(Better than no) Quick Hits

Sorry I’ve let you all down with the limited posting this week.  Been pretty busy getting ready for classes to start this coming week.  Throw in a day off on Friday to visit Wet n Wild with my daughter (soooo fun) and many hours last evening to celebrate the wedding of one of my most loyal readers (who, presumably, will not be reading this Sunday morning), and, tough weekend for quick hits, too. But, I couldn’t give you nothing, so, we’ll see how much I can queue up Saturday post-nuptials…

1) Such a good post from Brian Beutler (he’s good at this!)

All of this raises the question of what Democrats can do as we drift into an information environment that responsible gatekeepers no longer shape, where huge swaths of the population can be made to think that wild conspiracy theories and bizarre nonsense (Colbert-sent reporters???) are the most important stories the Democrat-run media won’t tell you about. What do liberals who hope to persuade people with facts and reason do in a world where an astonishing percentage of young voters get their popular information from social media platforms like TikTok and, also (by pure coincidence, probably) an astonishing percentage of young voters disapprove of Biden. More even than disapproved of Trump.

The answer, I think (and to coin a bunch of tedious Trump apologists) is to take Dark Brandon seriously but not literally. More specifically, it’s to realize that Democrats are already figuring out how to win in this new world without embracing the genuinely dark forces of incitement and totalitarian lying that now define GOP politics. Obama did it in 2012. John Fetterman is doing it today, pairing a high-minded substantive campaign with a meme-driven one aimed at making a mockery of his opponent. He’s crushing Dr. Oz by a greater margin than the other statewide candidates in Pennsylvania are leading their races, or Senate candidates in other battlegrounds are leading theirs.

The January 6 committee has done it in its own way, rendering a substantive and complex investigation of a huge and important scandal into headline-grabbing moments with long shelf lives.  

But the Democratic strategic class remains excessively hidebound to the material school. When House Democrats were about to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who runs the House Democrats’ election committee, appeared on MSNBC and scolded his interviewers for asking him about the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, and Donald Trump’s theft of highly classified information. “Look, it’s sad and it is serious that we would be in a place where we had a former president keeping classified information in the basement,” he said. “But can I tell you something? We are on the verge of historic legislation right here. So with all due respect, I think you guys are maybe overdoing the relative importance of these two stories. My constituents care a lot more about what’s in their paychecks than what’s in Donald Trump’s basement.”

 
 

Right, when has a candidate having classified information in her basement ever changed the course of an election?

There remain too many Democrats who don’t get that these stories about Trump are opportunities to influence social knowledge about him and the GOP. Republicans don’t miss those moments. They know each Trump scandal impels them to circle wagons and treat Trump like a victim, so that as many people as possible come to see him that way; they know that when their opponents are under criminal investigation, it’s good news for them. Meanwhile it’s been a week and a half since the raid and Democratic leaders have done nothing to influence how people perceive that development and, astonishingly, almost seem to wish it would disappear. 

These are moments candidates like Fetterman (and the January 6 committee and the 2012 Obama campaign and Dark Brandon) wouldn’t miss. Easy opportunities not just to go on the attack but to turn the subject matter underlying the attack into a multi-day earned-media bonanza. Like the one that would ensue if congressional Republicans had to vote on their demand to defund the FBI, or to insulate critical national-security investigations from political meddling. Fetterman has a maestro’s knack for creating online content that makes Oz look ridiculous. But his tweets don’t do the work directly. It’s that they’re funny, and people talk about them, and reporters glom on, and turn them into news stories. If Fetterman had inverted his formula and run an expensive TV ad about Dr. Oz calling vegetables “crudités,” while using his Twitter account to talk about the prescription-drug provisions of the IRA, it would’ve accomplished almost nothing. Instead Pennsylvania political media can’t get enough of how Oz appears to be from outer space

By the same token, Chuck Schumer could do the work of 100 paid ads by one day casually responding to a question about GOP Senate candidates with an arch line about whether the reporter was referring to the one who threatened to kill his wife, the one who actually lives in New Jersey, the one whose intellectual role models are Nazis, or the one who spent 4th of July with Putin and lies about vaccines. Republicans would get mad, and then we’d get a multi-day conversation about how insane the GOP candidates are (couched here and there as a Schumer fact check). And the fundamental vileness of the Republican field would become a piece of social knowledge people shared, irrespective of anyone’s plans to address inflation. 

But it’d require using a different skill set, a willingness to wield message after message in search of the dagger that draws blood. It’d require at least some recognition that materiality and data aren’t destiny. It’d require asking, What Would Dark Brandon Do? 

2) Still very unsure of what to make of this NC Supreme Court decision.  Just because a decision benefits liberals does not mean this is how I want a judicial system to operate.  But, Democrats should also not unilaterally disarm.  

North Carolina’s state legislature was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to the extent that lawmakers may have lacked the authority to claim to represent the people, when they passed new constitutional amendments in 2018, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled Friday.

“Today’s decision sends a watershed message in favor of accountability and North Carolina democracy,” said Deborah Maxwell, president of the North Carolina NAACP, which brought the lawsuit. “Rigging elections by trampling on the rights of Black voters has consequences.”

One of the state constitutional amendments in question required voters to show photo ID to cast a ballot. It has never been used, however, due to this and other lawsuits challenging it. The other banned future politicians from raising the state’s income tax rate above 7%.

Justice Anita Earls’ majority opinion states that “amendments that could change basic tenets of our constitutional system of government warrant heightened scrutiny,” especially when written by “legislators whose claim to represent the people’s will has been disputed.”

3) Yes, I have already messaged my doctor about getting some oral minoxidil.  But, it is kind of crazy to think that we’ve got a great drug for hair loss not being used in the most effective way because there’s not enough profit incentive:

But there is a cheap treatment, he and other dermatologists say, costing pennies a day, that restores hair in many patients. It is minoxidil, an old and well-known hair-loss treatment drug used in a very different way. Rather than being applied directly to the scalp, it is being prescribed in very low-dose pills.

Although a growing group of dermatologists is offering low-dose minoxidil pills, the treatment remains relatively unknown to most patients and many doctors. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this purpose and so is prescribed off-label — a common practice in dermatology.

Without a rigorous trial leading to F.D.A. approval, though, the use of minoxidil pills for hair loss remains off-label. And, dermatologists say, it is likely to remain so.

“Oral minoxidil costs pennies a day,” Dr. King said. “There is no incentive to spend tens of millions of dollars to test it in a clinical trial. That study truly is never, ever going to be done.”
Serious question, though, should Pfizer or somebody like that take minoxidil, add a useless molecule to it call it levominoxidil or something and market it as an amazing new baldness cure?  What am I missing?  

4) Great stuff from Chait:

After making the decision to stop challenging Trump’s election lies, it followed that the rest of the party needed to go along. Cheney stubbornly refused. As a result, Republicans stripped her of her leadership post and then began to abandon her as Trump backed a primary challenge.

The party Establishment decided to treat Trump’s coup as a minor detail they could put to the side. Confronting the insurrection would open a damaging schism within the party. They expected the party to work together in an authoritarian-led coalition.

Accordingly, the Establishment Republican view is that Cheney has nobody to blame for her defeat but herself. Cheney might be correct about the 2020 election result, but she should have kept quiet. “In Wyoming, Cheney lost because her constituents saw that she cared more about fighting Trump than fighting Biden. She was more concerned with waging a civil war within the Republican Party than the inflation that is forcing her voters to choose between staples such as gas and food,” argues Marc Thiessen. “Telling truths is important, but we rightly regard people who only ever tell the same one truth all the time as fanatics who have lost perspective,” explains the National Review’s Dan McLaughlin.

But of course one completely foreseeable consequence of the party’s decision to cede the argument over 2020 to Trump is that it has allowed Trump to retain his influence. Republicans complain over the personal aspect of Trump’s influence — he has interceded in primaries to endorse unqualified candidates — but his ideological influence is more profound.

If Republican voters believe the 2020 election was stolen, of course they are going to demand their party nominate candidates who will stop it. Why would they even consider “moving on” from a historical crime so profound? It makes perfect sense that their primary consideration in choosing nominees going forward is a willingness to fight against the future steals they believe will occur.

Yet the party Establishment has persisted in believing Trump’s influence is the result of choices other than their own refusal to confront him. This explains why the Democratic Party tactic of running ads highlighting the extremism of Trumpist primary candidates, and thus to help them win, has become an obsession of anti-anti-Trump Republicans. The tactic may be deplorable, but its effect on the outcome of Republicans primaries is marginal. The greatest determinate by far is the GOP backing off its brief determination to purge Trump. Once they decided they couldn’t win without him, they ceded all the leverage to Trump.

In a just world, the Republican Establishment would pay a dear price for its cowardice. In reality, the price is likely to be bearable. Very few Republicans have any moral compunction against electing extreme or even outright fascistic Republicans to office. Witness the near-total absence of any intraparty resistance to candidates like election denier Kari Lake or Christian nationalist and Nazi ally Doug Mastriano, both of whom have enjoyed full public endorsements from Ron DeSantis, the main hope of the GOP’s non-Trump wing.

5) Lara Bazelon, “The Death Penalty Case That Went Too Far Oklahoma is set to kill Richard Glossip, but he’s almost certainly innocent. Even Republicans are revolting.”

6) If there’s one thing Dall-e 2 is really good at, it is mimicking the style of a particular artist.  Wired on the implications for current artists:

David Oreilly, a digital artist who has been critical of DALL-E, says the idea of using these tools that feed on past work to create new works that make money feels wrong. “They don’t own any of the material they reconstitute,” he says. “It would be like Google Images charging money.”

Jonathan Løw, CEO of Jumpstory, a Danish stock image company, says he doesn’t understand how AI-generated images can be used commercially. “I’m fascinated by the technology but also deeply concerned and skeptical,” he says.

Hannah Wong, a spokesperson for OpenAI, provided a statement saying the company’s image-making service was used by many artists, and that the company had sought feedback from artists during the tool’s development. “Copyright law has adapted to new technology in the past and will need to do the same with AI-generated content,” the statement said. “We continue to seek artists’ perspectives and look forward to working with them and policymakers to help protect the rights of creators.”

Although Guadamuz believes it will be difficult to sue someone for using AI to copy their work, he expects there to be lawsuits. “There will absolutely be all sorts of litigation at some point—I’m sure of it,” he says. He says that infringing trademarks like a brand’s logo, or the image of a character such as Mickey Mouse, could prove more legally fraught.

Other legal experts are less sure that AI generated knock-offs are on solid legal ground. “I could see litigation arising from the artist who says ‘I didn’t give you permission to train your algorithm on my art,’” says Bradford Newman, a partner in the law firm Baker Mckenzie, who specializes in AI. “It is a completely open question as to who would win such a case.”

7) This is great from Don Moynihan, “Republican loyalty to Trump is fueling more radical positions about the role of the state”

8) I’ll admit, I didn’t read the whole thing.  But this is a helluva photo essay very much worth taking a look at (gift link), “Odesa Is Defiant. It’s Also Putin’s Ultimate Target.”

9) Of course, there’s just no political viability in this, but an interesting idea that liberals should stop looking to rehabilitate the Constitution because it’s beyond rehabilitation:

When liberals lose in the Supreme Court — as they increasingly have over the past half-century — they usually say that the justices got the Constitution wrong. But struggling over the Constitution has proved a dead end. The real need is not to reclaim the Constitution, as many would have it, but instead to reclaim America from constitutionalism.

The idea of constitutionalism is that there needs to be some higher law that is more difficult to change than the rest of the legal order. Having a constitution is about setting more sacrosanct rules than the ones the legislature can pass day to day. Our Constitution’s guarantee of two senators to each state is an example. And ever since the American founders were forced to add a Bill of Rights to get their handiwork passed, national constitutions have been associated with some set of basic freedoms and values that transient majorities might otherwise trample.

But constitutions — especially the broken one we have now — inevitably orient us to the past and misdirect the present into a dispute over what people agreed on once upon a time, not on what the present and future demand for and from those who live now. This aids the right, which insists on sticking with what it claims to be the original meaning of the past.

Arming for war over the Constitution concedes in advance that the left must translate its politics into something consistent with the past. But liberals have been attempting to reclaim the Constitution for 50 years — with agonizingly little to show for it. It’s time for them to radically alter the basic rules of the game.

In making calls to regain ownership of our founding charter, progressives have disagreed about strategy and tactics more than about this crucial goal. Proposals to increase the number of justices, strip the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to invalidate federal law or otherwise soften the blow of judicial review frequently come together with the assurance that the problem is not the Constitution; only the Supreme Court’s hijacking of it is. And even when progressives concede that the Constitution is at the root of our situation, typically the call is for some new constitutionalism…

No matter how openly political it may purport to be, reclaiming the Constitution remains a kind of antipolitics. It requires the substitution of claims about the best reading of some centuries-old text or about promises said to be already in our traditions for direct arguments about what fairness or justice demands.

It’s difficult to find a constitutional basis for abortion or labor unions in a document written by largely affluent men more than two centuries ago. It would be far better if liberal legislators could simply make a case for abortion and labor rights on their own merits without having to bother with the Constitution.

By leaving democracy hostage to constraints that are harder to change than the rest of the legal order, constitutionalism of any sort demands extraordinary consensus for meaningful progress. It conditions democracy in which majority rule always must matter most on surviving vetoes from powerful minorities that invoke the constitutional past to obstruct a new future.

After failing to get the Constitution interpreted in an egalitarian way for so long, the way to seek real freedom will be to use procedures consistent with popular rule. It will not be easy, but a new way of fighting within American democracy must start with a more open politics of altering our fundamental law, perhaps in the first place by making the Constitution more amendable than it is now.

10) Of course in a post-Roe world Louisiana is making a woman carry a fetus that will be born without a skull and die.

A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health said that because of Ms. Davis’s case the department would add acrania to the preliminary list of two dozen fetal conditions explicitly named as examples of conditions that would make a pregnancy “medically futile” and allow for an abortion.

The final guidelines will go into effect 90 days after a public notice, which was expected to be published in the September edition of the state register, said Michelle McCalope, a spokeswoman for the agency, in an email.

Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who has led arguments for plaintiffs challenging the Louisiana law, said that the group was “absolutely horrified” about Ms. Davis’s situation and that it was “absolutely one of the animating reasons for the lawsuit that we brought.” Ms. Ma noted that there was also a lack of clarity about what kind of physicians could sign off on the exemption, and that there was not a guarantee that two doctors would be available or nearby to quickly assess a case, particularly in rural areas.

She added that any list could not account for every situation that could emerge and that the problem was “exacerbated by the chilling effect” on doctors who were facing legal liability.

Sarah Zagorski, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Right to Life, who noted that the organization had fought against an amendment to the ban that allowed for an exception if a fetus had a fatal medical condition, said that in Ms. Davis’s case, the organization would recommend “support for families and perinatal palliative care from the moment of the diagnosis through the duration of the child’s natural life.”

My God these forced-birth-at-all-costs people are just insane.  Who does this to a mother/family?

11) If there’s one thing I didn’t need data to know, but, still, nice to have proof, “Buttons beat touchscreens in cars, and now there’s data to prove it”

I love the Carplay in my Jetta, but I also love that all the climate and basic radio functions are good old-fashioned buttons and knobs.

12) Study– Russians basically made up their efficacy data on the Sputnik vaccine.

13) Really interesting post from Scott Alexander on how and why our skills decay over time:

Why Do Skills Plateau?

 

Economist Philip Frances finds that creative artists, on average, do their best work in their late 30s. Isn’t this strange? However good a writer is at age 35, they should be even better at 55 with twenty more years of practice. Sure, middle age might bring some mild proto-cognitive-impairment, but surely nothing so dire that it cancels out twenty extra years!

A natural objection is that maybe they’ve maxed out their writing ability; further practice won’t help. But this can’t be true; most 35 year old writers aren’t Shakespeare or Dickens, so higher tiers of ability must be possible. But you can’t get there just by practicing more. If acheivement is a function of talent and practice, at some point returns on practice decrease near zero.

The same is true for doctors. Young doctors (under 40) have slightly better cure rates than older doctors (eg 40-49). The linked study doesn’t go any younger (eg under 35, under 30…). However, Goodwin et al find that only first-year doctors suffer from inexperience; by a doctor’s second year, she’s doing about as well as she ever will. Why? Wouldn’t you expect someone who’s practiced medicine for twenty years to be better than someone who’s only done it for two?

We find the same phenomenon in formal education; on a standardized test of book learning for student doctors, there’s a big increase the first year of training, a smaller increase the second year, and by year 4-5 the increase is basically indistinguishable from zero (even though some doctors remain better than others). And here I talk about a slightly different phenomenon: ADHD children given Ritalin study harder and better, but haven’t learned any more vocabulary words at the end of a course (even though they haven’t learned all the vocabulary).

After a lot of looking through the psychological literature, I’ve found two hypotheses which, combined, mostly satisfy my curiosity.

The Decay Hypothesis

 

The first explanation is a “dynamic equilibrium of forgetting”.

Suppose that you forget any fact you haven’t reviewed in X amount of time (X might be shorter or longer depending on your intelligence/memory/talent). And suppose that an average doctor sees 5 diseases ~weekly, another 5 diseases ~monthly, and another 5 diseases ~yearly. A bad doctor might forget anything she sees less than once a week, a mediocre doctor might forget anything she sees less than once a month, and a great doctor might forget anything she sees less than once a year. So the bad doctor will end up knowing about 5 diseases, the mediocre doctor 10, and the great doctor 15. They will master these diseases quickly, and no matter how long they continue practicing medicine, they will never get better…

The Interference Hypothesis

 

An acquaintance relates that, using flashcards, he can learn twenty words of some language (I forget which, let’s say Spanish) per day. If he studies more than twenty, too bad, he’ll only remember twenty.

But if he studies two language (let’s say Spanish and Chinese), he can learn twenty Spanish vocab words plus twenty Chinese vocab words. The cap is per language, not absolute!

This suggests an interference hypothesis: once there are too many similar things in memory, they all kind of blend together and it’s hard to learn new things in the same space. It might still be easy to learn some other topic, though. However fast you can comfortably learn Spanish, you can take a karate class at the same time and learn karate and that won’t interfere.

Something like this feels intuitively true to me. I find remembering the difference between gold and silver easier than remembering the difference between yttrium and ytterbium. In fact, I remember the basics of inorganic chemistry, and the basics of organic chemistry, but not the details of either. Why do I even remember the basics? Why not forget all of it? Why is getting an introductory understanding of twenty fields easier than getting a masterly understanding of one?

Wikipedia has a good summary of experiments showing that memory inteference is a real phenomenon, but I can’t tell if their page is treating it as a curiosity or as the fundamental explanation for why we can’t keep learning a field forever and eventually become as gods by the time we’re 50 or 60. But I think it’s a big part of that.

This feels more convincing after learning about neural nets. The ability of neural nets to consider finely-grained concepts depends on their parameter count; the more parameters, the more distinctions they can draw. A common problem is “catastrophic forgetting”, where too high a learning rate causes a net to overfit to “remember” the most recent example, making it less good at remembering previous examples. Human memory seems to lack this failure mode, but maybe its ordinary forgetting is a tamer subspecies of the same problem.

14) Alex Tabarrok, “Still under-policed and over-imprisoned”

A new paper, The Injustice of Under-Policing, makes a point that I have been emphasizing for many years, namely, relative to other developed countries the United States is under-policed and over-imprisoned.

…the American criminal legal system is characterized by an exceptional kind of under-policing, and a heavy reliance on long prison sentences, compared to other developed nations. In this country, roughly three people are incarcerated per police officer employed. The rest of the developed world strikes a diametrically opposite balance between these twin arms of the penal state, employing roughly three and a half times more police officers than the number of people they incarcerate. We argue that the United States has it backward. Justice and efficiency demand that we strike a balance between policing and incarceration more like that of the rest of the developed world. We call this the “First World Balance.”

First, as is well known, the US  has a very high rate of imprisonment compared to other countries but less well  known is that the US has a relatively low rate of police per capita.

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If we focus on rates relative to crime then we get a slightly different but similar perspective. Namely, relative to the number of homicides we have a normal rate of imprisonment but are still surprisingly under-policed.

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As a result, as I argued in What Was Gary Becker’s Biggest Mistake?, we have a low certainty of punishment (measured as arrests per homicide) and then try to make up for that with high punishment levels (prisoners per arrest). The low certainty, high punishment level is especially notably for black Americans.

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Shifting to more police and less imprisonment could reduce crime and improve policing. More police and less imprisonment also has the advantage of being a feasible policy. Large majorities of blacks, hispanics and whites support hiring more police. “Tough on crime” can be interpreted as greater certainty of punishment and with greater certainty of punishment we can safely reduce punishment levels.

15) “All Hooting Aside: Did a Vocal Evolution Give Rise to Language? The loss of certain muscles in the human larynx may have helped give our species a voice, a new study suggests.”

Read this sentence aloud, if you’re able.

As you do, a cascade of motion begins, forcing air from your lungs through two muscles, which vibrate, sculpting sound waves that pass through your mouth and into the world. These muscles are called vocal cords, or vocal folds, and their vibrations form the foundations of the human voice.

They also speak to the emergence and evolution of human language.

For several years, a team of scientists based mainly in Japan used imaging technology to study the physiology of the throats of 43 species of primates, from baboons and orangutans to macaques and chimpanzees, as well as humans. All the species but one had a similar anatomical structure: an extra set of protruding muscles, called vocal membranes or vocal lips, just above the vocal cords. The exception was Homo sapiens.

The researchers also found that the presence of vocal lips destabilized the other primates’ voices, rendering their tone and timbre more chaotic and unpredictable. Animals with vocal lips have a more grating, less controlled baseline of communication, the study found; humans, lacking the extra membranes, can exchange softer, more stable sounds. The findings were published on Thursday in the journal Science.

16) Ecosystems are cool. “Death Valley’s Invasive Donkeys Have Become Cat Food: Feral burros wreck wetlands in the desert national park. But a study found that when mountain lions prey on them, the donkeys may help some terrain thrive.”

Early on a June morning in Death Valley National Park, a wild donkey brought her foal to one of the springs scattered throughout the desert. Two sets of eyes watched the foal pick its way through the brush. One set belonged to a mountain lion, the other to a trail camera.

Footage of the subsequent kill was published last month in the Journal of Animal Ecologyin a study that provided direct evidence of mountain lions hunting donkeys in the western deserts of North America. The attacks don’t just result in donkey scraps and full cougars, researchers argue: They suggest that native carnivores act as an important check on nonnative prey. The study also raises questions about how damaging donkeys are in the wild desert landscapes where they are found, although federal wildlife authorities maintain a goal of eliminating them entirely.

Donkeys originated in North Africa but were introduced to the United States through the mining industry in the late 1800s. Federal agencies were not pleased to see the hardy herbivores establish themselves in Death Valley. In the 1930s, wildlife managers began culling donkeys, arguing that herds of burros trampled vegetation, muddied springs and drove away native wildlife like bighorn sheep. But the donkeys have persisted, and decades later, an estimated 4,000 live in Death Valley, despite National Park Service goals of bringing the population to zero.

Erick Lundgren, a biologist at Aarhus University in Denmark took an interest in the donkeys’ effects on the desert’s wetlands. Initially, he focused on donkeys’ habit of digging wells — sometimes up to five feet deep — to reach water beneath dry stream beds. These wells have often been cited as evidence of ecological damage, Dr. Lundgren said. But he and colleagues found in a 2021 study that donkey wells served as nurseries and oases for native plants and animals.

He also found that donkeys congregating near Death Valley campsites could cause damage.

“They pretty much turn these wetlands into just a warren of trails and trampled ground,” Dr. Lundgren said. While some plant species actually benefit from this kind of grazing, he added, the donkeys wipe out other kinds of vegetation that attract birds and store carbon.

But in more remote spring-fed groves, Dr. Lundgren found, donkeys tended not to linger, and their impact on vegetation was much less drastic. At many of the sites, the researchers found mountain lion caches — the stashed carcasses that are hidden away behind boulders or thickets to prevent theft by scavengers and other cats. Many of the Death Valley caches contained donkey remains, suggesting that donkeys in parts of the park were serving an important ecological function: cat food…

“Our study shows that burros can denude wetlands but only when mountain lions are absent,” Dr. Lundgren said. “This is the case in the most visible springs in Death Valley, which occur at campsites, where mountain lions are fearful to go,” Dr. Lundgren said. He said that the places where wild donkeys do the most damage are “places that are artificially safe because of humans.”

The predators, in other words, were acting as a check on the donkeys, Dr. Lundgren said, moderating their impact on sensitive sites into something ecologically useful — well digging and opening up spring-fed thickets.

17) This is great, “11 Questions About the Dr. Oz Crudités Video”

18) Score this one for twitter.  Jesse Singal tweeted what overlooked movie should he watch on a streaming platform and someone suggested Oxygen on Netflix.  I don’t think Singal watched it, but I’m damn glad I did.  

Quick hits (part II)

1) Loved this from National Geographic on creativity and the default mode network.  I have come up with all my best ideas while in the shower or when running and I turn off podcasts:

If you’ve ever emerged from the shower or returned from walking your dog with a clever idea or a solution to a problem you’d been struggling with, it may not be a fluke.

Rather than constantly grinding away at a problem or desperately seeking a flash of inspiration, research from the last 15 years suggests that people may be more likely to have creative breakthroughs or epiphanies when they’re doing a habitual task that doesn’t require much thought—an activity in which you’re basically on autopilot. This lets your mind wander or engage in spontaneous cognition or “stream of consciousness” thinking, which experts believe helps retrieve unusual memories and generate new ideas.

“People always get surprised when they realize they get interesting, novel ideas at unexpected times because our cultural narrative tells us we should do it through hard work,” says Kalina Christoff, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “It’s a pretty universal human experience.”

Now we’re beginning to understand why these clever thoughts occur during more passive activities and what’s happening in the brain, says Christoff. The key, according to the latest research, is a pattern of brain activity—within what’s called the default mode network—that occurs while an individual is resting or performing habitual tasks that don’t require much attention.

Researchers have shown that the default mode network (DMN)—which connects more than a dozen regions of the brain—becomes more active during mind-wandering or passive tasks than when you’re doing something that demands focus. Simply put, the DMN is “the state the brain returns to when you’re not actively engaged,” explains Roger Beaty, a cognitive neuroscientist and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab at Penn State University. By contrast, when you’re mired in a demanding task, the brain’s executive control systems keep your thinking focused, analytical, and logical…

Marcus Raichle, a neurologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleagues serendipitously discovered the default mode network in 2001 when they were using positron emission tomography (PET) to see how the brains of volunteers were functioning as they performed novel, attention-demanding tasks. The team then compared those images to ones made while the brain was in a resting state and noticed that specific brain regions were more active during passive tasks than engaging ones.

However, because the function of each brain region isn’t well characterized and because a specific brain area can do different things under different circumstances, neuroscientists prefer to talk about “networks of brain areas,” such as the default mode network, which function together during certain activities, according to John Kounios, a cognitive neuroscientist and director of the Creativity Research Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Raichle named this network the “default” mode network because of its heightened activity during idle periods, says Randy L. Buckner, a neuroscientist at Harvard University. But it’s something of a misnomer because the default mode network is also active in other mental tasks, such as remembering past events or engaging in self-reflective thought.

The network is also “involved in the early stages of idea generation, drawing from past experiences and knowledge about the world,” explains Beaty. “When you’re not actively working on a problem, the brain keeps spinning and you can get restructuring of elements of the problem, pieces get reshuffled, and something clicks.” The DMN, he adds, “helps you combine information in different ways and simulate possibilities.”

2) Good stuff on “Stop the Steal”

“‘Stop the Steal’ is a metaphor,” Skocpol said, “for the country being taken away from the people who think they should rightfully be setting the tone.” More than a decade later, evidence remains secondary when what you’re really doing is questioning whose vote counts—and who counts as an American.

Elaine Godfrey: Tell me what connection you see between the Tea Party movement that you studied and the Trump-inspired Stop the Steal effort.

Theda Skocpol: There’s a definite line. Opinion polls tell us that people who participated in or sympathized with the Tea Party—some groups are still meeting—were disproportionately angry about immigration and the loss of America as they know it. They became core supporters of Trump. I’m quite certain that some organizations that were Tea Party–labeled helped organize Stop the Steal stuff.

Trump has expanded the appeal of an angry, resentful ethno-nationalist politics to younger whites. But it’s the same outlook.

Godfrey: So how do you interpret the broader Stop the Steal movement?

Skocpol: I don’t think Stop the Steal is about ballots at all. I don’t believe a lot of people really think that the votes weren’t counted correctly in 2020. They believe that urban people, metropolitan people—disproportionately young and minorities, to be sure, but frankly liberal whites—are an illegitimate brew that’s changing America in unrecognizable ways and taking it away from them. Stop the Steal is a way of saying that. Stop the Steal is a metaphor. And remember, they declared voting fraud before the election.

3) Really enjoyed this interview of Mike Judge.  Never really got into Beavis and Butthead, but I’m a huge fan of Office Space, Idiocracy, and Silicon Valley.

4) I could be wrong :-), but I feel like I’ve actually become pretty good at admitting when I’m wrong.  It’s definitely an important part of maturity.  Jane Coaston:

We live in a world in which being right — or, at least, being seen as being right by as many people as possible — is important cultural currency. And while that makes sense for “Jeopardy!” contestants and neurosurgeons, it’s detrimental for politicians, pundits and the rest of us, who interact with our neighbors, friends and loved ones and the occasional grocery store attendant who might remind us that “12 items or fewer” actually means something.

 

Refusing to admit you’re wrong may be intended as self-protection but is really self-deception, which hurts you and your community. Like any untruth, it destroys trust and harms relationships on every level. I believe that in some ways, this stubborn dishonesty is at the root of our country’s polarization — millions of Americans seemingly incapable of admitting fault, focused instead on the faults of others. It’s driving us all into a moral and social ditch.

And yet we remain committed to this path. Rather than admit to being wrong, some people double down. (I’m sure that for dedicated conspiracy theorists like QAnon followers, Hillary Clinton’s arrest should be taking place any day now.) Others, particularly public figures and politicians, prefer to act as if the missteps never even happened. They merely glide past their mistakes, misunderstandings and outright falsehoods.

Some seem to find strength in dishonesty, able to construct entire worldviews out of lies because the truth would be far too humiliating. But admitting to being wrong — whether it’s about the rules of a card game or about the results of an election — isn’t a weakness. It’s a powerful statement of vulnerability. I know from my efforts to be honest about myself how much strength that takes.

5) This is encouraging, “Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022”

6) Book review that is a fascinating tale of the legal development of “rape” in the early US.

But the real assist came from the 17th-century lawyer Sir Matthew Hale, whose jurisprudence dominated the trial. Sir William Blackstone’s “Commentaries” on English criminal law supplied the Colonies and later new country with a basic understanding of many crimes, and Blackstone incorporated Hale’s ideas of what renders a rape prosecution plausible. According to Sweet, Hale, who was deeply anxious about malicious women bringing false accusations against innocent men, believed “the question was not simply whether a woman had been forced to have sex against her will but also whether her reputation was good enough, whether she had resisted vigorously enough, whether she had cried out loudly enough, whether she had sustained sufficiently conspicuous physical injuries and whether she had reported the crime soon enough.” Nearly every defense attorney funneled his questions through the Hale framework. And when it was the judge’s turn to instruct the jury in advance of their deliberations, he declared Hale’s ideas “just” and thus, as Sweet writes, completed “the transformation of Hale’s commentaries from suggestions written by a retired jurist into rigid rules that defined the nature of settled law and that were binding on the jurors.”

7) I had no idea that HBO had spent $30 million on a pilot for a Game of Thrones prequel and declared it unworthy before moving onto House of the Dragon.  Was also really interesting to see the role of George R.R. Martin in all this.

8) Big if true:

A new report from the Constructive Dialogue Institute, which was founded in 2017 by scholars Jonathan Haidt and Caroline Mehl, finds that students who completed an online learning course on navigating difficult conversations showed significant improvements in affective polarization (or a tendency to distrust those with different political views), intellectual humility and conflict resolution skills. This is relative to a control group, as established via 755-student study that involved three colleges and universities.

The free online course, called Perspectives, was developed by the institute (formally known as OpenMind) and includes eight online lessons based on psychological concepts and interactive scenarios. A peer-to-peer conversation guide is optional. According to the institute, Perspectives students “develop a robust toolkit of evidence-based practices to challenge cognitive biases, engage in nuanced thinking and communicate more effectively with others about sensitive and divisive topics.”

The report says that the results “demonstrate that our deep divisions are not inevitable. There are scalable, evidence-based tools that can be used to break our toxic polarization and prepare students for democratic citizenship.”

9) As somebody who has had more than a few beach umbrellas blow away, this is scary, “A beachgoer was killed after being struck by an umbrella” That said, this year we switched over the highly wind-resistant cool cabana an it helped so much. 

10) Rather concerning rom David Wallace-Wells, “Europe’s Energy Crisis May Get a Lot Worse”

I don’t think many Americans appreciate just how tense and tenuous, how very touch and go the energy situation in Europe is right now.

For months, as news of the Ukraine war receded a bit, it was possible to follow the energy story unfolding across the Atlantic and still assume an uncomfortable but familiar-enough winter in Europe, characterized primarily by high prices.

In recent weeks, the prospects have begun to look darker. In early August the European Union approved a request that member states reduce gas consumption by 15 percent — quite a large request and one that several initially balked at. In Spain, facing record-breaking heat wave after record-breaking heat wave at the height of the country’s tourist season, the government announced restrictions on commercial air-conditioning, which may not be set below 27 degrees Celsius, or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In France, an Associated Press article said, “urban guerrillas” are taking to the streets, shutting off storefront lights to reduce energy consumption. In the Netherlands a campaign called Flip the Switch is asking residents to limit showers to five minutes and to drop air-conditioning and clothes dryers entirely. Belgium has reversed plans to retire nuclear power plants, and Germany, having ruled out the possibility of such a turnabout in June, is now considering it as well…

Walk me through that worst case. How would we get to that kind of crisis?

I think you would see Russia continue to restrict gas exports and maybe cut them off completely to Europe — and a very cold winter. I think a combination of those two things would mean sky-high energy prices. But there’s a lot of other sources of uncertainty and risk. It’s not just high prices. There comes a certain point where there’s just not enough molecules to do all the work that gas needs to do. And governments will have to ration energy supplies and decide what’s important.

10) Pretty fascinating read on the schism within the United Methodist Church over homosexuality. 

11) OMG HOA’s are the worst!  I will never live somewhere with an HOA.  NC residents had to fight to the state supreme court to get solar panels installed over HOA objections. 

12) Greenhouse on Alito:

Barely a month after handing down the majority opinion that erased the right to abortion, Justice Samuel Alito traveled to Rome to give a keynote address at a “religious liberty summit” convened by the Religious Liberty Initiative of the University of Notre Dame’s law school. As the video that Notre Dame posted of the bearded justice delivering his remarks made clear, this was a victory lap.

The press coverage of that speech last month mainly focused on his snarky comments about world leaders who had the effrontery to criticize what the Supreme Court had done in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “One of these was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he paid the price,” Justice Alito deadpanned as laughter filled the majestic Galleria Colonna.

One can debate the degree of bad taste displayed by such a remark, but that’s not my concern. What interests me about his talk was its substance: a call to arms on behalf of religion…

“The challenge for those who want to protect religious liberty in the United States, Europe and other similar places,” Justice Alito said, “is to convince people who are not religious that religious liberty is worth special protection.”

 

On one level, there is nothing surprising about such a declaration from Justice Alito. We know where he stands on religion. He is the author of a long string of opinions that have elevated the free exercise of religion above civil society’s other values, including the right not to be discriminated against and the right to enjoy benefits intended for all. He wrote a concurring opinion in June’s astonishing decision that permitted a high school football coach to commandeer the 50-yard line after games for his personal prayers over the public school district’s objection…

So yes, we know all that. But Justice Alito’s Notre Dame speech still merits close examination for what it reveals about the assumptions built into his worldview. What does it mean, for example, to assert that it is “people who are not religious” who need to be persuaded that religion is worthy of special treatment? Do all religiously observant people naturally believe that religion merits more protections than other values? There’s scant evidence for that; in any event, that has not been our law, at least not until recently. Still on the books is a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which provides that the Constitution’s free exercise clause offers no special religious exemption from a “neutral” law that is “generally applicable.” That decision’s author was Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more overtly religious people to sit on the Supreme Court in modern times…

In Rome, more clearly than in the past, Justice Alito provided his own definition of religious liberty, an expansive definition that mirrored the court’s holding in this summer’s praying coach case. In that case, the school district in Bremerton, Wash., had offered the coach an alternate place where he could pray after the games. But the coach insisted that he felt religiously compelled to pray in public in full view of the spectator stands. The court, which in the past was notably stingy when it came to the free speech rights of public employees, endorsed this expression of militant Christianity.

In his Rome speech, Justice Alito did not refer explicitly to that case, but his definition of religious liberty underscored and explained the court’s remarkable departure. Religious liberty must mean more than simply “freedom of worship,” he said. “Freedom of worship means freedom to do these things that you like to do in the privacy of your home, or in your church or your synagogue or your mosque or your temple. But when you step outside into the public square, in the light of day, you had better behave yourself like a good secular citizen.” And he added, “That’s the problem that we face.”

13) The real problem in the Breonna Taylor shooting was not mostly the cops who performed the raid, but the whole system that led to this misguided raid.  Glad to see the prosecutions reflecting this:

Former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett intends to plead guilty this month to federal charges in connection to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, in what would be the first conviction in a case that sparked months of racial justice protests in that city and across the country.

Goodlett and her attorney, Brandon Marshall, along with Mike Songer, an attorney representing the Justice Department, confirmed her plea agreement during an online court hearing Friday before Magistrate Judge Regina S. Edwards in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Kentucky. Edwards set an in-person hearing Aug. 22 to entertain that plea and released Goodlett on a $10,000 bond, ordering her to relinquish her passport and remove all firearms from her home…

The federal government is trying a different approach, charging current and former Louisville police in connection withwhat court filings allege as an overzealous and imperious narcotics investigations unit that used reckless tactics and knowingly put local residents in danger with no legal justification.

Hankison is charged with violating the civil rights of Taylor, her boyfriend and their neighbors when he allegedly fired several shots through a bedroom window and through a sliding-glass door — both of which were covered with blinds and a curtain.

14) Gallup, “Average American Remains OK With Higher Taxes on Rich”

This question was first asked by Fortune back in 1939 — at the tail end of the depression. At that point, there were record rates of unemployment and poverty. One might suppose that Americans would have been very happy to agree that the rich should be heavily taxed. But they actually weren’t. In that 1939 poll, despite the challenging economic conditions, just 35% of Americans approved of the idea, while 54% disapproved.

When Gallup asked the question again in 1998, a slim majority of 51% disapproved. In the nine times the question has been asked since then, positive reactions to this idea of “heavy taxes on the rich” have been generally higher, although variable. In 2008 and 2011, the public disapproved by slight margins. But in surveys conducted in 2013, 2015, 2016 and in July of this year, slim majorities approved of the idea of heavy taxes on the rich in order to redistribute wealth. The latest results are 52% approve, 47% disapprove.

In short, the question confirms the well-documented finding noted above. Americans tend to agree with the idea that those with more money should pay even more in taxes than they do now…

As is often the case, American public opinion on taxing the rich varies depending on how the policy is explained. And it is not constant across all population segments.

For one thing, not surprisingly, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to favor heavy taxes on the rich. This partisan gap has been significant and consistent over the years.

About seven in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have supported heavier taxes on the rich each time the classic Gallup question has been asked since October 2008. That compares to a consistent third or less of Republicans. In July’s update, 79% of Democrats support the idea of heavy taxes on the rich; 24% of Republicans agree. The partisan gap seen since October 2008 is slightly larger than it was in 2007 and April 2008…

Bottom Line

How valued resources are distributed across all members of a society is among the most important challenges a society faces. No social system distributes resources equally. This leaves the inevitable reality of “inequality” where some end up with more than others. Dealing with this inequality has been one of society’s most significant challenges throughout history. And it remains so today.

The people of the United States have addressed inequality in many ways throughout the nation’s history. In particular, the government has for over a century carried out a progressive tax system that extracts higher percentages of taxes from those with the most income.

The American public, taken as a whole, approves of this progressive system. The majority of the public would like to see taxes become even more progressive. But today’s political realities don’t appear conducive to an agreement on new taxes on the rich. Rank-and-file Republicans, and their leaders in Congress, remain strongly opposed to new taxes. And, as evidenced by the new Inflation Reduction Act about to become law, Democratic leadership has, in the end, decided to proceed without arguing or attempting to change the fundamentals of the individual tax system. What might happen in the future, of course, remains to be seen.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Terrific essay on Bruce Willis‘ cognitive decline and his acting career.  I had almost forgotten what a delightful charmer he was in “Moonlighting” and how that got completely lost in action here Bruce Willis.

2) Brian Beutler:

If Democrats accept that there’s immense political power in the backlash to the Dobbs decision, they can begin thinking through how to harness it effectively and with a sense of urgency. Here I’ll return to an idea that had its first test run in Big Tent eight months ago, right after the Dobbs oral arguments made clear that the Supreme Court would abolish the right to abortion.

If you’re a regular reader, you know it by heart already. Democrats should make voters a simple promise: Give us two more Senate seats and the House and we’ll codify the right to abortion in January 2023. 

By now I think it’s fair to say both that the idea has taken on a life of its own (which is great!) and that the party’s leaders and top strategists have been pretty listless about making this straightforward promise the engine of the national midterm campaign (not as great…)…

The hope has to be that the Kansas results awaken more Democrats to the power of this formulation so that the stakes of the election are lost on nobody. The theory is that the clearer the promise, the more cleanly Democrats can reduce the election, in every state and district in the country, to the same basic question Kansas voters just answered overwhelmingly. 

And here I’d add one lonely note of caution: As tempting as it might be, Democrats should avoid extending the same formulation to the whole gamut of achievable progressive objectives. With two more senators and the House, Democrats could and should be willing to reach further than fulfilling one promise, particularly when that promise is simply to restore a status quo that had prevailed with the consent of the public for 50 years. But that doesn’t mean they should commit to those things ex ante, in the same contractual terms they apply to codifying Roe

Two more senators and the House for Roe makes the election a grand referendum on a single, critical question. Two more senators and the House for Roe and a higher minimum wage and universal background checks and an assault weapons ban and democracy reform and so on reminds voters that national elections are about many things, some of which make them feel cross pressured, and that perhaps their support for abortion access doesn’t outweigh their gun-rights absolutism. 

That doesn’t mean Democrats should abandon those issues, or codify Roe and call it a day. Their allies should expect them to govern and make the country a better, fairer place along many dimensions, irrespective of their defining campaign rhetoric. But ask yourself: If the Kansas referendum asked voters to decide not just whether abortion should remain protected by the state’s constitution, but also whether the state should simultaneously restrict gun access, ban gerrymandering, and increase the minimum wage to $12 or $15, would it have succeeded by a nearly 20 point margin? Or would it have gone down to demoralizing defeat? …

The bigger risk, though, isn’t that the party overpromises, but that it underreaches. 

Survey a few thousand voters across the country, present them with an abstract list of priorities, and ask them to rank them highest to lowest, you may find that the national hivemind thinks “inflation” is a higher priority than “abortion access”—whatever that means. 

Unfortunately, what it means to the hivemind of party strategists, is that Democrats should make “inflation” rather than abortion access the thematic center of their campaigns. Kansas is a proof point for how foolish that way of thinking is. Try to imagine any serious anti-inflation policy question on the ballot in Kansas’s midterm primary passing 60-40, with more votes than Joe Biden won in the state two years ago. Can you do it? Does the very idea strike you as obviously stupid? It should! Because it is. It’s this:

Democrats should instead endeavor to reduce themselves as completely as possible to the people who will restore access to abortion in every state. If they try to reduce themselves to “inflation fighters” instead, Republicans will happily remind voters that inflation spiked under Democratic rule, and they will lose. 

By the same token, the Democratic edge on the abortion issue stems from the fact that Republicans have created a simple dichotomy between bans and no bans. There will come a time when elected Democrats will have to navigate thorny questions about whether, when, and how to restrict the right to abortion. But those questions only become salient against a backdrop where abortion is a national right. Some Democrats will feel compelled to say they support certain restrictions; others like their allies in Kansas, will couch their support for abortion access in libertarian or anti-government terms. 

That’s all basically fine, so long as the party’s promise is to revive abortion access everywhere in the country that Republicans have eliminated it. The Dobbs decision was wrong and bad and so Democrats will neutralize it, restoring the prior balance where some states (and national-level Republicans) vie to curtail access knowing they can’t eliminate it outright. 

 

 

 

3) Joseph Allen on what schools should look like this year:

That leaves one hard question: What to do about a child who has Covid? The first part is obvious. Kids with symptoms should stay home. But the trickier part, of course, is determining when they can return.

People can remain infectious past five days, and some for 10 days and even beyond. The C.D.C.’s recommendation is to isolate for five days, and then mask for five more. That’s smart. It relies on masks because they work.

Ideally, we would have kids “test to return,” as a colleague and I recommended last year, where kids must have two negative rapid tests before returning to school. But I think the strict science here is running up against the reality of the moment — that the longer kids who test positive are required to be out of school, and the longer parents miss work, the stronger the incentive for parents not to test their children if they show symptoms.

Next best is the current C.D.C. “5 and 5” approach, where students who test positive must stay home for the first five days and then return to school masked for the next five. But that still means that the default is for kids who test positive to miss up to a week of school. If masks work on day five, they also work on day three, right? So it’s reasonable to have kids stay home while they have symptoms, return once their symptoms have passed and wear a mask until 10 days after symptoms began.

Most school districts dropped their mask mandates by the end of the 2021-22 school year. This is a good policy choice that should continue into the fall because the value of mandates drops over time, as people become less likely to comply. Still, anyone who wants to should be allowed to wear an N95 mask. One-way masking works, and those arguing that N95s work only if everyone is wearing one have brought their messaging dangerously close to that of anti-maskers…

Masks should be a go-to, quick implementation strategy if something changes in a dire way. For example, a variant that disproportionately affects kids, or that has severe immune escape and resets us back to March 2020, God forbid.

It’s also time to end the practices that were put in place early in the emergency response phase of the pandemic that have remained for no apparent reason other than inertia. No more barring parents from entering school buildings, making kids have “no talking” lunches or eating lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria, limiting extracurricular activities or canceling field trips. Certainly, these policies do not contribute to risk reduction at this point.

4) Interesting piece on English soccer teams that bounce between the Premier League and the Championship.  I was really intrigued to read about a striker who is a goal-scoring machine in the Championship, but hardly at all in the Premier League.

5) Really enjoyed this Yascha Mounk interview with Sarah Longwell about 2024:

Yascha Mounk: You’ve been speaking with many focus groups over the last weeks and months about Donald Trump and the January 6th Committee hearings. Do you think that the hearings are having an impact on how Americans view him? And more broadly, how do most Americans now feel about Donald Trump?

Sarah Longwell: It’s not that they’re breaking through so much as they’re seeping in. Changing minds is really hard, but giving people a little psychic permission to move on is something that can be done. I’ve done nine focus groups since the hearings began, all with Trump 2020 voters. And the most stunning thing that has happened is that in four of the groups, zero of the respondents wanted to see Trump run again in 2024. About 15% of the nine groups wanted to see him run again. 

That’s only significant because prior to the hearings, we had done dozens and dozens of focus groups with Trump voters since January 6th, and half or more of the group always wanted him to run again. It rarely fell below half of the group. But people are very worried that Donald Trump can’t win in 2024. They have real doubts about his electability, and this is where I think the hearings have really made a difference. Joe Biden was nominated and elected by the Democrats, not necessarily because he was everybody’s top choice, but because he was the one everybody thought other people would vote for and that he could win and beat Donald Trump. These Republicans are starting to doubt that Trump is the person who can win in 2024. They still like him, to be clear. But they think he might have too much baggage: “We really need to win in 2024 and I think there are better people.” 

One thing that sort of happened at the same time as the January 6th Committee was the Ron DeSantis boomlet. His name comes up all the time in the focus groups. They think Trump is great: “He did great things for the country. He was a great president. But I think maybe we need some new blood. We got a lot of stars. I really like Ron DeSantis. I like Kristi Noem, Tim Scott, Ted Cruz…” They have a bunch of people that they’re interested in that are fresh. But they’re all from the America First wing of the party. Nobody wants Mike Pence or Nikki Haley. 

The thing that I keep trying to impress upon people is that even if Trump wanes in the imaginations of people, they have decided that they love his particular combative style of politics. They crave it. They want it, which is why there’s no going back to the old guard. There’s a reason that all of the candidates in 2022 look like little mini-Trumps, running around talking about the election being stolen and critical race theory and a lot of vague gesturing at QAnon candidates—they’re gonna go “RINO hunting,” posing with guns. Trump has unleashed a force that has changed what the Republican Party looks like, and what the voters want out of their elected officials…

Longwell: I haven’t even heard her name, and I’m following who the good moderates are that could potentially be part of a future generation of moderate Democrats. I think it’s partly the Democratic-aligned media: the fact that Democratic moderates are a little less likely to go seeking the spotlight in part because they’re not out there fighting the big progressive fights that get you a lot of on Twitter, and Twitter’s where the media lives. There’s this constant false frame about who’s getting all the love in these races. 

When Trump was President, he built this Trump Cinematic Universe in which there were lots of little Avenger mini-Trumps who now are stars: Mike Pompeo, Tucker Carlson, Ron DeSantis. But there’s not a big group of Democrats who are out there trying to help Joe Biden advance his agenda. A couple months back, the big narrative was how bad Democrats’ messaging was, and I was one of the people really pounding on that, because I was listening to my focus group participants saying, “I never hear from Joe Biden, I never hear from Kamala Harris” when they talked about Build Back Better or any other legislation. They only knew the price tag; they didn’t know what was in it. If Joe Biden’s not a very good communicator, send out the troops. Build a bench of surrogates, have people on TV, identify breakout stars: who’s good at selling an agenda, who’s good at talking about policy, who’s good at arguing about the politics. But the Democratic Party hasn’t done that.

I think that Democrats are just different on the inside than Republicans. I don’t know quite how to formulate this, but I feel like they’re scared of their own shadows. They say, “Joe Biden’s policy is not popular, so I don’t want to go out and do it.” Donald Trump was passing nothing, and Republicans would go out there—Jim Jordan or any Trump acolyte—saying, “We moved the embassy to Jerusalem! We did an executive order on this or that!” They would tick through five things and they would all say the exact same things. Democrats cannot get that discipline. They seem unwilling to go out and be the person to carry the water. Republicans close ranks, they go out and push the message. The fear that’s in Democrats on messaging and communications is weird to me.

6) Cool prospect here on Monkeypox vaccine (thanks BB):

Amid a newly announced monkeypox national public emergency and shortage of vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration announced it is reviewing a new vaccine approach that could lead to a fivefold increase in the US’s supply of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine.

“Please know we’ve been exploring all scientifically feasible options, and we believe this could be a promising approach,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, speaking during a Thursday press briefing.

The vaccine would be given in a smaller, shallower injection under the skin, a method Califf said would still be safe, effective, and would allow up to five doses to be pulled from one vial.

The new strategy will still need to be tested in clinical trials — a process that could take weeks or months. But experts say prior studies look promising, and if successful, this could be a safe way to stretch limited vaccine supply.

“This kind of research is exactly what FDA and NIH should be leading in this moment of public health emergency,” said Dr. Josh Sharfstein, a former FDA Commissioner and currently vice dean for public health practice and community engagement and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

7) This is really good, “The War on Drugs Has a Warning for Post-Roe America”

With the fall of Roe v. Wade, physicians across the country are struggling to balance the conflicting imperatives of their calling to care with their institutional duty to avoid legal liability, all to the detriment of their patients.

Medicine is hard to govern with the blunt instrument of criminal law. Human biological processes, including pregnancy, are enormously variable. In many cases, determining the precise moment when someone’s life or health is so threatened that abortion would be legal under a particular law is not an ethically answerable scientific question. And so doctors turn to lawyers, often with no medical experience, to protect themselves from prison.

Under Roe, most obstetricians and gynecologists didn’t face this level of legal peril. But this isn’t the first time America has criminalized aspects of medicine. Physicians who prescribe controlled substances like opioids carry a similar burden. They can face decades in prison if prosecutors target them for overprescribing. Although there are cases of bad actors who prescribed opioids for profit, even legitimate physicians may fear being targeted by law enforcement, and research shows that the threat of legal action has a broad chilling effect on the way doctors provide care.The war on drugs shows that when medicine is criminalized and politicized, harm to patients and doctors increases, while the activities that the laws are intended to curb continue or even increase.

8) Cool rundown of best two-player board games.  I have a couple of these and need to play them more.  I really love the simple gameplay, but reasonably complex strategy of Hive.

9) Unsurprisingly, most drugs are still safe and effective long after their expiration dates:

In a small 2012 study, Dr. Cantrell and three colleagues tested eight drugs, containing 14 widely differing active ingredients, that had been sitting unopened in a pharmacy closet with expiration dates that had passed between 28 and 40 years earlier. They found that 86 percent of the drugs’ ingredients were still present in the concentrations they were supposed to be. The findings suggest that some medications, like acetaminophen and the opioid painkiller hydrocodone, retain their potency “for a long, long time,” he said.

Dr. Cantrell pointed out, though, that he and his colleagues did not actually test the drugs in people. “I can’t say that it’s OK to take expired medication,” he said. The F.D.A. also recommends against taking expired drugs. However, he has been working at the California Poison Control Center in San Diego for nearly 30 years, and said that people call the center regularly after realizing they have taken expired medicines, worried about what will happen. To his knowledge, nothing bad ever has, he said.

Dr. Cantrell’s study is one of just a few published studies that have evaluated the chemistry of expired medicines. In a study published in 2006, researchers with the F.D.A. and the pharmaceutical company Sandoz tested 122 different drug products and found that 88 percent were still safe to use an average of 5.5 years past their expiration date.

In fact, the F.D.A. sometimes tests expired drugs needed for public health emergencies and extends their expiration dates if they are found to work and be safe. You can check whether the expiration dates of any of the drugs you own have been extended by searching here.

10) My 20-year old son had his wisdom teeth extracted this summer and, fortunately, all went well, and he seemed to enjoy his two weeks of a soft diet.  I saw his x-rays and it sure seemed like he needed them out, but it did prompt a short search in which I came across this from 2011:

The association said that 80 percent of young adults who retained previously healthy wisdom teeth developed problems within seven years, and that retained wisdom teeth are extracted up to 70 percent of the time.

 

Yet when asked, the association was not able to produce the evidence for these figures. “We were not able to locate the reference for it, and subsequently deleted the statement from our Web site,” Janice Teplitz, the group’s associate executive director of communications, said last week.

As of Monday, however, the association’s Web site still said that “between 25 percent and almost 70 percent” of the time, retained, asymptomatic wisdom teeth “are eventually extracted.”

Many studies suggest that the actual number of people who have trouble with their wisdom teeth is far lower.

Oral surgeons warn that even when young people are not experiencing pain or discomfort, they may have infection or inflammation; numerous studies have found that adults who keep their wisdom teeth tend to have more such problems over time than those who have them removed. But there does not appear to be a single randomized clinical trial — the gold standard for scientific proof — comparing similar patients who have and have not undergone prophylactic wisdom teeth removal…

Our dentist warned us that cysts and tumors could grow around impacted wisdom teeth. But a new study of more than 6,000 patients in Greece found that only 2.7 percent of the teeth had a cyst or tumor. An older study, often cited by critics of routine extraction, found that only 12 percent of 1,756 middle-aged people who had not had impacted wisdom teeth removed experienced a complication.

11) I really don’t like the idea that you cannot make up for “sleep debt” as I’ve basically been a fan of sleeping in on weekends my whole life:

The sleep debt collectors are coming. They want you to know that there is no such thing as forgiveness, only a shifting expectation of how and when you’re going to pay them back. You think of them as you lie in bed at night. How much will they ask for? Are you solvent? You fall asleep, then wake up in a cold sweat an hour later. You fall asleep, then wake up, drifting in and out of consciousness until morning.

As most every human has discovered, a couple nights of bad sleep is often followed by grogginess, difficulty concentrating, irritability, mood swings and sleepiness. For years, it was thought that these effects, accompanied by cognitive impairments like lousy performances on short-term memory tests, could be primarily attributed to a chemical called adenosine, a neurotransmitter that inhibits electrical impulses in the brain. Spikes of adenosine had been consistently observed in sleep-deprived rats and humans.

Adenosine levels can be quickly righted after a few nights of good sleep, however. This gave rise to a scientific consensus that sleep debt could be forgiven with a couple of quality snoozes — as reflected in casual statements like “I’ll catch up on sleep” or “I’ll be more awake tomorrow.”

But a review article published recently in the journal Trends in Neurosciences contends that the folk concept of sleep as something that can be saved up and paid off is bunk. The review, which canvassed the last couple of decades of research on long term neural effects of sleep deprivation in both animals and humans, points to mounting evidence that getting too little sleep most likely leads to long-lasting brain damage and increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is really, really important in setting the stage for what needs to be done in sleep health and sleep science,” said Mary Ellen Wells, a sleep scientist at the University of North Carolina, who did not contribute to the review.

12) Some interesting social science on guns, “More Guns, More Unintended Consequences: The Effects of Right-to-Carry on Criminal Behavior and Policing in US Cities”

We analyze a sample of 47 major US cities to illuminate the mechanisms that lead Right-to-Carry concealed handgun laws to increase crime. The altered behavior of permit holders, career criminals, and the police combine to generate 29 and 32 percent increases in firearm violent crime and firearm robbery respectively. The increasing firearm violence is facilitated by a massive 35 percent increase in gun theft (p=0.06), with further crime stimulus flowing from diminished police effectiveness, as reflected in a 13 percent decline in violent crime clearance rates (p=0.03). Any crime-inhibiting benefits from increased gun carrying are swamped by the crime-stimulating impacts.

13) I’m loving my access to the real Dall-E 2, but here’s a nice Wired story on Dall-e Mini

14) I love this  (whole thread is really good):

15) This, from Sarah Longwell:

16) And, as long as I’m sharing the tweets, this is just a terrific takedown of the Forward Party with so much good social science.  Read the whole thread:

I7) In general, I’m okay with my county making election day a teacher workday.  But to do so because all those voters are somehow a threat to students is just to give in to paranoid parents and over-cautious hysteria:

Wake County school leaders are considering not holding classes on Election Day in response to parents who say it’s a safety risk when so many schools serve as polling sites.

The school system is currently scheduled to have classes on Nov. 8, when potentially more than 100,000 voters will enter schools to cast their ballots. Parents have been lobbying Wake to hold a teacher workday on Election Day so that students won’t be exposed to safety risks from so many strangers walking onto school campuses.

“While there are many risks that we can’t predict, we do have the ability to mitigate this one,” Kirstin Morrison, a Wake parent, said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “We can align a teacher workday with Election Day so that our students can stay out of the buildings and safe with the extra visitors in those school buildings.”

Morrison, the Wake parent, said 38,785 voters entered Wake schools during the May 17 primary. She called that “an alarming security risk” as she talked about how voters crossed paths with students inside her son’s elementary school as they were getting lunch in the cafeteria.

“It concerned me that day, and a week later as I watched what unfolded at Robb Elementary School it was a crushing worry,” Morrison continued. “So today’s world is unpredictable and we have no ability to be immune to such a tragedy unfolding in our own community.”

Morrison’s concerns were echoed by several other parents who submitted written comments to Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“With recent events, safety at school is a top concern for me as a parent with a child in WCPSS,” wrote Kimberly Hatch. “I understand the importance of the civic duty to vote and understand that our schools provide a space that can be used as a polling place, however I have concerns with the students being on campus for election days.

18) I just love the problems Derek Thompson thinks about and the way he thinks about things.  Great discussion on “Is Old Music Killing New Music?”

Carry on my wayward son

Sorry, I wanted a Kansas reference in the post title that wasn’t a play on “what’s the matter with Kansas.”  And, great song.  

Some good takes on Kansas and abortion…

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern:

Even in a state in which Republican voters vastly outnumber Democrats, even in the midst of a primary contest in which highly motivated GOP voters were favored to turn out to the polls in disproportionate numbers, and even with deceptive last-minute texts to voters suggesting that a “yes” vote on the amendment would protect “choice,” Kansans stood up and showed up. In so doing, they roundly vanquished what might have been the first of many state efforts to capitalize on the 5–4 Supreme Court’s offer to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

If anything, the fact that more voters cast a ballot on the Kansas abortion referendum than have ever voted in the midterm general elections there suggests that every single hot take to which we have been treated over the years—about how reproductive freedom is a toxic issue, and women don’t vote on it, and the fall of Roe v. Wade would be more demoralizing than mobilizing for progressives—has been completely wrongheaded. There are lessons to be learned here beyond mere surprise and delight.

The newest polling from Gallup suggests that abortion has become a newly salient issue this summer, and that the gender gap between men and women on the issue of abortion has increased since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationoverruled Roe in June. This was borne out in Kansas, where voter registration surged among women after Dobbs. Efforts of those who have taken the position that forced birth is somehow pleasant and rewarding, even for America’s 10-year-old rape victims, have backfired spectacularly, as have their claims that abortion rights advocates are lying about new dangers that abortion bans pose to patients with high-risk pregnancies or who are experiencing a miscarriage.

Back in 2012, Republican Rep. Todd Akin, in the midst of what would prove to be an unsuccessful Senate run, tried to assure us that in cases of “legitimate rape,” pregnancy wasn’t a possibility because it was a known fact that “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” He was, of course, obscenely wrong. But ten years later, facing a national reproductive freedom landscape that suddenly made Akin sound like a radical feminist, the people of Kansas—voting on an amendment that would have removed abortion rights from their state constitution—showed that the body politic is, in fact, capable of shutting down laws that are dangerous, lethal, and poisonous.

In a surprise landslide, Kansans overwhelmingly rejected the amendment. The American people still have ways to stop violence against women dressed up in the sanctimonious guise of coddling and protecting them. And that means that maybe democracy isn’t quite as far gone as some of us had believed.

Even in a state in which Republican voters vastly outnumber Democrats, even in the midst of a primary contest in which highly motivated GOP voters were favored to turn out to the polls in disproportionate numbers, and even with deceptive last-minute texts to voters suggesting that a “yes” vote on the amendment would protect “choice,” Kansans stood up and showed up. In so doing, they roundly vanquished what might have been the first of many state efforts to capitalize on the 5–4 Supreme Court’s offer to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

If anything, the fact that more voters cast a ballot on the Kansas abortion referendum than have ever voted in the midterm general elections there suggests that every single hot take to which we have been treated over the years—about how reproductive freedom is a toxic issue, and women don’t vote on it, and the fall of Roe v. Wade would be more demoralizing than mobilizing for progressives—has been completely wrongheaded. There are lessons to be learned here beyond mere surprise and delight.

The newest polling from Gallup suggests that abortion has become a newly salient issue this summer, and that the gender gap between men and women on the issue of abortion has increased since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationoverruled Roe in June. This was borne out in Kansas, where voter registration surged among women after Dobbs. Efforts of those who have taken the position that forced birth is somehow pleasant and rewarding, even for America’s 10-year-old rape victims, have backfired spectacularly, as have their claims that abortion rights advocates are lying about new dangers that abortion bans pose to patients with high-risk pregnancies or who are experiencing a miscarriage.

For the last six weeks, Republicans have touted their vision of a post-Roe America. It is a place in which rapists get to choose the mother of their children, even if she is 10 years old; in which patients must be dying of sepsis before they can terminate a failing pregnancy; in which doctors who follow their duty of care to perform a life-saving abortion must persuade prosecutors of their proper judgment at risk of incarceration; and in which pharmacists refuse to provide women with autoimmune treatment because they suspect it could be used for an illicit abortion. This reality unfolded in under a month, because it’s the fondest dream of a small minority of uncompromising extremists. [emphases mine]

And, one of my favorite lines ever:

In under a month, even Americans who call themselves abortion opponents have come to see that when abortion is criminal, every uterus is a potential crime scene.

And Jonathan Weiler:

The Kansas vote reflects something else, though. I’ve written before about what political scientists describe as symbolic vs. operational ideology. In plain English, voters might prefer one party for symbolic reasons, including because of perceived alignment of worldviews between themselves and the party they’re loyal to (see my previous books on the subject :)). But their policy preferences might diverge substantially from those symbolic attachments. For example, on election night, 2020, Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Florida by four points. On that same night, a ballot measure calling for an eventual increase in the Florida minimum wage to $15 an hour, a measure Republican officeholders almost universally oppose, won easy passage. Numerous bright red states have, every time they’ve been given the chance, voted in favor of Medicaid expansion, sometimes by overwhelming margins, and usually over the strong objections of their state Republican leaders. Even for all the years Obamacare itself polled poorly (and now it enjoys majority support), almost every one of its specific provisions was broadly popular. It was the “Obama” part, not the “care” part that many people objected to…

In fact, besides climate change, on issue after issue, including increasing access to affordable health care, taxing the wealthy, expanding gun safety measures, supporting same-sex marriage and more, solid majorities prefer the mainstream liberal/Democratic position. One way this basic fact gets obscured is the nature of how public opinion tends to be reported and discussed, which is in partisan terms.

Let me elaborate on this.

I hear friends all the time say that we can’t do anything about X because “half the country” believes Y. What they mean is that most Republicans believe Y, even though that doesn’t represent half the country. This slippage appears frequently in reporting on public opinion, which tends to conflate a split between Democrats and Republicans on an issue with the proposition that the country is evenly or intractably divided. To be clear, the fact that Republicans oppose something, even if a clear majority of all Americans support it, as on climate action, is relevant and critical, given the nature of our political system. But it can muddy the reality animating this post – that *we* are the majority – and contribute to a self-perpetuating pessimism about our future

Josh Barro:

First, it’s worth looking at the messaging in the advertisements from the “no” campaign.

Here’s one ad that says passing the amendment would lead to “a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions.” It adds “Kansans don’t want another government mandate” — superimposing that message over a COVID mask mandate sign. The ad doesn’t even mention the word abortion.

Another ad features one woman’s abortion story, a heartbreaking case involving the sort of abortion that the largest fraction of respondents will tell you should be legal in any poll — one where her life was at risk if she didn’t get one. “It could ban any abortion with no exceptions, even in cases like mine,” she warns, regarding the amendment.

Rachel Cohen, a reporter at Vox who has been doing good writing on internal Democratic debates over abortion strategy, notes on Twitter that “the Kansas coalition leading the fight against amendment targeted their messaging and campaign focus carefully to polling.” You can see that in these messages — a focus on opposing “government mandates” seems designed to speak to moderates or even conservatives, not progressives with strong pro-choice views.

As Cohen noted last month, “although a majority of American voters have repeatedly said they believe Roe should be upheld, roughly one-third of that majority personally opposes abortion.” The “no” campaign in Kansas aimed squarely at those voters, making a forceful argument that the amendment would allow an extreme ban, going against the wishes even of many voters whose views about abortion are broadly negative.

The messaging in the Kansas campaign couldn’t be further from the Groups-Speak mush I have complained about previously — no “reproductive justice,” no “men get abortions, too,” — and it also ignored the sometimes-fashionable idea that you should brush right past voters’ internal qualms about the morality of abortion and simply make the case that abortions themselves are good…

I’m heartened by what we saw in Kansas — not just that the amendment won so resoundingly, but that Democrats demonstrated the ability to run a calculated, poll-tested campaign that is built around the views and concerns of the mass electorate that is wary of what would happen if abortion were banned, rather than the attitudes of what White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield described accurately (if intemperately) earlier this summer as “activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.” It shows that the party can prioritize winning over intra-coalition posturing when it really counts….

So if you are a Republican who does not have especially strong pro-life convictions, it’s worth considering: How much political capital do you really want the party to spend on imposing very unpopular, total or near-total abortion bans? Because if anyone is going to push the party toward a more popular position — for example, toward a “European-style” abortion policy where the procedure is legal up until about the 15th week of pregnancy with extensive restrictions thereafter — it’s going to have to be you. The pro-lifers aren’t going to do it for you.

Steve… We cannot say just how much extreme Republican legislating post-Dobbs mattered, but, it sure ain’t helping Republicans on this.  If Republicans had passed temperate and popular 15-week bans with clear rape/health/life exemptions, they’d probably be doing okay.  Instead, it is an insane conservative one-upsmanship along the lines of, “I’ll see your 10-year old rape victim and raise you a no exceptionseven for the life of the mother).  And, if you think about the current dynamics in the GOP it’s really hard to see them changing on this.  Instead, I strongly suspect they will double down on policies that lead to substantial human suffering.  But, importantly, that will help Democrats win elections to change that.  And, yes, I love that Barro highlights just the messaging I’ve been talking about since the beginning.  Abortion is on the ballot here in NC– just not directly, but hell yes in who are state legislators are– and I damn sure want to see ads like this flooding our airwaves and tying the issue to Republican candidates.  

Quick hits (Part II)

1) Are skittles toxic?  I doubt it, but I’m eating them anyway.

2) I took Vitamin D supplements for about a year. But, barring some dramatic new evidence, I’m done with it. “Study Finds Another Condition That Vitamin D Pills Do Not Help: The vitamin pills do not prevent bone fractures in most people or protect against many other diseases, adding to questions about medical guidance many now take for granted.”

3) I always aim to have my aerobic exercise be at least 20 minutes, but rarely go much over 30.  Good to know that’s pretty efficient.  NYT Well Newsletter:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week from activities like biking or swimming. That corresponds to just over 20 minutes a day. Still, you can benefit from doing less, said Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist who studies exercise at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The first 20 minutes of physical activity per session confer the most health perks, at least in terms of longevity, Dr. Lee said. As you continue working out, “the bang for your buck starts to decrease” in terms of tangible health rewards, she added.

4) Greg Sargent, “Rising GOP anger at Mitch McConnell offers a lesson for Democrats”

Republicans have staged a carnival of fake outrage ever since Sen. Joe Manchin III announced support for a massive climate and health-care package. Their claim: The West Virginia Democrat and his party double-crossed them by announcing a deal just after Senate Republicans helped pass industrial policy making us competitive with China.

There’s a lesson in this for Democrats: Procedural hardball works.

You can see this in rising GOP anger at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican, angry lawmakers say, has been too willing to agree to bipartisan deals on legislation — which allowed that alleged double-cross to happen, catching him flat-footed.

CNN reports on new “internal tensions” in the party, with House Republicans faulting McConnell for negligently letting bipartisanship break out on infrastructuregun control and the Chips and Science Act. That bill invests $280 billion in shoring up the semiconductor industry and in science and technology development, and just passed both houses

Regardless, there’s a moral in this story for Democrats: There is often no serious penalty for political hardball, no matter how far it pushes the procedural envelope.

Republicans have strained vigorously to gin up outrage over the Democrats’ procedural handling of all this. House Republicans raged that the Manchin deal required them to sink the chips bill. Senate Republicans held up a measure to provide health care to veterans suffering from burn pit exposure, though there’s some dispute about the motive. And Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) declared the Democrats’ perfidy would make it harder to win GOP support for a bill codifying same-sex marriage.

That’s absurdly revealing: The explicit admission is that the merits of the same-sex marriage bill (and possibly the burn pit bill) are beside the point. If Republicans do sink that measure, it will be because Democrats used their authority under the simple-majority reconciliation process to pass something entirely unrelated to it!

But that aside, here’s the thing: None of that fake outrage will matter in the least.

5) Nice summary of evidence on food and weight loss from Eric Barker:

Here’s the neuroscience of eating less and staying fit:

  • Beware “Food Reward”But blander foods aren’t fun! (Which is why you’ll eat less of them.)
  • Reduce Food Variety: Say you ate steak for dinner. If dessert was more steak, you’d be a lot less likely to eat it.
  • Control Your Environment: Discipline at the grocery store. And put all your tasty snacks in a jar. On a high shelf. In another country.
  • “High Satiety” Foods: Eat meat, fish, oatmeal, vegetables… Okay, I’m just typing that and I already feel full.
  • Exercise To Maintain Weight Loss: It may not help you lose fat but it will help keep it off — as long as you can tolerate the music at the gym.

The food variety party really hits home and makes so much intuitive sense and is something I personally really need to work on.  When I’m feeling full from my dinner, I switch foods and pack on more calories.

Reduce Your Variety

In 2010 Chris Voight ate nothing but 20 plain potatoes a day for 60 days. Yes, your mind cannot process that degree of horror. He lost 21 pounds. Frankly, he had trouble eating enough because he just wasn’t all that hungry.

Yes, this brief tableau of gastronomic desolation is anecdotal, but the scientists are nodding. Food variety is a very big deal. What six words have the mystical ability to increase space in your stomach? “Do you have room for dessert?

Even within a meal we go back and forth between steak and potatoes or chips and soda. Why? Keeps the variety high. When variety is low, we get tired of whatever we’re eating faster. Researchers have even coined the term “the buffet effect” because the endless options resist any habituation and people eat until they’re ready to explode. (Example: Thanksgiving.)

More options mean more eating. Less variety is an easy way to feel full on fewer calories.

6) The extra cool part of this is that a friend of mine from high school, who is a complete space buff, had a contract to write the descriptions of the items for Sotheby’s, “Buzz Aldrin’s Space Memorabilia Sells for More Than $8 Million”

7) I really doubt we’ll ever have the sense to do it, but, oh my should we just clean up the spelling in the English language. McWhorter:

I hope it would help people to unbend somewhat to more intuitive (if odd-looking) spellings if those new spellings were seen as social justice of a kind. Children whose first language is English have to labor longer to learn to read than their counterparts. This crowds out school time that could be used for learning other things. Dyslexia appears to be less prevalent in many other languages because mapping the sounds we utter to the chaos of how they are represented on the page (“cough,” “bough,” “enough”) is so complex and often arbitrary. Anglophone kids are twice as likely to show signs of dyslexia as Italian ones, for example.

Plus, English is notoriously hard to master for the legions of people worldwide required to learn it as a second or third language. However, as languages go, English isn’t especially tough — if you want difficult, try Polish, Lithuanian or Navajo. A good deal of what frustrates English learners is the spellings. To think beyond our time is to imagine English as an international language that welcomes learners with spellings that actually make sense. Finnish spellings do — the sounds you make correspond neatly with the letters on the page. But let’s face it, the likelihood of Finnish as a lingua franca is slim. So why can’t English tidy itself up a bit?

Busy people leading busy lives shouldn’t have to put up with spelling seemingly designed to be difficult, random and frustrating. Think, for example, of just that word, “busy.” Why is its “u” pronounced “ih”? And why is the “y” in that word and at the end of adverbs pronounced “ee”?

I could go awn. We Anglophones wallow in orthographical muck. Attention must be paid.

8) Good stuff from Ron Brownstein, “Red states are building a nation within a nation”

9) This is excellent.  You should read it (free link), “Alabama Takes From the Poor and Gives to the Rich”

In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.

Taxes on most property, for example, are exceptionally low. In 2019, property taxes accounted for just 7 percent of state and local revenue, the lowest among the states. (Even Mississippi, which also has low property taxes, got roughly 12 percent from property taxes. New Jersey, by contrast, got 29 percent.) Strapped for cash, all levels of government look for money anywhere they can get it. And often, that means creating revenue from fines and fees. A 2016 study showed that the median assessment for a felony in Alabama doubled between 1995 and 2005, to $2,000…

To understand how Alabama came to be so underdeveloped, you need only look to the Black Belt, a large region originally named for its rich black dirt that sweeps across the lower midsection of the state. The earth is full of crushed limestone left behind by the sea that once covered the land. Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, is in the heart of the region. It’s an agriculturally rich area that was once blanketed by cotton plantations worked by enslaved people. Much of the area is still rural and agricultural, but the product isn’t cotton; it is, among other things, timber. Drive just a few minutes outside Montgomery and you’re flanked by forest. Rows of loblolly pine stand sentinel along the roads, waiting to be turned into America’s paper. Much of the land is owned by multinational corporations, international investors, hedge funds, some families that live outside the Black Belt and some whose ancestors cultivated the land before the Civil War.

Many of those families’ agricultural interests were top of mind when state lawmakers rewrote Alabama’s Constitution. In 1874, less than a decade into Reconstruction, the Democratic Party, representing the landowning, formerly slave-owning class, took over the state government in a rigged election and quickly passed a new Constitution that mandated taxes on property would remain permanently low.

In the next couple of decades, as cotton prices crashed, poor sharecroppers, both white and Black, banded together in a populist movement to unseat the elites who controlled the state. In response, in another set of contested elections, the elites called another constitutional convention to further consolidate their power over the state. “What is it that we want to do?” the convention president, John B. Knox, asked. “Establish white supremacy in this state.” But this time, he said, they wanted to “establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

10) Chait, “Without Media Accountability, Republicans Will Govern Like a One-Party State”

Last week, the Florida Republican Party held its annual Sunshine Summit, which was marked by a new policy: The mainstream media was not permitted to cover the event. Instead, the only “news” would be transmitted through conservative-approved sources. “We in the state of Florida are not going to allow legacy media outlets to be involved in our primaries,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis said. “I’m not going to have a bunch of left-wing media people asking our candidates gotcha questions.”

The next day, the Washington Post published a detailed reported story on the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank whose scholars have supported the Trump administration’s efforts to secure an unelected second term. The Institute’s president, Ryan Williams, replied on the record that he saw no need to explain any of this. “The Claremont Institute,” he wrote, “is not interested in participating in the fiction that the Washington Post is a legitimate media outlet, or that its chronically discredited journalists are dispassionate fact-finders intent on bringing their readers objective news.”

As long as it has existed, the right has loathed the news media. Figures like Joe McCarthy and Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler used the tactic of pointing to alleged media bias to discredit reporting that challenged their lies. But, as David Freedlander noted, the right’s war on independent media is reaching a new stage of blanket refusal to acknowledge its legitimacy…

The only point I need to make is that the mainstream media does routinely report critically on the Democratic Party. If you are watching CNN or reading the New York Times, you have encountered a steady stream of articles questioning whether Joe Biden is too old for the job, noting high inflation, pummeling the Afghanistan withdrawal, and so on. Whether you believe this level of criticism is excessive or insufficient is a matter of perspective, but the clear fact is that it exists.

Nothing like this exists within the conservative media. The communications apparatus of the conservative movement was established with the goal of advancing the right’s political interests. Its organs often borrow superficial conventions, like bylines and the inverted-pyramid structure, to create the simulacrum of a traditional news medium. But the people working in these institutions understand they are working for the conservative movement, not on behalf of the public’s right to know. Their approach to malfeasance by their side is to ignore, distort, or change the subject to some agreed-upon sin by the enemy (a practice called “whataboutism”).

The rise of Donald Trump intensified the bubble effect in the conservative media. His famous boast that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue without losing any support reflected his grasp of the conservative base’s imperviousness to facts. Trump understood that he could maintain his base without engaging with external reality at any rational level; reporting that made him look bad was simply “fake news” by definition.

11) I love that Biden’s drug czar is all about “harm reduction.” That’s so the way to go on drug issues.

12) From early June, before the Dobbs decision, “‘Pro-Choice’ Identification Rises to Near Record High in U.S.”

A Gallup poll conducted mostly after the draft of a Supreme Court decision addressing abortion rights was leaked finds a marked shift in public attitudes over the past year. After a decade in which Americans’ identification as “pro-choice” varied narrowly between 45% and 50%, the percentage has jumped six points to 55% in the latest poll, compared with the prior measure a year ago.

Pro-choice sentiment is now the highest Gallup has measured since 1995 when it was 56% — the only other time it has been at the current level or higher — while the 39% identifying as “pro-life” is the lowest since 1996.

13) David French on Tim Miller’s new book:

The genius of Tim’s book (and I highly recommend reading it) is that it cuts through the rationalizations—and the rationalizations are endless—and gets ultimately to a heart-level question: Who are you, really? Or, put another way, What is your core identity?

I don’t think those who live outside the American right understand the extent to which the upheaval of the Trump years impacted multiple, intersecting aspects of personal identity and exposed the true hierarchy of personal values.

Let’s take the example of Lindsey Graham. Yesterday in The Atlantic Mark Leibovich published a scorching profile of Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and other politicians who’ve been particularly sycophantic to Donald Trump. Leibovich highlights this revealing exchange:

Once, early in 2019, I asked Graham a version of the question that so many of his judgy old Washington friends had been asking him. How could he swing from being one of Trump’s most merciless critics in 2016 to such a sycophant thereafter? I didn’t use those exact words, but Graham got the idea. “Well, okay, from my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this,” he told me. “‘This,’” Graham specified, “is to try to be relevant.” Relevance: It casts one hell of a spell.

Ask any person to describe themselves, and they’ll likely respond with a mix of characteristics and virtues. They’ll describe their profession (lawyer, banker, plumber), their relationships (husband, father, grandfather), and their politics (Republican, Democrat), and if asked they might even describe their perceived virtues (honesty, fidelity, fortitude).

But what if the virtues conflict with other core parts of a person’s identity? Prior to the Trump years, Graham was joined at the hip with the maverick John McCain. During the 2016 campaign, he called out Trump’s flaws early and often.

So how would one describe Lindsey Graham, before Trump? He was a senator. He was powerful. And while all politicians are flawed, I’d say he was generally perceived to be both honest and independent.

But then, during the Trump years, honesty and independence directly and starkly clashed with status. Time and again, men and women in America’s political class found that they couldn’t possess both virtue and power. They had to make a choice.

The writer and Christian theologian C. S. Lewis wrote, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Another way of putting it is that we don’t really know if we possess a virtue until it is tested.

We might think of ourselves as honest, but we don’t really know if we are until honesty carries a cost. Or we might think of ourselves as physically brave, but we don’t know if we are until we face a mortal threat. We might be sure that we’re faithful, right until the moment when temptation is at its peak.

During the Trump years, the collision between status and virtue was constant and relentless. Trump never gave anyone a breather. He was never chagrined or mollified by scandal. He never apologized. He never turned over a new leaf. He just charged from one lie to another, and his demands for absolute loyalty left his defenders and followers with little ability to separate themselves from his worst moments while still remaining in the Republican tent.

As we’ve seen from days of courageous testimony before the January 6 House Select Committee, it is quite possible to say “I’m a Republican, and I’m honest.” But with each passing week—and with each new revelation—it grows more difficult to say “I’m a Trump Republican, and I’m honest.” Status conflicts with virtue, and status wins.

14) What’s not to love about a Janeane Garofalo profile? “Janeane Garofalo Never Sold Out. What a Relief. That concept might be the reason her trailblazing stand-up career has been overshadowed; it may also be the reason she’s still so sharp, our critic argues.”

15) Relatively new NC resident Frank Bruni give his take on the state (and the Congressional district that I’m about a mile outside of):

I visited the 13th District because it’s the site of the only House race in North Carolina that’s considered a tossup, an emblematic contest between a 46-year-old Democrat, Wiley Nickel, with decades of public service under his belt, and a 26-year-old Republican, Bo Hines, who was endorsed by Trump and crows about that whenever, wherever and however he can. On his Twitter profile, his Facebook page and his campaign website, the headshot of Trump is bigger than his own headshot.

But I also toured the district as part of my acclimation to North Carolina, to continue testing my belief that this state — my new home — is as accurate, illuminating and alarming a political mirror of the country as any other. A year after moving here from the People’s Republic of the Upper West Side, I realize that I didn’t so much turn my back on New York City as turn my gaze toward a broader, truer portrait of America right now…

And it’s a tense state whose residents are, as Bitzer said, “sorting themselves more and more into like-minded communities.” That was driven home to me when I looked for a house here. I had the vague idea of finding, within a roughly 25-minute drive of Duke’s campus in Durham, some kind of political mix that reflected the state’s reputed political color. I like purple.

But I learned how inexact the “purple” label is. It implies some real blending of red and blue, some halfway point. But North Carolina is purple only if you step far back, the way you do to make sense of a Seurat painting, so that you no longer see the individual dabs and blotches of red and blue.

A blotch of deep blue is where I ended up, 20 minutes from Duke, on the border of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Front yards near mine showcase “Black Lives Matter” and “We Believe” signs. Several neighbors’ first conversations with me were about how to follow the county’s recycling rules correctly.

These days, “the red is redder and the blue is bluer,” said Steve Schewelwho was on Durham’s school board and then its City Council before serving as the city’s mayor from December 2017 to December 2021.

And, oh, yeah, how nice to unexpectedly find a friend and blog fan quoted in the NYT:

Damon Circosta, the chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, told me, “This is a state that’s most comfortable — more comfortable — forging a middle path.” North Carolina swung sharply right during the first half of the last decade, but then voters denied the incumbent Republican governor, Pat McCrory, a second term and elected Cooper. Two years later, Republicans lost their supermajorities in the state legislature. Cooper, meanwhile, has combined a mild manner and practical approach to remain popular enough that he’s mentioned as a possible presidential contender if Joe Biden doesn’t run again.

16) And speaking of NC, how cool to see a former student of mine in Slate, “State Judge Elections Are About to Become Decisive for Abortion Rights”

17) It really does not speak well for left organizations in DC these days that Ruy Teixeira feels he has no home at the Center for American Progress any more.

Ruy Teixeira is one of Washington’s most prominent left-leaning think-tank scholars, a fixture at the Center for American Progress since the liberal organization’s founding in 2003. But as of August 1, he’ll have a new professional home: The American Enterprise Institute, the longtime conservative redoubt that over the years has employed the likes of Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D’Souza, and Robert Bork.

Teixeira, whose role in the Beltway scrum often involved arguing against calls to move right on economic issues, insists his own policy views haven’t changed — but says the current cultural milieu of progressive organizations “sends me running screaming from the left.”

“My perspective is, the single most important thing to focus on in the social system is the economic system,” he tells me. “It’s class.” We’re sitting in AEI’s elegantly furnished library. Down the hall, there’s a boisterous event celebrating the conservative intellectual Harvey Mansfield. William Kristol, clad in a suit, has just left the room. Teixeira’s untucked shirt and sneakers aren’t the only thing that seems out of place. “I’m just a social democrat, man. Trying to make the world a better place.”

To hear Teixeira tell it, CAP, and the rest of Washington’s institution-based left, stopped being a place where he could do the work he wanted. The reason, he says, is that the relentless focus on race, gender, and identity in historically liberal foundations and think tanks has made it hard to do work that looks at society through other prisms. It also makes people nervous about projects that could be accused of giving short shrift to anti-racism efforts.

“I would say that anybody who has a fundamentally class-oriented perspective, who thinks that’s a more important lens and doesn’t assume that any disparity is automatically a lens of racism or sexism or what have you … I think that perspective is not congenial in most left institutions,” he says.

To hear Teixeira tell it, CAP, and the rest of Washington’s institution-based left, stopped being a place where he could do the work he wanted. The reason, he says, is that the relentless focus on race, gender, and identity in historically liberal foundations and think tanks has made it hard to do work that looks at society through other prisms. It also makes people nervous about projects that could be accused of giving short shrift to anti-racism efforts.

“I would say that anybody who has a fundamentally class-oriented perspective, who thinks that’s a more important lens and doesn’t assume that any disparity is automatically a lens of racism or sexism or what have you … I think that perspective is not congenial in most left institutions,” he says.

“I’d say they have been affected by the nature and inclination and preferences of their junior staff,” he says. “It’s just the case that at CAP, like almost any other left think tank you can think of, it’s become very hard to have a conversation about race and gender and trans issues, even crime and immigration. You know, ‘How should the left handle these?’ There’s a default assumption about how you’re supposed to talk about these things, even the language. There’s a real chilling effect on all of these organizations, and I think it’s had an effect on CAP as well.”

18) Interesting stuff on fatherhood from Melinda Wenner Moyer:

Have you ever noticed that men love to hear — and tell — stories about deadbeat dads? The husband who cheats on his wife; the father who doesn’t know how to use a washing machine; the guy who gets mad at his wife if the house isn’t spotless. Their reaction is rarely horror or disgust or “God, what a dick!” — but rather, something along the lines of:

“See, I’m not so bad, right?”

“Look! I’m an angel in comparison.”

“Aren’t you glad you married me?”

I know, I know; #notallmen. But if I had a dime for every time I heard a friend laugh/vent about their husband comparing himself to a bad apple to make himself look good, well, I wouldn’t need any paid subscribers…

First, let’s start with who mothers tend to compare themselves to. Although we might not like to admit it, moms often compare themselves to other moms they know. Who’s got a cleaner house? Does my friend read to her kids more often than I do to mine? Mothers are also frequently comparing themselves to ideal versions of mothers on social media, and this is a problem. When we compare our lives to the aspirational, tightly curated and totally unrealistic depiction of life we see on Instagram — mom looks beautiful, the house is spotless, the kids are rosy-cheeked and smiling — we are constantly taking in data that says: You aren’t doing as good of a job as they are. No wonder we all feel like failures.

Research suggests this is exactly what happens. A study published in February found that mothers who tend to make social comparisons are more negatively affected by parenting-related Instagram accounts than moms who don’t make a lot of social comparisons. Social media, the researchers found, gives social-comparison-oriented mothers a “decreased sense of parenting competence.” More than one-third of the moms in the study “mentioned the idealistic picture of parenting presented by InstaParents as something that was affecting them negatively, e.g. “Some people on Instagram make it all seem a little too perfect – then you start doubting yourself.” Sound familiar?

On the other side of the comparison spectrum are dads. In general, there’s much less research on dads than on moms (that’s slowly changing, thank god!), but wow, the research we do have on how dads make social comparisons is …. fascinating. As you might guess, compared with moms, dads aren’t spending as much time on Instagram and Facebook, comparing themselves to ideal parents. Sometimes dads compare themselves to other dads they know, but because dads don’t tend to talk about parenting and household tasks with their guy friends as much as moms do with their mom friends, they often don’t have the data they need to make these comparisons. So what do they do instead? When dads make social comparisons, they often choose to compare themselves to fictional deadbeat dads. And this has big implications… [emphasis in original]

What happens when a dad compares himself to a fictional terrible dad? He feels pretty good about himself and his contributions to the family. He certainly doesn’t feel like he’s not doing enough. There is no incentive to change his ways, to do more. As Gaber explained, fathers who compared themselves to do-nothing dads “believed that they were doing more than this mythical dad who left all child care and housework responsibilities to their wives… They wanted to believe the division of labor was fair, even though their wives were doing more housework. By utilizing this manufactured referent, they could argue that their household contributions were greater than the average.”

19) I loved Jeff Maurer’s take on WV vs. EPA:

I’m going to do something weird here: I’m going to focus on the law, not the policy outcome. Articles about Supreme Court rulings almost never discuss the relevant law. They focus on policy outcomes, and people cheer or decry rulings based on those outcomes. Everyone in America seems to believe that the objective answer to any legal question — in an amazing coincidence — just so happens to align with the policy outcome they prefer. We treat this fact as so obvious that any disagreement must be the work of devious activist judges. Conservatives sang this song for decades while liberals denounced them as sore losers, and now the roles have exactly reversed, but few people seem to appreciate the irony. So, before I start, I insist that we all:

A federal agency can’t do anything without Congressional authority. The bureaucracy might be thought of as Congresses’ contractors; they do jobs that Congress can’t do themselves. It’s a logical system; if the government needs to, say, break up a drug ring, that should probably be farmed out to highly trained DEA agents instead of having Chuck Grassley and Elizabeth Warren kick down doors themselves.

Congress often uses vague language to authorize various actions. They have to; it’s impossible to anticipate every nuance that an agency might encounter in the course of doing the thing Congress wants them to do. Broad language also provides longevity; the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has the authority to regulate alcohol, generally, not a list of spirits that would be rendered obsolete every time the sick fucks at Budweiser add a new sin against liquor to their product line of the damned…

So: Congress gives authority to federal agencies, but the parameters of that authority are vague pretty much by definition. The question in West Virginia v. EPA is whether EPA overstepped its authority in 2015 when it tried to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants. EPA claims that its authority comes from section 111(d) of the 1970 Clean Air Act, which is too long to cite in full, but I’ll link to it here in case you’re trying to commit suicide by boredom.1 Luckily, understanding the key question in this case doesn’t require reading the full law — you just need to channel your inner stoned freshman and ponder this question: What, like…really is a SYSTEM, man?

The definition of the word “system” is at the center of this case. That’s because the law requires EPA to regulate air pollution according to “…the best system of emission reduction…that has been adequately demonstrated.” So: EPA can’t just say “cut your emissions in half”; they have to have a method for cutting emissions — a system, if you will — that actually exists on Earth. Traditionally, these systems have usually been technology such as “scrubbers” added to coal-fired power plants, though they could also be processes such as changes to how the plant operates…

Justice Roberts and the five justices who joined his opinion think that EPA’s cap-and-trade plan is absolutely not a “system”. Roberts writes:

“The word “system” shorn of all context, however, is an empty vessel. Such a vague statutory grant is not close to the sort of clear authorization required.”

I have to say: I’m sympathetic to Justice Roberts’ concern here. You can’t have federal agencies seizing authority that nobody gave them by distorting the English language beyond all recognition. The dumbest articles and Twitter threads responding to this ruling have basically argued that the ruling is wrong because climate change is an EMERGENCY!!! I happen to believe that climate change is an emergency, but more importantly: So fucking what? You can’t chuck the rule of law out the window and say “It’s okay because: Emergency.” Most power grabs in history use emergency as pretext; the very concept of a dictator arose in ancient Rome as a temporary post in response to an emergency. Of course, the “emergency” never ended, and the post became the opposite of temporary, and Rome was unable to stab their way back to being a Republic.

20) And, as long as we’re on Maurer’s legal takes, this is excellent, “The Court’s Conservatives are Lying About Gay Marriage: But it’s not clear which part of their story is a lie”

In Obergefell, three of the four justices seem to believe that “liberty” does not include the freedom to marry. Thomas and Alito each wrote dissents in which they forcefully defend a narrow conception of the word “liberty”.2 Justice Scalia — who has assumed a role in conservative jurisprudence that I would describe as “Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque” — calls the expansive reading of the Due Process Clause by liberals a “threat to American democracy”. All four conservative justices who ruled on that case took the opportunity to write a dissent; they were like a rap group recording a diss track, each trying to one-up the others as they took turns spitting fire at the object of their disdain.

My uncharitable reading of Roberts’ argument after that point is that it’s basically gibberish. I feel that it essentially amounts to an internally-conflicted Roberts gasping “but come on!” In the course of searching for an explanation as to why marriage is a right, but not a right possessed by everyone, Roberts sings the praises of opposite-sex marriage as “…a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.” Well — if the Aztecs did it, then I’m convinced! It’s good to know that if I ever engage in human sacrifice like the Aztecs, or child abandonment like the Carthaginians, John Roberts will have my back…

It seems clear that Roberts, Alito, and Thomas would give gay marriage the thumbs-down if the question was litigated again. To not nix it would be to basically say: “We totally blew it way back in 2015.” It’s hard to imagine what event might change their minds short of a Christmas Eve visit from Gay Jacob Marley and his husband, Ghost Scrooge. (Side note: Would you watch a Netflix series called The Adventures of Gay Jacob Marley and Ghost Scrooge? I’ve got a pitch meeting next week.)

The big question, then, is where Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett stand. Justices’ opinions on not-yet-litigated cases are always a coquettish fan dance, but by backing Dobbs, the three Trump-appointed justices endorsed the same skepticism of Due Process Clause-derived rights that animates the Obergefell dissents. Dobbs repudiates the logic of Roe and Obergefell; in his opinion, Alito speaks of the abortion right that the Court derived from the Fourteenth Amendment with the same disdainful tone that I’ve used on this blog to talk about George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky.

21) I found this really interesting, “Why Netflix’s most expensive movies keep getting worse.”  That said, I’ve watched most of Netflix’s “The Hustle” and I think it’s really good.

22) I hope this pans out! “UK scientists take ‘promising’ step towards single Covid and cold vaccine”

Scientists have made a “promising” advance towards developing a universal coronavirus vaccine to tackle Covid-19 and the common cold.

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London have discovered that a specific area of the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – is a good target for a pan-coronavirus jab that could offer protection against all the Covid-19 variants and common colds.

Developing a vaccine that protects against a number of different coronaviruses is a huge challenge, they said, because this family of viruses have many key differences, frequently mutate and generally induce incomplete protection against reinfection. That is why people can repeatedly catch common colds, and why it is possible to be infected multiple times with different variants of Sars-CoV-2.

A universal coronavirus vaccine would need to trigger antibodies that recognise and neutralise a range of coronaviruses, scientists said, stopping the virus from entering hosts cells and replicating.

In the new study, the researchers investigated whether antibodies targeting the “S2 subunit” of Sars-CoV-2’s spike protein also neutralise other coronaviruses. The researchers found that after vaccinating mice with Sars-CoV-2 S2, the mice created antibodies able to neutralise a number of other animal and human coronaviruses.

They included the common cold coronavirus HCoV-OC43, the original strain of Sars-CoV-2, the D614G mutant that dominated in the first wave, Alpha, Beta, Delta, the original Omicron and two bat coronaviruses. The findings are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“The S2 area of the spike protein is a promising target for a potential pan-coronavirus vaccine because this area is much more similar across different coronaviruses than the S1 area,” said the study’s co-first author, Kevin Ng, of the Francis Crick Institute. “It is less subject to mutations, and so a vaccine targeted at this area should be more robust.”

23) This really is kind of wild, from David Wallace-Wells, “Hardly Anyone Talks About How Fracking Was an Extraordinary Boondoggle”

Perhaps the most striking fact about the American hydraulic-fracturing boom, though, is unknown to all but the most discriminating consumers of energy news: Fracking has been, for nearly all of its history, a money-losing boondoggle, profitable only recently, after being propped up by so much investment from Wall Street and private equity that it resembled less an efficient-markets no-brainer and more a speculative empire of bubbles like Uber and WeWork. The American shale revolution did bring the country “energy independence,” whatever that has been worth, and more abundant oil and gas. It has indeed reshaped the entire geopolitical landscape for fuel, though not enough to strip leverage from Vladimir Putin. But the revolution wasn’t primarily a result of some market-busting breakthrough or an engineering innovation that allowed the industry to print cash. From the start, the cash moved in the other direction; the revolution happened only because enormous sums of money were poured into the project of making it happen.

Today, with profits aided by the energy price spikes of the last year, the fracking industry is finally, at least for the time being, profitable. But from 2010 to 2020, U.S. shale lost $300 billion. Previously, from 2002 to 2012, Chesapeake, the industry leader, didn’t report positive cash flow once, ending that period with total losses of some $30 billion, as Bethany McLean documents in her 2018 book, “Saudi America,” the single best and most thorough account of the fracking boom up to that point. Between mid-2012 and mid-2017, the 60 biggest fracking companies were losing an average of $9 billion each quarter. From 2006 to 2014, fracking companies lost $80 billion; in 2014, with oil at $100 a barrel, a level that seemed to promise a great cash-out, they lost $20 billion. These losses were mammoth and consistent, adding up to a total that “dwarfs anything in tech/V.C. in that time frame,” as the Bloomberg writer Joe Weisenthal pointed out recently. “There were all these stories written about how V.C.s were subsidizing millennial lifestyles,” he noted on Twitter. “The real story to be written is about the massive subsidy to consumers from everyone who financed Chesapeake and all the companies that lost money fracking last decade.”

24) Lots of gas and bloating for many early humans! “Early Europeans Could Not Tolerate Milk but Drank It Anyway, Study Finds: For thousands of years, Europeans consumed milk products despite lacking an enzyme needed to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort, according to a new study.”

The oldest evidence of milk came from Turkey, which was home to some of the world’s first agrarians. Those farmers then moved across Europe, taking their cattle and other livestock with them. By 6,000 years ago, they had arrived with their milk in England and Ireland.

Dr. Evershed and his colleagues found that some societies took up milk while neighboring ones did not. They also found that milk production went through boom-and-bust cycles over the centuries.

Mark Thomas, a geneticist at University College London, led the team’s analysis of lactase persistence. He and his colleagues analyzed DNA harvested from 1,786 ancient skeletons found across Europe and neighboring regions. They looked for a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on during adulthood.

The oldest mutation they found dated back about 6,600 years ago. But in their collection of ancient remains, it stayed rare until 4,000 years ago. For those 2,600 years, in other words, Europeans were consuming milk despite almost none of them being able to make lactase as adults.

To see how this mutation affected people today, the researchers joined forces with George Davey Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Bristol. Dr. Davey Smith has carried out a number of studies on the health of living British people by analyzing a large database called UK Biobank. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have submitted their DNA to the effort, along with their electronic health records and answers to questionnaires.

Dr. Davey Smith sifted through the UK Biobank for information about milk and lactase, comparing 312,781 volunteers who carried the lactase mutation to 20,250 who did not.

The analysis delivered some surprising results: People without the lactase mutation consume about as much milk as people who carry it. Yet people who cannot make the enzyme do not suffer any significant health problems. They do not die at a higher rate, they do not have weaker bones and they have just as many children as people with the mutation do…

Together, these parallel lines of evidence suggest that early Europeans made milk a part of their diet, even without lactase. It is possible that some of them occasionally suffered some uncomfortable cramps and gas, but it was not enough to affect their health.

Early Europeans may have also lessened the painful effects of milk sugar by fermenting milk into cheese or turning it into butter. (In Ireland, people who harvest peat from bogs have occasionally found massive containers of “bog butter” dating back thousands of years.)

Consuming milk without lactase became riskier later, in times of crisis, Dr. Evershed and his colleagues argued. Starvation has been shown to shift mild symptoms, such as gas and cramps, to more dangerous ones, like diarrhea.

25) Lots of good social science here from Edsall, “How You Feel About Gender Roles Can Tell Us How You’ll Vote”

competing ideas about the roles of men and women, at home and at work, shape our political life. They do not set men against women as much as produce two opposing coalitions, each made up of both men and women.

It almost goes without saying, but men and women who support traditional gender roles for men and women lean strongly toward the Republican Party; men and women who question traditional gender roles and who are sympathetic to women’s rights lean strongly toward the Democratic Party…

While there are modest gender gaps in partisanship, voting and policy views, Winter wrote, “these pale compared with the differences among men and among women in views on gender roles and feminism. And gender roles and feminism have increasingly structured elite partisan debate.”

In an email expanding on the points he made in his book chapter, Winter wrote that “a voter’s personal masculinity/femininity (and views on same)” interacts with partisanship such that “people (men or women) who support traditional gender roles tend to favor the Republican Party and people who either reject or at least do not valorize traditional gender roles (men and women both) favor the Democratic Party.” The focus “is on the voter’s views about how gender should be organized (i.e., the belief that men should be masculine, act masculine and hold masculine roles; women should be feminine, act feminine, hold feminine roles).”

The gap between the attitudes of Democrats and Republicans toward the women’s rights movement has widened in recent years, Winter notes:

From 1970 through 2016, Democrats rated feminists and the women’s movement higher than did Republicans. This difference was modest — between 5 and 10 degrees — through the 1970s, then increased steadily from 10 degrees in 1980 to almost 20 degrees in the mid-1990s. After closing slightly, partisan polarization in ratings of feminists reached their most polarized level yet in 2016. That year, Democrats rated feminists at 67 degrees, compared with 43 degrees among Republicans, a difference of about a quarter of the 101-degree rating scale.”

The same pattern Winter describes can be found on a wide range of politically salient issues. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers issued a report, “Gender Gap Public Opinion,” based on poll data from the 2016 and 2020 American National Election Study, the 2018 General Social Survey, the 2020 Cooperative Election Study and the June 2020 AP-NORC Center Poll.

 

Steve Greene– setting the record straight since 2022 (abortion edition)

Well, I made my first ever “Fact Check” yesterday at the one-and-only “factcheck.org.”  I’ll just paste the highlights below…

Republican Rep. Larry Pittman introduced a bill in the North Carolina House of Representatives in February 2021 — long before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June — that said “human life begins at the moment of fertilization” and that “new human life is recognized by the State as an individual person, entitled to the protection under the State’s laws from the moment of fertilization until natural death.”

The bill called for anyone “willfully seeking to destroy the life of another person, by any means, at any stage of life, or succeeds in doing so, to be held accountable for attempted murder or for first degree murder, respectively.” Murder in the first degree is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. 

The bill also said that the state “has an interest and a duty to defend innocent persons from willful destruction of their lives and to punish those who take the lives of persons, born or unborn, who have not committed any crime punishable by death.”

The bill failed to advance. The North Carolina General Assembly website lists only five sponsors. Pittman, the main sponsor, is not running for reelection this year, according to the state House Principal Clerk’s Office.

But comedian Amanda Seales misleadingly claimed in an Instagram video posted July 20 that North Carolina is considering a bill that would make it legal to “murder a pregnant woman who intends to get an abortion.”

Seales, with an image of North Carolina House Bill 158 in the background, urged North Carolinians to vote. “If the Republicans win a supermajority, this is the type of shit that is happening, that’s going to be happening in your state, and the blood will be on your hands,” she said.

Another Instagram post with more than 1,000 likes was posted by comedian TK Kirkland making a similar claim: “North Carolina Bill Proposes Women Who Get Abortions Should Face Death Penalty.” …

“The fact that this happened in February 2021 and the first time we’re hearing about it is July 2022 tells us all we really need to know about the fact that this was never legislation that had any chance at all of becoming law,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, told us.

The bill “goes well beyond even the most extreme pro-life legislation being passed anywhere, and I have a hard time imagining this could get majority support among even a very conservative group of Republican state legislators,” Greene said.

If the bill had gotten traction, it “goes so far that I’d have to imagine it would be enjoined by courts before ever going into effect,” Greene said. However, he added, “this is a brave new world we are in now where we are still very much learning just how far Republican legislators will go and how far courts will let them.”

And since this was an email interview, I also have the answers that didn’t make it into the story, so here they are too, from our email correspondence:

—What effect would HB 158 have had if it had gone into effect? Would the result be different now that Roe v. Wade is gone?
This bill goes so far that I’d have to imagine it would be enjoined by courts before ever going into effect, but, this is a brave new world we are now in where we are still very much learning just how far Republican legislators will go and how far courts will let them.  
 
—Are there plans to introduce abortion-related legislation in North Carolina in the wake of Roe’s repeal? 
NC’s Republican legislative leaders are savvy.  They know any legislation they put forward now would be vetoed by our Democratic governor.  And presumably they think that it would help Democrats in the November election and therefore have not brought forward any legislation after the Dobbs decision.  Clearly they are awaiting the results of the election and next year’s legislative session before trying to change any laws on abortion.
 

Honestly, I think even your typical Republican legislator is embarrassed by this bill and realizes its nuts.  Or it least realizes that it’s politically toxic.  That said, if elected Republican legislators are going to submit bills like this, then, hell yeah, Progressive activists should actually publicize it and run against it.  They should probably just try and be a bit more honest when doing so.  The truth is bad enough.  

My backward state legislature– marijuana edition

The NC State Senate recently passed a bill legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.  And excluding chronic pain and anxiety.  In other words, the lowest of low bars on marijuana policy reform.  And to their credit, most of the Republicans went with common sense as the bill passed 35-10.

Alas, even this incredibly modest effort will go by the wayside as the Republicans in the state house are there to protect our morals from being undone by reefer madness:

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, North Carolina House Republicans all but sealed the fate of a proposed medical marijuana bill, giving it a slim chance of becoming law this year.

What happened: Republicans in the chamber internally voted not to advance the legislation in that meeting, multiple sources told Axios. Sources were unwilling to speak on the record because caucus — where all of the members of a given party discuss and debate issues — is confidential.

The big picture: The move is somewhat expected, given that House leaders have repeatedly indicated Republicans in their chamber have little interest in taking up the legislation before the session is slated to end in the coming weeks.

  • House Republicans were the main obstacle standing in the way of legalizing medical marijuana in North Carolina this legislative session.

Where does that leave NC on marijuana:

North Carolina is one of six states where all uses of marijuana are illegal, along with Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming. That includes prohibiting the use of medical marijuana.

Oh come on, that’s just embarrassing.  Almost as embarrassing as the quality of the arguments against it:

House Speaker Tim Moore (R) told WRAL last week that “there are a lot of concerns with this bill right now.”

“I think it’s something that’s going to really require further study,” he said, echoing comments he has made in recent weeks about not wanting to take up the measure until next session. “The Senate brought this bill quickly to the floor. This is one of the more controversial subjects  [emphasis mine] in our in our state and in our nation.”

The comment about the expediency of the Senate’s approach to this legislation is questionable, as it received ample committee consideration going back to July 2021.

“I, like many, do recognize there are some medical conditions where, you know, the data is out there and this can be helpful in certain limited instances,” Moore said, citing the passage of a bill providing limited access to CBD for patients with conditions such as epilepsy.

“But I think when you take that next leap into actual medical marijuana, there are a host of other issues there,” he continued. “The biggest concern is the abuse of it, how easy is it for someone to get ‘diagnosed and prescribed’ this as a medication, and I think that there needs to be a lot of precautions in place.”

Riiiight.  Because there’s not 44 other states where we can see that laws like this simply do not lead to widespread abuse. Or, you know what’s actually not a “more controversial subject”?  Medical marijuana:

 A WRAL News online survey of registered voters in the state found strong bipartisan support for the legalization of medical marijuana. Seventy-two percent of respondents said marijuana for medical use should be legalized, including 64% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats and 78% of unaffiliated voters. The poll was conducted in April.

Clearly, Tim Moore and friends are still living in Reefer Madness world and completely disconnected from reality (heck, even the majority of NC Republicans in the state Senate get it) and damn it the whole state pays for them being hopeless backward.  To be clear I would not argue medical marijuana is some amazing panacea as its advocates do, but on any fair-minded cost/benefit analysis this is just such a no-brainer and frustratingly brainless from the state House Republicans.

Reefer Madness - Wikipedia

Should Democrats be campaigning on democracy?

I did not actually watch the hearings last night. I did what I do for most political events– followed along on twitter while doing other things.  I did watch this video from the January 6 Committee, though.

There’s some new stuff here, but, mostly, just watching parts of all this again was like a punch in the gut.  Just nauseating.  This really was so awful.  And, honestly, I don’t think that reaction is because I’m a “liberal” or a “democrat” but because I believe in democracy and the best of the USA.  Call me crazy, but I think there’s actually a decent number of Republicans and Republican-inclined who feel this way, too. 

I think of my father-in-law, who hates Trump and what that party has become, but surely feels more of an ideological kinship with Ted Budd (NC Republican Senate candidate) than Cherie Beasley (the Democrat).  He’ll probably be awfully tempted to vote for Budd.  But I know he hates what happened January 6 and he hates Trump and I feel like making this connection (i.e., Budd is completely in on the Big Lie and a de facto January 6 apologist) could actually have a real impact on him.  And I cannot help but think there’s a non-trivial number of voters like that.

And come on, the ads with these scenes and Trump and the Trumpist/Big Lie Republican candidates practically write themselves.  I want to see ads with these scenes and Ted Budd implicitly endorsing them all over NC this Fall.  How could that not be better than trying to get people to focus on the super-low unemployment when all they can get their heads around is our high prices?

Anyway, Brian Beutler is always great on this stuff:

That general point, the one I hope everyone keeps in mind throughout the hearings and beyond, is: There’s almost no value in all the labored comparisons between the January 6 hearings and the Watergate hearings, or in assessing the hearings by how much or little they move public opinion. The key to understanding the whole thing is accepting that elected Republicans already made their deal with the devil. It’s done. Nothing that happens between now and the next election, and most likely the one after that, will turn them into counter-insurrectionists. The hearings themselves, and more importantly how Democrats exploit the findings, can only make America’s anti-insurrection supermajority believe that the Republican crimes of November 2020 – January 2021 are relevant to the question of whether they should be given political power in 2023…

The insurrection presented Republicans a historic second opportunity to simply vote Trump off the island of federal politics, and they weren’t interested. They talked themselves out of the view that the failed coup was unacceptable and should be investigated, into the view that the destruction of American democracy is preferable to a divided Republican Party. They made their deal with the devil, and they won’t reopen it. Their views of January 6 will go the way of every other crime they’ve abetted: not great → unimportant → litigated by the election → forgotten. 

I have a lot of unkind things to say about how Republicans conduct themselves, but this is what makes them unacceptably dangerous—there’s no principle limiting what they’ll accede to, and no form of democratic accountability they won’t seek to sidestep, and they will follow that set of incentives to the darkest places you can imagine. If next time, the Mike Pence stand-in actually gets hanged, Republicans will have another opportunity to press the reset button, but they probably won’t; if Donald Trump makes a secret deal with Russia that benefits him personally, but sells out Ukraine and ends the NATO alliance, they will have another opportunity to press the reset button, but they probably won’t. If dissidents start falling out of helicopters, or whole populations get rounded up, they’ll abide. They’ll drag the whole world down until it causes them to be dislodged from power for more than a couple elections. 

The idea can’t be to make them behave better; it has to be to interrupt that cycle as early as possible. 

And this was very good from Jonathan Weiler, who has a new free substack I highly recommend:

Perhaps the biggest advantage Republicans have over Democrats is that they understand, instinctively, that just reciting facts in order to get your points across is just a waste of time politically. You need to remind your target audience, over and over and over again, of the emotional urgency and the stakes of whatever point you are trying to drive home. They don’t trust their audience to hear it once and assume they’ve “gotten the message.” They press their key lines of attack relentlessly, on FOX, on talk radio, on social media. It’s that constancy and urgency that galvanizes and mobilizes people.

One set of hearings can’t do that. But it is an absolute good to create an historic record of what was an unprecedented attempt to overturn an election and carry out a coup. And beyond that, if you want to have any hope of ensuring that people *continue* to take seriously what happened on January 6, 2021, you have to remind them of what happened. Not only by bland recitation of timelines of events, but with powerful, memorable images and remembrances. If you want people to remember who Donald Trump is, his lack of conscience, his bloodlust, the lengths to which he would go to hold on to power and the violent groups he gleefully enlisted to realize his ambitions, you can’t assume that they’ll just remember how they felt a year and half ago. Especially for people who weren’t there that day, that’s not how memory and emotion work for most people. You have to remind people who he is and what he represents. You have to show them. Again and again.

What do I really know about campaign messaging?  But it seems to me, this really may work.  And damn it, there’s a moral imperative for Democrats to campaign on this message.  

Quick hits (part I)

1) Science! “Doctors Transplant Ear of Human Cells, Made by 3-D Printer”

A 20-year-old woman who was born with a small and misshapen right ear has received a 3-D printed ear implant made from her own cells, the manufacturer announced on Thursday. Independent experts said that the transplant, part of the first clinical trial of a successful medical application of this technology, was a stunning advance in the field of tissue engineering.

The new ear was printed in a shape that precisely matched the woman’s left ear, according to 3DBio Therapeutics, a regenerative medicine company based in Queens. The new ear, transplanted in March, will continue to regenerate cartilage tissue, giving it the look and feel of a natural ear, the company said.

“It’s definitely a big deal,” said Adam Feinberg, aprofessor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Feinberg, who is not affiliated with 3DBio, is a co-founder of FluidForm, a regenerative medicine company that also uses 3-D printing. “It shows this technology is not an ‘if’ anymore, but a ‘when,’” he said.

Alexa, the patient, before the surgery, left, and 30 days after the surgery.

Alexa, the patient, before the surgery, left, and 30 days after the surgery. Credit…Dr. Arturo Bonilla, Microtia-Congenital Ear Institute

2) Frank Bruni shares some of the best writing about guns recently:

Here’s Bret Stephens in The Times: “The United States seems to have a not-so-secret death cult that believes that the angry god known as the Second Amendment must be periodically propitiated through ritual child sacrifice.” …

Also in The Times, Maureen Dowd: “We’ve become a country of cowards, so terrified of the unholy power of gun worship that no sacrifice of young blood is too great to appease it.” …

In The New Yorker, the conclusion of Jessica Winter’s excellent essay about Uvalde echoed lines from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” while excoriating Republicans who offer only “thoughts and prayers” for the dead: “If the leaders of this political movement, which in Texas managed to ban most abortions and criminalize health care for trans kids in the space of a school year, took real offense to murdered children, they would never simply accept their deaths as the unfortunate cost of honoring the Founding Fathers’ right to take up muskets against hypothetical government tyranny. They would act. If America were not afraid to know itself, we could more readily accept that gun-rights advocates are enthralled with violent sorrow. This is the America they envisaged. It is what they worked so hard for. Their thoughts and prayers have been answered.” 

3) Really want to know more about what’s going on here:

4) Some good research on polling: “Reluctant Republicans, Eager Democrats? Partisan Nonresponse and the Accuracy of 2020 Presidential Pre-election Telephone Polls”

Using the registration-based samples and disposition codes of state-level pre-election telephone polls conducted by the National Election Pool as part of the National Exit Poll in 12 states, we test whether likely Democrats were more likely to cooperate with the National Exit Poll than likely Republicans and independents. Using information about both respondents and nonrespondents, we find that Democrats are more likely to cooperate with telephone interviewers than Republicans and independents by 3 and 6 percentage points, respectively, even after controlling for individual and geographic features plausibly related to nonresponse (e.g., age, gender, race, urban/rural, community support for President Trump, and effects of COVID-19). Equalizing the partisan cooperation rate when post-stratifying to account for the partisan differences in cooperation decreases the average polling error on the margin of victory by 4 percentage points in the polls we examine, but sizable errors remain in critical swing states because of within-party differences in who responds and/or errors in the available partisanship measures in the voter file.

5) This is pretty interesting from Gallup.  Despite our big partisan divisions on climate change, when you actually get to specific policies, rank-and-file Republicans have some pretty solid support:

6) Love this from Chait:

 

7) Hockey can still be a great game without legal hits leading to concussions.  Sarah Civian:

Canes rookie forward Seth Jarvis, 20, confirmed he suffered a concussion in Game 7 on an open-ice hit from Jacob Trouba. This was after a puck to the groin area and another puck to the chiclets during the playoffs.

Jarvis has such a bright future, and it was really hard to listen to him describe what his experience has been like these past few days.

“I’m doing a lot better today than I have been. My headache has basically gone away today,” he said Thursday. “I still feel like I am in a fog, pretty slow. Other than the concussion, the other two aren’t that serious of injuries.”

Other than the concussion, the other two aren’t that serious. That’s hard to hear from a 20-year-old or anyone.

His memory of suffering the concussion is blurry.

“I know we had a power play in the first period,” he said. “After that, I don’t remember anything until — I can remember parts of watching it in Bill (Burniston’s) office in the third period. I remember KK (Jesperi Kotkaniemi) driving me home a bit. Then I don’t remember anything until halfway through the next day.

“It’s a little bit scary when you don’t remember anything.”

Jarvis laughed it off, but hearing this made me nauseous. The hit Trouba delivered was clean by the textbook, and Jarvis is a shorter guy, but I’ve heard there’s been discussion around the league about discouraging players from making open ice hits like these. I’m not really sure how I feel about it, but I do wonder if it’s time to look into the “textbook” and protect players at open ice.

“Tough question,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “There’s so much that goes into all that. I think they’ve done what they can on that. They certainly look at everything, which is the key. It’s just, it’s part of the game, unfortunately. You’re going to get hit sometimes. I don’t know how you do it any differently. Unless you take hitting right out of the game — then what are we playing?”

It’s a tough question, but listening to a 20-year-old, wide-eyed kid brush off a concussion blackout is even harder.

8) Way back when my son’s seizures were not well controlled (i.e., more than 16 years ago) I remember reading interesting things about vagus nerve stimulation and epilepsy, but haven’t paid much attention to it since.  Apparently, vagus nerve stimulation is now some kind of panacea:

In recent years, the vagus nerve has become an object of fascination, especially on social media. The vagal nerve fibers, which run from the brain to the abdomen, have been anointed by some influencers as the key to reducing anxiety, regulating the nervous system and helping the body to relax.

TikTok videos with the hashtag “#vagusnerve” have been viewed more than 64 million times and there are nearly 70,000 posts with the hashtag on Instagram. Some of the most popular ones feature simple hacks to “tone” or “reset” the vagus nerve, in which people plunge their faces into ice water baths or lie on their backs with ice packs on their chests. There are also neck and ear massages, eye exercises and deep-breathing techniques.

Now, wellness companies have capitalized on the trend, offering products like “vagus massage oil,” vibrating bracelets and pillow mists, that claim to stimulate the nerve, but that have not been endorsed by the scientific community.

Researchers who study the vagus nerve say that stimulating it with electrodes can potentially help improve mood and alleviate symptoms in those who suffer from treatment-resistant depression, among other ailments. But are there other ways to activate the vagus nerve? Who would benefit most from doing so? And what exactly is the vagus nerve, anyway? Here’s a look at what we know so far…

Evidence indicates that stimulating the vagus nerve can help people with epilepsydiabetes, treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder — as well as inflammatory autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis. There is even some preliminary research suggesting that long Covid symptoms could originate, in part, from the virus’s effect on the vagus nerve.

“It can sound sort of magical with all the things it does,” said Eric Porges, an assistant professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the University of Florida who studies the vagus nerve. Our understanding of the vagus nerve “continues to grow in richness and depth,” he said, but there is still much to learn about how it works.

In the early 2000s, researchers started to show that vagus nerve stimulation could help some patients who were severely depressed and had not responded to other treatments.

A wave of studies followed.

By 2005, the Food and Drug Administration had approved implantable pulse-generating devices that sent electrical signals to the vagus nerve, for use in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Similar devices have also been approved for obesity — to help control feelings of hunger and fullness — and for the treatment of epilepsy. The downside of these devices, however, is that the surgery is expensive and it can take months — and sometimes as long as a year — to have an effect.

Researchers are now recruiting patients for the largest clinical trial to date examining to what degree vagus nerve stimulation may help patients with depression who have been unable to find relief with other treatments.

The device may be especially helpful for those with bipolar depression because so few treatments exist for them, said Dr. Scott Aaronson, one of the senior psychiatrists involved in the clinical trial and the chief science officer of the Institute for Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics, a center within the Sheppard Pratt psychiatric hospital that aims to help people who have not improved with conventional treatments and medications.

In general, one of the problems with treating depression “is that we’ve got a lot of medications that pretty much do the same thing,” Dr. Aaronson said. And when patients do not respond to those medications, “we don’t have a lot of novel stuff.”

Implanted vagus nerve stimulation isn’t currently accessible for most people, however, because insurers have so far declined to pay for the procedure, with the exception of Medicare recipients participating in the latest clinical trial.

Dr. Tracey’s research, which uses internal vagus nerve stimulation to treat inflammation, may also have applications for psychiatric disorders like PTSD, said Dr. Andrew H. Miller, the director of the Behavioral Immunology Program at Emory University, who studies how the brain and the immune system interact, and how those interactions can contribute to stress and depression.

PTSD is characterized by increased measures of inflammation in the blood, he said, which “can influence circuits in the brain that are related to anxiety.”

In one pilot study at Emory, for example, researchers electronically stimulated the neck skin near the vagus in 16 people, eight of whom received vagus nerve stimulation treatment and eight of whom received a sham treatment. The researchers found that the stimulation treatment reduced inflammatory responses to stress and was associated with a decrease in PTSD symptoms, indicating that such stimulation may be useful for some patients, including those with elevated inflammatory biomarkers.

Meanwhile, Dr. Porges and his colleagues at the University of Florida have patented a method to adjust vagus nerve electrical stimulation based on a patient’s physiology. He is now working with the company Evren Technologies, where he is a shareholder, to develop an external medical device that uses this approach for patients with PTSD.

9) And, yeah, my kid is big (20 years old next week and 165 pounds or so) and has autism, but I’m so, so grateful he’s never had truly major behavioral difficulties.  I just feel so bad for families like those in this story, “Sabrina’s Parents Love Her. But the Meltdowns Are Too Much. Unpredictable violence, chaotic outbursts and countless trips to the emergency room. What happens when an autistic teenager becomes unmanageable at home?”

10) Ross Douthat says we should make it notably harder for young adults to get guns.  He’s onto something here– just don’t stop at 25.

So I would like to see experiments with age-based impediments rather than full restrictions — allowing would-be gun purchasers 25 and under the same rights of ownership as 40- or 60-year-olds, but with more substantial screenings before a purchase. Not just a criminal-background check, in other words, but some kind of basic social or psychological screening, combining a mental-health check, a social-media audit and testimonials from two competent adults — all subject to the same appeals process as a well-designed red-flag law.

Sure, own your gun.  But, like in actually civilized nations, everybody should have to have a more substantial screening.

11) It kind of sucks that this is true, but, alas… “Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work: If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling.”

The first problem is that there are thousands of different plastics, each with its own composition and characteristics. They all include different chemical additives and colorants that cannot be recycled together, making it impossible to sort the trillions of pieces of plastics into separate types for processing. For example, polyethylene terephthalate (PET#1) bottles cannot be recycled with PET#1 clamshells, which are a different PET#1 material, and green PET#1 bottles cannot be recycled with clear PET#1 bottles (which is why South Korea has outlawed colored PET#1 bottles.) High-density polyethylene (HDPE#2), polyvinyl chloride (PVC#3), low-density polyethylene (LDPE#4), polypropylene (PP#5), and polystyrene (PS#6) all must be separated for recycling.

Just one fast-food meal can involve many different types of single-use plastic, including PET#1, HDPE#2, LDPE#4, PP#5, and PS#6 cups, lids, clamshells, trays, bags, and cutlery, which cannot be recycled together. This is one of several reasons why plastic fast-food service items cannot be legitimately claimed as recyclable in the U.S.

Another problem is that the reprocessing of plastic waste—when possible at all—is wasteful. Plastic is flammable, and the risk of fires at plastic-recycling facilities affects neighboring communities—many of which are located in low-income communities or communities of color.

Unlike metal and glass, plastics are not inert. Plastic products can include toxic additives and absorb chemicals, and are generally collected in curbside bins filled with possibly dangerous materials such as plastic pesticide containers. According to a report published by the Canadian government, toxicity risks in recycled plastic prohibit “the vast majority of plastic products and packaging produced” from being recycled into food-grade packaging.

Yet another problem is that plastic recycling is simply not economical. Recycled plastic costs more than new plastic because collecting, sorting, transporting, and reprocessing plastic waste is exorbitantly expensive. The petrochemical industry is rapidly expanding, which will further lower the cost of new plastic.

Despite this stark failure, the plastics industry has waged a decades-long campaign to perpetuate the myth that the material is recyclable. This campaign is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s efforts to convince smokers that filtered cigarettes are healthier than unfiltered cigarettes.

12) Yowza! “Alligator Kills Florida Man Retrieving Frisbees in Lake, Officials Say”

13) Good stuff from ClearerThinking, “Using survey data to explore promising intervention areas for improving well-being”

A quick summary of our most interesting results

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Figure 1: Main results. The smaller black boxes show which of the eight psychological challenges were most predictive of life quality or depression. For each of these psychological challenges, the white boxes below show the statements that participants’ agreement or disagreement with was most predictive of life quality or depression. 

In terms of which psychological challenges that may be especially prevalent, our results (which we replicated in a confirmatory follow-up study) suggest that:

 
  1. Reducing negative self-image and feelings of emotional isolation may be a promising way of improving subjective life quality.

  2. Reducing negative self-talk and feelings of emotional overwhelm may be a promising way of improving depression.

Additionally, we found two psychological strategies that seemed particularly promising for improving both life quality and depression: reminders of personal strength and gratitude for positive things in life. In addition, making time for healthy activities (like exercise) and relying on other people were both correlated with an increase in life quality.

14) There was this whole weird thing online this week about whether Swedish people feed their guests.  Prompted a deep dive from NYT:

A Swedish child sits at a dinner table while his friend and the friend’s parents dine on meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. The delicious aroma wafts below the child’s nose, but there is no plate for him.

This setting, while quite normal in Sweden and other Nordic countries, has horrified people around the world, shocked to learn that some Swedish families do not invite their children’s visiting friends to eat with them at mealtime.

Instead, when it’s time to eat, a child might go home, stay in the friend’s room and play or sit at the table with the family and not eat.

The custom was the subject of much conversation (and a little concern) online after a recent Reddit post circulated widely. The post asked “what is the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?” and in one of the more popular replies, someone described going to their Swedish friend’s house and being told to wait in a room while the family ate. “I wish my abuela were still around,” Lynda Carter, the actress who played Wonder Woman, said on Twitter. “She’d be trying to airlift tamales to Sweden.”

The people of Sweden, a country UNICEF ranked as the most family friendly in 2019, were left to explain why there did not seem to be enough pickled herring to go around.

Hakan Jonsson, a food studies professor at Lund University in Sweden, said sharing food is the foundation of culture, so he understands why other people might see this custom as a “hostile” act. A few years ago, he was part of a program to discuss Swedish cultural customs with immigrants and this practice was “regularly mentioned” as being very strange.

Professor Jonsson said he had not studied the custom, and it was not one his family practiced, but he guessed it could be traced to several parts of Swedish identity.

Before advances were made in food storage, he said, Swedish people would have three to four months to harvest a year’s worth of food in the cold climate, so spontaneous dinners have never been a part of the culture. He said Swedish people also want to respect the independence of the family and offering another person’s child a meal could be seen as a critique of the other person’s ability to support a family.

“There has been a very strong urge of independence, to not rely on others’ good will for having a good and independent life,” Professor Jonsson said. “It was a very strong driver toward the welfare state, to create this impersonal assistance, where you did not have to rely on any other person.”

15) Bizarre local news/sports story, “Did Raleigh mayor make little Rangers fan cry at Canes game? Baldwin, father disagree.” 

16) Some good Covid social science:

Does information about how other people feel about COVID-19 vaccination affect immunization intentions? We conducted preregistered survey experiments in Great Britain (5,456 respondents across 3 survey waves from September 2020 to February 2021), Canada (1,315 respondents in February 2021), and the state of New Hampshire in the United States (1,315 respondents in January 2021). The experiments examine the effects of providing accurate public opinion information to people about either public support for COVID-19 vaccination (an injunctive norm) or public beliefs that the issue is contentious. Across all 3 countries, exposure to this information had minimal effects on vaccination intentions even among people who previously held inaccurate beliefs about support for COVID-19 vaccination or its perceived contentiousness. These results suggest that providing information on public opinion about COVID vaccination has limited additional effect on people’s behavioral intentions when public discussion of vaccine uptake and intentions is highly salient.

17) Arthur Brooks, “The Two Choices That Keep a Midlife Crisis at Bay”

The first decision: Choose to focus on what age gives you, not what it has taken away. The developmental psychologist Erik Erikson believed that midlife presents a crossroads with two paths forward, which he called generativity and stagnation. My own research bears this out, and shows that the path you take is largely up to you. Stagnation, which can lead to a crisis, happens when you try to fight against time, whether you’re desperately trying not to look older or struggling against changes in your skills and strengths. Generativity comes from accepting your age and recognizing the new aptitudes and abilities that naturally develop after age 40 and get stronger through your 50s and 60s. These include the growing ability to see patterns clearly, teach others, and explain complex ideas—what psychologists call “crystallized intelligence.”

The second decision: Choose subtraction, not addition. Early in life, success usually comes from addition: more money, more responsibility, more relationships, more possessions. Life in early adulthood is like filling up an empty canvas. By midlife, however, that canvas is pretty full, and more brushstrokes make the painting worse, not better. This explains why studies find that the most common concerns reported by middle-aged adults involve getting everything done in their busy life, their energy level, job complications, and insufficient sleep.

Midlife is the point at which your medium of choice should change from a canvas to a sculpture, in which the work of art appears as a result of chipping away, not adding. This is hard to do when you have accepted a lot of responsibilities at work and at home. But I have found that in many cases, the most important impediment to chipping away is a belief that success = more. In middle age, this is bad math. Work to change your objective by stepping away from voluntary duties and responsibilities, and making more time to think, read, love, and pray—the work that you need to do to reengineer you.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Yes, more deBoer, but I really just love him even when I don’t agree with him.  But this is really thought-provoking about how discriminating based on physical attractiveness is just an accepted norm:

We have a new controversy of a kind that crops up more and more often. It’s the kind that seems incredibly tired right from the beginning, where the various players take their places and dutifully recite their parts. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which in defiance of all logic still exists, has chosen new cover models. One of them is Yumi Nu, a fuller-figured model, someone who once would not have been considered viable for that venue. Some conservatives, predictably, are big mad about it, including Jordan Peterson. Inevitably, and with a real sense of the eternal recurrence of modern political cycles, the body positivity crowd has rushed to Nu’s defense.

Personally, I think Nu is attractive, and there’s also going to be conventionally hot and thin models in that magazine, and Sports Illustrated is a fucking relic anyway and who cares. You’d think the Google Image search would have immediately mooted the swimsuit issue, but apparently not. Anyway, I can’t imagine occupying the headspace where I got mad about which unobtainable model is on the cover of a magazine, even if I didn’t think Nu was good-looking. (Then again, the people attacking Peterson are also playing right into his game.) What I do think this argument shows is a certain confused manner of thinking about attractiveness which has cropped up since we decided that literally every arena in human experience needs to be “socially just.”

Consider Ashley Graham, another full-figured model who has posed for the swimsuit issue. (Whether Graham qualifies as a plus-sized model or not is apparently a matter of controversy, and I’m staying away.) While Graham is heavier than most models traditionally have been, she’s also very beautiful. I love her body, but even aside from the elasticity of what’s attractive in a women’s body she has the face of… well, of an internationally-celebrated model, which she is. I’m certainly not the first to make this point, but that’s not any more “realistic” than a wafer-thin model is. It’s not any more approachable. It’s not any more achievable, for the average woman. And so the question is, what is the feminist value of this supposed embrace of different body types if you’re still highlighting women whose looks are unachievable for almost everyone? How is “you should judge yourself against Ashley Graham’s beautiful face and perfect skin and nice tits” any more humane than “you should be as thin as Kate Moss”? …

Germane to my point here, though… is the bone structure of your face chosen? Can you choose to have a perfect nose? Is your eye color somehow under your control in a way your weight isn’t? Sure, we can radically change our appearances with surgery and all manner of other techniques, but the self-acceptance philosophy that’s core to Instagram feminism suggests that we shouldn’t feel any pressure to do that stuff. And spotlighting the expectation to be skinny while ignoring all of the other difficult standards of conventional beauty seems very odd to me. The hallmarks of appearing attractive are not in any sense fairer than body fat standards, yet nobody is giving up on the idea of more or less attractive people.

2) How can you not love this in McSweeney’s, “A passenger’s one-star review off the trolley ride from the trolley problem”?

3) So much this from Yglesias, ‘Let’s use unspent Covid funds to make great next generation vaccines”

Eric Topol writes that the latest new variants seem to offer considerable capacity to evade immunity, meaning the coming winter wave may be similar in severity to the Omicron winter rather than the situation we hoped for where waves diminish in amplitude.

The sad reality is that as bad as Covid-19 is, it’s not really deadly enough to ever burn itself out. It’s also not mild enough to be “just the flu” and is additive to flu’s burden of disease rather than substituting for it. It’s also of course possible that new variants will emerge that are deadlier.

To get out of this cycle, we’re going to need to develop a more general vaccine. Ideally, that means one that targets the shared properties of the entire coronavirus family and gets out of playing whack-a-mole with variants. There are also important ongoing lines of research into vaccines you would take as a nasal spray rather than a shot. I suspect needlephobia plays a much larger role in vaccine refusal than anyone wants to squarely admit, but a bigger issue is that nasal vaccines could potentially be much more effective at blocking the transmission of the virus, which right now is often able to colonize people’s noses and create mild cases that keep bouncing around making it harder to achieve true sterilizing immunity. There are lots of different agencies and groups around the world with a role to play in doing that science and bringing the products to market. But BARDA has been America’s MVP for developing public health technology and deserves to be high on the funding priority list.

4) Been some really dramatic videos of this lately (including here), “Beach Houses on the Outer Banks Are Being Swallowed by the Sea”

5) Meanwhile, digging large holes in the beach (Outer Banks or elsewhere) can literally kill you

A pit the size of a grave was found on a popular Outer Banks beach, prompting warnings that passersby are at high risk of being seriously hurt or killed by falls and cave-ins.

The discovery in Kill Devil Hills was announced May 17, the same day two siblings were trapped when a hole caved in on a New Jersey beach. An 18-year-old died before rescuers could reach him, according to the Toms River Police Department.

Kill Devil Hills posted the warning with a photo showing the “massive hole” was big enough to hold the town’s ocean rescue supervisor.

6) NYT Editorial pulls no punches, “Student Debt Is Crushing. Canceling It for Everyone Is Still a Bad Idea.”

The Biden administration should spend its finite resources and political capital on fixing the higher education system to make it more affordable while helping those borrowers in the most distress. There are already ways to do this, although they have not gotten nearly enough attention or resources.

Canceling student debt across the board is not one of them. Trying to fix such a shattered system with the flick of a pen on an executive order could even make it worse. Canceling this debt, even in the limited amounts that the White House is considering, would set a bad precedent and do nothing to change the fact that future students will graduate with yet more debt — along with the blind hope of another, future amnesty. Such a move is legally dubiouseconomically unsoundpolitically fraught and educationally problematic.

7) Yascha Mounk with a great conversation with Adolph Reed on race and class.  Once again, I find myself loving the take of a Marxist:

Reed: Yeah. The other pole was—and here’s the sleight of hand—that people were poor because they lacked a sense of personal capacity. This was the foundation of the community mobilization approach to fighting poverty, the idea being that you organize the poor to act on their own behalf, and somehow, magically, that would turn into the end of poverty. Hardly anyone recognized that, at the time, in the terms in which I’m describing it now. But in effect, the psychologistic understanding of the roots of poverty was becoming part of the basis of the new left’s understanding of radicalism. 

And I can’t tell you how many frustrating meetings I attended when I was in college—people thinking the point of politics was to express themselves and to realize their deeper identities and aspirations. That’s one tributary that flowed into this great river that we’re talking about today. And then in the mid-to-late 80s, in the academy, in particular, the newer disciplines of Black Studies, feminist studies, etc, emerged with an aura of ersatz politics or extramural political meaning about them, just as they were becoming institutionalized as solidly respected fields of study in the elite academy. Scholars in those fields were under internal pressure themselves to combine what we might call their social service justifications for their existence with demonstrations of high intellectuality. So, at that moment of need, we get another infusion of French theory, and we also get a particular kind of American appropriation of cultural studies on the British model. And they come together in a way that reinforces identitarianism. Then my colleague and friend James Scott’s work on the “hidden transcripts” of the oppressed gets appropriated by people in those disciplines to make claims about how the truth of women, blacks, Hispanics, whatever, can never be known, unless you do the deep, almost Straussian, mystified understanding of hidden meanings that can only be reached through an elaborate and an esoteric hermeneutic, which also carries with it a race-reductionist and identitarian component in the sense that there’s at least a substantive argument that’s packed into that, that only the black woman can really get access to the esoteric interpretation of the state of the black woman. You can see how this also becomes a career imperative.

Mounk: Fascinating. I’d never thought that what some people call “situated knowledge,” what often today is called standpoint epistemology, has one of its roots in the work of James Scott, whom I also greatly admire.

You use the term “race reductionism,” which is one of the phrases that you’re well known for. What is race reductionism, and why should we be worried about it?

Reed: I give my son credit for the term. And on a rhetorical level, it’s obviously a reversal of the “class reductionism” charge that people levy at the likes of us. But there’s an organic foundation for the term. If you start out from the assumption that the black experience in North America has been uniformly defined by racism, white supremacy and even like a sort of demon theory of a transcendent anti-blackness that has animated the history of the entire world, what that means is that you’re reducing everything that has to do with black Americans’ experience to their racial classification. And we see that now for instance, shortly after the 2016 presidential campaign, an MSNBC host, who I describe as a tribune of neoliberal anti-racism, Joy-Ann Reid, in an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, declared that black people don’t have an interest in stuff like free public higher education, or Medicare for All, or a $15 an hour wage, or employment security, or access to a secure and dignified retirement. What black people actually want is a “reckoning,” as they call it, and to have the racial conversation. That can only work, first of all, if others are at all prepared to accept her as a ventriloquist of 46 million black people, but also, if people are prepared to accept (including her, by the way) the premise that every other feature of the lives of any black person is subordinate to their racial classification, and to an agenda that purportedly can be read out from the racial classification. That seems like a textbook explanation of racial reductionism to me. And I think that’s a mindset that dominates current identity politics.

8) George Packer on the new political book, This will not pass

The failures of the book’s Democrats do not threaten the republic. The rotten core around which our democracy has begun to collapse is the Republican Party. It remains Trump’s party as long as he keeps his grip on its voters and can defy the medical odds against an old man who eats badly and never exercises. Trump’s most fervent supporters in Congress, such as Representatives Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, don’t even exist in a category of responsibility and blame: Their behavior is the political equivalent of not guilty by reason of insanity. Burns and Martin reserve their sharpest criticism for Republicans who know better—moral vacuities motivated by opportunism and power lust. These include lesser-known members of Congress such as Jim Banks of Indiana and Elise Stefanik of New York; the erratic Senator Lindsey Graham, whose only constant seems to be an insatiable desire for attention; and McConnell himself, who flirted briefly with principle in his comments on Trump after January 6, before finding safety in a refusal to say much of anything.

But the embodiment of Trump’s Republican Party, and the object of the authors’ undisguised contempt, is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He is willing to betray any vestige of truth, courage, and self-respect to stay in Trump’s good graces and therefore remain the party’s top contender for speaker of the House. At one point, Burns and Martin inform us that Trump took to calling McCarthy a “pussy,” and they add: “McCarthy responded not by defying the former president but by more or less setting out to prove him right.” One of the biggest scoops—McCarthy’s brief, private criticism of Trump and his congressional fanatics immediately after January 6—endangered all of the work McCarthy had done afterward to secure the godfather’s blessing. When McCarthy declared the story a falsehood of the liberal media, the authors produced an audio recording to confirm its accuracy. But McCarthy and his party are so lost in a miasma of tribalism and lies that this humiliation didn’t matter. He retained the support of Trump, who might share Burns and Martin’s disdain for McCarthy but who knows a useful tool when he sees one.

This Will Not Pass raises a question that isn’t easy to answer: What is it about political power that leads people to desecrate themselves so nakedly in its pursuit? Speaker of the House is an important position, but what’s the overwhelming appeal of a career as a congressional backbencher, or as a committee chair gaveling endless meetings that achieve nothing in particular? The book’s Republicans hardly seem motivated by policy ideas, let alone by a desire to govern well in the public interest. They passed little substantive legislation when their party controlled Congress and the White House during Trump’s first two years. The most popular of them are nihilistic combatants in the culture wars whose chief skill is building personal brands. When the institutions of government hollow out, what’s left is the chase for these cheap gratifications, removing the last self-restraints from those in power.

Anyone who spends time in Washington encounters intelligent, capable, hardworking people who went into politics for relatively idealistic reasons and manage to resist its more corrupting temptations. The brighter lights in this book include some Democrats and a few Republicans who believe in self-government, understand the need for both principle and compromise, and are willing if necessary to take on their own side. None of them seems likely to ever get very far. Those picking up this book a few decades from now will have to confront the question of why a free people, in discarding their most promising leaders while elevating the likes of Kevin McCarthy, asked for their own destruction.

9) Brownstein on this week’s primaries:

That tilt reflects the fundamental shift in the GOP coalition that Brabender identified. In a process that predates Trump but has greatly accelerated since his emergence, the GOP has grown more reliant on non-college-educated, non-urban, and religiously conservative voters, many of whom express anxiety about demographic and cultural change in polls, while shedding support from college-educated and more moderate voters, especially those clustered in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

Pennsylvania crystallizes that change. In the early 1990s, about one-third of Republican primary votes in the state were cast across the southeast, in Philadelphia and its four surrounding suburban counties, according to calculations by Berwood Yost, the director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster. But by 2018, as residents of those suburbs continued a generation-long migration toward the Democratic Party, the Philadelphia region’s share of the state’s GOP primary vote had fallen to a little over one-fifth.

Simultaneously, the mostly blue-collar counties around Pittsburgh, in southwestern Pennsylvania, slightly increased their share of the GOP vote, while the less densely populated counties in the state’s center increased their share even more, Yost found. Results as of early Wednesday suggest that these patterns largely held in this primary, with Philadelphia and its suburbs again contributing only a little more than one-fifth of GOP primary votes, the southwest a little less than one-fifth, and the interior counties the remainder…

What does this mean for the future direction of the GOP? The challenge for the small remnant of Republican candidates who resist Trump—or even those who want to support his general direction without personally bending the knee to him—is that these changes have shrunk the audience for any alternative path. As voters who are uneasy with Trumpism—largely college-educated suburbanites in metropolitan areas—have drifted away from the party, the core left behind is more receptive to Trump-style arguments. And the more that GOP primaries produce Trump-style candidates, the less likely center-right voters will be to vote in such elections at all.

That leaves little hope in the near term for the dwindling band of conservatives and Republicans who want to see the party shift back away from Trumpism. “There was a time I thought you could remove him and save the party,” Sarah Longwell, the founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project, tweeted on Monday. “But looking at these GOP primaries—not to mention the last 18 months—it’s clear Trump has metastasized across the party. And it can’t be saved.”…

At minimum, it appears highly unlikely that November will produce the widespread repudiation of Trump-style candidates that critics such as Kristol consider the prerequisite to any GOP course correction. And if voters don’t decisively reject Trumpism in November, the odds increase that the GOP will embrace Trumpism again in 2024, either with Trump himself or another candidate who has embraced his agenda, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

That likelihood has huge implications not just for the competition between the two parties, but for American democracy. Republican primary voters so far have nominated multiple candidates who echo some version of Trump’s wild claims of 2020 election fraud, who promise to make it more difficult to vote, and who signal, as in Mastriano’s case, that they might seek to overturn any Democratic victory for president. The real price of Trumpism’s grip on the GOP might be a full-scale constitutional crisis in 2024.

10) Interesting academic research on polling:

Using the registration-based samples and disposition codes of state-level pre-election telephone polls conducted by the National Election Pool as part of the National Exit Poll in 12 states, we test whether likely Democrats were more likely to cooperate with the National Exit Poll than likely Republicans and independents. Using information about both respondents and nonrespondents, we find that Democrats are more likely to cooperate with telephone interviewers than Republicans and independents by 3 and 6 percentage points, respectively, even after controlling for individual and geographic features plausibly related to nonresponse (e.g., age, gender, race, urban/rural, community support for President Trump, and effects of COVID-19). Equalizing the partisan cooperation rate when post-stratifying to account for the partisan differences in cooperation decreases the average polling error on the margin of victory by 4 percentage points in the polls we examine, but sizable errors remain in critical swing states because of within-party differences in who responds and/or errors in the available partisanship measures in the voter file.

11) Can interventions can more women interested in running for office?  More social science:

The under-representation of women in American politics can likely be explained, at least in part, by women’s comparatively lower levels of political ambition. We analyze a co-ed, religious program for high school students in which participants lobby their Members of Congress and receive political skills training. By leveraging longitudinal survey data about the participants and a difference-in-differences design, we find that the program successfully increased the political ambition of its female participants. To the best of our knowledge, we offer the first quasi-experimental evidence demonstrating a possible means of increasing the political ambition of high school-aged American women. Our results demonstrate that female political ambition can be increased without relying on programs that explicitly focus on gender and ambition.

The low-hanging hemp of legal marijuana

Okay, I don’t even know how hemp grows, but I do like a good “low-hanging fruit” metaphor.  And that’s what legal marijuana is for Democrats and they are totally dropping the ball.  I meant to write this post a few days ago, but in the meantime, twitter was all abuzz for a day (as it will) about Joe Biden’s stark decline in popularity among young people.  And you know what young people really love? Legal marijuana.  A recent poll on the state of the issue in NC:

The poll also found:

  • 75% of Democrats polled felt medical marijuana should be legalized, 15% of Democrats it should remain against the law and 10% weren’t sure.
  • 63% of Democrats felt recreational marijuana should be legalized, 26% felt it should remain against the law and 12% weren’t sure.
  • 64% of Republicans felt medical marijuana should be legalized, 26% felt it should remain against the law and 10% weren’t sure.
  • 45% of Republicans felt recreational marijuana should be legalized, 45% felt it should remain against the law and 10% weren’t sure.

Got that– it’s even a break even proposition among all Republicans.  Here’s a chart with various breakdowns on legal recreational marijuana.


Sure, maybe Democrats might turn off some older voters who were culturally comfortable with Democrats but marijuana was the last straw (honestly, seems like that’s got to be a pretty small group), but I think the gains among young people would be quite meaningful.  And, a lot of young people who favor legal marijuana are otherwise disengaged from politics and just maybe this could help get some of them voting.  

This is a fight worth having because the status quo policy (federal schedule 1 is dumb) and because it is almost assuredly a political winner for Democrats.  I think this is where the party truly is hampered by having so much of their leadership having come of age in the “reefer madness” generation.  

[This is funny, I went to queue this up to post in the morning and I saw that I’m posting on 4/20— that was seriously not even my intent :-)]

Tax cuts > democracy

The Club for Growth– long a force for ill in American politics– is all-in on Ted Budd versus former NC Governor, Pat McCrory, in the NC Republican Senate primary campaign.  Let’s start with what the Club for Growth is supposedly about from it’s own webpage:

Some of the Club’s top policy goals include:

  • Reducing income tax rates and repealing the death tax
  • Replacing the current tax code with a fair/flat tax
  • The full repeal of ObamaCare and the end of abusive lawsuits through medical malpractice/tort reform
  • Reducing the size and scope of the federal government
  • Cutting government spending and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution
  • Regulatory reform and deregulation
  • Expanding school choice

Since CFG is running some very negative ads against McCrory (long-known as a business-friendly Republican) surely it’s because he’s tried to raise taxes or create more regulations– right?

No.  McCrory’s biggest sin– not being a Trumpist and not being in on the Big Lie.  I find it so utterly depressing that it is clearly seen as a winning GOP primary strategy to attack someone for saying 2020 was not a fraudulent election.  Here’s the ad in question:

Oh, and why we’re at it, McCrory had the temerity to suggest that Black Lives, do, in fact, Matter.  Apparently praising Mitt Romney (the bastard voted for impeachment!) is also a substantial sin.

Unsurprisingly, the ad is also breathtakingly dishonest in how it uses clips from McCrory’s radio show (explanation in this nice WRAL post). 

So, to return to where I started.  CFG is supposedly all about tax cuts and small government.  But, if they have to jettison basic democratic principles (like free and fair elections) on the way, then so be it, apparently.  And, again, how enormously depressing that this is clearly the strategy to win the heart of Republican primary voters.  

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