rental assistance until case-positivity falls below Y, ramp them all back up if conditions deteriorate. If you know the only way to insure against mutant-variant case surges is to vaccinate nearly every adult in the country, then you might not shy away from vaccination requirements because you know Republicans will sabotage herd immunity for political gain. This isn’t 20/20 hindsight, because I and others have been droning on tediously about the importance of automatic stabilizers since March 2020, and about beating Republicans in their culture war against mask and vaccine mandates for almost as long. 

Democrats have begun to come around on vaccination requirements. They’ve also joined the partisan fight over the pandemic, and the Biden administration even cobbled together a partial stopgap measure to limit mass evictions. But they could’ve avoided the problems altogether if they’d been willing or able to understand what the GOP truly is and plan accordingly.

10) More of this, please, “Pizzeria becomes latest Triangle restaurant to require COVID vaccine for indoor dining”

11) Encouraging, but I do wonder how long we’ll have to wait for what we all know is coming (there’s clear evidence of benefit in a number of immunocompromised conditions), “F.D.A. Aiming to Speed Extra Vaccine Doses for Immunocompromised Patients”

12) I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  Treat trans people with respect and humanity, but don’t pretend like biological sex as (overwhelmingly a) binary is not a thing.  This is good, “Battle of the sexes is a war no one can win”

Hooven’s experiences in the forests of Uganda studying chimps left her wondering about the behaviour of males and their pre­disposition towards violence. She came to the conclusion that the sex hormone testosterone – an ­androgen – plays a large role in the make-up of the male brain. There was, after all, some truth to the adage that men think with their genitals; or, rather, that they are genetically selected to behave aggressively, even if aggressive tendencies themselves are modulated by personality and environment.

Testosterone “masculinises the brain as well as the body”, she writes in her new book, Testosterone: The Story of the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us.

When I reach her at Cambridge, Massachusetts, she expands on that crux point: “Tes­tosterone not only shapes the body – things like the development and maintenance of the male re­productive system, including making sperm, along with increased muscle mass and large body size. It also has to shape the brain to get the animal to be motivated to use that stuff.

“Why give an animal big muscles or lots of sperm if he has no ­desire to compete for mates that he actually has sex with? Testosterone acts in the brain in utero, in adolescence, and adulthood to shape neural circuitry and function in ways that promote adaptive reproductive behaviour in a given environment.”

Testosterone is such an ungainly polysyllable that in the book she contracts it to an initial, and it becomes simply “T”. Her ­account of this important androgen, which is also found in women, is subtle, nuanced, and written with the sure touch of a natural storyteller. Hooven goes to great lengths to address contemporary sensitivities and, to some extent, accommodate them. But her ­commitment to science – to good science – is resolute.

On the subject of transgender women aspiring to compete in women’s sport, for example, she observes that some of these athletes have enjoyed the benefits of male puberty, and these advantages don’t entirely disappear with the testosterone reduction therapy that enables gender transition.

Bone size and frame height don’t budge, naturally, with these therapies; and much of the testosterone-induced bone strength, muscle mass and strength are ­typically retained…

Proof of her point came a few days later when the director of Harvard’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, Laura Simone Lewis, shot back on Twitter: “I am appalled and frustrated by the transphobic and harmful remarks made by a member of my department in this interview.” Lewis, who identifies herself on Twitter as a “Blewish (black and Jewish) feminist mermaid”, later wrote: “I respect Carole as a colleague & scientist. But this dangerous language perpetuates a system of discrimination against non-cis people within the med system. It directly opposes our Task Force work that aims to create a safe space for scholars of ALL gender identities and sexes.”

Hooven’s book seems to anticipate this line of attack through its persistent invocation of liberal ­ideals and, at the same time, a kind of scientific realism that insists on the need to confront facts rather than deny them if they fail to accord with ideological pieties.

“People seem to believe that validation and support of trans and nonbinary people requires the erasure of the biological underpinnings of sex,” she tells me. “But it doesn’t – human rights is a separate issue. Understanding the facts about biology doesn’t prevent us from treating people with respect. We should aim to use language that’s inclusive, but which doesn’t sacrifice scientific clarity, especially in the realm of science education.”

13) Jeremy Faust’s Covid newsletter is great and you should subscribe.  His latest, “Can we safely open schools in the Delta era? Yes, if we implement a powerful and under-utilized weapon.”

The weapon is rapid testing. Alas, we could barely get enough schools to even care about ventilation.  Great idea, and yes, affordable, but, alas, not going to happen:

Throughout the pandemic rapid antigen tests have been tragically misunderstood. Rapid antigen tests do not generate too many false negative results (that is, negative results even though the person being tested is actually positive). They simply are not designed to identify cases in the pre- and post-contagious periods. Rapid antigen tests reliably indicate whether or not a person is contagious. It may sound jarring, but if someone either just caught coronavirus or is on the tail end of their infection, they pose no threat to others. People who have tested positive for coronavirus can safely go about their normal life provided they are not contagious. That, more than anything, is what matters in controlling a pandemic.

We accept this fact already, if you think about it.It’s exactly what happens after people complete their mandatory isolation or quarantine period after a coronavirus infection or high-risk exposure.

People who have tested positive for coronavirus can safely go about their normal life provided they are not contagious….We accept this fact already, if you think about it.

The recommendations on the duration of isolation and quarantine are based on averages which were derived from population data. The reality is that many people are contagious for less than 10 days, and a select few may be contagious for longer. Asking people to hunker down for too short a period is dangerous for obvious reasons. Asking them to sequester for too long comes with other costs, ranging from days of missed work to pandemic fatigue (i.e. losing steam and ignoring all of the guidelines). The Delta variant adds complexity because it may lengthen the contagious window compared to previous versions of the virus. Vaccines may shorten that window, but apparently not entirely. With a negative rapid test, though, one can truly say “I’m not contagious,” and not be guessing. Think how powerful that information is.

We can apply this knowledge to schools. Using widescale frequent rapid testing, in-person learning can re-open safely in many places (though especially those with high vaccination rates in the community). Also, in the event of an important outbreak, classrooms or entire schools could be closed within minutes or hours of a contagious case being identified, rather than days later with the PCR test-based regimens used last year, which must be sent to a lab and take far too long. PCR tests can remain positive for weeks, meaning that they might consign a person to isolation who ceased being a threat long ago…
Can we afford this? We can’t afford not to. Let’s run the numbers. There are over 8 million employees in the US elementary and secondary school system and around 56 million children. Schools in most states are open 36 weeks per year. At scale, rapid tests cost $5 each. That means we could administer a rapid test to every person in the US school system twice per week for the coming year for around $23 billion. That may sound like a lot until you remember that the last stimulus package was $1.9 trillion. Isn’t keeping schools open safely worth 1.2% of the last stimulus? Not to mention, we’d quickly recover those costs by allowing the economy in these communities to remain open more often. Employed people do not need paycheck support.

14) Good stuff from Zeynep, “The C.D.C. Needs to Stop Confusing the Public”

The C.D.C. faces three major problems.

The first is reality: a sustained campaign of misinformation against vaccines and other public health measures, originating mostly with right-wing commentators and politicians, and a new media environment that has upended traditional information flows.

Second, the C.D.C. is still mired in the fog of pandemic, with too little data, collected too slowly, leaving it chasing epidemic waves and trying to make sense of information from other countries. Epidemics spread exponentially, so delayed responses make problems much worse. If the response to a crisis comes after many people are already aware of it brewing, it leaves them confused and fearful if they look to the C.D.C. for guidance, and vulnerable to misinformation if they do not.

Third, the agency is simply not doing a good job at what the pamphlet advises: being first, right and credible, and avoiding mixed messaging, delays and confusion.

It’s hard not to have sympathy for its predicament. The previous administration undermined the C.D.C., and anti-vaxxers’ deliberate misinformation assault has not made the agency’s job any easier. The digital public sphere operates fast and furious, and that’s difficult for traditional institutions to keep up with or to counter.

All this makes it even more important that the C.D.C. properly handle what’s under its control…

How else could this have played out? Ideally, with better data and earlier response. The C.D.C. should start tracking more breakthrough cases, and do much more systematic data collection, including cluster and contact-tracing, while the pandemic continues to rage. Yes, such infrastructure cannot be built overnight, but we have to start from where we are.

The C.D.C. also needs to better take into account the sociological effects of its guidance. Recently, Dr. Walensky attributed the current rise in infections to the unvaccinated, saying: “Unvaccinated people took off their masks as well. And that’s what led us to where we are today.” However, as many pointed out at the time, those who are not eager to get vaccinated were not going to be eager to keep on their masks. And a grocery store or a club cannot be expected to enforce masking selectively, so the practical effect of that guidance change was to undermine masking in general. Getting mad at the public for not following public health advice might be understandable at the individual level, but the agency should focus on how to broaden trust and facilitate better behaviors for everyone.

The nation should have waited a bit more before lifting indoor mask guidelines, tying changes to concrete benchmarks like vaccination and infection rates, especially given the vulnerability of the immunocompromised and children who are ineligible for vaccination.

Most important, the C.D.C. can follow the principles it espouses — organize and coordinate the release of information, back up recommendations with solid research, and move as quickly as possible to respond to crises. The C.D.C. should have news conferences weekly, or even a few times a week, with a consistent spokesperson and a team of experts to answer technical questions. If officials feel the media has been misleading, then they should quickly hold a news conference and explain why.

15) I was enjoying the Decathlon the other day and speculating with my kids, “is the scoring across time and events even remotely rational?”  Turns out, 538 had the same question back in Rio and the answer is a resounding… no.  

After decades of tumultuous modification in decathlon and heptathlon scoring, the tables set in 1984 are still in place. However, standout performances still earn more in certain events than they do in others:

pagels-decathalon-1

These charts unambiguously show where an athlete gets the best point return on performance, short-distance running, and it’s clear they’re investing their training accordingly.

pagels-decathlon-3

The system has a clear bias toward short-distance running events. This is in large part due to these running events having C (exponent) parameters all north of 1.8, significantly higher than throwing ones, which are between 1.0 and 1.1.

I found the whole thing fascinating, especially this part:

Comparing which events correlate best to overall points, the men are highly correlated with long jump (0.74), while shot put, pole vault, discus throw and 1,500 meters each have correlations less than 0.50. For women, long jump (0.72) also correlates best with overall points, while javelin throw only correlates at 0.30. These findings corroborate research that shows that in the heptathlon, performance in speed events is overwhelmingly the biggest determinant in predicting overall success, dwarfing the importance of the strength and endurance events.

16) Well, sure this is appealing to an extrovert like me, “The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

Nic’s experience is telling. A hefty body of research has found that an overwhelmingly strong predictor of happiness and well-being is the quality of a person’s social relationships. But most of those studies have looked at only close ties: family, friends, co-workers. In the past decade and a half, professors have begun to wonder if interacting with strangers could be good for us too: not as a replacement for close relationships, but as a complement to them. The results of that research have been striking. Again and again, studies have shown that talking with strangers can make us happier, more connected to our communities, mentally sharper, healthier, less lonely, and more trustful and optimistic. Yet, like Nic, many of us are wary of those interactions, especially after the coronavirus pandemic limited our social lives so severely.

17) Adam Serwer asks, “The Capitol Rioters Attacked Police. Why Isn’t the FOP Outraged?”  Of course, you know the answer. Because police unions are right-wing cesspits that we should no longer tolerate.  

The FOP has many reasons to remain quiet. Much of its rank-and-file membership is strongly supportive of Trump, whom the organization endorsed and worked to elect in 2016 and 2020. FOP leaders also know that some off-duty officers were in the mob, and might not want to suggest that they should be fired or prosecuted. And they probably also do not want to antagonize right-wing voters who will reflexively support their members as long as any police  abuses are aimed at the communities those voters hate and fear.

All of these reasons, however, are a tremendous indictment of police unions in general and the FOP in particular. The group has placed its parochial interests ahead of the needs of the public, from whom police derive their authority, and ahead of its sworn brothers and sisters in Washington, who drew the wrath of a political constituency that police unions would prefer not to antagonize. If a commitment to “law and order” does not include support for the peaceful and democratic transition of power, it is meaningless.

The officers who defended the Capitol have noticed the FOP’s relative silence. Officer Michael Fanone, who also testified this week, told CNN that he spoke with Yoes. “I asked him to publicly denounce any active-duty or retired law-enforcement officer that participated in an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 and in doing so betrayed their oath of honor,” Fanone said. Yoes, he added, would not commit to doing so.

Perhaps the nation’s largest police union simply does not see trying to overthrow an election in the name of Donald Trump as such a betrayal. But a commitment to democracy is not a position that an organization representing armed agents of the state should ever have to “clarify.” That it did so only through gritted teeth gives the public little reason to trust its sincerity.

18) Alas, with Delta being so damn transmissible, headlines like this were only a matter of time, “Covid Outbreaks Tied to Music Festivals Raise Outdoor Transmission Concerns.”  Now, these were crowded outdoor venues with people surely aerosolizing like mad with singing and shouting, but, with Delta, the wrong outdoor circumstances may mean a case of Covid.

19) Richard Hasen, “Trump Is Planning a Much More Respectable Coup Next Time.”

20) Indoor Air Quality expert and Harvard Professor, Joseph Allen, has been an invaluable source of knowledge and thoughtful opinion throughout this pandemic.  Fascinating profile, as it turns out he was a private investigator and almost FBI agent before turning to academia.  

21) This sounds like a good idea, “Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.”

Recycling, that feel-good moment when people put their paper and plastic in special bins, was a headache for municipal governments even in good times. And, only a small amount was actually getting recycled.

Then, five years ago, China stopped buying most of America’s recycling, and dozens of cities across the United States suspended or weakened their recycling programs.

Now, Maine has implemented a new law that could transform the way packaging is recycled by requiring manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to cover the cost. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations and Oregon is about to sign its own version in coming weeks.

Maine’s law “is transformative,” said Sarah Nichols, who leads the sustainability program at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. More fundamentally, “It’s going to be the difference between having a recycling program or not.”

The recycling market is a commodities market and can be volatile. And, recycling has become extremely expensive for municipal governments. The idea behind the Maine and Oregon laws is that, with sufficient funding, more of what gets thrown away could be recycled instead of dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators. In other countries with such laws, that has proved to be the case.

Essentially, these programs work by charging producers a fee based on a number of factors, including the tonnage of packaging they put on the market. Those fees are typically paid into a producer responsibility organization, a nonprofit group contracted and audited by the state. It reimburses municipal governments for their recycling operations with the fees collected from producers.

Nearly all European Union member states, as well as Japan, South Korea and five Canadian provinces, have laws like these and they have seen their recycling rates soar and their collection programs remain resilient, even in the face of a collapse in the global recycling market caused in part by China’s decision in 2017 to stop importing other nations’ recyclables.

22) Cool research from my friend and co-author or late, Melissa Deckman, “New voters, new attitudes: how Gen Z Americans rate candidates with respect to generation, gender, and race”

A vast literature discusses the barriers to minority and women representation in politics. We examine whether the youngest generation of Americans, Generation Z, penalizes women and minority candidates. Gen Z has come of age when matters of race and gender have come to the forefront of American politics. Simultaneously, the slate of candidates being offered has grown younger, more diverse, and increasingly female. We investigate the ways in which young Americans approach these candidates using two survey experiments of Generation Z respondents. We find mixed evidence that Gen Z prefers women candidates to men, but consistently find they view Black candidates more favorably than their white counterparts. Notably, Gen Z shows little to no preference for younger candidates. We assess the findings of these studies in the context of theories of representation and bias. The results of the analyses suggest the possibility in future elections that race, and to a lesser extent gender, may become an asset for minorities and women running for political office.

23) Nature!! “A Plant That ‘Cannot Die’ Reveals Its Genetic Secrets: Events in the genome of Welwitschia have given it the ability to survive in an unforgiving desert for thousands of years.”

24) Really, really enjoyed this analysis of athletes age range and average age across a bunch of Olympic sports.  Archery, shooting, sailing, and equestrian are the sports where someone like me (almost 50) can still be a reasonable competitor.  

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on DeSantis:

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is an intelligent person with a keen sense of self-preservation, so he got vaccinated against Covid-19 early, which makes a lot of sense. But he’s also an intelligent person with a keen sense of self-preservation, so he then spent a lot of time engaging in showy anti-vax politics. It’s not just that he didn’t mandate vaccinations for any class of Floridians; he signed laws prohibiting private businesses from mandating vaccination. He went to battle with the cruise ship industry to stop them from requiring vaccinations.

And it’s really worth dwelling on how extraordinary that is.

Republicans are, after all, normally the party of property rights and free enterprise. They don’t oppose regulation in all instances, but they tend to have a default view that businesses should be allowed to do what they want. Yet DeSantis made an exception to this strong presumption in favor of capitalism specifically in order to stand up for the rights of unvaccinated people.

Which is really an extraordinary step. I’m not sure whether or not it would’ve been good for business for Disney World to require vaccination of its workers and visitors. But had Disney World decided to do that, there would have been benefits for all Floridians, including the unvaccinated ones. For a free enterprise party to break its own ideological precepts in order to prevent private business owners from doing something pro-social is extraordinary. But that’s where DeSantis was — eager to do everything he possibly could at the margin to discourage vaccination in his state, even while personally safeguarding himself.

2) Chait on Republicans and Hungary:

What makes this alliance especially chilling is that Hungary is the model of democratic backsliding that has loomed largest in their imaginations of internationalist thinkers. Orban’s corruption of a former democracy occurred step by step. He gerrymandered the electoral map to give his supporters an overwhelming advantage, stacked the judiciary with supporters, leveraged state power to force large businesses to support his party, and installed supporters in charge of the country’s largest media organs. (Think about Trump’s efforts to bully Jeff Bezos into putting a leash on the Washington Post by denying Amazon a lucrative Pentagon contract, and you have a picture of the methods Orban has used, with more success.)

Hungary’s democratic backsliding was slow and gradual, without a single dramatic moment when its character flipped from democracy to dictatorship. Even now, it retains the surface trappings of a democracy without the liberal characteristics that make those processes meaningful. If America ceases to be a democracy, it will likely follow a path similar to Orban’s.

The broad lesson of Trump’s presidency is that clumsy, violent efforts to seize power — such as the January 6 insurrection — will meet with intra-party resistance, but subtler power grabs will not. Republicans decided to shrug at abuses like Trump using American diplomacy as a lever to coerce Ukraine to smear his opponent, refusing to accept the election outcome, or using the presidency to line his own pockets. They have enthusiastically joined in state laws to restrict voting and hand power over elections to party hacks.

What they seem to want is a leader who shares Trump’s contempt for democracy, but possesses a subtler touch. That is the vision Orban offers.

3) A little dated (in Covid world, that happens in two weeks), but a great interview with Eric Topol

Why is that? Is it because of changes in social behavior in response to rapid spread? Something particular about this variant? A reflection of the dispersion of unvaccinated through the country? Or some other factor, some combination, some dynamic we don’t truly understand?
There are many reasons why Delta will die out before getting to everyone vulnerable — you have listed some like change in behavior. It’s a combination of factors. But the best evidence is from India and now Russia, without vaccines at any appreciable percent — even there, however efficient the virus is, it’s not capable of reaching everyone. Just as the 1918 flu pandemic didn’t get to everyone. These pandemic pathogens burn through a population, but they invariably leave many behind who are vulnerable, not because they had prior COVID or some genomic host insulation. I believe the U.K. is clearly heading down now, which is a quite important prognosticator for the U.S. pattern in the weeks ahead. How many weeks and what will be the peak cases (and other outcomes) is the only unknown in my mind.

So the proclamation that some have made, saying you’re going to either get a vaccine or you’re going to get COVID, the Delta version — that’s not exactly accurate. Because even though it’s really efficient, this variant, it doesn’t find everybody. It just can’t get to everybody, but it gets to a lot of people.

How many?
We’re tracking right with the U.K., if you want to look at the log charts. They got to 50,000-plus cases. And if you multiply that by five, for the population difference, we’d get to 250,000 — that’s easy extrapolation. That could be where we’re heading.

That’s nationally, you mean — 250,000 new cases per day, right?
Some states look like they’re in really bad shape — worse, if you look at the arc of increase, including hospitalizations, than at any prior point in the pandemic. That’s not great. It doesn’t look pretty. But, as you aptly pointed out, we’re blunting the deaths, and to a lesser extent blunting the hospitalizations, because the younger people, they do get to the hospital, they just don’t die, fortunately.

The age skew for hospitalizations, while dramatic, isn’t as dramatic as the age skew for mortality. I think, according to the CDC, mortality risk is 600 times as high for someone in their 80s than someone in their 20s; for hospitalization, it’s just a 15-fold increase.
Right. And in this Delta wave, the hospitalized are mostly unvaccinated younger people. The other thing I’d say is a lot of people discount long COVID, but that’s a big deal. If we do get to 200,000 cases a day, that’s a lot of long COVID.

From what I can tell, estimates of that prevalence are really all over the place — some studies suggest rates as high as 30 percent or even 50 percent of all cases, but those don’t seem to me to be very good surveys and would suggest something like 50 million Americans are dealing with a debilitating chronic condition already. Some other estimates are very, very low — considerably under one percent, even. How do you ballpark? 
Ten percent. Probably it’s either high single digits or low double digits is the real deal. When you get north of that, with those surveys showing higher figures, those people are not necessarily dealing with serious symptoms for, say, a year plus — they’re getting better, or their symptoms aren’t as worrisome. They’re not as debilitated. But for the real-deal cases — the ones that can’t work, the real, significant brain fog, the ones that really are suffering — it’s probably one out of ten…

How do you think it all plays out heading into the fall?
Looking ahead to the fall, I’m optimistic. Delta will have passed through by then — it’ll pass through by late August, or September, if it looks like India or the U.K. or Netherlands. We’ll have a rapid descent, and it’ll burn through. We’ll still have lots of COVID in this country, but it’ll be back to where it was before Delta came. It will be at a lower level. The only question is, is there something lurking that’s worse than Delta? There’s no sign of it yet, but there’s too much of this virus circulating to be confident — too many people in Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa who are getting sick. But I hope not. I’m hoping that this is as bad as it gets. But if you talk to evolutionary biologists, they’ll tell you the variants are going to get worse.

4) Good stuff on Covid boosters in Nature, “Concerns over waning immunity and SARS-CoV-2 variants have convinced some countries to deploy extra vaccine doses — but it’s not clear to scientists whether most people need them.”

Is immunity from vaccines waning?

Scientists typically look at antibody levels, or titres, as a proxy for how well a vaccine has worked. These usually spike along with the surge in short-lived B cells and then fall as the cells dwindle. Memory B cells and bone-marrow plasma cells continue to churn out antibodies, but at reduced levels, for decades. That’s expected. “There isn’t a vaccine where you don’t see a drop over time in antibody titres and T-cell titres,” says Ahmed. “There is always a drop.”

Early indications suggest that antibody levels triggered by most COVID-19 vaccines are falling, too4. What scientists don’t know is whether these drops reflect a decline in protection against the virus. Teams around the world are racing to determine what level of neutralizing antibodies or another immune marker is most closely associated with a vaccine’s effectiveness. They’re seeking what’s known as a correlate of protection.

“What that magic number is, is something that we have a hint of — but not a firm handle on,” says Kanta Subbarao, a virologist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia. Knowing this threshold would allow researchers to determine more precisely whether and when a booster becomes necessary — such as in response to waning immunity or to the emergence of new variants that evade antibody recognition. “Without having that properly defined correlate, it’s hard to say if we really need a booster,” says Ellebedy.

That said, at this point I would say the preponderance of the evidence very much says boosters are the smart move for the genuinely immunocompromised.

5) Ezra’s latest take on all this.  Love the title, “Is the Future Just a Spike Protein Stamping on a Human Face, Forever?”

Here’s the good news: As of now, if you’re an adult vaccinated with a double dose of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, most experts I talked to believe the Delta variant is no more likely than the flu to hospitalize or kill you. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is another story, and while I do not give medical advice from the confines of this column, all the doctors I spoke to told me they would get an mRNA shot if all they’d gotten was Johnson & Johnson, and San Francisco General Hospital has made that official and so that’s what I did.)…

All of this is to say: The data we have suggests the vaccines can turn even Delta into a flu-level nuisance, or better, in terms of the risks of hospitalization and death. There is some worry that Delta is modestly worse for children than the original strain, but the absolute risk for young kids is still quite low, and the best firewall for them is vaccinated adults. The big unknown here is the possibility for long Covid or other lingering consequences. But it’s worth noting that this is true with the flu, too. A number of chronic diseases seem to trace back to the body’s reaction to viral infections.

“Do I wish anybody long Covid? No,” Gounder told me. “Do I want to get long Covid? No. However, we run the risk in our everyday lives of getting one of these viral infections that for most people are very mild, but that can very rarely set off something like chronic fatigue syndrome or an autoimmune disease, but that’s a risk we tolerate.”

All of this made me feel a bit better. And then I talked to Bob Wachter.

Wachter is the chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. His main point was simply this: The numbers aren’t stable. He’s concerned that the immunity people got from past coronavirus infection is waning more quickly than we’d expected. And he thinks the same is true for vaccine-based immunity. “I think the best estimate now is the vaccines begin to lose some efficacy after six months and your immune response loses some mojo too,” he told me.

I love Wachter, but without citing anything, he’s getting a little ahead of the publicly available science here.  Then again, also depends on just what lose “some” efficacy means.

6) Frum, “Government has done what it can. Now we need to use the power of free markets to fight the pandemic.”

The COVID-denial policies of so many state governments did not result from inattention or incompetence. They were intentionally adopted to serve influential constituencies and uphold powerful ideologies. They are not mistakes. They are plans. But if ideologically deformed local government defines 21st-century America, so too does the ingenuity and adaptability of the private sector. Science did its part by developing the vaccines in record time. The federal government and many state governments did their part by getting vaccines into willing arms.

Now here’s where markets get to do their part.

Thanks to gerrymandering and the overrepresentation of rural areas in legislatures and Congress, unvaccinated America exerts disproportionate political power. Vaccinated America, however, has more market power. And it’s time for individual consumers to start using it.

Ordering an Uber or a Lyft? Ask the driver whether he is vaccinated. If not, refuse the ride. If the company tries to charge you for the refusal, complain. Pretty soon, Uber and Lyft will require that their drivers be vaccinated.

Contemplating a holiday? Cruises departing from Florida are forbidden to require proof of vaccination from passengers. Cruises departing from almost all other ports do require it. Plan accordingly.

Underneath the right-wing outrage against Big Tech is the angry recognition that America’s most dynamic and fastest-growing companies all recognize that, when they must choose, choosing the values of metropolitan America is just better business. The Pride flag is more lucrative than the Confederate flag, and nobody knows that better than the Confederate flag’s last standard-bearers.

Over the early summer, conservative governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis struck first, deploying the power of state government to impose their values on recalcitrant businesses. Now it’s time for public-health-conscious consumers to strike back, just as they would if the state of Florida tried to junk its fire codes or abolish food-safety rules or forbid cruise ships at Florida ports from carrying lifeboats.

7) Important, disturbing read on just how nuts “mainstream” Republicans are going with buying into the Big Lie and January 6 nonsense.

This past week, amid the emotional testimony of police officers at the first hearing of a House select committee, Republicans completed their journey through the looking-glass, spinning a new counternarrative of that deadly day. No longer content to absolve Mr. Trump, they concocted a version of events in which those accused of rioting were patriotic political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for the violence.

Their new claims, some voiced from the highest levels of House Republican leadership, amount to a disinformation campaign being promulgated from the steps of the Capitol, aimed at giving cover to their party and intensifying the threats to political accountability.

This rendering of events — together with new evidence that Mr. Trump had counted on allies in Congress to help him use a baseless allegation of corruption to overturn the election — pointed to what some democracy experts see as a dangerous new sign in American politics: Even with Mr. Trump gone from the White House, many Republicans have little intention of abandoning the prevarication that was a hallmark of his presidency.

Rather, as the country struggles with the consequences of Mr. Trump’s assault on the legitimacy of the nation’s elections, leaders of his party — who, unlike the former president, have not lost their political or rhetorical platforms — are signaling their willingness to continue, look past or even expand his assault on the facts for political gain.

8) I recently downloaded the Merlin Bird ID app and it’s pretty cool.  But, I didn’t realize it’s basically Shazam for bird songs.  Very, very cool.  Definintely had some cool bird ID’s I would’ve had no idea about.  Also, alas, realized how much damn ambient noise in my backyard (so many trains!) interferes with the ability to identify birds.

9) Ellie Murray with all sorts of good R0 equations and math.  The end results?  Yeah, we really do need the widespread masking again.  

10) That self-driving car we’ve been waiting for keeps not coming.  But, hey, maybe that self-driving tractor-trailer you want will be here soon.

11) One reason I love Noah Smith’s substack is where else am I going to read takes on a relatively obscure (I sure never heard of it) Orwell essay on socialism and it’s implications for modern times.  Really good stuff.  

In the U.S., anti-patriotism has become reflexive, almost de rigeur, on the political left. The traditional socialist opposition to American power abroad has merged with the new “woke” liberal consensus that America was founded on racism to produce something truly counterproductive to positive change. There are plenty of signs of this, from the near-glee with which some leftists recite litanies of the country’s problems as proof of its “unexceptionalism”, to the the lashing out against any and all symbols of the country.

There is no endgame for this sort of smug anti-Americanism. A leftist revolution to overthrow the country and establish a new one in its place is highly unlikely. And barring that, there’s really nowhere for anti-Americanism to go. People like their country. Eventually they’ll tire of the America-bashing and look for someone who will tell them that the place they live, and the people they live with, are a positive force instead of a negative one. And if the Right ever actually pulls its head out of its Trump-shaped ass and figures out how to stop bashing the U.S. Olympic team and shitting on military families and calling veterans “losers” and storming the damn Capitol building, then people who just a few years ago were marching in the street wearing pussy-hats or yelling “defund the police” may find themselves voting Republican. Thus might the Left’s greatest generational advantage in American political history be squandered.

Orwell understood this in his day. Ultimately, British socialists were able to harness postwar patriotism enough — or at least to triangulate it enough — to enact much of their desired program. Even if that program turned out not to be the most economically effective program, it was certainly a political victory, and it also enabled the orderly and prompt — and long overdue — dissolution of the British Empire. If the American Left doesn’t heed Orwell’s advice, I think it’ll end up accomplishing far less.

12) What does it mean to get a breakthrough Covid case when you’re vaccinated?  Katherine Wu breaks it down:

Post-vaccination infections, or breakthroughs, might occasionally turn symptomatic, but they aren’t shameful or aberrant. They also aren’t proof that the shots are failing. These cases are, on average, gentler and less symptomatic; faster-resolving, with less virus lingering—and, it appears, less likely to pass the pathogen on. The immunity offered by vaccines works in iterations and gradations, not absolutes. It does not make a person completely impervious to infection. It also does not evaporate when a few microbes breach a body’s barriers. A breakthrough, despite what it might seem, does not cause our defenses to crumble or even break; it does not erase the protection that’s already been built. Rather than setting up fragile and penetrable shields, vaccines reinforce the defenses we already have,so that we can encounter the virus safely and potentially build further upon that protection.

To understand the anatomy of a breakthrough case, it’s helpful to think of the human body as a castle. Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, compares immunization to reinforcing such a stronghold against assault.

Without vaccination, the castle’s defenders have no idea an attack is coming. They might have stationed a few aggressive guard dogs outside, but these mutts aren’t terribly discerning: They’re the system’s innate defenders, fast-acting and brutal, but short-lived and woefully imprecise. They’ll sink their teeth into anything they don’t recognize, and are easily duped by stealthier invaders. If only quarrelsome canines stand between the virus and the castle’s treasures, that’s a pretty flimsy first line of defense. But it’s essentially the situation that many uninoculated people are in. Other fighters, who operate with more precision and punch—the body’s adaptive cells—will eventually be roused. Without prior warning, though, they’ll come out in full force only after a weekslong delay, by which time the virus may have run roughshod over everything it can. At that point, the fight may, quite literally, be at a fever pitch, fueling worsening symptoms.

Vaccination completely rewrites the beginning, middle, and end of this story. COVID-19 shots act as confidential informants, who pass around intel on the pathogen within the castle walls. With that info, defensive cells can patrol the building’s borders, keeping an eye out for a now-familiar foe. When the virus attempts to force its way in, it will hit “backup layer after backup layer” of defense, Bhattacharya told me.

13) Very true from WP Editorial Board.  Arguably the key metric to work on to bring about true racial justice, “Narrowing the U.S. wealth gap is important. Narrowing the racial wealth gap is urgent.”

14) Do you run? Or enjoy running as a fan.  This interactive photo/video essay from the NYT is a must, must read.  “Running Fast vs Running Far: How Speed and Distance Dictate How Olympians Run.”  I especially loved this part:

Endurance races are considered aerobic because virtually all of the energy for the races come from the use of oxygen in the body. Elite marathoners, for example, have trained their bodies to be extremely efficient at processing oxygen for fuel.

But for each runner, there is a maximum limit to the rate at which oxygen can be used. That’s called their VO2 max, which is an important measure in predicting how fast an endurance runner can go for the duration of their race.

Running at a certain level below their maximum limit allows distance runners to sustain their race pace for long periods of time. For elite distance runners, the level under VO2 max changes according to the length of the race, but is strikingly similar among athletes in the same race. That’s why at the Olympics you will see large packs of athletes running at the same pace.

Note: Data shown are measurements for typical elite runners in each race. The share of VO2 max is not shown for 100- and 200-meter runners because they are almost exclusively anaerobic events.

Sprint races, on the other hand, are considered anaerobic. Although sprinters also use some oxygen as a fuel source, it does not determine their performance. Instead, they burn glucose and use energy already stored in the muscles. But the body pays a high price for quick anaerobic energy. This fuel system induces rapid muscle fatigue that progressively compromises speed and performance.

The 800 meters lies at the painful intersection between the aerobic and anaerobic races. The race requires both systems of energy: 800 runners rely heavily on aerobic metabolism, but they also have to sprint.

With both fuel systems being taxed, the body undergoes two types of stress, leading to agonizing descriptions of the race: “Psychotic.” “Painful.” “I would never run the 800.”

It’s the only race that elicits this kind of universal reaction. So have sympathy when you’re watching the 800-meter runners in the Olympics. It’s the race they were destined for: not fast enough for the sprints; not enough endurance for distance races.

15) This is really good and really depressing, “The incredibly frustrating reason there’s no Lyme disease vaccine: Your dog can get vaccinated for Lyme. You cannot.”

LYMErix had the misfortune of being approved the same year some people were becoming suspicious of vaccines in the United States. In 1998, the journal Lancet published a now-retracted study that (falsely) claimed the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) was linked to autism, and the modern anti-vax movement was born.

At the same time, a few members of the FDA panel that approved LYMErix had voiced a theoretical concern that the drug could cause an autoimmune reaction leading to arthritis. The idea was that as the immune system learned to attack the protein that covered the Lyme bacteria, it could overreact and start to attack healthy tissue in the body. This side effect didn’t occur in the clinical trial. It was listed as a hypothetical possibility.

The FDA panel eventually unanimously approved the drug, but the fear of an autoimmune reaction trickled down to the public.

What happened next was a perfect storm to drive the product from the market. A 2000 study found the vaccine contributed to autoimmune arthritis in hamsters. Other research posited (but didn’t prove) that it was possible some people were more genetically predisposed to develop this type of autoimmune response in reaction to the vaccine.

Sure enough, some LYMErix recipients soon began to complain publicly that the drug was causing them to develop joint pain. National news media reported on the concerns, casting them in a harrowing light. In 2000, ABCNews told the story of a man who fell ill with a “fever and an intense, hellish pain” after taking the vaccine. Patients sued the manufacturer in a class-action lawsuit (which was eventually settled after the vaccine was pulled from the market).

The FDA looked into the claims but never found a connection between the vaccine and arthritis. By 2001, 1.4 million doses of the vaccine had been distributed, but the FDA’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System only picked up on 59 reports of arthritis.

“The arthritis incidence in the patients receiving Lyme vaccine occurred at the same rate as the background in unvaccinated individuals,” a 2007 paper in Epidemiology and Infection explains.

Overall, FDA’s VAERS only picked up on 905 reports of any adverse side effects at all — a tiny fraction of the number of people who had gotten the shots.

The vaccine was pulled from the market, despite evidence finding it was safe

But it was too late. Already, there was “significant media coverage, sensationalism, the development of anti-Lyme vaccine groups … who urged withdrawal of the vaccine from the market,” Poland explained in his 2011 article. A class-action lawsuit targeted SmithKline Beecham, claiming the company did not do enough to warn people of potential autoimmune side effects.

The FDA continued to follow up with an additional drug safety trial to try to settle the matter for the public. The trial was supposed to last four years. But sales of LYMErix had plummeted “from about 1.5 million doses in 1999 to a projected 10,000 doses in 2002,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains on its website.

Falling sales, combined with the mounting lawsuits from patients, led the manufacturer to pull it from the market, although early data from the additional safety trial found “no differences in any significant adverse reactions noted between control subjects and vaccinated persons,” Poland writes.

16) From my not-too-close-attention perspective, the ongoing violence/protest in Portland was really kind of nuts.  And here’s the close attention take on how it really was kind of nuts.  This just should not happen in a major American city (or anywhere, actually).  

17) Going through puberty as a man provides life-long athletic advantages that various transgender hormone therapy simply cannot undo.  Laurel Hubbard kind of flamed out at the Olympics (among other things, she was really old to be competing in weightlifting) and she should absolutely be treated with respect, but, I really don’t think she should be competing against women in a sport such as weightlifting. 

18) And  to finish off an Olympics note (on in the background as I work on this)… Good stuff on how Olympic athletes are made, “The best world-class athletes often dabble in a range of sports when young before rising to the top of their game in one, a new analysis found.”

World-class junior competitors, the scientists found, who stockpiled international medals while still in their teens, tended to have settled on a single sport before about age 12, a year or two earlier than most of their competitors, including other young athletes who excelled at the regional and national levels. What separated great young athletes in this group from the good, in other words, was picking a sport young and practicing it fiercely.

But at the senior or adult-sports level, the impacts of specialization flip-flopped, the data showed. (Most senior athletes are in their 20s or 30s, although each sport sets its own age cutoff for junior and senior divisions.) The world’s best adult athletes, including Olympic and world champions, typically took up competitive sports of any kind a year or two later than other players, and practiced fewer hours throughout their careers. Most also dabbled with multiple sports, usually three or four a year, often not settling on a primary activity until their midteens or so, several years after most of their later competitors. And few garnered much immediate attention or acclaim from coaches and officials, rarely joining select teams at the start of their careers.

“Most of the adult, world-class performers were not prodigies as kids,” said Arne Güllich, the director of the Institute of Applied Sports Science at the Kaiserslautern University of Technology in Germany, who conducted the new study with his American colleagues Brooke N. Macnamara of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and David Zach Hambrick of Michigan State University.

These patterns held true for men and women, boys and girls, and in team and individual sports.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The fact that here we are in 2021 with all the technological sophistication we have and HBO cannot make an app for Roku that’s not extremely glitchy strikes me as nuts.  I mean, I use a bunch of different apps on Roku and HBO Max is the only one that consistently has problems.  And, yet, here we are.  It clearly cannot be that difficult a technological problem if you just care enough, thus HBO apparently, does not.  Damn them and all their good programming I want to watch despite their glitchy app!  Appreciated very much this Bloomberg article as I now know it’s not remotely just me:

Hershberger is not the only irritated customer. For months, subscribers have been complaining about HBO Max’s technical shortcomings, particularly on Roku — one of the most popular streaming devices, with 54 million active accounts. A post in December on Roku’s community forum about how HBO Max freezes and crashes now stretches 37 pages long and is filled with more than 360 replies. Similar angry comments from HBO Max subscribers have flooded Twitter and Reddit

Andi Agardy, 46, who lives in Tennessee, decided to wait a few months to sign up for HBO Max to give the service time to work out the bugs on Roku’s platform. But she said the app still frequently freezes and crashes, forcing her Roku to restart.

She also subscribes to Netflix, Hulu and YouTube TV. But HBO Max, she said, “is the one I have the most problems with.” …

Annoyed HBO Max subscribers say they’re torn between a desire to see the acclaimed shows and the headaches of constantly restarting the app.

2) Very good stuff on the evolution of Covid:

This progression of variants demonstrates the virus’s drive for heightened fitness, the natural selection of mutations and strains that make it more likely to find hosts and are further facilitated by sidestepping the immune response, even allowing repeat infections of people who previously had COVID-19. We emphasize, however, that enhanced transmissibility, rather than immunoevasion or greater lethality, would be considered the most potent path for the virus to become more fit and viable.

Indeed, more-fit variants can be expected to emerge over time (the occurrence of which will need to be monitored meticulously, as these pose a potential public health threat), but we believe that these will not continue to emerge indefinitely: nothing is infinite in nature, and eventually the virus will reach its form of ‘maximum transmission’. After then, new variants will provide no further advantage in infectivity. The virus will thus stabilize and this ‘final’ variant will prevail and become the dominant strain, experiencing only occasional, minimal variations.

By homology, we can imagine that the same took place when some very contagious RNA viruses (e.g., measles virus) spilled over in humans: in the early stages of the epidemic, the virus was probably unstable and less transmissible than it is now; then—once the most contagious phenotype was reached—the measles virus stabilized. We note that the inevitable outcome of this strategy for all RNA viruses that have developed high contagiousness (beyond measles virus, we could name, for instance, the viral agents that cause hepatitis A, poliomyelitis, mumps and rubella) is the lack of molecular structures that allow the virus to ‘dodge’ the immune response of the recovered host. Why is that? To make a long story short, by the time these viruses are attacked by the adaptive immunity of their new host, they have no immediate advantage in evading it, because they have probably already spread to another susceptible host, where replication and survival are ensured4.

3) I was having a hard time figuring out how I felt about the Simone Biles thing until I read this.  I had actually come to the conclusion that what was going on seemed a lot like the yips in golf or baseball and then I read this.  It’s the twisties! I love validation. I absolutely feel for Biles and this makes it clear she was right to pull out.  But, also, it really is stunning and I think unprecedented for such a superlative athlete to be felled by a psychological malady in a circumstance like this.

TOKYO — Imagine flying through the air, springing off a piece of equipment as you prepare to flip on one axis while twisting on another. It all happens fast, so there’s little time to adjust. You rely on muscle memory, trusting that it’ll work out, because with so much practice, it usually does.

But then suddenly, you’re upside down in midair and your brain feels disconnected from your body. Your limbs that usually control how much you spin have stopped listening, and you feel lost. You hope all the years you’ve spent in this sport will guide your body to a safe landing position.

When Simone Biles pushed off the vaulting table Tuesday, she entered that terrifying world of uncertainty. In the Olympic team final, Biles planned to perform a 2½-twisting vault, but her mind chose to stall after just 1½ twists instead.

Biles, who subsequently withdrew from the team competition and then the all-around final a day later, described what went wrong during that vault as “having a little bit of the twisties.”

The cute-sounding term, well-known in the gymnastics community, describes a frightening predicament. When gymnasts have the “twisties,” they lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air. Sometimes they twist when they hadn’t planned to. Other times they stop midway through, as Biles did. And after experiencing the twisties once, it’s very difficult to forget. Instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry. Worry is difficult to escape.

“Simply, your life is in danger when you’re doing gymnastics,” said Sean Melton, a former elite gymnast who dealt with the twisties through his entire career. “And then, when you add this unknown of not being able to control your body while doing these extremely dangerous skills, it adds an extreme level of stress. And it’s terrifying, honestly, because you have no idea what is going to happen.”
The twisties are essentially like the yips in other sports. But in gymnastics, the phenomenon affects the athletes when they’re in the air, so the mind-body disconnect can be dangerous, even for someone of Biles’s caliber.

4) Really, really enjoyed this profile of Matt Damon.  Especially the parts about the changing business of hollywood and how there’s no good mid-range movies anymore.

But you only have to look a bit closer at Damon’s career, at the notion of Matt Damon, Movie Star we have in our heads, to see that nice might be an ingenious sleight-of-hand, an illusion of sorts. Because that darkness is there. Damon doesn’t just play nice guys. Far from it. There’s Jason Bourne, whom he has played in four hit films and who is a miserable, self-loathing killing machine; the sociopathic social climber Tom Ripley in Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley”; the crooked Colin Sullivan in “The Departed.” Or the prep-school anti-Semite in “School Ties,” an early hint at the lurking appeal of Bad Matt. Damon’s most deftly portrayed cretin may be Mark Whitacre, the self-dealing, weaselly-mustached corporate whistle-blower in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” His most unexpected heel turn: a cameo as a cowardly astronaut (Mark Watney turned inside out) in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” “He has a willingness to rip apart his boyish, all-American exterior,” says Soderbergh, who has directed Damon in nine films. “He’s self-aware enough, and secure enough, to riff on that.” Whether another actor could have similar riffing opportunities anymore is doubtful. Over the course of his career, Damon has seen the films like the ones that sustained him — that is, the $20-million-to-$70 million drama, what he calls his “bread and butter” — mostly disappear. “You need those roles to develop as an actor and build your career, and those are gone,” Damon said, nodding. “Courtroom dramas, all that stuff, they can’t get made.” Those sorts of movies have been replaced by more easily exportable, higher-budget but paradoxically lower-risk ones. “You’re looking for a home run that can play in all these different territories to all these different ages,” Damon said. “You want the most accessible thing you can make, in terms of language and culture. And what is that? A superhero movie.” …

William Goldman’s old saw about how in Hollywood nobody knows anything could probably now be amended to this: Everyone knows only one thing, and it’s that superhero movies sell. The reorientation of the studios toward those films and other pre-existing intellectual property means the power of actors, even proven stars like Damon, has diminished. It’s the recognizable characters and cinematic universes that can be counted on financially, not the people inhabiting them. Fewer attractive parts adds extra pressure on stars to pick those parts wisely — a big, undervalued aspect of Hollywood acting. In hindsight, when you look over a successful actor’s IMDB page, it’s a list of hits and near misses and duds, but originally, they were all the same: a script. Nothing is preordained. Anyone who has a 25-year career as firmly A-list as Damon is good at picking, at telling not just whether a movie will be good but also whether he can be good in it, and whether it can be good for him. “Sometimes the right choice for an actor isn’t the biggest film, but what is the right choice for that moment in an actor’s career,” says George Clooney, who directed Damon in “The Monuments Men” and “Suburbicon.” “Matt has bounced back and forth between big studio pictures and independent, interesting films. Because he doesn’t keep doing the same thing, audiences don’t get bored of him.”

5) Drum has his list of rules for the pandemic. I endorse:

YES, kids should go back to school in person next month, with temporary exceptions during serious outbreaks. The risks of infection are far lower than the risk of yet another year of remote “learning.”

YES, kids should wear masks in school. Some extra caution is a good idea.

YES, vaccinations should be mandated for all health professionals who work with the public. This is really a no-brainer.

YES, we should accept help from wherever we can get it. If Alex Jones is willing to hype vaccinations by inventing a story that liberals have been secretly promoting vaccine fear in order to kill off conservatives, that’s fine. Whatever.

YES, vaccination mandates should be as widespread as possible. Corporations should put them in place for their own workers; businesses should put them in place for customers; and states should put them in place for everyone. They are legal, constitutional, and sensible. Enforce them via tax credits available only to those who have been vaccinated.

NO, mask mandates shouldn’t include most outdoor areas. The point here is not to put in place the maximum possible regime. It’s to put in place a regime that truly provides the most bang for the buck.

6) What’s interesting to me is the pathetically transparent rationalizations/justifications of the journalists who think this is a remotely reasonable way to practice journalism, “A Catholic newsletter promised investigative journalism. Then it outed a priest using Grindr data.”

In January, when Ed Condon and JD Flynn broke off from their jobs at a long-standing Catholic news agency, they promised readers of their new newsletter that they would deliver reporting without an agenda, or a foregone conclusion. “We aim to do serious, responsible, sober journalism about the Church, from the Church and for the Church. . . . We want The Pillar to be a different kind of journalism.”

Six months later the Pillar broke the kind of story mainstream news organizations would be unlikely to touch: They said they had obtained commercially available data that included location history from the hookup app Grindr, and used it to track a high-ranking priest from his offices and family lake house to gay nightclubs.

Now Condon and Flynn, two 38-year-old canon lawyers-turned-muckrakers, are at the center of both a global surveillance-ethics story as well as a mud fight among their fellow Catholics over whether last week they served or disgraced the church. One Catholic writer described it as “a witch hunt aimed at gay Catholic priests.”…

Flynn and Condon initially said they were not interested in participating in an interview for this article, then agreed to consider questions by email, and later said they didn’t have sufficient time and declined. But in comments they’ve tweeted since Tuesday and a podcast they posted Friday, they explained a bit of their thinking.

“There’s nothing to recommend the indiscriminate naming and shaming of people for moral failures just because you can. That is unethical. And that is not something I believe we’ve done,”Condon said on the podcast.

“People are entitled to moral failures and repentance and reconciliation and to a legitimate good reputation. There’s a difference between that and serial and consistent, immoral behavior on the part of a public figure charged with addressing public morality, isn’t there?” Flynn said.

7) Great stuff from Jeremy Faust (I highly recommend his newsletter) on the Olympics.  “Don’t cancel the Tokyo Olympics. Emulate them.”

In the lead up to the Opening Ceremonies, many in Japan and around the world called for the Tokyo Olympics to again be postponed or scrapped entirely. But one week into the Games, it appears that the 108-acre Olympic Village may actually be one of the safest populated areas on the planet.

Yes, there have been coronavirus cases among athletes and staff, and more will occur. That was inevitable. But a close analysis reveals that the International Olympic and Paralympic Committee “playbook” seems to be working as hoped. Cases have been identified rapidly. Those with positive tests have been quickly isolated and contact tracing has been completed. As a result, the situation has never spiraled out of control. The realistic goal was never to find zero cases. The idea was to rapidly find any and all cases, act decisively, and keep everyone else safe.

The system is working. While the plan has many elements, it is rooted in one crucial idea: a testing tsunami.

Check out the data visualization that we created for Inside Medicine below‡. It demonstrates that if the Olympic Village were a country, it would be the 4th most vaccinated nation in the world, behind Gibralter (population 34,000), Pitcairn (population 67), and Malta (population 502,000), and it would lead the world in daily coronavirus testing per person by a colossal margin. In fact, if coronavirus testing were an Olympic sport, the Olympic Village would tower over the world in Gold Medal position at over 250 tests per 1,000 people each day, with Cyprus in a distant Silver Medal position at just 84 tests per 1,000 people per day. Only 9 countries on Earth are currently conducting more than 10 tests per 1,000 people daily.

One week into the Games, it appears that the 108-acre Olympic Village may actually be one of the safest populated areas on the planet.
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There is no populated region anywhere on the globe currently combining such high rates of vaccination and anything close to the testing protocols being implemented at the Olympic Games. So far, around 1 in 5,000 coronavirus tests performed in the Olympic Village have come back positive, giving it the lowest “positivity” rate in the world by a factor of 5 over its four closest competitors (Austria, Singapore, Australia, and Taiwan), and a literal order of magnitude or better than the rest of the nations of the world. As of this writing, more Olympic athletes have tested positive for banned drugs leading up to and during the Games than have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 while living in the actual Olympic Village in Tokyo.
 

8) The Washington Post takes a deep dive behind the scenes of UNC and NHJ.

9) For those of you at all epidemiologically inclined, this was really, really good, “How the coronavirus infects cells — and why Delta is so dangerous.”  Lots of really cool visualizations, e.g., 

Life cycle of the pandemic coronavirus: Infographic showing how the virus enters, adapts and exits from host cells.

10) Good Covid stuff from Katherine Xue, “COVID-19 is likely to become an endemic disease. How will our immune systems resist it?”

Still, it is likely that the virus itself is here to stay. “I personally think that there’s essentially zero chance that sars-CoV-2 will be eradicated,” Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told me. (Bloom advised my Ph.D. research on influenza evolution.) Most viruses, including the four seasonal coronaviruses, other common-cold viruses, and the flu, haven’t been eradicated; scientists describe them as “endemic,” a term derived from the Greek word éndēmos, meaning “in the people.” Endemic viruses circulate constantly, typically at low levels, but with occasional, more severe outbreaks. We don’t shut out these endemic viruses with quarantines and stay-at-home orders; we live with them.

What will it be like to live with endemic sars-CoV-2? That depends on the strength of our immune memories. How vividly will our bodies remember the virus or vaccine? How will waning immunity and the rise of variants—such as Delta, which is currently driving a spike in covid cases around the world—affect our vulnerability to reinfection? We’re beginning to learn the answers to some of these questions, and to get a sense of the years to come…

The immune system’s overlapping layers work together to strengthen its memory. But viruses aren’t static. As they accumulate mutations, their shapes shift, and they gradually become more difficult for the system to recognize. Survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic maintained strong antibody responses against that virus for almost ninety years. And yet adults still get the flu approximately once every five years, because the influenza virus’s rapid evolution insures that each year brings new variants. On average, flu viruses acquire half a dozen mutations each year; many of these alter the proteins that allow the viruses to enter and exit host cells. Antibodies that once bound tightly to a virus may have a weaker grip on its evolved form; the virus might escape the notice of certain T cells that used to recognize it.

“You can also ask the question for coronaviruses,” Bloom said. “How much of the ability to reinfect people might be driven by the virus changing?” Growing evidence suggests how much viral evolution might make us vulnerable to coronavirus reinfection. Recently, researchers in Bloom’s lab analyzed blood samples collected from people in the nineteen-eighties and nineties; the samples contained antibodies for the version of seasonal coronavirus 229E that circulated back then. Those same antibodies failed to recognize the descendants of the virus that had evolved in the intervening years. Coronaviruses mutate more slowly than viruses like influenza and H.I.V., but, over the course of a decade or two, they can still change enough to evade our immune memory.

11) This was fascinating, “Doctors Might Have Been Focusing on the Wrong Asthma Triggers: The pandemic was a big social experiment that sent asthma attacks plummeting.”

All around the country, doctors have spent the pandemic wondering why their patients with asthma were suddenly doing so well. Asthma attacks have plummeted. Pediatric ICUs have sat strangely empty. “We braced ourselves for significant problems for the millions of people living with asthma,” says David Stukus, Scarlett’s doctor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “It was the complete opposite. It’s amazing.” (Fears about people with asthma getting more severe COVID-19 infections haven’t been borne out either.) Studies in other countries, including England, Scotland, and South Korea, also found big drops in hospital and doctor’s-office visits for asthma attacks.

The massive global experiment that is the pandemic is now leading doctors to rethink some long-held assumptions about the disease. Asthma is a chronic condition that occasionally flares up, leading to 3,500 deaths and 1.6 million emergency-room visits a year in the United States. These acute attacks can be triggered by a number of environmental factors: viruses, pollen, mold, dust mites, rodents, cockroaches, pet dander, smoke, air pollution, etc. Doctors have often scrutinized allergens that patients can control at home, such as pests and secondhand smoke. But patients have stayed at home for a year and suffered dramatically fewer asthma attacks—suggesting bigger roles for other triggers, especially routine cold and flu viruses, which nearly vanished this year with social distancing and masks.

With life in the U.S. snapping back to normal, asthma doctors and patients are facing another new reality. Masks are going away; schools will be reopening in the fall. The pandemic unexpectedly reduced asthma attacks, and now doctors and patients have to navigate between what they know is possible in extraordinary conditions and what is practical in more ordinary ones.

12) Good stuff from the How Democracies Die team, “The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election: Unless and until the Republican Party recommits itself to playing by democratic rules of the game, American democracy will remain at risk.”

13) What I find particularly interesting about this study is the ideological backlash to its conclusions.  Maybe it’s wrong and could have been conducted better; always a reasonable critique.  But I really don’t like critiques based on not liking the implications of the findings.  “Is opening more strip clubs one way to reduce sex crimes?”

In theory, adult entertainment businesses — including strip clubs and escort services — could either increase or decrease sex crimes. By teaching men to treat women as sex objects, they could foster the kinds of attitudes that lead men to commit rape and sexual assault. On the other hand, such establishments might provide substitutions for sex crimes: Men otherwise inclined to commit assaults might instead spend more time in strip clubs or hiring escorts.

In a forthcoming study in the Economic Journal, we found evidence for the second theory: In New York City, over the period from Jan. 1, 2004, to June 30, 2012, the opening of an adult entertainment business in a police precinct decreased sex crimes by 13 percent in that precinct.

This did not seem to be because police presence increased in those precincts when strip clubs appeared: Other crime rates — involving drugs and theft, for example — were not affected, something we’d be unlikely to see if more police were patrolling these neighborhoods. Nor was it because women (including street prostitutes, who are often the victims of sex crimes) avoided the areas around such businesses: If that were true, we’d expect to find sex crimes increase in neighboring precincts; the crimes might simply be relocated.

All of that suggests that the substitution explanation may be true: People inclined to commit sex crimes may be less likely to do so if they have an outlet for sexually explicit entertainment (which may include, at some clubs, illegal prostitution). Strengthening the case for this conclusion is the fact that the effect we found was more powerful at night, when these establishments do most of their business.

14) Pretty damn happy with the heat pump that’s been keeping me warm in winter for almost 20 years here in NC, “Are ‘Heat Pumps’ the Answer to Heat Waves? Some Cities Think So.”

15) Michael Pollan, “The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine?” Ummm, no, it’s not time.  But I do try to avoid it after mid-afternoon most all days.  In my case, I’m definitely not using caffeine to compensate for poor sleep as, I never use caffeine before noon (that’s when I go on my Diet Dr Pepper binge for the day).

An English neuroscientist on the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, Walker, author of Why We Sleep, is single-minded in his mission: to alert the world to an invisible public-health crisis, which is that we are not getting nearly enough sleep, the sleep we are getting is of poor quality, and a principal culprit in this crime against body and mind is caffeine. Caffeine itself might not be bad for you, but the sleep it’s stealing from you may have a price. According to Walker, research suggests that insufficient sleep may be a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, arteriosclerosis, stroke, heart failure, depression, anxiety, suicide and obesity. “The shorter you sleep,” he bluntly concludes, “the shorter your lifespan.”

Walker grew up in England drinking copious amounts of black tea, morning, noon and night. He no longer consumes caffeine, save for the small amounts in his occasional cup of decaf. In fact, none of the sleep researchers or experts on circadian rhythms I interviewed for this story use caffeine.

I thought of myself as a pretty good sleeper before I met Walker. At lunch he probed me about my sleep habits. I told him I usually get a solid seven hours, fall asleep easily, dream most nights.

“How many times a night do you wake up?” he asked. I’m up three or four times a night (usually to pee), but I almost always fall right back to sleep.

He nodded gravely. “That’s really not good, all those interruptions. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity.” The interruptions were undermining the amount of “deep” or “slow wave” sleep I was getting, something above and beyond the REM sleep I had always thought was the measure of a good night’s rest. But it seems that deep sleep is just as important to our health, and the amount we get tends to decline with age.

Caffeine is not the sole cause of our sleep crisis; screens, alcohol (which is as hard on REM sleep as caffeine is on deep sleep), pharmaceuticals, work schedules, noise and light pollution, and anxiety can all play a role in undermining both the duration and quality of our sleep. But here’s what’s uniquely insidious about caffeine: the drug is not only a leading cause of our sleep deprivation; it is also the principal tool we rely on to remedy the problem. Most of the caffeine consumed today is being used to compensate for the lousy sleep that caffeine causes – which means that caffeine is helping to hide from our awareness the very problem that caffeine creates.

16) I cannot imagine writing a book without Laurel Elder’s help.  Meanwhile, Laurel just churns out books on her own:

From Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to Stacey Abrams and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, women around the country are running in—and winning—elections at an unprecedented rate. It appears that women are on a steady march toward equal representation across state legislatures and the US Congress, but there is a sharp divide in this representation along party lines. Most of the women in office are Democrats, and the number of elected Republican women has been plunging for decades.

In The Partisan Gap, Elder examines why this disparity in women’s representation exists, and why it’s only going to get worse. Drawing on interviews with female office-holders, candidates, and committee members, she takes a look at what it is like to be a woman in each party. From party culture and ideology, to candidate recruitment and the makeup of regional biases, Elder shows the factors contributing to this harmful partisan gap, and what can be done to address it in the future. The Partisan Gap explores the factors that help, and hinder, women’s political representation.

I’m famous (feminism version)

Out today in the “Journal of Women, Politics & Policy.”  As always, with Laurel Elder, and as with more recent research, also with Mary-Kate Lizotte. 

Feminism and anti-feminism featured prominently in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton was the first female major party presidential candidate and self-identified as a feminist speaking openly about the challenges facing women. Clinton faced off against Donald Trump, who was on record making sexist statements and arguing that Clinton’s success was from playing the “woman card”. We ask several questions: who identifies as a feminist today and how is this different from who identified as a feminist in the previous generation? Who identifies as “anti-feminist”? Are anti-feminists simply a mirror reflection of feminists or is it a distinctive social identity? Finally, the study explores the meaning of these labels by looking at what feminists and anti-feminists believe in terms of public policy and attitudes about gender equality. Thus, this study provides insights into the state of modern feminism and antifeminism in contemporary American politics.

And, because, we didn’t actually share much of the result in the abstract, from the paper:

This study began by asking who identifies as a feminist today and how is this similar or different than who identified as a feminist in the previous generation. We hypothesized that feminist identification in 2016 would be polarized along partisan, gender, racial, and generational lines compared to 1992. Supporting our hypotheses we find an increased gender gap – one especially heightened by education, as college-educated women have moved dramatically toward feminist identification. Like almost everything politically related, feminism has also decidedly been a part of partisan polarization. Whether this polarization over feminist identification will continue is an interesting question. The fact that young Republican women were the most feminist group among Republicans in 2016 suggests there is some possibility that feminist identification may become more common within the party, or conversely a sign that the Republican party’s struggle to retain women supporters, especially young women, may intensify.

We also expected to see feminist identification polarize along racial lines from 1992 to 2016, and we were surprised to find this was not the case for women. The relationship between race and feminist identification lessened over the period of our study, and, as of 2016, white women are as likely to identify as feminist as women of color. The multiple measures of feminist identification available in the 2016 ANES allowed us to see that while levels of feminist identification are similar for women across major racial and ethnic lines, Black women are less likely than white women, and Latinas are more likely than white women, to feel the term feminist described them very well, suggesting varying levels of comfort with the idea of feminism as an identity. Levels of feminist identification among men of all races and ethnicities remains at roughly the same low levels in 2016 as in 1992, but today, after confounds are controlled for, Black and Latino men are less likely than white men to identify as feminist. The contrasting trends for women and men, as well as across racial and ethnic lines, illustrate the importance of considering the role of race when attempting to understand feminist identification.

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