Quick hits (part II)

1) The NYT with the “myth of the lazy non-voter.  Short version– let’s make it easier to vote!

While many countries greatly simplify the voting process — or make voting mandatory — the solutions here in the United States may not need to be so drastic.

In fact, they are right in front of us. Just as some states that have passed laws restricting access to voting in recent years have seen reduced turnout, states with laws that afford people the greatest access to voting – several states where ID requirements are not onerous, where all residents can register to vote online and registration periods extend to Election Day, and where voters have many options to vote early or on Election Day without losing any income – have experienced high participation. Our democracy depends on the ability to participate freely, without unnecessary barriers. The voters must choose elected officials, and not the other way around.

2) The case for glass as humankind’s most important material.

3) Sperm counts keep falling and scientists can only guess:

Halpern went on to explain that many chemical compounds that are used to make plastic hard (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) or soft (like phthalates) can mimic estrogen in the bloodstream—so men with lots of phthalates in their system are likely to produce less testosterone and fewer sperm (though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated earlier this year, somewhat controversially, that its research continues to support its claim that the authorized amounts and uses of BPA are safe for consumers). Plus, chemicals like BPA and phthalates can alter the way genes express themselves, making some of the conditions these chemicals cause inheritable. “Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors,” Halpern wrote. “That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.”

Sharpe, however, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health, isn’t totally convinced by the BPA-and-phthalates theory. While there’s a much more cohesive consensus throughout the field of reproductive medicine these days than there may have been 10 or 20 years ago that sperm counts are indeed falling, he says, “the controversy and lack of agreement continue regarding what has caused the fall and when in life has the effect been induced.” Though many consider environmental chemicals to be the primary cause of declining sperm counts, Sharpe says he’s “increasingly skeptical” of that hypothesis: “I would favor that it results from our huge dietary and lifestyle changes, both by pregnant women and by young men.”

Studies like the new ones presented by ASRM, in other words, increasingly serve as bolstering evidence to what many scientists already believe. As scientists reach a consensus that something is happening to men’s sperm in the Western world, the next phase will be to figure out exactly what, and why.

4) Frank Bruni, “Lindsey Graham Is the Saddest Story in Washington: His fight for Brett Kavanaugh completed his transformation into Donald Trump’s slobbering manservant.”

5) I tried reading Jane Austen’s Emma with my email book club of graduate school friends.  I gave up about half-way through as I found the novel relentlessly tedious.  How could this be a classic, I wondered.  Apparently, a huge part of the reason is that the narrative style was revolutionary for 1816.  Now that we’re all used to free indirect, though, damn that’s a lot of boring British, elite, country life to slog through.

6) Nice summary of some nice PS research, “Trump Has Made Republicans More Comfortable Expressing Their Sexism Out Loud”

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf on Republicans and the presumption of innocence:

There are principled civil libertarians and their antagonists on the right and left, in both political parties, but here’s what I see when I step back, survey a range of relevant issues, and make educated judgments about who’d be better to advance presumption of innocence and due process (having already granted that Republicans urge more due process on Title IX):

  • If there are law-enforcement figures at the local level who are depriving people of due process, they are more likely to be defended by Republicans, as happened with Joe Arpaio, and more likely to be reined in by the Democratic approach to the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • If there’s a major terrorist attack that inspires renewed calls for racial profiling, elected Democrats are more likely to fight against such proposals while elected and appointed Republicans are more likely to favor the choice that flips the presumption of innocence for some groups.
  • If a president is asserting a lawful ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges or trial, or to torture a suspected terrorist, I expect him or her to have more support on the right than the left, and to be overruled more reliably by Democratic appointed judges (although I would also expect presidents of both parties to transgress in this way).
  • It is the left that has fought to end stop-and-frisk policies that burdened total innocents, and the right that still defends them, even in New York City, where its end caused no rise in crime.
  • If I were placed on a no-fly list and wanted to challenge my status, I’d rather appear before a judge appointed by a Democrat than a Republican, if that’s the only differentiating factor that I had to go on.
  • Were I falsely accused of a crime and ran out of money to fund my own defense, I would rather a Democratic coalition had set the budget for the public defender’s office.
  • Were I mistakenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I would much prefer to go about the attempt to prove my United States citizenship via the due process procedures that the median Democrat favors than the ones that the median Republican favors.
  • If wrongly convicted, I would rather go to a progressive district attorney than a conservative one with new evidence suggesting my innocence.

That is hardly an exhaustive survey. But it should suffice to show partisan Republicans who claim to abhor character assassination and to value the presumption of innocence and due process why they are in no position to be righteously indignant about their coalition or to claim clear superiority to Democrats on these issues. Instead, they ought to feel a moral imperative to push their side to do better.

8) John Pfaff often makes the case that by focusing on for-profit prisons we miss the so-much-wrongness in public prisons (and there’s so much wrong).  That said, for-profit prisons to create uniquely perverse incentives.  Nate Blakeslee with a nice review of Shane Bauer’s first-hand reporting from serving as a guard in an awful, awful for-profit prison.

9) Robert Griffin and John Sides, “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Elect Trump and It May Hurt His Party in the Midterms.”

10) Peggy Orenstein, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys: Locker rooms are not the place to learn about sexual ethics. Neither is the internet.”

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to.

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”…

Rather than a deviant’s expression of pathology, assault among adolescents is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. Boys do it because they can: because they are oblivious, because they are ignorant, because they are impulsive, because they have not learned to see girls and women as fully human. And yes, science has confirmed what common sense presumes: Boys are much more likely to rape when they are drunk. And the more they drink, the more aggressive they are, and the less aware of their victims’ distress. By contrast, sober guys not only are less sexually coercive but also will more readily intervene to prevent assaults by others…

A boy who assaults once in high school may not do it again, which in some ways is good to hear. At the same time, that means a seemingly “good guy” may well do a bad thing. A very bad thing. And afterward it is completely plausible for him to get away without apologizing, facing consequences, making amends. The monster-good guy dichotomy contributes to his denial: He could not possibly really be a rapist because that would make him a “monster,” and he is a “good guy.” So he rationalizes, forgets, goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.

It is natural for parents to think their own sons would be incapable of sexual misconduct, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for educating their boys. Yet according to a survey of more than 3,000 18- to 25-year-olds published last year by the Making Caring Common project, which is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you. A similar share had never been told about “the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.”

Honestly, this is an area of sex education, where, I admit, I could be better.  And, I will be.  But at least one of my sons will be following the above link.

11) I have now watched Rocky I, II,III, and half of IV with said son.  Rocky really was a nice movie.  The others can be ridiculous at times, but qualify as pretty solid entertainment (Rocky V will not be happening).  Also, I turned on the TV last night and with no interesting (to me) college football on, I actually watched a boxing match for the first time in my adult life (I always watched Sugar Ray Leonard as a kid as he was a local hero in the DC area).

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Quick hits

1) I feel bad that I had missed this about the futility of persuasive political communication, but a politically-minded friend shared on FB:

Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact tenfold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately—although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

2) The family separation stuff just keeps getting worse and worse— “AP Investigation: Deported parents may lose kids to adoption”– but other than some intrepid reporters it’s like nobody even cares any more.

3) Speaking of not caring, Jack Shafer on how the NYT story basically proving Trump is a tax cheat landed with a thud and is already forgotten.

4) Fortunately, I’ve not run into any #Himtoo in my life.  How pathetic.  Definitely the corollary of “All Lives Matter.”

5) Brian Beutler on the civility trap:

Ironically, the bad faith nature of the GOP’s response to Holder and Clinton underscores just how on point both of them are.

There are two valid and honest ways to assess the notion that Democrats should politick as if Republicans want to “destroy” liberal society, and all it stands for. One is to sort out whether it’s politically wise for Democrats to discuss their opponents in unvarnished terms, and campaign accordingly. The other is to ask whether Clinton, Holder, and others have sized up Republicans correctly. It may be that Democrats will fare better at the polls, at least in some races, if they continue to embrace conciliatory language and politics, no matter how “low” Republicans go. But there is no question that, on the merits, more aggressive Democrats have diagnosed what their party is up against correctly.

There’s almost no sense in belaboring the point at all in the Trump era, but Republicans are no strangers to protest politics or incivility. What they reveal, in treating the Tea Party, and the massive resistance to the Obama presidency, and the Trump campaign as natural expressions of public discontent, and the backlash to Trump as a “mob,” is that they seek to make conservative politics the only legitimate form of politics in America.

Republicans pretend to be galled by “uncivil” political rhetoric, not in order to ease partisan tensions, but to warp public perception of where the dangerous, illiberal forces in the democracy are actually located; to distract the commentariat from arenas full of angry Trump supporters chanting for the imprisonment of various female liberals, and beating up protesters, while convincing those supporters that they’re the ones truly under threat.

Trump isn’t oblivious to the apparent hypocrisy of whining about Brett Kavanaugh’s presumptive innocence and declaring Democrats “too dangerous to govern,” within minutes of leading a “lock her up” chant. But it’s only true hypocrisy if you believe the conservatives and liberals share the rights and privileges of American life equally.

In eras of Democratic rule, Republicans take such an expansive view of resistance politics that they treat the threat of political violence as a legitimate part of protest.

6) Damn, if this case doesn’t bring into sharp relief the racial inequity in our criminal justice system.

7) On the limits of Tsunnami early warning systems and what to do if one is coming.

8) Enjoyed Josh Marshall’s unpacking of the GOP’s theory of Christine Blasey Ford:

Of all the things that have happened over the last two weeks, it’s not the biggest problem. But it has been gnawing at me. I believe it actually is a big deal, albeit in a somewhat oblique way. Let’s start with Senator Susan Collins today on CNN. Collins told Dana Bash: “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom. I’m not certain when.” I focus on Collins only because it is a simple, clear statement. But the great majority of Senate Republicans have made some version of the same argument.

So let’s just say it. This is a preposterous.

It’s possible Blasey Ford is lying about her account. I doubt it, given the evidence we have before us. But it’s possible. What is extraordinarily implausible is that Blasey Ford was attacked, clearly identified the attacker as Brett Kavanaugh, someone she knew reasonably well, and yet somehow confused him with someone else. This isn’t a case where she’d never met Kavanaugh before and picked him out of a line up. That kind of misidentification is plausible and happens. This is different. She already knew him. She knew what he looked like and she has a clear recollection that he attacked her. If someone you know violently attacks you or sexually assaults you, the identity of the person is indelibly fused into the memory because they are inseparable from the act. We don’t have to get overly technical about this. The point is obvious. If you know someone well and they attack you, you’re going to know it’s them and basically be certain about it.

But Collins doesn’t stop here and neither do her colleagues. She is not only sure Kavanaugh didn’t do it. She is also not sure “when” it happened. She and her Republican colleagues suggest that Blasey Ford may have been attacked at some different point in her life altogether – maybe in college? maybe as an adult? – and transposed it back on to her early teenage years.

This is more parlor game hypothetical than anything that is remotely likely to be true.

9) Save the planet, switch to goat meat.  Seriously.  Even notoriously picky me is now open to giving it a try:

“It is difficult to factory-raise goat meat,” said Anita Dahnke, executive director of the AGF, a nonprofit national association representing those who raise goats for milk, meat and fiber, and for pack and grazing services. Dahnke, who also is a partner on a 100-head goat farm in west-central Indiana, explained: “Goats need to get out and ‘browse,’ not graze, so if you’re eating domestic goat, that animal was almost certainly free-range.” She says that most goat herds are definitely not big business in the United States: “The average herd size is 35 head, which is small, so they are not produced at a large-scale level.”

10) Wired on the dangers of us all having our phone number as our universal ID.

11) Interesting essay on “Making Academic Life “Workable” for Fathers.”  Honestly, all I could think about reading this is that Anne-Marie Slaughter is so right that the key is that our society needs to fundamentally re-value how we think about care-giving.

12) Yascha Mounk brings his thoughts on the cultural studies hoax into a nice Atlantic article.

13) Yoni Applebaum on, “How Columbus Day Fell Victim to Its Own Success” was really interesting:

The great irony of Columbus Day, though, is that its struggle for a pluralistic nation succeeded only too well. The ineradicable racial difference of the swarthy Italians faded, over a short few decades, into an indistinguishable whiteness. In 1960, America elected a Catholic president. New waves of immigrants, and other marginalized groups, pressed for an America that would affirm the equality not only of different varieties of white men from Europe, but of all of its varied people. And they proved less likely to recognize themselves in Columbus than in his victims.

The land Columbus encountered was already abundantly peopled; celebrating his voyage as a discovery seemed to confirm a Eurocentric narrative. Many activists pointed to Columbus’ own sins, most significantly his brutal treatment of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. Others broadened the attack to encompass the subsequent centuries of abuse visited upon native peoples, and the varied flaws of the nations created in his wake. His critics transformedColumbus into the paradigmatic dead white male, a symbol of the limits and costs of American opportunity.

Just as the 400th anniversary of his arrival once galvanized celebrations, the 500th anniversary crystallized this opposition. “Columbus represents fundamentally the beginnings of modern white racism and the construction of racial identities in the United States,” charged historian Manning Marable in 1992. In Denver, where the legal holiday began, American Indian Movement activists poured fake blood on a statue of Columbus in 1989, setting the model for nationwide protests. They capped several years of escalating protests by shutting down the cinquecentennial Columbus Day Parade.

As protesters confront paraders today, they might consider that they actually share quite a bit in common. Those who created Columbus Day, like those who now denounce it, were engaged in a struggle to define a more capacious and inclusive nation. That a holiday named for an Italian Catholic is now taken to mark a national identity that is too narrow, rather than too broad, is the ultimate evidence of its success.

15) Never-Trumper Tom Nichols on why he is finally leaving the Republican Party.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Loved this NYT story about the amazing science and technology behind the decades-long effort finally create a pizza MRE.  Now that’s a worthy cause.

2) Sebastian Mallaby on how “Trumponomics” is not working:

So is Trumponomics working? With one significant caveat, the answer is no. For one thing, Trump’s trade policy is turning out to be worse than expected. For another, the growth surge mostly reflects a temporary sugar high from last December’s tax cut. Economists are already penciling in a recession for 2020

But the greatest damage stems from Trump’s trade war with China. His opening demand — that China abandon its subsidies for strategic high-tech industries — was never going to be met by a nationalistic dictatorship committed to industrial policy. His bet that tariffs will drive companies to shift production to the United States is equally forlorn. If manufacturers pull out of China, they are more likely to go elsewhere in Asia. And even if some manufacturing does come to the United States, this gain will be outweighed by the job losses stemming from Trump’s tariffs, which raise costs for industries that use Chinese inputs. In short, Trump isn’t helping the American workers he claims to speak for. Instead, he is battering the rules-based international system that offers the best chance of constraining China.

Phases in economic history are remembered by their labels: the go-go ’60s, the stagflationary ’70s and so on. The current populist era in the United States will turn out no better than populist projects elsewhere: in Britain, where a self-harming experiment in deglobalization has dragged down the national growth rate; in Italy, where expensive promises to voters could bring on a debt crisis. So do not be surprised if the populists are temporarily popular: Popularity is what they crave most, after all. But recall that, everywhere and throughout history, the populists’ folly is unmasked in the end.

3) This is a great point, with NC’s post-Florence problems, “North Carolina’s Problem Isn’t Florence, It’s Poverty: The floodplains read like maps of inequality and race.”

4) I’m pretty sure I walk faster when I’m with DJC.  NYT, “Faster. Slower. How We Walk Depends on Who We Walk With, and Where We Live.”

People move differently when they walk in groups than when they walk alone. And their walking style is especially distinct when they walk with children, according to a fascinating new cross-cultural study of pedestrians in several nations.

The study, which also shows that men tend to walk differently with other men than with women and that some cultures may promote walking speed over sociability, underscores that how we move is not dependent solely on physiology or biomechanics.

It is also influenced to a surprising extent by where we grew up and who we hang out with…

Given this complexity, exercise scientists have long been interested in how we manage the physical demands of walking. In laboratory studies, they have determined that each of us has a particular pace at which we are most biologically efficient, meaning that we use the least energy.

In theory, this is the pace that we naturally would settle into when we walk.

But other, real-world studies and observations indicate that people rarely perambulate at their most efficient pace. Impediments such as crowds, streetlights and scheduling concerns affect walking speed, of course.

But even on uncrowded pedestrian pathways, people often choose walking speeds that are slower or faster than their physiological ideal. Men, for instance, tend to slow their natural pace when they walk with women who are romantic partners, a few past studies show, but hasten their velocity when walking with other men.

5) It’s cool that there’s a Raleigh teacher on the cover of Time’s cover story about under-paid teachers.  That said, I think it’s a real mistake to choose a teacher making $69,000/year as the face of under-paid teachers.

6) Good parenting advice (and for certain progeny of the blogger who read this) here from NYT– how to help teenagers embrace stress:

But the conventional wisdom is that stress does harm and so, accordingly, we should aim to reduce, prevent or avoid it. Not surprisingly, this negative slant on stress can shape parenting and also leave teenagers feeling stressed about being stressed.

“Especially within the last five years,” says Sarah Huss, the director of human development and parent education at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles, “we’ve seen a rise in the number of parents who feel that it’s their job to rescue their child from situations that are stressful.”

To reframe how we think about a phenomenon that has been roundly, and wrongly, pathologized, we should appreciate that healthy stress is inevitable when we operate at the edge of our abilities. Stretching beyond familiar limits doesn’t always feel good, but growing and learning — the keys to school and much of life — can’t happen any other way. [emphases mine]

According to Jeremy P. Jamieson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who studies how stress impacts emotions and performance, “Avoiding stress doesn’t work and is often not possible. To achieve and grow, we have to get outside our comfort zones and approach challenges.”

Stress is also known to have an inoculating effect. Research shows that people who overcome difficult life circumstances go on to enjoy higher-than-average levels of resilience. In short, achieving mastery in trying situations builds emotional strength and psychological durability.

How students themselves regard stress — whether they see it as positive or negative — has powerful downstream effects. Studies find that when faced with steep intellectual tasks, individuals with a stress-is-enhancing outlook outperform those with a stress-is-debilitating one…

Happily, studies also find that it’s not hard to convert people to the stress-is-enhancing perspective. To do this in my own work with adolescents, I liken the demands of school to a strength-training program. Everyone understands that lifting weights to the point of discomfort is the only way to build muscle; the process of developing intellectual ability, including the ability to manage the stress that comes with it, works just the same way.

In talking with teenagers, I matter-of-factly point out that their teachers should be giving them hard academic workouts, because that’s what will transform them from wobbly middle school colts into graduation-ready racehorses.

To be sure, some days will be light on challenge and others will feel overwhelming. But I try to reassure students by telling them this: If, on balance, they are feeling stretched at school and asked to step up to a new level once they’ve mastered an old one, then things are going exactly as they should.

7) Open tab for too long– Sean McElwee on the power of “Abolish Ice.”

The Voter Study Group also asks respondents whether undocumented immigrants make a contribution to society or are a drain on it. In 2011, 40 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants make a contribution, 16 percent said neither and 31 percent said “mostly a drain” (the rest were unsure). By 2016, 61 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants made a contribution, 10 percent said neither and 22 percent said mostly a drain.

The abolish ICE debate is a product of the way American policymaking has changed in our hyperpartisan age. Debates and dialogue hardly every occur across the aisle, but activists in each party form a collective vision, often when they are out of power, and implement it when they gain power. Though the Republican Party seems to think it can use the Abolish ICE movement against Democrats everywhere, the idea that it will provide a bludgeon in the midterm is a phantom. For one, ICE is rapidly losing popularity and political capital, with 49 percent of Americans expressing a positive view and 44 percent a negative view in recent Pew polling. That’s the lowest of any agency they examined. Even the I.R.S. has 57 percent positive views and 36 percent negative views.

Data for Progress also commissioned a national survey from YouGov Blue. We asked respondents, “Would you support or oppose defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enforcing immigration violations like other civil infractions?” We found 32 percent of respondents in support and 38 percent opposed (with another 30 saying neither or they didn’t know). Half of Democrats supported defunding ICE (18 percent opposed) and among people under 45, 33 percent supported the idea and 27 percent opposed it…

8) Love this “Be Better at Parties” guide from NYT, especially the part on making good conversation:

3 TIERS OF GOOD CONVERSATION

Tier one is safe territory: sports, the weather, pop culture, local celebrities and any immediate shared experience (that free information Ms. Fine talks about).

Tier two is potentially controversial: religion, politics, dating and love lives. “Test the waters, and back away if they’re not interested,” he warned.

Tier three includes the most intimate topics: family and finance, buckets into which Mr. Post Senning includes health and work life. “Some people love to talk about what they do and their kids, but don’t ask a probing question until the door has been opened,” he advised. Those sorts of questions can also become exclusionary, so think about everyone involved in the conversation before you start.

Knowing the tiers can save you from making the most embarrassing faux pas, e.g., “I notice you’re not drinking, are you pregnant?” Note also that while “So, what do you do?” is a pretty common and acceptable question in America, in Europe it’s as banal as watching paint dry.

They’ll think, “Why would you ever talk about that?” Mr. Post Senning said. Instead of “What do you do?,” Ms. Fine suggested “What keeps you busy?,” which applies to people whether or not they have traditional jobs, are stay-at-home-parents or are currently employed.

Ms. Fine has another basic rule: “Don’t ask a question that could put somebody in a bad spot: ‘Is your boyfriend here?’ ‘Did you get into that M.B.A. program?’” Instead try: “Catch me up on your life,” or, “What’s going on with work for you?”

BE MORE INTERESTED TO BE MORE INTERESTING

Don’t head to a party with the intent of leaving everyone in stitches, unless perhaps you’re a professional comedian. Instead, as Ms. Aarons-Mele puts it, “Channel your inner Oprah.” This is especially helpful advice for introverts.

“If you just talk a lot you might get exhausted, but if you ask questions and listen and draw people out, they’ll think you’re a great conversationalist,” she said.

“For me it comes down to being aware that I should be more interested than I should be interesting,” Mr. Karia said. He brought up a study in which two researchers from the psychology department at Harvard University found that talking about yourself triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as food. “People would forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” he said. You can use this to your advantage simply by listening.

Mr. Ford wrote of this in his Medium post. At one party, he found himself saying: “Wow. That sounds hard,” after a stranger told him what she did for a living. It worked brilliantly. “Maybe a hundred times since I’ve said, ‘Wow, that sounds hard’ to a stranger, always to great effect.”

9) Presumably you’ve heard about the Flynn effect of IQ rise over the 20th century.  Now there’s evidence for an anti-Flynn effect of IQ decline.  Ruh-roh.

Let the kids sleep!

So Fully Myelinated super-reader, DJC, sent me this article about school start times yesterday.  And today, an NYT Op-Ed and Facebook reminds me that I had my own Op-Ed on school starts times exactly a year ago.  And, the good news is that there’s some serious movement– the whole state of California:

This much appears to have been recognized by California lawmakers, who’ve passed a bill that, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will see many middle and high schools moving to later start times over the next few years. This is a milestone that would send a clear message to the rest of the country: Sleep deprivation is an issue with profound implications for public health.

Hooray for California!  And why this matters:

Three out of every four students in Grades 9 to 12 fail to sleep the minimum of 8 hours that the American Academy of Sleep Medicinerecommends for their age group. And sleep deprivation is unremittingly bad news. At its most basic, insufficient sleep results in reduced attention and impaired memory, hindering student progress and lowering grades. More alarmingly, sleep deprivation is likely to lead to mood and emotional problems, increasing the risk of mental illness. Chronic sleep deprivation is also a major risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. As if this weren’t enough, it also makes falling asleep at the wheel much more likely…

Excessive screen use is compounded by a dangerous tradition: starting high school abnormally early. Based on data available from 2015, 86 percent of high schools started before 8:30 a.m., and one in 10 high schools had a start time before 7:30 a.m. Prying a teenager out of bed at 6 a.m. to get to school is the equivalent of waking an adult at 4 a.m. The brain will be at its least active in the 24-hour cycle, which explains the monosyllabic grunts of teenagers as they lumber to the school bus.

Also, my go to criminologist Mark Kleiman regularly points out this would also cut down on crime.

The Atlantic article suggests we not just shift start times, but re-think the whole schedule:

It’s not entirely clear who the school day does revolve around. The schedules that dictate most of American K-12 life descend from times when fewer households had two working parents. The result is a school day that frazzles just about everybody. But a few changes could mitigate that frazzling significantly. “I don’t know about making everyone perfectly happy,” says Catherine Brown, the vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “But I think that we could get much closer to optimizing for students, parents, teachers.” The school day, Brown says, could be improved in two main ways: It could start later, and it could go longer…

A later start, in both middle and high school, would help with the later sleep cycles that are typical in teenage years. Most teens don’t naturally fall asleep until about 11 p.m., and are supposed to get about nine hours of sleep per night. But when class starts before 8:30—as the most recent federal data indicates it does at 87 percent of American public high schools—waking up in time for school cuts into needed sleep. Postponing the start of the school day, researchers have found, does lead middle and high schoolers to get more rest—they don’t just stay up later. And then, once better-rested, studies show that teens do better in schoolget in fewer car crashes, and are less prone to depression.

Half past eight—the target for many start-school-later advocates—is actually still earlier than would be totally ideal. Kyla Wahlstrom, a lecturer at the University of Minnesota who conducted the first study examining the effects of later start times on high schoolers back in the late 1990s, told me that, taking only teens’ sleep needs into account, the best start time would be around 9:00 or 9:30; that would give them the optimal amount of time to sleep and get ready. “8:30,” she says, “is a compromise that allows more sleep, but does not impinge on the after-school activities.”

As for the later day, that’s to help with the reality of two working parents and single working parents:

I asked Brown what her ideal school-day schedule would look like, if she could start from scratch. She told me it’d start later, at 8 or 8:30—not just for teens, but also for younger kids. The day would end at 5 or 5:30, but the extended day’s extra hours wouldn’t be spent solely in the classroom. Brown says she’d “have a period in the afternoon where they’re doing creative activities and they’re doing physical activities, sports, arts, music—I would bake all that stuff into the day, as opposed to the after-school being plopped on, disconnected from the rest of the learning goals of the school.” (In Brown’s hypothetical ideal school day, teachers wouldn’t be asked to work longer days, but would instead work in shifts.)

Today’s standard 6.5-hour school day looks quite different. “I’m not pretending this is a utopia,” Brown says. “I’m just repeatedly struck, as a mother and as an education policy wonk, [by] how schools don’t often consider the needs of parents’ work schedules when they’re designing all kinds of policies.”

Early start and end times have remained the norm in part because inertia is powerful—it’s “a problem in the sense that this is how we’ve always done it, so this is the way we’ll keep doing it,” Brown says. And the obstacles to changing it usually fall under three general categories: sports, buses, and funding.

Personally, I’d settle for starting with a later start.  Especially because the evidence is so damn compelling.  My poor son, Alex, who started HS this year is grumpy getting up that early.  Alas, the status quo bias on this one is so strong.  Wake County NC is a pretty progressive place, but no progress whatsoever here.  My guess is they school board feels they’ve got enough to do just to keep up with growth (and angering lots of parents in the process) that they don’t want to try and take this on, too.  Even though they know.  Maybe the California results will be compelling enough that other states can’t help but follow.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Reformed right-wing attack dog, David Brock, spent time in the trenches with Brett Kavanaugh and knows him for a hopeless partisan:

But I don’t need to see any documents to tell you who Kavanaugh is — because I’ve known him for years. And I’ll leave it to all the lawyers to parse Kavanaugh’s views on everything from privacy rights to gun rights. But I can promise you that any pretense of simply being a fair arbiter of the constitutionality of any policy regardless of politics is simply a pretense. He made up his mind nearly a generation ago — and, if he’s confirmed, he’ll have nearly two generations to impose it upon the rest of us.

2) Intellectually, I know how bad poll response rates are.  Still, it is something to see that in real-time with this really cool NYT feature.

3) Guns kill people.  With bullets.  Glad California is taking this fact seriously.  And I feel not bad at all for all the “law abiding” hunters and sportsmen who have to be modestly inconvenienced in their purchase of amazingly lethal technology.

4) Person walks into the wrong apartment and shoots someone and a few days later is still not arrested?!  White off-duty cop shoots black person and there you go.

5) This veteran on the flag and anthem kneeling is so good:

But while most veterans have been measured in their responses, one strand of criticism is particularly disturbing: the notion that kneeling during the anthem is a specific affront to veterans and service members. As Kurt Schlichter, a combat veteran and contributor for Fox News, put it, Kaepernick “is targeting us. He knows what this means to us. He knows how insulting it is. He knows how disrespectful it is, and Nike is empowering it.” In a Facebook group for veterans that I belong to, someone wrote: “Anyone not respecting our flag should be deported. Many veterans and servicemen and women have died and suffered grievous wounds for this flag and anthem and constitution. Have some respect.” This argument isn’t new: Last year the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion chastised the protests as disrespectful.

This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.

Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag. [emphasis mine]

If we accept the idea that the military and veterans have authority over American symbols, we enforce a very narrow minority view of America and the American experience. Our cultural fabric is as rich as it is because the American myth has been interpreted, reinterpreted, criticized, praised and challenged by Americans of all backgrounds.

6) Love this– your chances of dying ranked by sport and activity.  I’m going to stay away from hang gliding.

7) On the other hand, tennis seems to be the best activity (good exercise plus a strong social component) for a long life.

8) Ummmm, so this article about how the Gulf Stream current may be changing is kind of scary.

9) Loved this on why you should stop yelling at your kids.  Of the differences I noticed since I started practicing mindfulness, way less yelling at my kids is near the top:

How many times in your parenting life have you thought to yourself, after yelling at your kids, “Well, that was a good decision…”?

It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak. And you’re yelling, let’s be honest, because you are weak. Yelling, even more than spanking, is the response of a person who doesn’t know what else to do.

But most parents — myself included — find it hard to imagine how to get through the day without yelling. The new research on yelling presents parents with twin problems: What do I do instead? And how do I stop?

Yelling to stop your kids from running into traffic is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about yelling as a form of correction. Yelling for correction is ineffective as a tool and merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children. We yell at our kids over the same stuff every day, and we yell at them some more because the original yelling doesn’t work. Put your clothes away. Come down for dinner. Don’t ride the dog. Stop hitting your brother.

The mere knowledge that yelling is bad, in itself, won’t help, said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. Yelling is not a strategy, it’s a release.

“If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” Dr. Kazdin said. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.” There are other strategies, and they don’t involve screaming like a maniac.

Many think of positivity as a form of laziness, as if parents who are positive aren’t disciplining their children. But not yelling requires advance planning and discipline for the parents, which yelling doesn’t.

10) Loved this from an umpire on this whole absurdity of “judges just call balls and strikes” business (I’ll always resent John Roberts for fooling everybody with that):

Then there are the other plays, on the bases and at the plate, that require rule interpretations and judgment calls: catches and no catches, fair and foul balls, safes and outs, and base-running.

For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call…

As an umpire, you learn to position yourself on the field so that you’re in the most advantageous location to observe a pitch or a play. You learn to read cues and make the proper adjustments when something changes. It can take years of experience, an exhaustive understanding of the rules and consistency in your calls to become a credible umpire, and even then, you’re going to be in the middle of a lot of arguments and controversies. As a mentor of mine reminded me when I started: There was only ever one perfect man, and they crucified him, so umpires have to learn how to handle criticism. As with judging, the tough calls are hardly ever obvious. Balls and strikes are elusive creatures.

11) Loved this Atlantic piece on cognitive biases and the human brain.  I’m pretty tempted to read Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinkingbut, then again, I kind of suspect I won’t learn anything.  I may be biased, but I am pretty damn sure that I am way better than the average bear (though far from perfect), at avoiding all these cognitive biases.  Because, damnit, the first step definitely is recognizing them.

12) David Frum, great, as always, on Trump,, “The President Is a Crook The country now faces a choice between the Trump presidency and the rule of law.”

13) Relatedly, Dana Milbank on the amazingly amoral and craven Paul Ryan.

14) Margaret Sullivan with a good take on the New Yorker festival-Steve Bannon controversy:

No one wants a festival of ideas to turn into a cozy chat among like-minded friends. That’s pointless.

But also utterly pointless is the notion that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, might have something new or valuable to offer.

That’s why it was a thoroughly lousy idea for the New Yorker magazine to offer a high-profile perch — an onstage interview by top editor David Remnick — at next month’s annual festival to the deposed Svengali.

There is nothing more to learn from Bannon about his particular brand of populism, with its blatant overlay of white supremacy.

While we’re at it, there is also nothing more to learn from the die-hard Trump voters in what I’ve called the Endless Diner Series — the media’s recidivistic journeys to the supposed heartland to hear what we’ve heard a thousand times before about blind loyalty in the face of all reason.

Yes, it’s time, well past time, to stop lending the media’s biggest and most prestigious platforms to this crowd of racists and liars.

Shut them down — not because of ideology or politics, but because there is no news value there.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Not going to read the memoir of Steve Jobs’ daughter, but found the NYT book review really fascinating.

2) Ezra Klein on Republicans blaming Obama for the rise of Trump:

There are reams of evidence supporting this explanation, and I run through much of it in my piece “White Threat in a Browning America.” Obama’s presidency was inextricable from the massive demographic change that made it possible, and that continues to reshape American life and politics. But it wasn’t just demographic change that Obama represented. Obama, though a Christian himself, led an increasingly secular coalition, and was othered as a secret Muslim in the minds of many conservatives. Similarly, perceptions of economic change were filtered through broader views about Obama and the country: the political scientist Michael Tesler found that the most racially resentful Americans were the most economically pessimistic before the 2016 election and the most economically optimistic after it…

Trump, for all his flaws, ran a campaign based on clear positions and aspirations. He promised to build a wall; he said that our country was being weakened by louche, violent, parasitic immigrants; he said Obama was an illegitimate president with a forged birth certificate; he vowed to stop Muslims from traveling to the country; and in every speech, at every turn, he promised to turn back the clock, to make America great again.

That a crucial portion of the Republican electorate agreed with him in all of this is undeniable. What it says about them is often treated as if it is unspeakable — either because to state their beliefs clearly is insulting or because it just makes a bad political situation worse.

Trump did not create these voters. They long predated him — they were present in both Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s candidacies — but they were homeless in American politics, suppressed by the two parties for reasons of both principle and political expediency.

Trump, with his money, celebrity, and media-savvy, taking advantage of new communication technologies, a weakened Republican Party, and the rage that grew on the right amid the daily affront of Obama’s presidency, was able to break through the cartel and offer those voters the choice they actually wanted, and in the Republican primary, enough of them took it to make him the nominee.

3) My wife and I keep arguing about the utility of the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I’m definitely in the they are fun, but not really science, camp.

4) Evidence that ancient Siberians ritually (and selectively) sacrificed dogs:

Choosing which animals would live, work, and reproduce is a form of selective breeding and an important feature of domestication, the study authors argue. As such, these human actions shaped the physical characteristics and personality traits of the animals that lived at Ust’-Polui.

The fact that some dogs were ritually buried while others were butchered suggests a complex set of beliefs regarding the place of dogs in society. Canines were not seen as a homogeneous group. Researchers don’t know why they received different treatment, but these new findings suggest that humans only built an enduring relationship with the dogs they deemed valuable to the community, molding them to their needs and cultural specificities. “These diverse practices—whether intentional or not—drove the evolution and domestication of dogs in this region,” says Angela Perri, an archaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved with the study.

5) I’m honestly pretty curious for Nicole’s take on how much of the rise in transgender is social construction.  I don’t don’t the reality of any individual’s transgender experience, but it does strike me that there may be a strong social element in some cases.  The Economist:

Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of behavioural and social sciences at Brown University, was curious about what was causing these changes. She had come across reports from parents on online forums describing a new pattern of behaviour: adolescents without a history of childhood gender dysphoria were announcing they were transgender after a period of immersing themselves in niche websites or after similar announcements from friends. Her study suggests that these children may be grappling with what she calls “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”.

For the study, Dr Littman recruited 256 parents of children whose symptoms of gender dysphoria suddenly appeared for the first time in adolescence. These parents—Ms Miller among them—took part anonymously in an online, 90-question survey. Dr Littman’s findings suggest that a process of “social and peer contagion” may play a role. According to the parents surveyed, 87% of children came out as transgender after spending more time online, after “cluster outbreaks” of gender dysphoria in friend groups, or both. (In a third of the friendship groups, half or more of the individuals came out as transgender; by contrast, just 0.7% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 are transgender.) Most children who came out became more popular as a result. Rachel, Ms Miller’s daughter, says that when she told her friends, all of whom she had met online, they congratulated her: “It was, like, welcome home.”

Dr Littman thinks that some adolescents may embrace the idea that they are transgender as a way of coping with symptoms of a different, underlying issue. Almost two-thirds of the children had one or more diagnoses of a psychiatric or developmental disorder preceding the onset of gender dysphoria; nearly half had self-harmed or experienced some trauma. This is consistent with other studies of gender dysphoria when it sets in during puberty. Some people distract themselves from emotional pain by drinking, taking drugs, cutting or starving themselves. Dr Littman suggests that, for some, gender dysphoria may also be in this category.

6) I really don’t care who wrote the anonymous Op-‘ed, but William Saletan makes a good case for Jon Huntsman.

7) Given that Title IX reforms are coming from Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration, it is understandable that liberals would be hugely skeptical.  And, I suspect some of the reforms will be not good.  But Emily Yoffe is right that reforms move things in the right direction:

What happens when a morally reprehensible administration puts forth morally just reforms? We are about to find out. A New York Times report on Wednesday outlined the Trump administration’s proposed revisions of rules governing how campuses deal with sexual misconduct allegations (the official release is expected by October)…

On campuses, this type of discussion—or indeed any introspection about the excesses of Title IX, the unfairness of the procedures, and the damage done to both young men and women on campus—has been strenuously avoided. But institutions of higher education are exactly the place where such examination should take place. I understand the unease in embracing policies promulgated by a reprehensible administration. But reprehensible things have been happening on campus for too long now. The Trump administration is proposing needed reform that will go through the safeguards of public notice and comment. Those who seek to resist and discredit due process and fairness are only hurting their own cause.

8) This Slate article makes a pretty strong case that Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate in earlier hearings.  All else aside, I really don’t think we should have Supreme Court justices who have done that.

9) Damn do I love this Alexis Madrigal history of modern capitalism through the perspective of the straw.  And a great 99PI on it.

10) Society generally thinks morning birds are awesome and night owls are lazy slackers, but this is actually largely genetically set.  Most people are somewhere in the middle, but I’m definitely towards the night owl side.

11) Given that I had three boys followed by a girl, my wife runs an on-line children’s clothing store,  and that I teach a class on Gender, I’m definitely interested in what gendered clothing has to say about our society. Really enjoyed this essay:

I eventually realized that, even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty. Now when I shop for Lia, I hit the boys’ section first. It’s not just about avoiding skinned knees, but also the subtle and discouraging message that’s woven right into girls’ garments: you are dressed to decorate, not to do.

Sarah has always loved girlie clothes (though, now it is shorts and t-shirts instead of dresses) and she has definitely noticed the lack of practicality when it comes to pockets, etc.

12) Love this Op-Ed, “The False Comfort of Securing Schools: The instinct to use law enforcement tactics to make parents feel less anxious about mass shootings is misguided.”

The instinct to offer parents immediate relief from their anxieties risks making schools into fortresses. For example, in Texas, the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security used a recent hearing to focus on discussing “various proposals to harden school facilities, including limiting access points, improving screening and detecting of weapons, retrofitting school facilities with improved locks, emergency alarm systems, and monitoring cameras.”

What does transforming schools into “harder targets” really achieve? If anything, it tends to make students feel less safe. For example, in the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, students had an intense and negative reaction to being required to use clear backpacks, expressing concern that these measures were creating a climate of mutual suspicion — “like jail,” as one student put it.

13) We’ve got a bunch of Constitutional Amendments on our November ballot here in NC.  Rather than needed Constitutional change, it’s just pure GOP politics.  This N&O op-Ed captures it:

For Republican leaders, this lack of awareness and general confusion about the impact of the amendments isn’t a problem. It’s their intention. Their strategy for gaining voter approval of amendments that range from needless to dangerous relies on voters being kept in the dark.

That’s why the most consequential amendments were written with vague and misleading language. And that’s why the legislature came back into special session to block a commission from adding clarifying captions about the amendments to the ballot. And that’s why a three-judge panel found the language of two amendment ballot questions so inaccurate that it ordered the legislature to rewrite them.

Informing voters exposes this partisan abuse of the amendment process. When the Elon pollsters read the commission’s official explanations of the amendments that will be distributed to local election boards, support for the photo ID and tax cap amendments dropped. But voters will have to seek out those explanations. They won’t be on the ballot.

14) This 12-year old girl is obviously a truly amazing soccer player. And her parents are obviously everything that’s wrong with over-involved sports parents.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m not sure what the solution is for crushing medical school debt, but insofar as it encourages new physicians to choose over-compensated specialties over primary care, that’s a really bad thing for all of us.

2) Kevin Drum on how segregated urban schools are.  You know who is not so bad?  North Carolina (i.e., Raleigh and Charlotte):

3) I had no idea you could add periods and pluses to gmail addresses.

4) I gotta say, I think this new approach to biometrics and computer security is really cool:

When you’re browsing a website and the mouse cursor disappears, it might be a computer glitch — or it might be a deliberate test to find out who you are.

The way you press, scroll and type on a phone screen or keyboard can be as unique as your fingerprints or facial features. To fight fraud, a growing number of banks and merchants are tracking visitors’ physical movements as they use websites and apps.

Some use the technology only to weed out automated attacks and suspicious transactions, but others are going significantly further, amassing tens of millions of profiles that can identify customers by how they touch, hold and tap their devices.

The data collection is invisible to those being watched. Using sensors in your phone or code on websites, companies can gather thousands of data points, known as “behavioral biometrics,” to help prove whether a digital user is actually the person she claims to be.

5) Tim Miller on Democrats’ “embarrassingly timid” opposition to Trump.

6) Parenting without reward or punishment?  Hmmm.

Many parents grew up with punishments, and it’s understandable that they rely on them. But punishments tend to escalate conflict and shut down learning. They elicit a fight or flight response, which means that sophisticated thinking in the frontal cortex goes dark and basic defense mechanisms kick in. Punishments make us either rebel, feel shamed or angry, repress our feelings, or figure out how not to get caught. In this case, full-fledged 4-year-old resistance would be at its peak.

So rewards are the positive choice then, right?

Not so fast. Rewards are more like punishment’s sneaky twin. Families find them alluring (understandably), because rewards can control a child momentarily. But the effect can wear off, or even backfire: “How much do I get?” a client told us her daughter said one day when asked to pick up her room…

The whole concept of punishments and rewards is based on negative assumptions about children — that they need to be controlled and shaped by us, and that they don’t have good intentions. But we can flip this around to see kids as capable, wired for empathy, cooperation, team spirit and hard work. That perspective changes how we talk to children in powerful ways.

There’s actually lots of good parenting advice in this, but, I cannot imagine parenting without fairly common use of reward and punishment.

7) It’s hard to imagine a policy change more representative of today’s GOP than changing coal regulations that will result in about 1400 more Americans a year dying.

8) Those damn Russians, “Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to Sow Discord, Study Finds: Twitter accounts that were used to meddle in the 2016 presidential election also sent both pro- and anti-vaccine messages and insulted parents.”  On a totally unrelated note, I found “Red Sparrow” not great, but pretty damn entertaining.

9) Just came across this interesting CityLab feature on public bus ridership.  Something I am paying far closer attention to now that it is how my oldest son is committing to community college.  So far, (mostly) so good, but definitely some hiccups.  Also, it needs to work better, but the Transloc app is so cool.

10) It is amazing to me, sometimes, just how alike I think with Kevin Drum and Mike Pesca.  Pesca had a great “spiel” on straw bans recently, but there’s no transcript, so here’s Drum’s post on the matter:

For the moment, I’ll highlight a trivial story that will nonetheless probably piss off a whole bunch of you:

The California Senate on Monday approved legislation barring dine-in restaurants from offering plastic straws to customers unless they are requested….The measure exempts fast-food restaurants and other businesses.

“This bill is the last straw,” Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. “This is a first step to the total banning of plastic straws. To me it almost looks silly. I think the negative consequences [of straws] are a bit overstated.”…But Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said the proposal will help educate the public about the environmental hazard of plasticsthat are not biodegradable. “Let the consumer request it if they want it,” he said.

Here’s what’s going to piss you off: I agree with the Republicans about this. California is too full of performative legislation that’s designed to make some point or other but is almost certain to have no actual effect. I’d prefer that folks pick a career and stick to it. If you want to be a performer, go to Hollywood. If you want to be a politician, propose legislation that actually accomplishes something. How about a plastic packaging tax, similar to what France is doing? If that’s not enough, go bigger. But whatever you do, make it something that delivers real results, not just a pat-on-the-back for getting on board with the fad of the week.

11) I got in yet another ridiculous argument about diet soda last week.  This time with somebody who just kept going on about how your liver turns aspartame into formaldehyde.  Oh no!

Questions about aspartame relate to its metabolites – the chemical products created when our bodies digest the sugar substitute. Critics have raised concerns about the metabolites methanol and phenylalanine.

Over time, methanol can produce the known carcinogen formaldehyde. While this might seem scary, the video claims that the body actually produces and uses 1,000 times more formaldehyde than you could consume through aspartame. After helping to make important proteins, formaldehyde gets turned into formic acid and exits the body through urine.

12) Should you choose a female doctor?  Ummm, yes:

Does gender matter when choosing a doctor?

Whether your doctor is male or female could be a matter of life or death, a new study suggests. The study, of more than 580,000 heart patientsadmitted over two decades to emergency rooms in Florida, found that mortality rates for both women and men were lower when the treating physician was female. And women who were treated by male doctors were the least likely to survive.

Earlier research supports the findings. In 2016, a Harvard study of more than 1.5 million hospitalized Medicare patients found that when patients were treated by female physicians, they were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital over a 30-day period than those cared for by male doctors. The difference in mortality was slight — about half a percentage point — but when applied to the entire Medicare population, it translates to 32,000 fewer deaths.

Other studies have also found meaningful differences in how women and men practice medicine. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed a number of studies that focused on how doctors communicate. They found that female primary care doctors simply spent more time listening to patients than did their male colleagues. But listening comes with a cost. Doctors who were women spent, on average, two extra minutes, or about 10 percent more time per visit

My doctor is a man, but I chose him because he listens.  And I found him through my kids’ amazing pediatrician who is a man and a terrific listener.

13) Good take on Sacha Baron Cohen: and conservative fear.

But Cohen’s real trump card is Col. Erran Morad, an Israeli “anti-terrorism expert” who plays into every fantasy American conservatives seem to have about Israel. Many of the show’s targets show an admiration for him as uncritical as it is unstinting; for the most part, they’re putty in his hands. But I would argue that—unlike “pitiable” Baron Cohen characters, who tend toward absurdism in ways that frequently absolve the targets—Morad does reveal some pretty unsavory things about the American right. For one, the miasma of fear in which it simmers. This was Spencer’s excuse: He claimed he feared for his life and that Cohen “exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety.” Shaun McCutcheon—an Alabamian Republican activist whose main achievement until now was helping to eliminate limits on aggregate campaign contributions—was similarly fearful, telling Morad that he has “a large concern about terrorism and the fact that terrorism is possibly coming to the United States more than it already has.” Three conservative men who decided to throw a fake quinceañera in order to entrap “illegal” Mexicans expressed similarly paranoid sentiments: One claimed that the purpose of the traditional coming-of-age party was to rape young girls.

14) I added a couple of these Chrome extensions the Wired staff cannot live without.  (I saved this week’s quick hits on onetab instead of a bunch of open tabs).

15) Really liked Yglesias‘ generally positive, but honest and not hagiographic, obituary of McCain.  He was a complicated man.

15) If you’ve been looking for the really negative McCain obituary, this is the one for you.

16) Adam Davidson on the serious jeopardy that Alan Weisselberg places Trump in.

There are now multiple investigations of the Trump Organization being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Attorney General, The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Southern District of New York, and—quite likely—other jurisdictions. President Trump is unable to stop most of these investigations. With Cohen and, now, Weisselberg providing information, it is becoming increasingly certain that the American people will—sooner or later—have a far fuller understanding of how Donald Trump conducted business. That is unlikely to go well for him.

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