Quick hits (part II)

1) Ed Kilgore’s headline gets it, “Media False Equivalence Is Trump’s Best Friend in the Debate Over Racism.”

2) Both Drum and ThinkProgress deconstruct a horrible AP story about “conspiracy theories” in both campaigns.  Of course, the reality is that Trump’s campaign is rife with them and Hillary doesn’t need any conspiracy theories– Trump’s reality is plenty.   But, damn, the AP is horrible lately.

3) Philip Bump on the lack of notable Republicans defending Trump on race.

4) Bill Ayers recently reposted a post of his on the false equivalence between racism and being accused of racism.

5) Harry Enten on how Gary Johnson is decidedly not fading in the polls.

Why is Johnson’s support proving more durable than past third-party candidates’? The most obvious answer is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular for major party presidential nominees; if third-party voters eventually settled on a major party nominee in past campaigns for fear of “wasting their vote,” they may be less willing to settle this year. (Of course, Johnson’s support may simply fade later than past third-party candidates.)

6) On the inadequacy of criminal law for dealing with bureaucratic malfeasance.

7) Aarron Carroll on how Epipen pricing represents so much of what’s wrong with American health care.

8) Very interesting interview with Uwe Reinhardt on why he thinks the health care exchanges are doomed.  Why?  We’re not really all that serious about the mandate.

9) Aarron Carroll again on simple rules for healthy eating.  Nothing surprising, but nicely laid out.

10) I did not know about “legacy” board games.  Sounds pretty cool.  Going to have to give this a try one of these days.  For now, love playing “Seven Wonders” any chance I get.  Somehow my son, David, is just unstoppable at that game.  Only managed to beat him once.

11) NYT Editorial on the not ransom to Iran.

12) I did enjoy the “moron’s case for Hillary Clinton”

OK, listen up. Nobody cares about emails that show Bono wanted State Department assistance to stream his music from the International Space Station. You should thank Almighty God and Jedi Jebus he failed. So far all we have seen is a public official in extraordinary circumstances who should have known better demonstrate “extreme carelessness” to which I believe she has owned up to sufficiently and which, by the way, no wrongdoing was ever uncovered even after a year-long investigation by the FBI for the love of God. We all know that trustworthiness is important in a President. But if absolutely no slack is given at all, and I mean none, if this is how we treat people who make public service their life and profession, then you will always get “crooks” as politicians because who in their right mind would want the job? It’s like being a firefighter. When there’s a fire everybody runs out. You run in. It’s a maniac’s job but it has to be done so let’s have the best do it and not get wrapped up in what amounts to paperwork. That’s all this really is. Paperwork. You would rather stay at home or vote for someone George Orwell or Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t have dreamed up over emails? Then you’re even dumber than you look…

I know, I know. Damn it all! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just forget all of that pesky accomplishment stuff of hers and remember that what really matters is the thrill of waiting for indictments which makes for great television? That way we could finally “lock her up” and enough with these stupid women who think they can run a country. Well, enough out of YOU, you moron. This isn’t the lesser of two evils. This is a choice between one great and qualified candidate for the nation’s highest office who you really should be excited about and a dolt with a bad toupee who if you were honest with yourself you wouldn’t trust to manage a Dairy Queen much less the Oval Office.

13) Parents pushing  back against too much homework.  And pretty much any homework more than a few minutes a day in elementary school just isn’t worth it.

14) High school teacher on teaching Donald Trump:

Thus, while I am always careful about how and when to show my biases, I’m not worried about appearing biased if my stance is against bigotry and in defense of moral reason and the scholarly use of evidence, logic, and research. Just as the notions of media neutrality collapse under threats to democracy, so too do notions of teacher neutrality. We can’t be silent. And I’m confident we won’t be.

15) University of Chicago is drawing plenty of attention for it’s letter against intellectual “safe spaces” on campus.  You will be not surprised to know I’m with them on this.

16) Greg Koger on the Clinton Foundation emails:

Washington, DC, is suffering a severe shortage of smelling salts this morning as newsbroke suggesting a correlation between financial contributions and gaining access to a political figure. In this case, the contributions were to the Clinton Foundation and the politician is Hillary Clinton, so this is being cast as a violation of the norms of our nation’s capital.

If only there were prior political science research testing whether contributors were more likely to gain access to political figures…

Actually, there has been a mountain of evidence that this is common practice, as you can see in my all-too-brief list of citations. The most recent of these works is a field experiment in which an interest group solicited meetings with congressional offices and revealed to some of these offices that potential donors would be at the meeting.

The “potential donors” were more likely to be scheduled for meetings and were more likely to meet with members of Congress or top staffers than average citizens making the same request (summaries herehere, and here).

Of course, the link between money and access is no surprise to the seasoned Washingtonian. It plays out over breakfast, lunch, cocktails, and dinner at restaurantsand venues across town, and at sad callcenters where telemarketers wonder why they ever ran for Congress. And the other major presidential candidate is an avowed participant in the pay-to-say-hi game. What’s really shocking is the feigned shock.

17) Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday argues that this summer’s hits and misses demonstrate that studios still need to pay attention to good directing, story, etc.  Well, hopefully that’s true.

18) So, actually binged “Stranger Things” in about a week.  Not great, but how would I not like a series with 12-year old protagonists who play D&D set in 1983 and involving supernatural thrills.  Not sure I would have stuck with it, but worked great at 1.4-1.6x speed.  The enjoyment was all plot (not so much dialogue and character), so keeping the plot moving really helped.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This is a terrific piece on the strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton as a politician by Ezra Klein.  I’ve been meaning to write a post about it. Just read it.  Really.

2) As long as I am quick-hitting stuff I meant to give their own post… this Dara Lind piece on sex offender registries is a pretty much perfect case study in how good intentions can lead to bad policy.

3) Biblical literalism and the new Noah’s Ark reconstruction.

4) Trump’s message to NC is increasingly less relevant.

5) The right-wing lies and myths about Hillary’s health are just plain wrong.  And the mainstream media should call them out on this.

6) A liberal professor with his take on why all the liberal professors.

7) A teacher shared her evidence-based policy on homework (that is, there’s little evidence it helps) and it went viral.  There’s actually nothing new here, but presumably good that people are starting to pay attention.

8) I’m so with Drum… if you’ve got something more than one simple thought to say, write a damn blog post!  Enough with the tweetstorms!

9) John McWhorter (by the way, I love how he has gone full-bore on being a public intellectual– I’ve loved pretty much everything I have read by him) on the changing language of race.  I especially like this part:

Notably, black has persisted robustly alongside African-American—note how clumsy “African American Lives Matter” would seem. The reason is that despite the persistence of racism after the early ’70s, few could say that black people since then have lived under the bluntly discriminatory, life-stunting conditions that blighted all black lives then. As such, African-Americandidn’t have as much ugly thought to replace, which is why it always had a slight air of the stunt about it, always felt as a bit in quotation marks. Black never connoted the ugly-newsreel/segregated water-fountain pain of Negro and colored, and African-American was created not because black had become especially freighted with negative associations, but because the hyphenated conception of identity had become so attractive and in vogue at the time. I personally have always found African-American clumsy, confusing, and implying that black history since 1600 was somehow not worthy of founding an identity upon, and I only use it when necessary. Yet I would never have ventured this relatively idiosyncratic position about Negro and colored.

10) Find out how well Facebook knows your politics (and actually very handy advice for modifying the ads you see).

11) Harry Enten on house effects among various pollsters.  As long as you analytically take these into account, the poll can still be useful.

12) I’m pretty good with delay of gratification, but the idea of putting something aside for 72 hours before buying it sounds like a good one.

13) Sensible password rules.  Enough with one special character, one upper-case, etc.

14) Interesting take on how Gawker was done in (shared by pretty much every journalist I know on social media).

15) Jonathan Ladd thinks Trump’s epically bad campaign means he has a lot of potential upside.  Definitely the right idea, but I honestly think, too late:

Yet as you may have noticed, things are different this year. The Trump campaign is so weak that it appears to be affecting the race. Political science models predicting the 2016 election based on various fundamentals (i.e., variables that ignore the two candidates and their campaigns) mostly predict a very close election or a Republican victory. Trump is vastly underperforming these fundamentals. He is currently somewhere between 5 and 10 points behind in pollingaverages.

The reason is that his campaign is weaker than any in the modern media era. There is arguably a bigger mismatch relative to the opposing campaign than in any presidential election in American history. The many errors of messaging by Trump and his campaign staff are too numerous to list here.

The bottom line is that he has presented himself in ways that have little appeal beyond the Republican base, some of whom will vote for him because they like his message and others out of partisan loyalty. But many other Americans who would be willing to vote Republican this year are repelled by Trump.

The strange thing is that this means the details of Trump’s campaign tactics matter a lot. Normally, both campaigns are competent enough that they are deep into the diminishing marginal returns for campaign communication. But this year, the Trump campaign has been so weak, I don’t think diminishing returns have really kicked in yet. Trump could improve his fortunes a lot if he managed to run a weak but essentially normal presidential campaign.

16) Money is all good for college athletes when it comes to gold medals.  Just another example of the NCAA’s epic hypocrisy.

17) Face transplant a year later– impressive progress.

18) Social science approaches to improving voter turnout.

19) Are private prisons highly problematic?  Indeed.  But in terms of what’s wrong with our criminal justice system, they are probably not even in the top 10 problems.  That’s because, they are not nearly as widespread as their critics believe.  

20) Speaking of prisons, it’s pretty shameful Ramen seems to have replaced cigarettes as black market currency because we can’t even seem to feed prisoners enough decent food.

21) Melania Trump’s “diary.”  Good stuff.

22) The hundred best films of the 21st century.  I’ve seen a few.  Not enough.  I would say the Angry Birds movie is one of the 10 worst I’ve seen this century.

 

23) A new book says ADHD is over-diagnosed and medication is over-prescribed.  I don’t dispute that.  That said, I’ll go on record as saying a correct diagnosis and stimulant medication has made a huge difference for my son:

Influential patient-advocacy groups insist that only now is the true prevalence of A.D.H.D. finally being recognized after being drastically underestimated — akin to the spike in autism diagnoses once the narrowly defined condition was broadened into a spectrum in the 1990s. But Schwarz makes a convincing case that the radical expansion and promotion of A.D.H.D. has resulted in the label being applied in ways that are far beyond the needs of a historically underserved community, while nonpharmaceutical methods of treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (which have been proved to complement the effectiveness of medication) are overlooked.

24) Toobin on how Ted Cruz is still running for president.

25) Love this xkcd:

Linear Regression

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Jacob Hacker explains why we really need to add a public option to Obamacare.

2) Solid, quality journalism costs money.  If you care about journalism, you should support it with your dollars.

3) Does the first amendment protect deliberate lies?  Indeed:

Why would free speech protect them?

Under U.S. law, many falsehoods—even some deliberate lies—receive the full protection of the First Amendment. That is true even though “there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact,” as Justice Lewis Powell Jr. wrote for the Supreme Court in 1974. Nonetheless, the Court has often refused to allow government to penalize speakers for mistakes, sloppy falsehoods, and lies. Political lies are strongly protected; but even private lies sometimes are as well.

Why?

Imagine if you will, the following impossible scenario: Candidate X says of Candidate Y, “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being—you know—shot. … That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

Shouldn’t this ridiculous, petty, cruel, and destructive lie be punished?

The answer, under First Amendment law, is probably not. The strictly imaginary comment above, however crude and stupid, is nonetheless a statement about an important political issue: determining the presidential nominee of a major party. So, if there is a “hierarchy” of speech under the First Amendment, this allegation starts out at the top. Candidates for president sling all sorts of mud at each other—one candidate, for example, may claim another is planning to “rig the election”; was involved in the “murder” of a government official even though an investigation had found suicide; or was theco-creator, with a sitting president, of a terrorist conspiracy against the United States.

Such allegations—not that anyone would make them—would be contemptible; but I would be worried about a system in which the government could silence them

4) John Yoo is a war criminal who should be in jail, not teaching law students.  But even he opposes Donald Trump.

5) And here’s an intersting story about pretty much the only person in the national security establishment who has not rejected Trump, General Michael Flynn.

6) Really enjoyed this about reaction time in sprinting (with a fun, interactive game to test your own reaction time).

7) No evidence for any “Bradley effect” for Trump in the polls (i.e., social desirabilitiy results affecting poll results depending upon the mode).

8) One of my favorite pieces on Usain Bolt— the science behind his speed.

9) So, basically most of the Olympic table tennis players are Chinese, but the vast majority are playing for other countries.

10) How genetic engineering could affect the limits of human athletic performance.

11) NPR is ending comments on its website because only a tiny handful of readers ever comment.

12) NYT Editorial making the case for affordable child care as the secret to a better economy:

The losses are even more profound when multiplied over the economy.International comparisons indicate that more family-friendly policies in the United States, including quality child care, would allow roughly 5.5 million more women to work, assuming the economy was adding jobs at a reasonable pace. All else being equal, that surge could generate an astounding $500 billion a year in economic growth, or about 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Proper child care also lays the foundation for future productivity gains. Research shows that public investment in early education yields benefits for children far in excess of its cost, including higher academic and career achievement well into adulthood, as well as better health. McKinsey researchers estimated that closing academic achievement gaps between low-income students and others would increase the size of the economy by roughly $70 billion a year; closing racial and ethnic gaps would add $50 billion annually.

13) Matt Grossman on one of my favorite themes (and his– he’s got a book on it), the asymmetry:

My new book with David A. Hopkins, Asymmetric Politics(link is external): Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, sheds light on the longstanding advantages of each political party and their bases of mass support. We argue that the Republican Party is the vehicle of an ideological movement that prizes the general principles of limited government, American nationalism, and cultural traditionalism. The Democratic Party is instead a coalition of myriad social groups, each with specific programmatic policy concerns.

14) This interview with Sasha Issenberg on how Trump’s campaign is like a campaign from 1980 is terrific.  Hits all the key points on how campaigns have changed and evolved.   If I was teaching campaigns and elections now, it would be going straight into the syllabus.

15) Can I say how incredibly tired I am of people using posting from nobody morons on twitter to make their points?!  You can prove any thesis you want if all you need is for rubes to post about it on social media.  As if there had actually been some actual mainstream attacks on Gabby Douglas or mainstream defenses of Lochte’s deplorable behavior.

16) Frum says Trump’s choice is to lose like Dukakis or Goldwater.  I think he may be right, but I have a hard time imagining Trump taking anything but the Goldwater route.

17) On a similar note, yes, I feel bad for the incredibly difficult position Caster Semenya is in (there’s just no easy answer), but I have read at least three different posts this week saying the equivalent of this from Olga Khazan:

It’s unclear how much of an advantage testosterone gives women in running—or in anything else. [emphasis mine] Men are faster, on average, than women, but testosterone is not the only reason: Men also have more red blood cells and bigger hearts and lungs. Due in part to the lack of scientific clarity, in 2015 the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the IAAF’s testosterone regulations for two years.

#$%#$ing seriously??!!  Right, we really have no idea how testosterone affects women’s athletic performance.  If only there had been something like “steroids” or “the East German Olympic team” to look to for any kind of evidence.  A shame.

 

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, race is important.

13) The Republican war on public universities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) The unhinged unskewed polls types are back.  Harry Enten explains what’s so wrong with this approach.  I also really like this chart that shows the PID breakdown of the electorate in recent elections:

enten-democratic-edge-1

2) This tweetstorm on how to best attack Donald Trump seems really, really good.  Short version: use ordinary people.  Like Khizr Khan.

3) Yes, there’s sexism in Olympics coverage, but it’s really not as bad as some are making it out to be.

4) John Cassidy on the contradictions of Trump’s economic speech:

In the speech that Trump delivered at the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, all three of these giveaways to the rich featured prominently, as did deregulation—another issue that is of interest primarily to the donor class. “My campaign is about reaching out to everyone as Americans,” Trump said. But the details of his speech confirmed that he had caved in to the regressive, anti-tax G.O.P. orthodoxy that is defined and policed by groups such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Club for Growth.

Consequently, the contradictions attending Trump’s economic platform are more glaring than ever. He goes into the last months of the election campaign as a political schizophrenic. On immigration and trade, he is a pitchfork-wielding Pat Buchanan Republican; on taxes and regulation, he is a dark-suited Paul Ryan Republican.

5) A couple of foreign policy experts argue that Hillary Clinton as president would not be near the foreign policy hawk that John F. is so sure she will be.

6) Loved this Vox feature on the optimal height for various Olympic sports.

7) We don’t even have hardly any trials any more.  This is not good for actual justice.  In large part, because the “trial tax” is a huge problem.  That needs to change.

8) John Oliver on the problem with cutbacks at newspapers is just completely brilliant.  Watch it!!

9) Jill Greenlee, the other political scientist who studies parenthood and politics had a nice piece on Hillary Clinton, motherhood, and the 2016 election.

10) I’m with Drum (am I ever not?)– please stop whining about the Olympics being on tape delay!

11) At first I was taken aback by Dan Drezner saying Hillary is a worse liar than Trump.  Ahhh, but it’s all in the meaning of worse liar:

Trump fits Frankfurt’s definition of a B.S. artist to a T. And, it should be noted, this also means that he occasionally tells the truth by accident. But the notion put forward by his supporters that Trump is daring to speak hard truths is laughable, since Trump has no clue what is true and what isn’t.

Frankfurt’s distinction between B.S. and lying also helps get at how we should think of Clinton and her seeming inability to completely put her email scandal to rest. The fact-checking sites show that compared to all of the other candidates this cycle, Clinton has been the most truthful. But, like any politician, Clinton hasn’t been completely honest — indeed, PolitiFact gave Clinton a “pants on fire” rating in her Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace that, in an ordinary campaign week, would have caused her all sorts of agita.

All politicians offer up certain amounts of B.S. and lies at various points. Fundamentally truthful politicians will try to avoid outright lies by parsing their words as carefully as possible. Bill Clinton was a fundamentally truthful politician who nonetheless lied at times. He was such a good politician, however, that he could sell his lies with conviction.

Hillary Clinton might be a good leader, but she is not a conventionally great politician. When she has to lie — which, again, is not all that often — she doesn’t look good doing it. In contrast to Trump, she’s painfully aware of her relationship with the truth.

Zakaria is right and Kristof is wrong about Trump. Between Clinton and Trump, Clinton is the bigger and badder liar — but that’s because Clinton cares enough about the truth to know a lie when she tells one.

Trump is a mediocre B.S. artist on a stage that is way too big for his meager abilities.

12) Drew Linzer has put his votamatic into gear.

13) Nice video of Trump disagreeing with every position held by Trump.

14) Male divers as inadvertent porn stars.  Pretty funny.  And safe for work.

15) James Hamblin with enough of the cupping already.

So in terms of role-model behavior, cupping may be more deleterious than a grainy bong photo, because it invites people to distrust science.

16) There’s just something so wrong with the faux patriots who think that Gabby Douglas not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem is a problem.

17) Oh man do I love this data visualization of summer Olympic medals by country over time.

18) And this is an awesome, awesome feature on the dominance of the US women’s gymnastics team.

19) Scientists have discovered that the Greenland shark can live to at least 272 and maybe up to 512 years!  Whoa!  (Thanks for the tip, EMG).

20) I so love Kevin Drum’s gripes about those griping about NBC’s Olympic coverage.

Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

1a) Ezra Klein argues that Trump’s response to Khizr is “horrifying, even for Donald Trump.”  Sadly, though, it’s not.  For Trump, this is literally par for the course.

Let’s be very clear about what Trump is doing here: as ABC wrote, he’s suggesting “Khan’s wife didn’t speak because she was forbidden to as a Muslim.” This is bullshit. It is flatly, verifiably, false. But that’s almost beside the point.

Trump listened to a speech by the bereaved father of a fallen Muslim soldier and used it to slander the fallen soldier’s family. That was his response. That is his character…

Trump also wanted the Khans to know that, like them, he had sacrificed for this country.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump said. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

I honestly do not understand how a human being can respond to a family that lost their son for this country by saying that he has sacrificed too, he’s worked really hard, he’s built “great structures,” he’s had “tremendous success.”

 

1b) And love this from and ABC News story:

Paul Rieckoff, the founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a non partisan group with close to 200,000 members, called Trump’s comparison of his sacrifices with those of someone like Khan “insulting, foolish and ignorant.”

“For anyone to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving,” Rieckoff said. “Our county has been at war for a decade and a half and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it.”

2) Interesting 538 piece on how Catholics are moving towards Clinton and Evangelicals towards Trump.

3) David Brooks:

This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the “sane” and “reasonable” Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.

4) Karen Tumulty and Richard Costa on how we are witnessing a shift in how the political parties talk to the American public.

5) Great NYT feature on new treatments that use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.  It seems that there’s some amazing new therapies that essentially cure previously incurable cancer, but only for a minority of patients.  That’s still great improvement, but frustrating that these therapies seem to be so hit and miss with who responds.

6) Rev William Barber is plenty familiar to those of us who follow NC politics.  Thursday was his big national coming-out party.

7) Was especially intrigued by Jon Haidt’s ideas on how to attack Trump in this Tom Edsall piece:

onathan Haidt, a social psychologist at N.Y.U., told me in an email that Democrats need to adopt a more subtle strategy in dealing with Trump. This, Haidt argues, is because the

mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict, like a small rider — conscious, verbal, reasoning — sitting atop a large elephant — the other 98 percent of mental processes, which are automatic and intuitive.

The elephant “really runs the show,” Haidt said, Translating this analytic approach to the 2016 election, in Haidt’s view, means that

in matters of politics and morality, you must speak to the elephant first. Trump did this brilliantly in the Republican primary, and in his convention speech.

To counter Trump, Democrats have to get into the electorate’s automatic, intuitive and unconscious level of responding to events before attempting a critique based on reasoned argument, according to Haidt. To do this, he wrote, the goal should be to portray Trump in ways that conflict with “deep moral intuitions about fairness versus cheating and exploitation.”

And how do you do that?

Trump thinks about everything as a zero sum interaction, which he usually wins — and therefore the person who dealt with him loses. I think the Democrats should give voice to a long parade of people — former customers and partners — who deeply regret dealing with Trump. Trump cheats, exploits, deceives. Trump is a con man, and we are his biggest mark yet. Don’t let him turn us all into suckers.

The next step is to present a vision of Trump that violates “moral intuitions about loyalty, authority, and sanctity:”

The psychology of sacredness evolved as part of our religious nature, but people use the same psychology toward kings, the Constitution, national heroes, and, to a decreasing degree, to the American presidency. Trump degrades it all with his crassness, his obscene language, his fear-mongering and his inability to offer soaring rhetoric. What a contrast with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Reagan…

Despite the overt chaos, the competing narratives of the fall campaign — each side’s attempt to define the other as weak or crazy and itself as tough and dependable — are clearly emerging from the conventions. The question is whether the Democratic Party can get emotional enough or reach deep enough into our brains to counter the sheer id of Trump’s primeval appeal.

8) I read this “you probably don’t need dental x-rays every year” piece at home while my wife as at the dentist with the kids getting (very likely) unnecessary dental x-rays.

9) Wikileaks has lost the moral high ground.

10) Sure, humans are not the only animals with a theory of mind, but we may be the only ones to understand ignorance:

“We might be the only species that can think about things that aren’t facts we have about the world, about other possible worlds, about states in the past or future, about counterfactuals,” says Santos. “We can simulate a whole fictional world. And if you’re a species that can get outside your own head, you can apply that to other people.” A chimp won’t wonder if it’ll be hungry tomorrow. It only cares if it’s hungry now. An orangutan isn’t going to write a novel, because this is the only reality that it knows…

Based on this work, Santos originally said that while non-human primates don’t understand false beliefs, they can reason about another individual’s knowledge and ignorance. That’s a view shared by other scientists who have done similar studies. But Santos now thinks that she was wrong. She and Martin argue that our closest relatives have no concept of ignorance at all. They know stuff. They can reflect on what they know. They can track if others know the same things as them. But if others don’t share the same knowledge, they’re at a loss. “They just have no prediction about what’s going on,” says Santos.

11) Speaking of animal intelligence, more evidence that crows have lots.

12) Andrew Prokop on how Sanders’ supporters really could become a Tea Party of the left.

13) I think I’ll try and stay healthy as I can without the benefit of starting the day with an icy cold shower.

14) The problem of victim impact statements.

15) Apparently Trump voters just want “respect.”  Somehow respect is conflated with another word that starts with r.

With Trump, they are finding someone who gives them respect. He talks their language, addresses their concerns. Sometimes it is celebrating what defines their neighborhood, what they in Parma have in common: being white. They and Trump are playing in dangerous territory, with the need for respect tipping into misplaced revenge.

In another all-white working-class neighborhood not far away, a collection of retired workers, all Trump voters, gather in the mornings at McDonald’s. When the talk turned to politics the N-word is thrown around with ease, and racial jokes are par for the course.

16) Josh Marshall on how Trump will try and get out of the debates.

17) The more awfulness we’re seeing from Trump, the more I am appreciating all the commentary on the utter moral cowardice of the vast majority of elected Republicans:

Conservatives boasted too that they knew that the old-fashioned virtues of good character mattered as much as a man or woman’s ideology. By this reckoning, Trump’s bragging, vainglory, dark fury and towering vanity should disqualify him from the presidency regardless of his politics. Republican grandees must agree with Hillary Clinton when she said: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons”, not least because Marco Rubio, one of their own, has said as much himself. Yet McCain and Ryan, those enemies of appeasement, have folded and endorsed Trump. Rubio, that piercing judge of his character, has decided that, after all, Trump’s finger should be on the button. Presidents Bush père et fils are bravely abstaining. Bobby Jindal, who described Trump as a “narcissist and egomaniacal madman”, wants him in the White House. Nearly all the Republican names you remember follow suit. The Dick Cheneys, Rand Pauls and Condoleezza Rices are backing Trump or refusing to commit. Confronted with a dictatorial menace in their own time and their own country they lack the courage to risk the unpopularity that Churchillian dissent would bring.

Even when Trump followed his years of promoting the interests of a dictator of a hostile foreign power by urging Vladimir Putin to hack Clinton’s emails, they held steady in their cowardice. The Republicans, the party of red-baiters and Cold Warriors, is now in the pocket of a Kremlin “useful idiot” and the best its national security conservatives can manage are embarrassed mutters.

Only Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz openly oppose him, among prominent Republicans. And when a once mighty political movement relies on Cruz to uphold its honour it is so deep in the dustbin of history it is already composting.

18) All the Back the Future movies are currently streaming on Netflix.  Yesterday was Evan’s (age 10) first exposure.  He liked it, didn’t love it.  This was the first time I paid full attention in a while (I’ll always tune in for a bit if it is playing on TV) and I was just awed at how good the screenplay is.  A near-perfect movie.

…That’s the first 12 minutes of Back to the Future. Twelve minutes. Every single action has a purpose, every piece of scenery has a reason. The dialogue sets up plot, moves the narrative, character is built throughout—and we still don’t even really know what the movie is about.

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