Adults need to be criminally responsible when kids have guns!

So, I was already going to write this post last week when the worst thing that happened was a high school toilet getting shot.  But, now 5 people in my community have been murdered by a 15-year old with a gun.  Given that this story has had a  national impact (surprising to me, I thought we were completely inured to mass murder, I guess not when the offender is 15), there’s been almost a complete lack of details about what happened.  At this point, we have no idea how this obviously incredibly dangerous and very disturbed young person got a gun.  But, if history is any indication, it is almost surely due to irresponsible adults who will not be held accountable for their lethal irresponsibility.

I was already going to write this post based on a couple of stupid 14-15 year old kids who (accidentally, I think) shot a toiled in my son’s high school.  There’s nothing quite like getting a text from your child that says, “Code red. Not a drill.” I imagine that it is also not so great being the kid sending that text. As it turns out, my son and his classmates were never really in jeopardy, but, alas, the same cannot be said for so many other grieving parents and families.  The only bright side is that my son’s school has now had two code reds this year where, it turnout out, there was not actually a serious threat.  I guess reason for him and me to worry less time.  Unless, of course, it’s not.  But, again with the kid who brought this gun to my son’s school (and, yes he should never see the inside of a Wake County public school again), there was almost surely a grossly negligent adult.  And that adult will almost surely not face any serious consequences.  Until that changes, we’re only going to have more preventable cases of kids acting stupid with guns, which, unfortunately, often ends with another person, and not just a toilet, being shot.  

Quick hits (part I)

1) Jeff Maurer is so good on this, “What if the Standard Left-Wing Position on Trans Issues Was to Support Evidence-Based Care But Skip All the Cultish Bullshit?”

There’s sex, and then there’s gender. Sex involves biological attributes — chromosomes, hormone levels, that kind of stuff. There are anomalies in sex such as Klinefelter syndrome (chromosomes are XXY) and androgen insensitivity syndrome (the body makes testosterone but doesn’t respond to it) that make sex not completely binary. Therefore, sex is basically meaningless and can be ignored. Gender is all that matters. Gender refers to socially-constructed gender roles — playing with dolls if you’re a girl, playing with trucks if you’re a boy, that type of thing. A person chooses their gender identity, so when a person identifies with a gender, they ARE that gender, end of story.

I feel that that’s a fair summation of left-wing canon on this issue. I also feel that it’s the argument Stewart makes on his show. He spends a great deal of time on the non-binary nature of sex, and of course he’s right that sex is not completely binary. There are people who don’t fall neatly into either the “male” or “female” category. I’d also agree that people should be free to live out whatever gender expression they want.

Those parts of the argument aren’t the problem. The problem is middle part, the idea sex is a meaningless concept and gender is all that matters. Stewart doesn’t explicitly say this, but it’s definitely in there; the other parts of his argument don’t make sense without it. And that’s the concept that I think is causing all the trouble; that’s the bit of cultish nonsense that I think is ruining an otherwise winning argument.

I’m not Mr. Science; the closest I could come would be to try to be Mr. Social Science, and I know that hard science folks look at social scientists the way Green Berets look at a kid in a pillow fort playing Army Man. But through my education and associations, I’m science-adjacent enough to know that the science crowd is not running around saying: “Man? Woman? WHAT DO THESE WORDS EVEN MEAN? I can’t begin to imagine what people think they’re talking about when they use these words! This has been settled for centuries: Human identity exists on a circular spectrum that is at once totally meaningless but at the same time absolutely critical. There is no dissent about this! Am I even saying these words right? ‘Mfan?’ ‘Wo…mryan?’ I can’t get my head around these antiquated lay-person terms!”

You have to think people are awfully fucking stupid to even attempt this argument. To delude yourself into imagining that you can dismiss a basic biological concept with a bunch of pseudo-intellectual hand-waving is equal parts arrogant and obtuse. You’ll have just as much luck convincing people that slugs are the master race or that gravity is a Soros-backed conspiracy as you will that there’s absolutely no biological underpinning to the concept of “male” and “female”.

You also have to be neck deep in cultish group-think to pretend to believe such obvious bullshit. And please remember: I lived in this world, I worked in this world, I heard “gender is a social construct!” more times than I can count, I don’t think I’m misrepresenting what some people claim to believe. And of course I respect people’s extremely stupid beliefs; I grew up with people who swore that Noah’s Ark was real, I understand that you have to let people think whatever backwards claptrap they hold dear. Respecting a person’s right to believe the dumbest shit you could possibly imagine is a core American principle. So, I completely support anyone’s rightto believe that “male” and “female” are nonsense concepts invented by advertising executives in the ‘50s. I just don’t believe that myself, and I don’t think that many people ever will.

The tragedy, of course, is that there’s a real issue here. Transgender people lack legal protections, and maybe even more importantly: They lack dignity and acceptance. We’re treating an aspect of the human experience as a defect, and that’s society’s problem to fix. Making it easier for trans people to live healthier, happier lives is a pressing and important project.

But I often feel that the left has chosen to fight this battle on the only terrain on which it can possibly be lost. Instead of focusing on dignity and personal liberty, we go to the mat to defend trans women’s right to compete in women’s sports, which happens to be one of the few aspects of life where biological sex really does matter. We push pseudo-scientific bullshit like the idea that uncommon genetic variations render the entire concept of sex meaningless. Observant people have noticed that the new orthodoxy blatantly contradicts other things the left believes, like the Obergefelldecision and that gender roles should be deemphasized. And — crucially, from a “the goal is to improve people’s lives” standpoint — nobody is buying this crap: Here’s how the left is faring on the hot-button trans women in sports issue:

Source: Ipsos/NPR.

What if the left simply ditched the cultish aspects of our argument? What if we stopped demanding that a people declare that sex is a meaningless concept in order to maintain their lefty cred on trans issues? What if we stopped pretending that there are no physical differences between men and women and that the only reason anyone could possibly object to trans athletes in high-level women’s sports is deep-seated bigotry? What if, instead, the argument was something like this:

There are men, and there are women. Most people fall neatly into one category or the other. But not ALL people do, and in those cases, the simple solution is for the person to choose which category they belong to (or if they belong to neither category). Some people — including minors — will pursue various forms of treatment to be the person they want to be, and we should support the choice they make consistent with evidence-based standards of medicine that we apply in all areas. There are a few uncommon circumstances in which things like bone density and hormone levels will need be taken into account, but for the most part, people should be free to live how they want to live without fear or judgment.

2) Great stuff on Ukraine, Russia, and nukes from Timothy Snyder:

But how do we get there?  The war could end in a number of ways.  Here I would like to suggest just one plausible scenario that could emerge in the next few weeks and months.  Of course there are others.  It is important, though, to start directing our thoughts towards some of the more probable variants.  The scenario that I will propose here is that a Russian conventional defeat in Ukraine is merging imperceptibly into a Russian power struggle, which in turn will require a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. This is, historically speaking, a very familiar chain of events.

Before I lay this out, we will first have to clear away the nuclear static.  Speaking of nuclear war in a broad, general way, we imagine that the Russo-Ukrainian War is all about us.  We feel like the victims.  We talk about our fears and anxieties.  We write click-bait headlines about the end of the world.  But this war is almost certainly not going to end with an exchange of nuclear weapons.  States with nuclear weapons have been fighting and losing wars since 1945, without using them.  Nuclear powers lose humiliating wars in places like Vietnam and Afghanistan and do not use nuclear weapons.

To be sure, there is a certain temptation to concede mentally to nuclear blackmail.  Once the subject of nuclear war is raised, it seems overwhelmingly important, and we become depressed and obsessed.  That is just where Putin is trying to lead us with his vague allusions to nuclear weapons.  Once we take his cue, we imagine threats that Russia is not actually making.  We start talking about a Ukrainian surrender, just to relieve the psychological pressure we feel. 

This, though, is doing Putin’s work for him, bailing him out of a disaster of his own creation.  He is losing the conventional war that he started.  His hope is that references to nuclear weapons will deter the democracies from delivering weapons to Ukraine, and buy him enough time to get Russian reserves to the battlefield to slow the Ukrainian offensive.  He’s probably wrong that this would work; but the rhetorical escalation is one of the few plays that he has left. 

As I’ll explain in a moment, giving in to nuclear blackmail won’t end the conventional war in Ukraine.  It would, however, make future nuclear war much more likely.  Making concessions to a nuclear blackmailer teachers him that this sort of threat will get him what he wants, which guarantees further crisis scenarios down the line.  It teaches other dictators, future potential blackmailers, that all they need is a nuclear weapon and some bluster to get what they want, which means more nuclear confrontations.  It tends to convince everyone that the only way to defend themselves is to build nuclear weapons, which means global nuclear proliferation…

So let us take a harder look at Putin’s position.  The Russian armed forces are not “backed against a wall” in Ukraine: they are safe if they retreat back to Russia.  The “wall” metaphor is also not really helpful in seeing where Putin stands.  It is more like the furniture has been moved around him, and he will have to get his bearings again.

What he has done in Ukraine has changed his position in Moscow, and for the worse.  It does not follow from that, though, they he “must” win the war in Ukraine, whatever that means (“can” comes logically before “must”).  Holding on to power in Moscow is what matters, and that does not necessarily mean exposing himself to further risk in Ukraine.  Once (and if) Putin understands that the war is lost, he will adjust his thinking about his position at home.

Through the summer, that position was simpler.  Until very recently, probably until he made the speech announcing mobilization in September, he could simply have declared victory on mass media, and most Russians would have been content.  Now, however, he has brought his senseless war to the point where even the Russian information space is beginning to crack.  Russians are anxious about the war now, thanks to mobilization (as opinion polls show).  And now their television propagandists are admitting that Russian troops are retreating.  So unlike the first half-year of the war, Putin cannot just claim that all is well and be done with it.  He has to do something else. 

The earth has moved under Putin’s feet.  His political career has been based on using controlled media to transform foreign policy into soothing spectacle.  In other words: regime survival has depended upon two premises: what happens on television is more important than what happens in reality; and what happens abroad is more important than what happens at home.  It seems to me that these premises no longer hold.  With mobilization, the distinction between at home and abroad has been broken; with lost battles, the distinction between television and reality has been weakened.  Reality is starting to matter more than television, and Russia will start to matter more than Ukraine.

3) Voter ID laws are really, really popular.  Seems to me the winning play for Democrats is probably just to accept that and try and make the laws as fair as possible (i.e., reduce the burdens of getting an ID as low as you can);

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the midterm elections less than a month away, large majorities of Americans favor three measures meant to make voting easier: early voting (78% in favor), automatic voter registration (65%) and sending absentee ballots to all eligible voters (60%).

Majorities of Americans also oppose two measures that could make voting harder: removing inactive voters from voter lists (60%) and limiting the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots (59%). One restrictive policy that most Americans (79%) are on board with, however, is requiring photo identification to vote.

Also, automatic voter registration is also quite popular.  And it has the benefit of also being very good policy.  Democrats should get on this wherever they can.

4) Jennifer Rubin, “The Jan. 6 committee has provided proof of Trump’s willful deceit”

5a) Washington Post, “Florida offers warning for Democrats about Hispanic voters”

5b) NYT, “The ‘Sleeping Giant’ That May Decide the Midterms”

The choices made by Latino voters on Nov. 8 will be crucial to the outcome in a disproportionate share of Senate battleground states, like Arizona (31.5 percent of the population), Nevada (28.9), Florida (25.8), Colorado (21.7), Georgia (9.6) and North Carolina (9.5).

According to most analysts, there is no question that a majority of Hispanic voters will continue to support Democratic candidates. The question going into the coming elections is how large that margin will be…

Across a wide range of studies and exit poll data analyses, there is general agreement that President Donald Trump significantly improved his 2016 margin among Hispanic voters in 2020. But there is less agreement on how large his gain was, on the demographics of his new supporters and on whether the movement was related to Trump himself, Trump-era Covid payments or to a secular trend…

In their July 2022 paper “Reversion to the Mean, or Their Version of the Dream? An Analysis of Latino Voting in 2020,” Bernard L. FragaYamil R. Velez and Emily A. West, political scientists at Emory, Columbia and the University of Pittsburgh, write that there is

an increasing alignment between issue positions and vote choice among Latinos. Moreover, we observe significant pro-Trump shifts among working-class Latinos and modest evidence of a pro-Trump shift among newly engaged U.S.-born Latino children of immigrants and Catholic Latinos. The results point to a more durable Republican shift than currently assumed.

That is, the more Hispanic voters subordinate traditional party and ethnic solidarity in favor of voting based onconservative or moderate policy preferences, the more likely they are to defect to the Republican Party.

The authors caution, however, that nothing is fixed in stone:

On the one hand, there is evidence that working-class Latino voters became more supportive of Trump in 2020, mirroring increases in educational polarization among the mass public. If similar processes are at play for Latinos — and if such polarization is not Trump-specific — then this could mean a durable change in partisan loyalties.

On the other hand, they continue:

Historical voting patterns among Latinos reveal natural ebbs and flows. Using exit poll data from 1984-2020, political scientist Alan Abramowitz finds that the pro-Democratic margin among Latinos ranges from +9 in 2004 to +51 in 1996, with an average margin of +35 points. Instead of reflecting a durable shift, 2020 could be a “reversion to the mean,” with 2016 serving as a recent high-water mark for the Democrats.

In an email responding to my inquiry about future trends, Fraga wrote:

My sense is that most of the Latinos who shifted to the Republican Party in 2020 have not returned to the Democratic Party. Many of these new Republican converts were ideologically conservative pre-2020, so Republicans didn’t have to shift their policy message very much to win them over.

6) Damn if there’s one thing I hate about security theater is the absolutely inane, asinine, absurd, plastic bag policy.  I was so pleased the NC State Fair gave up on this absurdity after a single year.  Several of my family members are going to a marching band competition tomorrow that is requiring this.  Seriously?!  I’m surprised there’s not more good takedowns of this online because it is so stupid, but here’s a pretty good one on how unfair it is to women.  “Security Theater Doesn’t Help Anyone Other than Makers of Clear Bags”

7) I’m not even a particularly big fan of Jamie Lee Curtis, but, damn, this interview was just entertaining and charming.  

8) John McWhorter on the Duke-BYU volleyball incident that didn’t actually seem to happen:

It’s time for a few words on what we might learn from a Black volleyball player’s claims about what happened at a match she participated in at Brigham Young University this past August. I have refrained from commenting on this for a spell, in case there were further revelations. As there have been none yet, I shall proceed.

Rachel Richardson, a Black member of Duke’s volleyball team playing in a match at Brigham Young University, claimed that she and other Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” such that they had to face a crowd amid which slurs “grew into threats.”

But a sporting match such as this one is attended by thousands and is well recorded, both professionally and also by anyone in attendance with a cellphone. To date, no one has offered evidence that corroborates Richardson’s claims of racist verbal abuse, either independently or as part of an investigation by B.Y.U. There is nothing comparable in the security footage or in the television feed the school took of the match. No one at the match representing either school has described hearing such a thing happening. No witnesses have been reported as coming forward.

To be clear: It is possible that some racist spectator shouted a racial slur at Richardson at some point during the match. But it seems apparent that no rising tide of slurs and threats occurred during that match — that would be clear in the recordings. And Richardson’s having possibly exaggerated what happened casts into doubt whether there were any slurs at all, given that people leveling such words tend to do so with the intention of being heard by others, and no one present has come forward and explicitly said they heard it. Richardson and her representatives have presented no explanation as to why recordings via modern technology do not reveal what she claimed.

We cannot know why Richardson made this claim. Maybe she misheard common volleyball chants, as some have suggested. Or perhaps there were members of the crowd who did in fact resort to racist slurs that others either did not hear or are not willing to corroborate. But it’s hard not to sense that all of this is discomfitingly ambiguous — the likelihood that Richardson’s basic claim of being continuously heckled with racist slurs from the stands seems rather infinitesimal.

But this is why the B.Y.U. story is important. The message from this story is not just that interpretations of events will differ, or that in some fashion racism persists in America even if the details on this case are murky. We must also engage with the unfortunate possibility that the B.Y.U. story may be a demonstration of a pattern, one that we must be aware of to have an honest debate about racism in America today.

I have long noticed, in attending to episodes of this kind in our times, that claims of especially stark and unfiltered racist abuse, of the kind that sound like something from another time, often do not turn out to have been true. Accounts of this kind, I have realized, should be received warily. Not with utter resistance, but with a grain of salt.

9) Thomas Friedman with an interesting new column on the US’s new policy trying to limit advanced Chinese microchip technology:

Today, though, I want to focus on the struggle with China, which is less visible and involves no shooting, because it is being fought mostly with transistors that toggle between digital 1s and 0s. But it will have as big, if not bigger, an impact on the global balance of power as the outcome of the combat between Russia and Ukraine. And it has little to do with Taiwan.

It is a struggle over semiconductors — the foundational technology of the information age. The alliance that designs and makes the smartest chips in the world will also have the smartest precision weapons, the smartest factories and the smartest quantum computing tools to break virtually any form of encryption. Today, the U.S. and its partners lead, but China is determined to catch up — and we are now determined to prevent that. Game on.

Last week, the Biden administration issued a new set of export regulations that in effect said to China: “We think you are three technology generations behind us in logic and memory chips and equipment, and we are going to ensure that you never catch up.” Or, as the national security adviser Jake Sullivan put it more diplomatically: “Given the foundational nature of certain technologies, such as advanced logic and memory chips, we must maintain as large of a lead as possible” — forever.

“The U.S. has essentially declared war on China’s ability to advance the country’s use of high-performance computing for economic and security gains,” Paul Triolo, a China and tech expert at Albright Stonebridge, a consulting firm, told The Financial Times. Or as the Chinese Embassy in Washington framed it, the U.S. is going for “sci-tech hegemony.”…

This last rule is huge, because the most advanced semiconductors are made by what I call “a complex adaptive coalition” of companies from America to Europe to Asia. Think of it this way: AMD, Qualcomm, Intel, Apple and Nvidia excel at the design of chips that have billions of transistors packed together ever more tightly to produce the processing power they are seeking. Synopsys and Cadence create sophisticated computer-aided design tools and software on which chip makers actually draw up their newest ideas. Applied Materials creates and modifies the materials to forge the billions of transistors and connecting wires in the chip. ASML, a Dutch company, provides the lithography tools in partnership with, among others, Zeiss SMT, a German company specializing in optical lenses, which draws the stencils on the silicon wafers from those designs, using both deep and extreme ultraviolet light — a very short wavelength that can print tiny, tiny designs on a microchip. Intel, Lam Research, KLA and firms from Korea to Japan to Taiwan also play key roles in this coalition.

The point is this: The more we push the boundaries of physics and materials science to cram more transistors onto a chip to get more processing power to continue to advance artificial intelligence, the less likely it is that any one company, or country, can excel at all the parts of the design and manufacturing process. You need the whole coalition. The reason Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, known as TSMC, is considered the premier chip manufacturer in the world is that every member of this coalition trusts TSMC with its most intimate trade secrets, which it then melds and leverages for the benefit of the whole.

Because China is not trusted by the coalition partners not to steal their intellectual property, Beijing is left trying to replicate the world’s all-star manufacturing chip stack on its own with old technologies. It managed to pilfer a certain amount of chip technology, including 28 nanometer technology from TSMC back in 2017.

Until recently, China’s premier chip maker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Company, had been thought to be stuck at mostly this chip level, although it claims to have produced some chips at the 14 nm and even 7 nm scale by jury-rigging some older-generation Deep UV lithography from ASML. U.S. experts told me, though, that China can’t mass produce these chips with precision without ASML’s latest technology — which is now banned from the country.

10) Spencer Bokat-Lindell on the really tough geo-politics of the US relationship with Saudi Arabia:

The exchange of oil for security guarantees became the basis of the U.S.-Saudi alliance even as it broadened along other dimensions later in the 20th century. Both countries developed an interest in constraining the ambitions of Iran after the Iranian revolution in 1979 and in opposing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that same year. Since the 1990s, the United States has been the world’s largest arms exporter, and Saudi Arabia is its single largest customer.

This arrangement has always required a high tolerance for certain critical differences. Saudi Arabia is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, and a fundamentalist theocratic one at that, with very few civil liberties to speak of. And until just a few years ago, the United States and Saudi Arabia disagreed on Israel’s right to exist in what was, during Roosevelt’s presidency, British-controlled Palestine.

“This was always a high-risk business, and for a while the rewards seemed commensurate,” Joan Didion wrote in 2003 of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. “We got the oil for helping the Saudis, we got the moral credit for helping the Israelis, and, for helping both, we enjoyed the continuing business that accrued to an American defense industry significantly based on arming all sides.”…

If Saudi Arabia seems more like a frenemy than an ally these days, the Bloomberg Opinion columnist David Fickling argues it’s because the kingdom recognizes just how vital it is to America’s global superpower status. If the United States withdrew its military presence in the region, as some Democrats have suggested, Fickling believes China would most likely step in to protect Saudi oil shipments from piracy. The United States would lose much of the military and economic leverage it has over China, which would leave East Asian countries more vulnerable to Chinese influence and eliminate an important deterrent to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

“The U.S. doesn’t want China deploying the energy weapon to obtain hegemony in East Asia via a Pax Sinica,” Fickling writes. “In the circumstances, stationing a few thousand troops in the Gulf to head off those scenarios is a small price for Washington to pay.”

11) Loved this interview with Ken Jennings who is really doing a terrific job as the primary host of Jeopardy!  

12) Bivalent boosters now approved for 5-11.  I’ve read in a couple places that Moderna is half the adult dose, but, nothing on Pfizer (though, the fact that it is a different vial means it’s also surely a smaller dose).  That means I will wait for my 11 year and 10.75 month old daughter to turn 12 and get the full adult bivalent dose.  Hopefully she stays Covid free till then.  

13) The economics of making childcare work are just really, really tough!  For now, it means a big shortage of workers:

There are 100,000 fewer child-care workers than there were before the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even as private-sector employment fully rebounded over the summer from the job losses caused by Covid-19, the child care sector shrank and was 9.7 percent smaller last month than it was in February 2020, federal data shows.

Program directors point to a few explanations for the shortage: competition from other sectors, as well as regulations — including license requirements, vaccine and masking rules — that could dim the enthusiasm of some job candidates.

The typical American child-care worker earns about $13 per hour, and many earn just above minimum wage. Last year, 29 percent were so poor that they experienced food insecurity, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon.

Positions stocking shelves at Target, ringing up groceries at Trader Joe’s, and packing and loading boxes at Amazon warehouses now often pay more than jobs in child-care programs in many parts of the country. Working at a nail salon or managing pharmacy benefits over the phone can also lead to higher earnings.

A recession could lessen the crunch for child-care staff, if competing employers slowed hiring or cut pay. But even before the pandemic, 98 percent of occupations paid more than child care, and the sector, which was already dealing with widespread shortages and high staff turnover, was not robust enough to meet many families’ needs.

Now, signing up on an online job board as a child-care worker yields dozens of queries from interested employers in potentially higher-paying jobs in other fields — airport security, food services, hotels.

“Child care has been completely left behind as a competitive employer,” said Elliot Haspel, an early-childhood education expert at Capita, a family policy group.

The mathematics of child care are not easy to solve, in part because programs run on such tight margins. In Maryland, center directors like Ms. Reyes earn an average of $41,000 a year. And Ms. Reyes cannot simply raise tuition in order to pay herself or her workers more; child care is already a leading household expense and a service that is unaffordable for 60 percent of the families who need it, according to the Treasury Department.

Nor are there efficiencies to be found from new technologies. “You can’t cut costs — there is no automation, there’s no remote,” said Christina Peusch, executive director of the Maryland State Child Care Association. “What do you do? Not give a kid a snack? Not have an adult in the room?”

Many child care professionals find that the numbers just don’t add up.

14) This is pretty cool– just how bad Americans are at estimating population proportions of groups (really bad!) There’s a nice summary chart that’s too big for me to paste.  

When people’s average perceptions of group sizes are compared to actual population estimates, an intriguing pattern emerges: Americans tend to vastly overestimate the size of minority groups. This holds for sexual minorities, including the proportion of gays and lesbians (estimate: 30%, true: 3%), bisexuals (estimate: 29%, true: 4%), and people who are transgender (estimate: 21%, true: 0.6%). 

It also applies to religious minorities, such as Muslim Americans (estimate: 27%, true: 1%) and Jewish Americans (estimate: 30%, true: 2%). And we find the same sorts of overestimates for racial and ethnic minorities, such as Native Americans (estimate: 27%, true: 1%), Asian Americans (estimate: 29%, true: 6%), and Black Americans (estimate: 41%, true: 12%)…

A parallel pattern emerges when we look at estimates of majority groups: People tend to underestimate rather than overestimate their size relative to their actual share of the adult population. For instance, we find that people underestimate the proportion of American adults who are Christian (estimate: 58%, true: 70%) and the proportion who have at least a high school degree (estimate: 65%, true: 89%). 

The most accurate estimates involved groups whose real proportion fell right around 50%, including the percentage of American adults who are married (estimate: 55%, true: 51%) and have at least one child (estimate: 58%, true: 57%).

Misperceptions of the size of minority groups have been identified in prior surveys, which observers have often attributed to social causes: fear of out-groupslack of personal exposure, or portrayals in the media. Yet consistent with prior research, we find that the tendency to misestimate the size of demographic groups is actually one instance of a broader tendency to overestimate small proportions and underestimate large ones, regardless of the topic. 

15) Ian Milhiser with a great summary of the many and complex issues involved in a Supreme Court case about California trying to require humanely-raised pork:

In 2018, California’s voters enacted Proposition 12, a ballot initiative that imposes strict animal welfare requirements on much of the meat sold in California. Among other things, Prop 12 forbids the sale of any pork in California unless the farm that produced that pork provided its breeding sows with at least “24 square feet of usable floor space per pig.”

The overwhelming majority of pork produced in the United States is produced outside of California. So this law primarily impacts pork farmers in the other 49 states.

The pork industry’s lawyers speak of Prop 12 in almost apocalyptic terms, claiming that it will “increase farmers’ production costs by over $13 per pig, a 9.2% cost increase.” They also claim that it is “impracticable” for pork farmers to know in advance which cuts of pork will ultimately be sold in California — so the farmers will have no choice but to raise all of their pigs in compliance with Prop 12.

But this claim — essentially an argument that California’s law could raise the price of bacon by nearly 10 percent in all 50 states — has never been tested. And at least some large pork producers have put out statements that seem to contradict the pork industry’s alarming economic claims. For this reason, the easiest way for the Court to resolve the Pork Producers case would be to simply send it back down to a trial court and require the pork industry to actually prove that their economic predictions are reliable before the case proceeds.

Should the pork producers do so, however — or should the Court decide to bypass this trial and rule immediately on the constitutional questions presented by the case — then the justices’ decision could transform each state’s relationship with the other 49 states. The justices spent Tuesday morning struggling with the question of just how much one state’s law may impact the economy of other states. And they received few good answers to this question.

16) Pretty curious how health reporter Gretchen Reynolds ended up at the Post after the NYT (moves almost always happen the other way), but, anyway, this is pretty interesting, “Have you exercised your body fat lately? Everyone has fat cells. But the more exercise you do, the more likely you are to have healthy and small fat cells.”

Is your body fat fit?

It could be, if you start or continue exercising, according to rousing new science, which shows that being physically active alters fat at a molecular level in ways that improve the fat’s health. The findings have broad implications for the state of our metabolisms, muscles and even how well our bodies deal with the approaching holiday season of cheery gluttony.

Many of us may not realize that body fat can be metabolically healthy — or the reverse — no matter what someone’s weight or shape.

“Healthy fat is not about the amount of fat” someone carries, said Jeffrey Horowitz, a professor at the University of Michigan, who studies exercise and metabolism. It is about how well that fat functions, he said. “A person who has healthier fat is much better off than someone with the same body fat percentage whose fat is unhealthy.”

What principally differentiates healthy from dysfunctional fat, Horowitz continued, is the size of the fat cells. “The more small fat cells, the better,” he said.

And notably, you don’t have to lose weight or fat to make the body fat you already have metabolically healthier.

Why fat cell size matters

Large fat cells, he said, are already filled with fat. They cannot store much more and tend to leak some of their overstuffed contents into the bloodstream as fatty acids. From there, the fatty acids slosh toward and lodge in other organs, such as the heart, muscles or liver. Fatty, well-marbled livers, muscles or hearts are undesirable (unless, perhaps, you raise steers).

Small fat cells, on the other hand, can expand, essentiallyslurping fat from your blood. You want fat to stay inside fat cells, Horowitz said.

Healthy fat cells also contain reams of active mitochondria, the power centers of any cell. Mitochondria convert oxygen and food into cellular energy. In general, the more mitochondria, the healthier and more resilient any cell will be, including fat cells.

Finally, healthy fat tissue teems with blood vessels, to ferry oxygen and nutrients to fat cells, along with battalions of other cells, most related to immunity, that help fight inflammation. Without sufficient blood supply and immune protection, fat tissue often becomes inflamed and scarred and releases substances into the bloodstream that initiate similar, unhealthy inflammation elsewhere in our bodies, even in people who are not overweight.

17) I hate the idea of sentencing drug suppliers to first-degree murder type sentences because someone overdosed.  I mean, maybe if you knowing say, hey, there’s no opioids in here, but it’s pure fentanyl.  But, if you tell someone, here’s some fentanyl and they overdose on fentanyl, that’s on them.  “Eric Kay sentenced to 22 years for role in death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs”

18) The universe may actually be a hologram??  Cosmology is weird.  

For the last century the biggest bar fight in science has been between Albert Einstein and himself.

On one side is the Einstein who in 1915 conceived general relativity, which describes gravity as the warping of space-time by matter and energy. That theory predicted that space-time could bend, expand, rip, quiver like a bowl of Jell-O and disappear into those bottomless pits of nothingness known as black holes.

On the other side is the Einstein who, starting in 1905, laid the foundation for quantum mechanics, the nonintuitive rules that inject randomness into the world — rules that Einstein never accepted. According to quantum mechanics, a subatomic particle like an electron can be anywhere and everywhere at once, and a cat can be both alive and dead until it is observed. God doesn’t play dice, Einstein often complained.

Gravity rules outer space, shaping galaxies and indeed the whole universe, whereas quantum mechanics rules inner space, the arena of atoms and elementary particles. The two realms long seemed to have nothing to do with each other; this left scientists ill-equipped to understand what happens in an extreme situation like a black hole or the beginning of the universe.

But a blizzard of research in the last decade on the inner lives of black holes has revealed unexpected connections between the two views of the cosmos. The implications are mind-bending, including the possibility that our three-dimensional universe — and we ourselves — may be holograms, like the ghostly anti-counterfeiting images that appear on some credit cards and drivers licenses. In this version of the cosmos, there is no difference between here and there, cause and effect, inside and outside or perhaps even then and now; household cats can be conjured in empty space. We can all be Dr. Strange.

19) Some day we really will figure out how to defeat most cancers. “After Giving Up on Cancer Vaccines, Doctors Start to Find Hope: Encouraging data from preliminary studies are making some doctors feel optimistic about developing immunizations against pancreatic, colon and breast cancers.”

It seems like an almost impossible dream — a cancer vaccine that would protect healthy people at high risk of cancer. Any incipient malignant cells would be obliterated by the immune system. It would be no different from the way vaccines protect against infectious diseases.

However, unlike vaccines for infectious diseases, the promise of cancer vaccines has only dangled in front of researchers, despite their arduous efforts. Now, though, many hope that some success may be nearing in the quest to immunize people against cancer.

The first vaccine involves people with a frightening chance of developing pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat once it is underway. Other vaccine studies involve people at high risk of colon and breast cancer.

Of course, such research is in its early days, and the vaccine efforts might fail. But animal data are encouraging, as are some preliminary studies in human patients, and researchers are brimming with newfound optimism.

“There is no reason why cancer vaccines would not work if given at the earliest stage,” said Sachet A. Shukla, who directs a cancer vaccine program at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Cancer vaccines,” he added, “are an idea whose time has come.” (Dr. Shukla owns stock in companies developing cancer vaccines.)

That view is a far cry from where the field was a decade ago, when researchers had all but given up. Studies that would have seemed like a pipe dream are now underway.

“People would have said this is insane,” said Dr. Susan Domchek, the principal investigator of a breast cancer vaccine study at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now, she and others foresee a time when anyone with a precancerous condition or a genetic predisposition to cancer could be vaccinated and protected.

20) Remember the dog killing in Brooklyn? Freddie deBoer has thoughts, “The Existence of Random Dog-Killings Would Seem to Imply the Need for Some Sort of Constabulary Force”

As the Times story runs, “one of the disrupters, a woman calling herself Sky, said, ‘Crime is an abstract term that means nothing in a lot of ways,’ according to Common Sense.” Perhaps! Perhaps crime is abstract. A dog, though, is entirely corporeal. And I’m sorry to say that so is a stick.

Sad that I need to write this, but here are some things you can believe, without believing that a man who beat a dog to death should go entirely uncorrected:

  1. That we badly need criminal justice reform.

  2. That we are a vastly over-incarcerated nation.

  3. That existing police departments exhibit endemic racism, corruption, unequal enforcement, and impunity from consequences.

  4. That those who are mentally ill deserve special dispensation within the criminal justice system, as their condition complicates questions of culpability.

  5. That ordinary citizens should be careful about when and why they contact the police, and should do so understanding the potential for violence and racism that so often stem from police interactions with people of color.

You can believe all of that, and still also believe that the man who beat a woman’s dog to death for no reason should be arrested and treated appropriately by the criminal justice system. “Treated appropriately” doesn’t mean we lock him up and throw away the key. In fact, if psychiatrists thought it was appropriate, treating that man appropriately might very well involve only compulsory psychiatric care, with no formal legal punishment. (Compulsory psychiatric treatment has a bad reputation, particularly among the activist left, but has saved untold thousands of lives.) But you would need to have some sort of formal system in place through which that psychiatric evaluation would be adjudicated, and you’d need to ensure that the accused was compliant in that treatment. Criminal justice has to be formalized, not only for the good of victims of crime but also for the accused. Without formal systems, there can be no standards, and without standards, there is no possibility of the punishment fitting the crime and of equity in consequences. And what we have here, where you still have the police and the prisons but also have a bunch of guilt-ridden white liberals who think they should never play ball with those systems, seems like a worst-of-both-worlds scenario – no real dent made in mass incarceration, but a lack of immediate personal justice for those who need it, as well as community confusion.

21) I just got over “medium cold” that kept me under the weather for the better part of two weeks.  Good stuff here on “medium Covid”

Recently, I’ve begun to think that our worries might be better placed. As the pandemic drags on, data have emerged to clarify the dangers posed by COVID across the weeks, months, and years that follow an infection. Taken together, their implications are surprising. Some people’s lives are devastated by long COVID; they’re trapped with perplexing symptoms that seem to persist indefinitely. For the majority of vaccinated people, however, the worst complications will not surface in the early phase of disease, when you’re first feeling feverish and stuffy, nor can the gravest risks be said to be “long term.” Rather, they emerge during the middle phase of post-infection, a stretch that lasts for about 12 weeks after you get sick. This period of time is so menacing, in fact, that it really ought to have its own, familiar name: medium COVID.

Just how much of a threat is medium COVID? The answer has been obscured, to some extent, by sloppy definitions. A lot of studies blend different, dire outcomes into a single giant bucket called “long COVID.” Illnesses arising in as few as four weeks, along with those that show up many months later, have been considered one and the same. The CDC, for instance, suggested in a study out last spring that one in five adults who gets the virus will go on to suffer any of 26 medical complications, starting at least one month after infection, and extending up to one year. All of these are called “post-COVID conditions, or long COVID.” A series of influential analyses looking at U.S. veterans described an onslaught of new heartkidney, and brain diseases (even among the vaccinated) across a similarly broad time span. The studies’ authors refer to these, grouped together, as “long COVID and its myriad complications.”

But the risks described above might well be most significant in just the first few weeks post-infection, and fade away as time goes on. When scientists analyzed Sweden’s national health registry, for example, they found that the chance of developing pulmonary embolism—an often deadly clot in the lungs—was a startling 32 times higher in the first month after testing positive for the virus; after that, it quickly diminished. The clots were only two times more common at 60 days after infection, and the effect was indistinguishable from baseline after three to four months. A post-infection risk of heart attack and stroke was also evident, and declined just as expeditiously. In July, U.K. epidemiologists corroborated the Swedish findings, showing that a heightened rate of cardiovascular disease among COVID patients could be detected up to 12 weeks after they got sick. Then the hazard went away.

22) Honestly, something doesn’t add up about this story that these dogs were owned for years and were never violent, “Dogs that fatally mauled Tennessee toddlers, injured mom were never violent, friend says.”  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  I’m sure most pit bulls are totally sweet dogs (as most dogs are).  But when they do get violent they are bred to have jaws to absolutely destroy flesh.  That’s not good.  Plenty of sweet dogs lack the physical potential to maul you as if they were a crocodile. 

23) 

Are mothers less racist?

Of course not!  But, that was the title of Frank Bruni’s newsletter this week, and given my research interests, you know I had some thoughts on that.  Bruni:

Nury Martinez, the disgraced former president of the Los Angeles City Council, said that there were “no excuses” for the racist remarks that she made in a leaked audio recording that has outraged residents of the city and appalled people far and wide. She got that much right. Referring to a fellow Council member’s Black child as a little monkey is purely and unequivocally vile.

She said that she was sorry, and she should be, though I always wonder: Sorry for the hate she felt and the hurt she caused or sorry that she’s now in a world of hurt herself?

But Martinez, in her necessary apology, also said something ludicrous — ludicrous but telling. “As a mother,” she confessed, “I know better.”

As a mother?

I’m not a mother. I’m not a father, either. But miraculously, I too know better. And I’m both amused and offended by the notion that having a child typically bestows on someone a greater sensitivity and a keener conscience. If that were the case, this world would be in significantly better shape than it is. It’s chockablock with parents — you can’t throw a binky without hitting one — and somehow bigotry and cruelty are doing just fine.

The statement by Martinez, who resigned from the Council on Wednesday amid a national uproar over her remarks, invoked yet another popular but debatable idea, which is that women in general and women leaders in particular aren’t as reflexively and gratuitously divisive as men. That they’re more instinctive uniters, more natural nurturers — and as such, demonstrate greater concern for the welfare of future generations.

Martinez, after all, didn’t say “as a parent.” She specified her gender and, in doing so, promoted a gendered if women-flattering conceit. It’s a conceit that, I admit, I buy into. I indeed think that we’d be well served with more women in leadership roles, in both the public and the private sectors, and not just as a matter of representation.

But I also think that our discussions about this can be softheaded and our analysis of the evidence selective.

Anyway, my obvious first thought… data!  Of course, I already have parenthood and racial attitudes coded in the 2020 American National Election study data.  

And, survey says, on the 1-5 racial resentment scale, (items such as, “over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve”) with 5 coded as most racially resentful, women who are not moms score at 2.80 and women who are moms (technically children under 18 in the home) score at… 2.77.  Unsurprisingly, nowhere near a statistically meaningful difference.  I actually do think there’s good reason to think that women may make better politicians.  But, I don’t think it’s because of childrearing.  And, it’s pretty clear being a mom is not making them less racist.  

Should you high-five your kids?

Yes, if you want to.  Can’t say I ever high five mine (honestly, just not a big high fiver in general).  And, why the hell is that the title of my post?  Parenting advice columnist was the star of liberal twitter for a day earlier this week for a column that argued the ills of high-fiving your kids (yes, seriously).

I particularly enjoyed this little contretemps as I actually read and took useful advice from Rosemond’s parenting books about twenty years ago (yes, we’re looking at you, David Greene).  I recognized that Rosemond was, in many ways, hopelessly old school, but I still found a lot of advice I really liked and proved helpful (I especially appreciated his embrace of the fact that a lot of parenting decisions were ultimately arbitrary and thus there was little point in trying to argue with and justify them to your children).  

Anyway, Melinda Wenner Moyer had a really nice column taking off of this and emphasizing the value of authoritative parenting (which I definitely strive for, you’ll have to ask my kids if I succeed) versus Rosemond’s problematic authoritarian parenting:

Moving on to the actual article, here is the crux of Rosemond’s argument:

Respect for adults is important to a child’s character development, and the high-five is not compatible with respect. It is to be reserved for individuals of equal, or fairly equal, status. It is good for children to view responsible adults as people who exist in a higher plane. That “looking up” causes children to aspire to become adults, which seems to be in short supply these days. The child who is allowed to high-five an adult has tacit permission to talk to said adult as if they are peers. Do not wonder why, if you high-five your child, he often talks to you as if you are his equal. (By the way, a child does not ever think of an adult as an equal. He either thinks the adult is his superior or his subordinate. In a child’s mind, there is no middle ground.)

Wow, there’s a lot of bullshit to unpack here.

First, can I get a WTF regarding the assertion that if you high-five a child, you have somehow relinquished all your power to them? Do you know of any evidence suggesting that high-fiving another person affects the power balance between them? What planet do you live on, my dude?

But the real problem is that Rosemond misunderstands and misrepresents the science of parenting style. Based on what he writes, I can tell he is a proponent of authoritarian parenting, an approach in which parents maintain a clear power hierarchy and in which the goal of parenting is, essentially, to produce an obedient child. It’s the parenting style in which kids are expected to be seen but not heard; the style in which parents bark “because I said so!” when kids ask “why?”

Here’s the thing: authoritarian parenting was popular back when Rosemond was a parent, but we now know it is not great for kids. Children of authoritarian parents are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression, exhibit more disruptive and rebellious behavior (haha, so no, they aren’t actually more obedient!) and are more likely than other kids to have low self-esteem. That’s in part because this form of parenting is associated with harsh punishments and with psychological control — a harmful approach in which parents toy with children’s sense of self and intrinsic value to get the behavior they want.

Rosemond makes another egregious mistake when he implies that the only alternative to authoritarian parenting is, essentially, to relinquish all control to your child. This is a false dichotomy. Rosemond has forgotten about a very, very important middle-ground parenting style known as “authoritative parenting.” (As an aside, I hate that the words “authoritarian” and “authoritative” look so similar, because they are actually very different.)

Authoritative parenting is the parenting style that we should all, ideally, be aiming for. In it, parents are still in charge, yes — but they also treat children with respect. They set limits, but they engage in conversations about those limits, and sometimes even negotiate with their kids. They are warm and loving and sometimes give their children high-fives. Research shows that children of authoritative parents perform better in school than their peers, are more honest with their parents and are also kind and compassionate. They also exhibit fewer behavioral problems. [emphasis mine]

Anyway, life is complex and social dynamics are complex and that means sometimes a parent behaves more like a friend and sometimes they behave like a parent and the key is to be adaptable, pay attention to context, and know when which is more appropriate.  It’s almost as if… hear me out here… in virtually everything, even parenting, context matters.  And, always, love your kids. 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Edsall on conservative calls for avowedly Christian nationalism:

On June 22, 75 supporters of the National Conservatism project issued a 10-part statement of principles. The signatories include Rod Dreher, senior editor of The American Conservative; Jim DeMint, a former senator from South Carolina and a former president of the Heritage Foundation; Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff to President Trump; Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute and the venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

The principles include a strong commitment to the infusion of religion into the operation of government: “No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgment that are found in authentic religious tradition.” Thus the “Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and nonbelievers alike.”

Perhaps most strikingly, the principles declare that:

Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private. At the same time, Jews and other religious minorities are to be protected in the observance of their own traditions, in the free governance of their communal institutions, and in all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children. Adult individuals should be protected from religious or ideological coercion in their private lives and in their homes.

2) Some interesting stuff here and also some personality “science” that I’m not quite convinced is science, “Why do you like the music you like? Science weighs in.”

Many people tend to form their musical identity in adolescence, around the same time that they explore their social identity. Preferences may change over time, but research shows that people tend to be especially fond of music from their adolescent years and recall music from a specific age period — 10 to 30 years with a peak at 14 — more easily.

Musical taste is often identified by preferred genres, but a more accurate way of understanding preferences is by musical attributes, researchers say. One model outlines three dimensions of musical attributes: arousal, valence and depth.
“Arousal is linked to the amount of energy and intensity in the music,” says David M. Greenberg, a researcher at Bar-Ilan University and the University of Cambridge. Punk and heavy metal songs such as “White Knuckles” by Five Finger Death Punch were high on arousal, a study conducted by Greenberg and other researchers found…

“Valence is a spectrum,” from negative to positive emotions, he says. Lively rock and pop songs such as “Razzle Dazzle” by Bill Haley & His Comets were high on valence.

Depth indicates “both a level of emotional and intellectual complexity,” Greenberg says. “We found that rapper Pitbull’s music would be low on depth, [and] classical and jazz music could be high on depth.”

Also, musical attributes have interesting relationships with one another. “High depth is often correlated with lower valence, so sadness in music is also evoking a depth in it,” he says.

We prefer music from artists whose personalities we identify with. “When people listen to music, they’re being driven by how similar that artist is to themselves,” Greenberg says.

In his 2021 study, participants rated the personality traits of artists using the Big 5 model: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (OCEAN). To the respondents, David Bowie displayed high Openness and Neuroticism; while Marvin Gaye displayed high Agreeableness.

“The match between the [personality of the] listener and the artist was predictive of the musical preferences for the artist beyond just the attributes from the music,” Greenberg says.

Personality traits may predict people’s musical taste, researchers say. In a 2022 study, Greenberg and his colleagues found that despite sociocultural differences, participants around the world displayed personality traits that were consistently correlated with their preference for certain genres of Western music. Extraversion, for example, was linked to a preference for upbeat contemporary music, and Openness was linked to a preference for sophisticated or cerebral styles.

Look at me with my upbeat, cerebral music preferences 🙂

3) Good stuff from Yglesias on policing:

Once you get past the fantasy that we can wish policing away or “reimagine” public safety in a way that doesn’t involve guys with uniforms and guns, you’re left with the fact that the policing status quo is bad and also hard to change.

Officers should be held accountable for misconduct — not just the most extreme forms of misconduct, but relatively minor kinds as well. Yet we see chiefs reluctant to fire officers, and officers who do get dismissed bouncing from department to department. And this is at least in part because in many cases it is genuinely not easy to fill vacancies. Meanwhile, many if not most departments seem to have a deeply ingrained warrior mentality that emphasizes dominance rather than service. Policing has become so politicized that the overwhelming majority of officers, even in very liberal areas, are right-wing and often seem to have barely disguised disdain for the citizens they nominally serve, and not-at-all disguised disdain for the politicians elected to run their cities. Over the course of 2020-21, we saw a massive national wave of shootings and murder that seems to have been caused at least in part by a de facto police strike, tacitly organized to (successfully) push back on momentum for reform.

That’s bad on its own terms, and it’s also a ticking time bomb for democracy more broadly…

Right now, very few people with progressive values or any qualms about the status quo in the criminal justice system are willing to consider a career in policing. But that dynamic is only going to make everything people worry about in policing even worse. We’re both exacerbating ideological selection into and out of policing, and also making general staffing problems harder. This only makes chiefs more reluctant to dismiss bad cops and more likely to accept retreats who’ve washed out for misconduct elsewhere.

If we accept that policing is important and that high-poverty, high-crime communities want to see policing improved rather than defunded, it would be more constructive to create a program that challenges people who believe policing can be done better to actually roll up their sleeves and do it.

There’s a good amount of evidence (most recently summed up in the Obama-era Task Force on 21st Century Policing) that better-educated police officers are better across a variety of dimensions — they use force less and engage in more “problem-oriented” policing. This is sometimes taken as a reason to encourage departments to require college degrees or create financial incentives for getting them. Realistically, though, creating a degree requirement is only going to make personnel shortages worse, and a crude financial incentive is going to lead to people enrolling in low-value programs just to get a raise.

Police for America would address the same issue from the opposite direction, creating a centralized mechanism for increasing the supply of educated officers available to work in high-poverty communities. I think it’s safe to assume that PFA cops, like TFA teachers, would have above-average rates of medium-term attrition. But the ones who don’t leave policing would be disproportionately likely to secure promotion. And many of the ones who do leave policing would still work in adjacent fields and would bring practical police experience to bear on careers in law, policy, journalism, and politics. You’d get cultural change inside police departments via the entry of different kinds of people, and also a criminal justice reform community that was operating across less of a conceptual void from the people doing police work…

I have some criticisms of PP trends (the inclination you see in some places to treat illegal gun possession as a non-violent crime unworthy of serious punishment seems like a big mistake to me), but the basic idea that reformers should actually take on criminal justice work and try to do it better is correct. The idea came to prosecutors first because lawyering is more of a high-prestige occupation than policing. But that’s why TFA seems like a promising model — you can really create prestige out of thin air with a little money, savvy, and media hype.

4) Paul Waldman on the awful Trump judge and the broader undermining of the rule of law:

The Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis as its ongoing legal revolution becomes more and more alarming to a public unhappy about its recent rulings on abortion and gun rights. But there’s another legitimacy crisis brewing, one that can be seen vividly in Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s extraordinary rulings in the case involving Donald Trump’s hoarding of documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump despite her thin experience, has been almost comically eager to help the former president. Her appointment of a special master to review documents seized in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago was greeted with shock and ridicule on substantive grounds and was widely seen as a means of delaying the case as long as possible.

But Cannon’s latest intervention on Trump’s behalf is particularly disturbing. I want to focus on one part of the order she gave Thursday, because it speaks to how we believe courts are supposed to work and how those foundations of the justice system are being warped.

Trump, true to form, has been making fantastical claims about how victimized he has been at the hands of law enforcement. Among other things, he has said the FBI may have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago to incriminate him.

So special master Raymond J. Dearie — who was suggested by Trump’s attorneys and agreed to by the government — essentially told the Trump team to put up or shut up. He instructed them to clarify whether they’re challenging the government’s inventory of documents collected at Mar-a-Lago. Would they make an official statement alleging documents were planted, or would they accept that the inventory is accurate?

This put them in an awkward position — the same awkward position Trump attorneys have been in before. Their client is the most notorious liar in the history of American politics. But in court, the rules are different than on Fox News or Truth Social.

In case after case after the 2020 election, Trump attorneys such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell rolled into court with rumors, speculation and hearsay about widespread election fraud. Again and again, they were shot down by judges telling them it wasn’t enough to say they heard about a guy whose cousin’s girlfriend’s neighbor said he saw a van with a Joe Biden bumper sticker idling behind the board of elections building. Without evidence, they lost.

But Cannon swooped in to save Trump’s lawyers from the embarrassment of contradicting their boss. She overruled Dearie, allowing the lawyers to avoid taking a position on whether the inventory is accurate. Given the chance to draw a bright line marking the integrity of what goes on in court, she did the opposite.

This may seem like a small thing. But it’s a direct assault on the idea that the courts are a venue where fairness prevails precisely because there are strict rules everyone has to follow, rules designed to get to the truth.

Almost two years after Trump left office, the poison he injected into the courts with the appointment of a long list of hack judges is becoming more clear. It’s increasingly difficult to look at important court cases of recent days and believe that whether you like the outcome, the procedures have been fair, the judges have worked to be objective and the integrity of the courts is intact.

Judges such as Cannon undermine a cornerstone of the legitimacy of the court system: the idea of “procedural fairness.” This topic has long been of interest to judges and lawyers, and research has found that people’s perceptions of whether they were treated fairly is often just as important as the outcome in determining their feelings about the process.

5) Really, really liked this from Jesse Singal, “It Isn’t Journalism’s Job To Hand-Hold People To The Correct Moral Conclusions”

One of the silliest ideas to infect mainstream journalism in recent years is the notion that when journalists produce work about a bad person, they must signpost that work, seemingly every moment, with explicit indicators that that person is bad. You need to hold readers’ hands tightly, because they are moral idiots, and the moment your grip slips, they’ll race off and return in a Klansman’s hood or something.

This is now a thoroughly mainstream view in journalism, and it is applied to coverage not just to actual fascists, but to an ever-growing variety of right-wing (or otherwise disfavored) figures…

When a journalist gets dragged on Twitter the way Harkinson did, it gets noticed by other journalists. One of Twitter’s main functions, after all, is to publiclydish out discipline to those deemed to have violated a given group’s norms, whether or not the accusation is valid.

Things have gotten a lot worse in mainstream journalism since Harkinson’s piece. I’m not the first to have ranted and written about the culture of stifling conformity, of jumping down the throats of anyone who argues for nuanced takes on hot-button issues, or who publicly disagrees with sacralized narratives. These tendencies have contributed to botched coverage of national news events over and over and over and over.

But there’s a more fundamental principle at stake here: respect for readers (and listeners). The ideas that readers will scurry off to fascism unless we keep them tightly leashed, that they can’t handle a little bit of uncertainty or nuance or a couple of unanswered questions — it’s all deeply condescending. Certain prescriptions for how journalism should be conducted — such as the idea that we should be awash in headlines like “Racist President Drones Racistly As Racist Group Howls With Racist Glee” — seem motivated by genuine contempt for readers.

When Damon Kiesow argues that an article about Chris Rufo was a terrible act because it included a prominent photo of Rufo as well as a somewhat in-depth interview with him, that’s because he doesn’t respect Times readers. “The path to not amplifying hate is to lead with a portait [sic] of the director of a local anti-hate group and have them describe the issue – and then dig into the details of the people pushing anti-civil rights legislation.” This is an utterly impoverished, impossibly bland concept of journalism in which we slap helmets on readers and then lead them by hand, via velvet ropes and padded walls, to their final, safe destination: On your left you’ll see a local civil rights leader. He is a hero. What a good man! In our next room you’ll meet today’s baddy, an eeeeeeeevil man named Chris Rufo. Do not listen to what he says, for he is a Deceiver.

I can’t write like this because I don’t hate my readers. And most journalists, to be fair, don’t hate their readers either — they want to produce interesting work. But the hysterical, moralizing view of journalism is winning, largely because of the social media shitstorm that engulfs anyone who insists on treating readers as compos mentis adults rather than kids in the under-10 section of a theme park. If you’re skeptical of my argument that views like Kiesow’s stem from contempt for readers, reflect, for a minute, on the claim that launched this whole article: that describing a hardened racist as “dapper” will cause people to be drawn to that racist and to embrace his ideas. The hypothetical seductee in this scenario is, full-stop, an idiot.

Any competent critique of 2022 needs to mention class, and this is indeed partly a class issue. Journalists are increasingly from privileged, liberal backgrounds like mine, and privileged, liberal people tend to have very strong, very set feelings about politics — feelings that only grew more intense during the Trump years. For the most part, journalists in my milieu are cut off, at least as far as close social and familial ties go, from the sorts of people who might be fans of Chris Rufo. That makes it harder to cover Rufo accurately, which is something you should want even if — especially if — you dislike Rufo and his project.

Journalism needs more Josh Harkinsons, is what it comes down to. There are all sorts of structural reasons why it’s harder than ever before to produce long, careful, rigorous works of magazine reporting — that such works are now shouted down and slandered by other journalists is an exceptionally foreboding development for an already teetering industry.

6) This Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest TV shows got dunked on all over twitter.  But it’s really good!  Sopranos is #1 and Wired, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Simpsons, and Seinfeld are all top 10.  That’s a good list!

7) Heck, more Jesse Singal on a singularly (okay, it’s not, but couldn’t resist) Vox article.

8) Cathy Young with one of the best pieces I’ve read on Diversity training:

Let’s grant that DeSantis’s Trump-lite culture-warmongering is cynical and noxious, and the “Stop WOKE” law—which should be taken out and shot for its moniker alone—is a very real speech infringement, especially given the broad scope and the vagueness of its prohibitions. (For example, the law prohibits training or teaching that individuals “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions . . . committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” Does this apply only to instructing trainees that such reactions are required, or could any material that inspires employees to feel “psychological distress” or shame over racial inequities fall under suspicion?)

And let’s further grant that Rufo is a political hack who is upfront about his end-justifies-the-means approach to stopping “wokeness.”

But DEI training is also one of those issues on which the right and the left tend to get trapped in a mutual cycle of escalating culture-war follies. The right seizes on a real problem, blows it up into an imminent threat to Civilization As We Know It, and demands ham-handed—and often unconstitutional—action to root it out. The left circles the wagons and ferociously argues that whatever the right is complaining about is either nonexistent or actually a good thing. The right attacks even more forcefully. Rinse and repeat.

While Rufo’s dispatches from the culture-war front definitely need to be taken with a grain, or maybe a shaker-full, of salt—as I noted last year, he’s prone, at the very least, to exaggeration and cherry-picking—some of the corporate documents he has collected should give cause for concern.

For instance, the “Listen. Understand. Act.” program launched at AT&T in April 2021 describes “21-Day Racial Equity Habit Challenge” which invites the employee to “do one action to further your understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity” every day for 21 days. These actions include reading, watching, or listening to material on antiracism, gender issues and/or social justice from an ideologically uniform list that features Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. No alternative or critical point of view is listed—not, say, Kelefa Sanneh’s trenchant 2019 critique of Kendi and DiAngelo for the New Yorker, or the podcast discussions by Brown University economist Glenn Loury and Columbia University linguist John McWhorter, two black academics critical of the Kendi brand of antiracism.

Other recommended material includes a blog post arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic has been good for anti-racism because living in the constant shadow of death allows white Americans to understand how black Americans feel all the time; a column that bluntly states, “White people, you are the problem”; a video titled “Not Everyone Is Your Friend,” in which a spoken-word poet warns that old friends who don’t support you on your social justice journey may not really be true friends; and a conversation with the author of a book arguing that the United States owes its economic power to slavery, with no mention of other work challenging his thesis. Participants are also encouraged to become involved in social and racial justice activism and to scrutinize their circle of friends, their reading and film- or TV-viewing habits, and even the artwork in their homes for racial balance…

Moreover, one need not endorse conspiracy theories about “woke” corporations and the left to be troubled by a trend of major employers expecting employees to declare allegiance to a particular political viewpoint. Nor does one need to endorse Trump-style white identity politics to believe that the DiAngelo-style identity politics of many DEI programs are, in fact, very bad. It’s everything from the messages decrying “whiteness” and badgering white employees to confess their “complicity” in racism to the fixation on seeing all interpersonal problems through the lens of identity, privilege, and oppression to the constant sleuthing for “microaggressions” and “harm.” It doesn’t help that for all the talk of “diversity,” many DEI programs are focused on the dynamics of black and white Americans while giving short shrift to other groups. The “Listen. Understand. Act.” materials include more than forty items that focus on the black American experience, but just two focused on Hispanics and one dealing with Asian Americans…

Another alternative DEI program is offered by Brooklyn-based African-American entrepreneur and writer Chloé Simone Valdary under the name “Theory of Enchantment.” (It’s based on the 2011 book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by marketing guru Guy Kawasaki, who defines “enchantment” as winning people over by “delighting” them with a product or idea.) On the Theory of Enchantment website, Valdary describes her program, launched four years ago, as “a framework for compassionate antiracism that combines social-emotional learning (SEL), character development, and interpersonal growth,” based on three principles: “treat people like human beings, not political abstractions”; “criticize to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy”; “root everything you do in love and compassion.” Clients include the online food-delivery company GrubHub and the Hadassah Jewish women’s organization. The company currently has six part-time employees; Valdary told me that at least for now, she’s looking not to expand but to build sustainable systems. She also stresses that she approaches the issue “from an entrepreneurial perspective, not a culture-war perspective.”

Like Manji, Valdary is highly critical of the conventional DEI model, which her site describes as leading to “individuals being unfairly singled out, ostracized, and humiliated” and “animosity developing among coworkers.” But she also believes that the anti-woke crusaders—whether activists or politicians—end up becoming the very things they wage war against, and she thinks HB 7, with its focus on banning “harmful” concepts in workplace training, is a perfect example. “They’re imitating critical race theory, which also wants to ban certain uses of words,” she says. “It’s like, to a T, an imitation of their opponents.”

9) The story that dominated twitter for a day earlier this week, “More Trans Teens Are Choosing ‘Top Surgery’” Can we at least agree that doctors advertising for teenage patients for this on TikTok is bad?

10) Relatedly, semi-recent report on changes on all this in Europe, “The Beginning of the End of ‘Gender-Affirming Care’? Britain is closing the infamous Tavistock Centre. Finland and Sweden have radically revised their treatment guidelines. But American doctors are advertising surgeries to children on TikTok.”

The question is how Americans will react.

In a sign that they may be rethinking the “puberty blockers are safe and reversible” dogma, the Food and Drug Administration, also on Thursday, announced that it was slapping a new warning on puberty blockers. It turns out they may cause brain swelling and vision loss. But for now, the move among American medical associations, health officials and dozens of gender clinics is to double down on the affirmative approach, with the Biden administration recently asserting gender affirmation is “trauma-informed care.”

The American stance is at odds with a growing consensus in the West to exercise extreme caution when it comes to transitioning young people. Uber-progressive countries like Sweden and Finland have pushed back—firmly and unapologetically—against the affirmative approach of encouraging youth transition advocated by some transgender activists and gender clinicians.

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare released new guidelines for treating young people with gender dysphoria earlier this year. The new guidelines state that the risks of these “gender-affirming” medical interventions “currently outweigh the possible benefits, and that the treatments should be offered only in exceptional cases.”

Finland’s Council for Choices in Health Care (COHERE) came to a similar conclusion a year earlier, noting: “The first-line intervention for gender variance during childhood and adolescent years is psychosocial support and, as necessary, gender-explorative therapy and treatment for comorbid psychiatric disorders.” And: “In light of available evidence, gender reassignment of minors is an experimental practice.” Gender reassignment medical interventions “must be done with a great deal of caution, and no irreversible treatment should be initiated.”

Both guidelines starkly contrast with those proffered by the Illinois-based World Professional Association of Transgender Health, an advocacy group made up of activists, academics, lawyers, and healthcare providers, which has set the standard when it comes to transgender care in the United States. WPATH will soon issue new standards that lower recommended ages for blockers, hormones and surgeries. (WPATH did not respond to a request for comment.)

WPATH’s position is in keeping with an array of U.S. medical associations and activist groups across the country that insist gender-affirming care is “life-saving.” Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who is herself a transgender woman, recently asserted that there is a medical consensus as to its benefits. Some activists and gender clinicians in the U.S. feel that WPATH doesn’t go far enough, asserting that any child who wants puberty blockers should get them, for instance, or claiming that a teenager who later regrets having her breasts removed can just get new ones.

In Sweden and Finland, this issue has been primarily a question of health and medicine. Here in the U.S. it is a political football.

11) Paul Waldman, “Those GOP ‘tough on crime’ ads? They’re based on a very big lie.”

But the idea that crime rates in America will depend on which party controls Congress is ridiculous on its face. The truth — which in a better world would play some role in campaign debates — is that almost nothing Congress does will have any more than the smallest effect on crime.

As The Post reports, in the past month or so Republicans have made crime the primary focus of their campaigns. Apparently, inflation just didn’t provide the appropriate dose of fear and rage:

During the first three weeks of September, the Republican candidates and allies aired about 53,000 commercials on crime, according to AdImpact, which tracks political spots on network TV. That’s up from the 29,000 crime ads they aired in all of August. Nearly 50 percent of all Republican online ads in battleground states have focused on policing and safety since the start of the month, according to data from Priorities USA, a group focused on electing Democrats.

As Republicans know well — because they’ve run on this issue for decades — crime is both a real problem and a symbolic one. It can affect people’s lives in profound ways. But bringing it up can also activate fear, tribalistic distrust and oftentimes outright bigotry, emotions that override any rational assessment of problems and solutions.

But there is a truth in the general vicinity, which is that Republicans do in fact want to spend more on police than we do now; the essence of their position is that police budgets must always rise. In some states, they’ve even passed laws that would punish cities that cut their police budgets, no matter the reason. There is a real policy difference here: Republicans generally favor whatever sounds “tough” — more cops, longer sentences, less accountability for police misconduct — while Democrats tend to have a broader view of what government could do to reduce crime, while also often supporting more spending on police.

12) Always enjoy reading about research on apples, but so many of the new cultivars are just sweet with now balancing tartness– so frustrating.  Meanwhile, Braeburn is one of the best apples ever (and if you like Jazz, it’s Braeburn crossed with Gala) and you can’t even find it anywhere anymore.  “How About Them Apples? Research Orchards Chart a Fruit’s Future. Scientists working in research groves, like one in Nova Scotia, are developing your favorite new apple variety.”

13) Jessica Grose on kids’ sports, “‘The more parents spend on their kids’ sports, the less the kid enjoys it and the more pressure they feel’”

My daughters love to swim, and we’d exhausted the lessons at our local Y, so I thought I’d try to find them a swim team. They’re only 6 and 9, so what I was looking for was a local rec situation that offered a bit of low-stakes camaraderie and regular exercise. They’re strong swimmers but probably not future Olympians, and besides, I want a life: I have zero interest in shuttling them up and down the Eastern Seaboard every weekend to compete, as the parents whose children are on travel teams seem to do.
The kind of chill athletic experience I wanted for my kids barely seems to exist anymore. There wasn’t anything like the delightfully bumbling soccer league of my youth. All I could find were intense teams that had practices several times a week. The only other regular swimming option for my children is lessons, which are expensive, and you need to sign up on the first day of registration or you’re out of luck.
I thought it might be just a New York City thing — often there are wait lists for all kinds of kid activities because there is so much demand and not enough supply. But it seems to be a cross-country problem: When I tweeted in frustration, lots of folks replied describing similar experiences — including a woman who wryly suggested that one might have to sacrifice a baby goat to get kids into swimming lessons in Portland, Ore.
This saddens me for so many reasons. A big one is that sports were such an important part of my tween and teen years. I wasn’t good enough to play in college, but I played soccer and field hockey through my senior year of high school. It always felt like a respite from adolescent drama, and it provided structure and solace on even the worst days. Being part of a team taught me a lot of lessons, not least of which that showing up on time and ready to play has tangible benefits, no matter what happens in the game.
But as Linda Flanagan explains in her new book, “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports — and Why It Matters,” the problem is systemic. At its base, over the past several decades, “kids’ sports stopped being for kids.” There are fewer low-cost options, the time parents are spending on sports has ratcheted up and kids from lower-income families have less access to play. Instead, youth sports are about making adults money and fueling what some economists call the “rug rat race” — middle-class and upper-middle-class competition to get kids into colleges and secure their futures.

That sucks.  Too bad these parents don’t have access to NCFC Youth Rec soccer, where we totally get this right.

14) Did you hear about the “academic” paper last month which was some guy describing his diary of masturbating to pseudo-child porn?  Academics should not be defending this stuff– not all subjects are worthy of study and not all study expands are knowledge– but they do.

15) I saw an ad for Xyzal the other day, which is basically warmed over Zyrtec, but, of course, does not have a generic.  And, how does the efficacy compare?  Zyrtec is actually better.

16) More frustrating culture war battles.  This documentary sounds great and thoughtful.  But, alas, how dare a white woman make a documentary about Muslim men? “Sundance Liked Her Documentary on Terrorism, Until Muslim Critics Didn’t”

17) Loved this take from “History Boomer

“Stay in your lane” is one of the stupider phrases to emerge from lefty identity politics. It’s the crazy idea that certain topics should only be discussed or portrayed by people with the appropriate characteristics. It’s a smothering approach that would set limits on art based on skin color and background when the only limit to art should be the artist’s imagination.

Michael Powell over at the New York Times penned an important article on a film that has been unfairly attacked because it has the “wrong” views and its director the wrong cultural heritage. Meg Smaker directed Jihad Rehab, a documentary investigating the lives of four men who joined jihadist groups, were imprisoned and tortured at Guantanamo Bay, and finally began a move towards a different view of the world during a stay at a Saudi Arabian rehabilitation center. The film was widely praised (read this positive review at The Guardian) until it caught the eye and ire of activists who complained that Ms. Smaker was demonizing Muslims as terrorists and should not, as a white woman, be making such a film at all. Ms. Smaker had film festivals pull her documentary because of the controversy and she is facing career ruin.

For all the details, read Powell’s article, the Guardian’s review, an open letter from filmmakers (who mostly hadn’t seen it) condemning the film, and an open letter from the film’s executive director Abigail Disney, who had originally called the film “freaking brilliant,” but now condemned it because it “has landed like a truckload of hate on people whom I sincerely love and respect.”

For me, one quote jumped out:

“When I, a practicing Muslim woman, say that this film is problematic,” wrote Jude Chehab, a Lebanese American documentarian, “my voice should be stronger than a white woman saying that it isn’t. Point blank.”

Jude Chehab thinks she should be listened to because she is a Muslim Arab while Meg Smaker, as a white American, has a less valid point of view. This way of thinking stems from what is called “standpoint theory,”1 which argues we need to grant special authority to views expressed by those whose identity makes them more trustworthy narrators. (Smaker spent years living in Yemen, learning Arabic, and studying Muslim cultures.)

It’s darkly funny that this same emphasis on identity and authenticity has also been used to justify attacking the casting of non-white characters in Amazon’s The Rings of Power and a black mermaid in the live-action The Little Mermaid. Ms. Chehab wants only Muslim filmmakers to make films about Muslims and conservative critics want only white people to portray mermaids and elves…

The article has some nuance—Farah Fleurima says that sometimes fat suits can work, as with Christian Bale in the film Vice—but mostly pushes for the idea that actors should closely resemble the people they are portraying.

Who can forget the caramel-hued actress Zoe Saldaña playing the singer Nina Simone in a much-maligned biopic of the proudly dark-coffee-skinned performer?

“Caramel-hued,” “dark-coffee-skinned”? While the right complains about dark-skinned elves and black mermaids, the left thinks that Zoe Saldaña—who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage—isn’t dark enough? Should casting calls include Pantone color swatches to make sure each actor properly fits the role? Of course, we also need to examine your sex life to make sure only straight actors play straight characters, ditto your physical abilities if you want to play wheel-chair bound Stephen Hawking.

This way lies madness. Taken to its logical conclusion, “stay in your lane” thinking will result in filmmakers only making films about themselves and only Barack Obama will be acceptable to portray Barack Obama. We must fight the purity police on all sides who want to resegregate our culture. Meg Smaker has as much right to make a film about four Muslim men (assuming she approaches the subject with care and integrity) as a black filmmaker has to create her own vision of Romeo and Juliet. We are all citizens of this world, hungry students learning from her intertwined cultures.

18) Yglesias is right, “Beating climate change absolutely requires new technology: We have what we need to drastically cut emissions — but we’re going to need much more”

So how much does this cost? Well, not very much. Because the key thing about this scenario is that all my kilowatts of electricity get used. When I’m in surplus, that extra electricity goes “to the grid” where it substitutes for other sources of power, and I earn credits that offset my electricity usage during deficit periods. If I had to throw away my surplus kilowatts instead of selling them to the grid, my per-kilowatt cost would soar.

And if everyone had solar power, that’s the problem we would face. Who would we export the extra electricity to during surplus periods? At a small margin, we have the technology for this: instead of exporting power during the day and importing it at night, I could get a home battery and store daytime excess for use at night. That would raise my per-kilowatt cost, but only modestly since batteries aren’t that expensive. And you can add wind as well as solar to your grid so you have some resiliency against seasonal variations in sunlight.

The problem is that without fossil fuels for resilience, the cost per megawatt of renewables soars because redundancy is expensive.

Wasting electricity is costly

Seasonal variation is a big problem here, for example.

Let’s say you have enough solar panels to cover 100 percent of your electricity needs on an average December day. That means you’re going to have way more panels than you need on an average June day when the sun is shining for a much longer period of time. On a pure engineering basis, that’s fine — there are just some panels that in practice are only generating power for a few days per year in the dead of winter. But the cost per megawatt of those panels is going to be astronomical because a solar panel is almost 100 percent fixed costs.

The same is true of random fluctuations in weather. If you’re like Texas and rely on a mix of gas and wind, then wind is cheap — you add some turbines and that means you burn less gas. If there’s some freak day when there’s very little wind, then you burn an unusually large amount of gas. As long as you’re using almost all the wind power you generate, the cost per megawatt of your turbines is low. But if you try to build enough turbines to keep the lights on during low-wind days, you’re wasting wind on high-wind days. This means your cost per megawatt rises.

Because massively overbuilding renewables would not only cost a lot of money but wastefully consume vast tracts of land, it seems like a better idea would be to use long-term batteries. If you had really big batteries that stored electricity for a long time, you could simply store surplus power in the high season and unleash it in the low season.

In fact, if you are lucky enough to have large hydroelectric dams at your disposal, you can probably use them as a seasonal storage vehicle. You can let the water pile up when renewables are at maximum capacity and then run it through the dam when you need it. Not coincidentally, politicians from the Pacific Northwest — where there’s tons of hydro — tend to be huge climate hawks.

But for the rest of us, it’s Hypothetical Storage Technology to the rescue.

I’m not saying anything here that renewables proponents aren’t aware of. They write articles about seasonal electricity storage all the time. There are plenty of ideas here that could work, ranging from ideas on the technological cutting edge to brute force engineering concepts like using pumps to create extra hydro capacity. Another idea is that maybe you could replace a lot of current fossil fuel use with burning hydrogen, and then you could manufacture hydrogen using renewable electricity while accepting seasonal variation in the level of hydrogen output. It might work!

19) Relatedly, “What Many Progressives Misunderstand About Fighting Climate Change”

But this may not be enough for some environmentalists. Jamie Henn, an environmental activist and the director of Fossil Free Media, recently told Rolling Stone, “Look, I want to get carbon out of the atmosphere, but this is such an opportunity to remake our society. But if we just perpetuate the same harms in a clean-energy economy, and it’s just a world of Exxons and Elon Musks—oh, man, what a nightmare.” Many progressive commentators similarly believe that countering climate change requires a fundamental reordering of the West’s political and economic systems. “The level of disruption required to keep us at a temperature anywhere below ‘absolutely catastrophic’ is fundamentally, on a deep structural level, incompatible with the status quo,” the writer Phil McDuff has argued. The climate crisis, the Green New Deal advocate Naomi Klein has insisted, “could be the best argument progressives have ever had” to roll back corporate influence, tear up free-trade deals, and reinvest in public services and infrastructure.

Such comments raise a question: What is the real goal here—stopping climate change or abolishing capitalism? Taking climate change seriously as a global emergency requires an all-hands-on-deck attitude and a recognition that technological solutions (yes, often built and deployed by private firms) can deliver real progress on decarbonization before the proletariat has seized the means of production. A massive infusion of private investment, made not for charity but in the anticipation of future profits, is precisely what’s needed to accelerate the clean-energy transition—which, like all revolutions, will yield unpredictable results.

The belief that top-down decision makers can choreograph precisely how the clean-energy revolution will proceed runs deep in progressive circles. In the manifesto describing his version of the Green New Deal, Bernie Sanders declared, “To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.” Many environmental groups share the Vermont senator’s aversion to these technologies. But the climate emergency demands we take a closer look at some of them before writing them off completely. In the face of uncertainty about the best path to decarbonization, policy makers should think like a venture capitalist—placing lots of bets in the expectation that some technologies will fail but the investment portfolio will succeed as a whole. The “false solutions” that Sanders decries may indeed prove unworkable. Nuclear energy might never be cost-competitive, and geoengineering may prove technically infeasible. But we can’t know in advance…

In a variety of other ways, Americans will have to choose between the perfect and the good. Some environmentalists are skeptical of geothermal energy, which requires extensive drilling. Yet it has high potential as a source of clean baseload power with a small geographical footprint that can, in theory, be deployed anywhere in the world (if you drill deep enough). One way to accelerate investment in geothermal energy would be to give this clean technology the same expedited permitting that oil and gas companies already receive for leases on federal land.

20) I cannot recall how I came across this, but, among other things, it’s got a nice replication of the Milgram experiment and it’s damn entertaining, Derren Brown’s, “The Heist

21) Special K for the win, “Nothing seemed to treat their depression. Then they tried ketamine.”

22) This is good, “How to Change Minds? A Study Makes the Case for Talking It Out. Researchers found that meaty conversations among several people can align beliefs and brain patterns — so long as the group is free of blowhards.” (Haven’t done a free NYT article in a while, so, here you go)

A few years ago, Dr. Sievers devised a study to improve understanding of how exactly a group of people achieves a consensus and how their individual brains change after such discussions. The results, recently published online but not yet peer-reviewed, showed that a robust conversation that results in consensus synchronizes the talkers’ brains — not only when thinking about the topic that was explicitly discussed, but related situations that were not.

The study also revealed at least one factor that makes it harder to reach accord: a group member whose strident opinions drown out everyone else.

“Conversation is our greatest tool to align minds,” said Thalia Wheatley, a social neuroscientist at Dartmouth College who advises Dr. Sievers. “We don’t think in a vacuum, but with other people.”

23) One of the most interesting things about Covid to me is how much it has brought attention to general features of disease that have long been ignored, “It’s Not Just Long COVID: Society has been underestimating the long-term consequences of viruses, bacterial infections, and parasites for ages.”

Despite the initial disbelief and remaining questions, the phenomenon behind long COVID isn’t entirely new. We’ve always lived with post-infection illnesses and underappreciated their consequences. A recent article in Nature Medicine lists 15 infectious agents—many of which are well-known viruses, bacteria, and parasites—that can cause these “post-acute infection syndromes.” Long COVID is unprecedented in terms of its scale—it has affected many millions of people in the U.S. alone—but we should try to understand and study it in the context of other long illnesses, not as something that emerged out of nowhere with no comparison or antecedents.

One of us—Hank Balfour—has spent decades studying the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which can have strikingly similar long-term patterns. EBV, named for two of the researchers who discovered it, is millions of years older than SARS-CoV-2, but its prolonged effects are only just beginning to be well understood. They’re elusive in part because the virus is so common. It infects at least 90 percent of adults, which makes establishing a clear control group and proving that EBV was the cause of a long illness very difficult.

Yet, new research is revealing more and more about the connection between EBV and chronic diseases. New studies suggest that multiple sclerosis is the result of an EBV infection, and we know for sure that EBV is the principal cause of infectious mononucleosis (mono). Most patients recover from mono in a few weeks, but some continue to have mono-like symptoms for years—or get over the initial illness only to suffer recurring bouts of sickness later on. This condition could be called “long mono/EBV” or “chronic mono.” Two prominent symptoms it shares with long COVID are brain fog and fatigue. And just as doctors didn’t believe long-COVID patients at first, chronic mono isn’t a widely accepted diagnosis among health-care professionals. That’s a shame. The similarities between long COVID and long mono/EBV, and the purported interactions between the two viruses during acute COVID or after COVID vaccination, demand further investigation…

Persistent postinfection symptoms are also found in influenza. Long influenza—which most people have never thought about, even though influenza is quite common—and its similarities to long COVID can teach us how both diseases cause brain fog. In the aftermath of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic, scientists noticed that the infection can come with complications, including neurological disorders, that last longer than the acute respiratory illness. There is growing evidence that influenza viruses, much like SARS-CoV-2 and reactivated EBV, can trigger neuroinflammation by infecting white blood cells that then breach the blood-brain barrier and release proinflammatory small proteins called cytokines. Studies suggest that microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells, can also secrete these pro-inflammatory agents following viral assault and thus may be factors in the brain fog experienced as a delayed effect of both influenza and COVID. Animal studies and human-brain postmortems bolster this theory. Investigators recently found that both SARS-CoV-2 and H1N1 activate neuroinflammation through microglia, and they noted the similarity of what they observed to the “chemo fog” that patients experience following cancer chemotherapy.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I do some strength training, but, I suspect not enough for optimal benefit.  I need some study to tell me the minimum 🙂 “People Who Do Strength Training Live Longer — and Better
A consensus is building among experts that both strength training and cardio‌ are important for longevity.”

Regular physical activity has many known health benefits, one of which is that it might help you live longer. But what’s still being determined are the types and duration of exercise that offer the most protection.

In a new study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that while doing either aerobic exercise or strength training was associated with a lower risk of dying during the study’s time frame, regularly doing both — one to three hours a week of aerobic exercise and one to two weekly strength training sessions — was associated with an even lower mortality risk.

Switching from a sedentary lifestyle to a workout schedule is comparable to “smoking versus not smoking,” said Carver Coleman, a data scientist and one of the authors of the study.

 

The paper is the latest evidence in a trend showing the importance of strength training in longevity and overall health…

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, income, education, marital status and whether they had chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, researchers found that people who engaged in one hour of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a week had a 15 percent lower mortality risk. Mortality risk was 27 percent lower for those who did three hours a week.

But those who also took part in one to two strength-training sessions per week had an even lower mortality risk — a full 40 percent lower than those who didn’t exercise at all. This was roughly the difference between a nonsmoker and someone with a half-a-pack-a-day habit.

2) This is really good.  More to come on this topic, “Richard Reeves on Why Men are Struggling
Yascha Mounk and Richard Reeves discuss the cultural and economic challenges facing boys and men and how to fix them.”

Mounk: It’s striking just how much of a gender gap there now is in American politics, and not always on the topics where people assume there is one. In broader questions like, “Do you prefer Democrats or Republicans,” and “how do you feel about Donald Trump?” and so on, there’s now a very strong gender divide, which I believe is actually stronger among young people. A few years ago, everyone was debating about Jordan Peterson, which some listeners may have strong feelings about. I always thought that he said some things that were sort of straightforwardly true, along with many things that I disagreed with. But there was a visceral moment of media panic about his rise. And that really was the fault of everybody on the center left, because we were not able to speak in clear and orienting ways to young people who may be trying to look for a path. It would have felt very strange for anybody in my sort of social milieu to say, “I’m going to write a book that tries to appeal not exclusively, but in some ways primarily, to young men who are a little bit lost in life, and tell them: here are some basic rules for how you should go about conceiving of a meaningful life.” If we’re not filling that space, it is unsurprising that somebody with whom I have some robust political disagreements, would end up becoming a star by moving into that empty space.

Reeves: It’s a vacuum. Anybody that doesn’t take seriously the appeal of people like Jordan Peterson, especially to young men, just isn’t paying attention. I treat some of his work in my book and have many criticisms of what he’s done, but I also have a great deal of admiration in some ways for the fact that he does make a lot of these young men feel listened to. He clearly has genuine compassion for them. I don’t like where his ideology goes, and he thinks out loud, so he’s bound to say something stupid or crazy. Every ten sentences are going to contain three horrific ones. But there is this reservoir of unmet questions and a sense of dislocation and disequilibrium which he has been able to exploit as a public intellectual, but which successful populists are also able to exploit. 

We have a Gender Policy Council now in the White House. They just put out a report, and there isn’t a single gender inequality it treats that goes the other way, not a single one. For me, that’s just a huge missed opportunity. Let’s say 90% of the things discussed were still about women, but it also talked a bit about deaths of despair, incarceration, how boys have fallen behind in education—just two or three issues. I think that would have paid massive political dividends. I don’t think that’s quite permissible on the left right now, and so it is leaving this gap, and I really do fear that it could get worse before it gets better. As we approach the midterms, I feel that the Democrats are doubling down in some ways on their current agenda, which I think may have the effect of worsening the gender divide even more than we’ve seen it in recent years.

3) It really seems amazing what psychedelic drugs are capable of when used therapeutically, “Psilocybin Therapy Sharply Reduces Excessive Drinking, Small Study Shows”

4) Really good piece from Jesse Singal on affirmative action in higher ed.  Its supporters need to 1) stop eliding how deeply unpopular it is with the American public, and 2) stop acting as if everyone who opposes it is “racist.”  And 3) come up with actual solutions.

I would question the utility of this framework in this particular setting. Yes, race-based affirmative action (let’s just call it RBAA so I don’t have to keep typing that) is likely to be dealt a crippling blow by a conservative-dominated Supreme Court set to hear a pivotal case on the subject this autumn, and yes, white people who feel racial resentment, and/or who are outright racists, are vehemently opposed to RBAA.

But these aren’t the only people who dislike RBAA. The fact is, it’s an unpopular policy, full stop. The racial group that most favors RBAA is black Americans, and even there, 59% say race should not be a factor in college admissions at allaccording to Pew polling from earlier this year:

Among all other racial groups, the numbers are significantly worse. This is a policy that enjoys no broad support among anyone, and that includes the groups most likely to benefit from it…

So even if RBAA didn’t face constitutional challenges, there’d still be the fact that, rightly or wrongly, people don’t like it. You’d think a column by two scholars very concerned about the potential extinction of this policy would make some reference to its durable unpopularity, and perhaps offer a strategy or two for convincing voters to feel more warmly toward it. They do neither: They present a flattened account in which supporting RBAA is supporting racial justice and opposing it is opposing racial justice. Never mind the fact that opponents of RBAA range from far-right white racists to… the average black voter…

There’s an ingrained breezy entitlement in some liberal intellectual spaces that mucks everything up. If people don’t agree with our preferred racial justice policies, it’s because they’re racist. Okay, whatever, they’re racist — what are you going to do about it? Ummmm, more ethnic studies? Wait, so your argument is that affirmative action is on its deathbed because society is too racist, but you think ethnic studies is part of the answer instead? Or what about if, like, rich universities gave money to poor kids? Okay, but isn’t that already a thing and don’t you worry that — Also: Let them catch up.

I don’t think this represents a very serious effort to address what is, in fact, a very serious problem.

5) Good stuff from Jeff Maurer, “What’s a “Progressive”, Anyway?

Progressivism makes sense to me as a continuation of the constant project of improving society. Liberalism arose mostly in response to government tyranny, which was a problem from the beginning of human history until…actually, it’s still a problem. It will likely be a problem forever — this is why I consider the negative rights at the core of liberalism to be fundamental. Progressives probably should have extolled those rights as essential instead of trashing them as insufficient. But even so, the creation of a new movement that responded to new problems was a good thing, and progressives got more right than they got wrong.

Bottom line: Gaining a better understanding of progressivism did not cause me to think that progressivism is, itself, a problem. I found progressivism to be completely compatible with liberalism. Authoritarian is not compatible with liberalism; it’s pretty much liberalism’s polar opposite. Same with Marxism; liberals balk at that level of government control, not to mention the monochromatic color scheme. But I see nothing inconsistent about a person calling themselves a “liberal progressive”. In fact, I think that would be a somewhat-accurate descriptor of what I am.

The problem — to the extent that there is a problem — is the absence liberal principles. I think that much intra-left tension these days is between progressives who don’t hold liberal principles and progressives who do. Those who don’t hold liberal principles are fine with things like steamrolling due process in the prosecution of sexual assault claims and the extreme narrowing of the bounds of acceptable speech. Those who do hold liberal principles are bothered by these things and have written many biting Twitter threads saying so. It may be true that the righteous tenor of progressive rhetoric attracts zealots, but as far as I’m concerned, the progressive label is a red herring. To me, the great political divide continues to be between liberals and everyone else, and the specific flavor of a person’s illiberalism doesn’t matter much.

6) Really good essay on how our blood plasma “donations” exploit the poor.  

7) Rod Graham on wokeness and post-materialism:

So what does the Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural Map tell us about wokeness?

Countries composed of people that reject traditional life patterns and value self-expression, countries towards the upper right corner of the map, are more likely to develop ideas and movements that we see as woke. This is because people in those countries care about the quality of life (symbolic aspects) as opposed to the quantities of life (material aspects).

I’ll give three examples:

  1. The emphasis on language. The intolerance that is often levied at woke people is essentially an attempt to protect people from the negative impact of words. In woke nations, movements can arise to abolish words like “midget” because it is seen as a slur. The material benefits to using a different word are little to none, but there are symbolic benefits of restricting the use of that word. The word can be disrespectful or hurtful to the person it is directed at.

  2. The emphasis on diversity. Generally, all groups that have not been traditionally the focus – meaning not white, heterosexual, Christian, and male – are celebrated and platformed. The 1619 Project is about platforming the experiences related to black people in the United States. This emphasis on diversity also extends to nontraditional lifestyles like polyamory or jobs that have been stigmatized like sex work.

  3. The emphasis on thought patterns. Concepts like heteronormativity, toxic masculinity, and implicit bias are all about thinking differently. Sure, recognizing that hypermasculine behaviors can be damaging can lead to policy changes. But at its core, the idea is about changing how we think about masculinity. The same goes for ideas like white fragility, where white people are asked to think differently about how they engage in conversations about race…

So why is the West woke?

Well, it is not because of a few critical theorists in academia producing ideas about transphobia or systemic racism. Nor is it because white liberals have taken over our institutions.

Wokeness is likely a result of living in a wealthy, modern country. When people do not need tradition, are not religious, and have their material needs taken care of, they will focus on the quality of their lives. The West has had two generations of people who have lived in a world of relative comfort. We have had no major wars. With the end of the Cold War, we didn’t even have an enemy. Elections have been, for the most part, peaceful. Crime and violence are still a problem but have been steadily declining. Even with downturns and recessions, the standard of living in Western countries has been steadily improving.

In these conditions, people can focus on the quality of life. This is what has caused wokeness, and it is a good thing. Wokeness is an indicator of success.

8) David Brooks on the awfulness of open plan offices.

9) An electric car with a 600 mile range sounds great. “A New Approach to Car Batteries Is About to Transform EVs: Auto companies are designing ways to build a car’s fuel cells into its frame, making electric rides cheaper, roomier, and able to hit ranges of 620 miles.”

If you want to build an EV with better range, slapping in a larger battery to provide that range is not necessarily the solution. You would then have to increase the size of the brakes to make them capable of stopping the heavier car, and because of the bigger brakes you now need bigger wheels, and the weight of all those items would require a stronger structure. This is what car designers call the “weight spiral,” and the problem with batteries is that they require you to lug around dead weight just to power the vehicle.

But what if you could integrate the battery into the structure of the car so that the cells could serve the dual purpose of powering the vehicle and serving as its skeleton? That is exactly what Tesla and Chinese companies such as BYD and CATL are working on. The new structural designs coming out of these companies stand to not only change the way EVs are produced but increase vehicle ranges while decreasing manufacturing costs.

According to Euan McTurk, a consultant battery electrochemist at Plug Life Consulting, since technologies such as cell-to-pack, cell-to-body, and cell-to-chassis battery construction allow batteries to be more efficiently distributed inside the car, they get us much closer to a hypothetical perfect EV battery. “The ultimate battery pack would be one that consists of 100 percent active material. That is, every part of the battery pack stores and releases energy,” he says.

Traditionally, EV batteries have used cell modules that are then interconnected into packs. BYD pioneered cell-to-pack technology, which does away with the intermediate module stage and puts the cells directly into the pack. According to Richie Frost, the founder and CEO of Sprint Power, “standard modules may fit well within one pack but leave large areas of ‘wasted’ space in another pack. By removing the constraints of a module, the number of cells can be maximized within any enclosure.”

10) Humanities degrees are in freefall:

But something different has been happening with the humanities since the 2008 financial crisis. Five years ago, I argued that the humanities were still near long-term norms in their number of majors. But since then, I’ve been watching the numbers from the Department of Education, and every year, things look worse. Almost every humanities field has seen a rapid drop in majors: History is down about 45 percent from its 2007 peak, while the number of English majors has fallen by nearly half since the late 1990s. Student majors have dropped, rapidly, at a variety of types of institutions. Declines have hit almost every field in the humanities (with one interesting exception) and related social sciences, they have not stabilized with the economic recovery, and they appear to reflect a new set of student priorities, which are being formed even before they see the inside of a college classroom…

The most reliable indicators about the humanities in American colleges are reports that all colleges and universities make to the Department of Education. These run back to about 1950. Since then, the humanities have seen three eras. The first ran from 1955 to 1985. As normal schools around the country, set up to educate teachers, transformed into comprehensive universities, men and women alike poured into English and history majors; then, when the economy soured and the growth of higher education slowed in the 1970s, the boom turned to bust, and humanities majors collapsed nationwide. The second phase began around 1985 and ran to 2008. This was a long period of stability; majors in the four largest (and easiest to track over the long term) humanities majors held steady, with modest fluctuations. Since 2008, the crisis of the humanities has resumed, with percentage drops that are beginning to approach those of 40 years ago. Unlike the drops of the ’70s, though, there’s no preexisting bubble to deflate. And there’s no compelling demographic explanation. Five years ago, it was reasonable to look at these numbers and conclude that the long-term story is all about gender. Men majored in humanities fields at the same rate in the 1990s as they had in the 1950s, while women, seeing more options in the workforce, increasingly turned to majors in business fields. But the drops since the financial crisis can be seen among men and women, across racial groups, and in a wide variety of universities.

11) Good free Yglesias piece from a month ago, “We should expect more — and worse — pandemics to come”

People who like to follow Covid news have started paying attention to wastewater monitoring because it’s a great way to get broad-spectrum information in close to real time.

What we ought to be doing is setting more communities up with routine wastewater monitoring and building systems that don’t just check for a particular virus but all unusual DNA. That way you could find a virus you’re not already looking for. We should be investing in ventilation (which everyone says) but also basic testing of commercially available air purifiers. You should be able to find out easily which one is really the best at clearing out viruses, and that should become a basis for commercial competition.

Recent research indicates that far-ultraviolet light can kill viruses and make indoor space as safe as outdoor space. I’d want to run three or four more rigorous studies on that before I put far-UVC lights everywhere, but we should do that research and, if it pans out, put the lights everywhere. And we should be paying people lots of money to design new kinds of masks that are as effective as KN95s but more comfortable, or equally comfortable but more effective, or ideally both. There ought to be huge prizes for inventing masks like that and advanced purchase commitments to get them from manufacturers.

We also ought to have spacesuit-type supersuits lying around so that we can keep basic social infrastructure up and running in the event of a huge catastrophe.

And finally, we need to put the pedal to the metal on the universal coronavirus vaccine project and then work with equal alacrity on universal vaccines for the other families. Part of the power of the family-wide vaccine concept is it will offer protection against pathogens that don’t yet exist, which is far and away the best hope for getting ahead of engineered pathogens.

None of this — ventilation, special light, better PPE, better vaccines — is exactly existing science and technology. But it’s close, visibly within grasp, just as the possibility of simultaneously releasing dozens of separately engineered viruses is visibly within reach. In the race between the two, the bad actors’ advantage is they don’t need to follow the rules and protocols that slow things down. The good actors’ advantage is that developed world governments have at their disposal enormous financial resources. They just need to be persuaded to actually use them.

12) My teenage son and I have taken to watching pro wrestling as father-son bonding many evenings.  Entirely ironically, of course.  (I sometimes joke with him that his enjoyment sometimes seems to be lacking suitable levels of irony).  Anyway, I was interested to learn more about the new start-up AEW.  It really is just way more entertaining.  

13) Good stuff from Conor Friedersdorf, “What to Teach Young Kids About Gender: Schools should tell children to be themselves. But some districts say too much—and mistake progressive dogma for established fact.”

To better understand what is actually being taught—or what bans are prohibiting—I turned to Evanston/Skokie School District 65, a public-school system in the Chicago suburbs that is is laudably transparent about posting instructional material online. Last year, I reported on its Black Lives Matter at School curriculum. Its educators also post the lessons that they teach, starting in pre-kindergarten, during the district’s LGBTQ+ Equity Month. Gender identity is a major focus of the curriculum—which, I should note, is similar to curricula I’ve seen elsewhere from progressive educators.

The District 65 instructional materials reveal a basic problem. Although American society’s approach to matters of gender identity is clearly still in flux, and reasonable people disagree on how best to engage students on the subject, some educators are writing progressive activists’ views into detailed lessons for young children. An alternative approach might promote inclusion in the broadest, plainest possible terms and reassure children: There’s no wrong way to be you. Instead, District 65 and other systems err on the side of saying too much and mistaking dogma for established fact…

Other lessons in the curriculum stray from affirming the dignity of nonbinary and trans people to teaching contested and in some cases contradictory claims about the nature of gender. One kindergarten lesson calls for teachers to read I Am JazzMy Princess Boy; and Jack (Not Jackie)—all books about trans or genderqueer kids. The following day’s lesson introduces “another important flag that has just 3 colors: light blue, pink and white.” The ensuing script reads, “People who identify as TRANSGENDER have their own ways of dressing, playing & acting that might not be what you expect. They might look to you like a boy, but dress and act like a girl.”

But wait: How does a girl dress and act? By day five of the school district’s LGBTQ+ Equity Month, the kindergarteners have been taught that there are no such thing as boys’ toys and girls’ toys, or boys’ clothes and girls’ clothes—any boy can wear a dress and any girl can play with toy trucks. But then, when introducing terms such as trans and nonbinary, the curriculum relies on and arguably reaffirms gender stereotypes. For example, kindergarten students are shown a slide meant to represent a boy, a girl, and a nonbinary person. Its symbols are silhouettes of stereotypical male dress, stereotypical female dress, and a mash-up of the two:..

If you tell 5-year-olds that boys can wear dresses and play with dolls just as much as girls, but also that Michael feels like a girl, so from now on he’s going to wear dresses and play with dolls—act like a girl?—you’ve undercut the message that normative gender stereotypes are bogus.

14) I don’t doubt that these are very good ideas for parenting.  I’ve definitely come up short:

This is how to use ancient traditions to raise awesome kids:

  • To Raise Helpful Kids: Don’t shoo them away to the world of self-indulgent child distraction. Make them valued members of the team with communal activities that benefit the family.
  • To Teach Kids Emotional Regulation: Yes, you feel like you need to shout until your soul starts dribbling out your ears but all they’ll learn is that anger is the solution to life’s problems. Change your narrative, model calm behavior, trigger thought with questions, and touch them to let them know they’re loved.

Let’s step away from the ancient traditions and modern science for a second. I’ve read more books on parenting than any childless guy ever. What have I learned? It’s simple:

Almost all good parenting advice is good people advice.

Or, to put it bluntly: There are no grown-ups. None. Nowhere. Ever. We’re all muddling through. Sometimes we’re all selfish, emotional and out of control. It happens. And it’s okay.

If you apply parenting advice to all your relationships, you’ll be better off. Don’t try to control people. Treat them like adults – especially if they’re not acting like one. Bribes and punishments are not as effective as encouraging cooperation and making people feel like part of a team.

Anger usually just makes things worse with people. If they’re angry, you getting angry just escalates things. To stop being angry change the story in your head: they’re usually not evil, they’re just having a bad day. Encourage their thinky brain to take charge again and focus on a warm, positive connection where they feel supported.

When you stop trying to control or win with others you can focus on getting to that thing which is worth more than anything else is the universe…

Yes, printer ink.

Okay, maybe we should focus on the second most valuable thing in the universe: love. It’s not printer ink but it’s still pretty good.

15) I forget why I came across this, but the illusion of explanatory depth is such a great concept:

What is illusion of explanatory depth?

The illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) describes our belief that we understand more about the world than we actually do. It is often not until we are asked to actually explain a concept that we come face to face with our limited understanding of it.

Where this bias occurs

And yet, as the alien takes a seat to listen, you realize you can tell him what a house is, but you can’t explain much about them. How are they built? How did we as civilians come to live in houses? How are their prices determined? What are the laws surrounding them? How long have people lived in houses, and what did they live in before? Perhaps you can answer one or two of these specific questions, but surely the alien will have even more questions you can’t answer. To think that housing is such a simple concept, and that you actually know much less than you’d predicted puzzles you greatly. This is because of the illusion of explanatory depth: having to explain your knowledge brings you to the realization that you actually know much less than you thought you did.

16) Unless it’s going to kill me, I am not giving up my aspartame, damnit. “Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance”

Summary

Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) are commonly integrated into human diet and presumed to be inert; however, animal studies suggest that they may impact the microbiome and downstream glycemic responses. We causally assessed NNS impacts in humans and their microbiomes in a randomized-controlled trial encompassing 120 healthy adults, administered saccharinsucraloseaspartame, and stevia sachets for 2 weeks in doses lower than the acceptable daily intake, compared with controls receiving sachet-contained vehicle glucose or no supplement. As groups, each administered NNS distinctly altered stool and oral microbiome and plasma metabolome, whereas saccharin and sucralose significantly impaired glycemic responses. Importantly, gnotobiotic mice conventionalized with microbiomes from multiple top and bottom responders of each of the four NNS-supplemented groups featured glycemic responses largely reflecting those noted in respective human donors, which were preempted by distinct microbial signals, as exemplified by sucralose. Collectively, human NNS consumption may induce person-specific, microbiome-dependent glycemic alterations, necessitating future assessment of clinical implications.

17) Good stuff from Sean Illing and Zac Gershberg, “The Greatest Threat to Democracy Is a Feature of Democracy”

Far more than a bundle of laws, norms and institutions, democracy is an open culture of communication that affords people the right to think, speak and act and allows every possible means of persuasion. That makes every democratic society uniquely vulnerable to the consequences of communication. We may not like it, but something like Jan. 6 is always potentially in the offing.

We ought to avoid the naïveté of liberal fantasy, which imagines we can impose reliable guardrails against dangerous or deceptive speech. Indeed, there’s a whole genre of articles and books arguing that social media is destroying democracy. Because of changes to online platforms around a decade ago, wrote Jonathan Haidt recently, “People could spread rumors and half-truths more quickly, and they could more readily sort themselves into homogeneous tribes.”

But this is precisely what an unwieldy democratic culture looks like. Depending on the communications environment, a democracy can foster reliable, respectful norms, or it can devolve into outrageous propaganda, widespread cynicism and vitriolic partisanship.

And when communications devolve into propaganda and partisanship, a democracy can either end with breathtaking speed, as it did in Myanmar last year, when the military overthrew the democratically elected government, or descend more gradually into chaos and authoritarianism, as Russia did under Vladimir Putin.

Nothing forbids voters in a democracy to support an authoritarian or vote itself out of existence (as the ancient Athenian assembly famously did). The history of democracy is full of demagogues exploiting the openness of democratic cultures to turn people against the very system on which their freedom depends. In France, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte leveraged a celebrity name to run for president on a campaign of restoring order in 1848, only to end the Second Republic with a self-coup to become emperor when his term was up…

The paradox at the heart of this debate — the idea that democracy contains the ingredients for its own destruction — tells us that free expression and its sometimes troubling consequences are a feature, not a bug. What sometimes changes are novel forms of media, which come along and clear democratic space for all manner of persuasion. Patterns of bias and distortion and propaganda accompany each evolution.

Quick hits (part I)

1) How your balance and mobility after 50 can predict your life expectancy.  I had never heard of the sitting-rising test before.  It’s hard! But, I just managed to get maximum points. 

“The idea here was just to come up with a really simple test that might be an indication of a person’s ability to balance,” said Dr. Jonathan Myers, a professor at Stanford University, researcher at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System and an author of the balance study. He said the inability to perform this task was powerfully predictive of mortality. In the study, one in five people could not manage it.

“With age, strength and balance tend to decrease and that can result in frailty. Frailty is a really big thing now that the population is aging,” Dr. Myers said.

Balance problems can be caused by a variety of factors, many of them age-related, said Dr. Lewis Lipsitz, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and the director of the Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife.

When your vision is affected by cataracts, or the nerve signals from your feet to your brain slow down, this makes it more difficult to balance. While it’s impossible to prevent all types of age-related decline, you can counteract the impact on your balance through specialized training and building strength.

“There’s a downward spiral of the people who don’t go out, who don’t walk, who don’t exercise, who don’t do balance training, and they become weaker and weaker. And muscle weakness is another important risk factor for falls,” he said.

Researchers have previously connected balance and strength with mortality, finding that the ability to rise from the floor to a standing position, balance on one leg for 30 seconds with one eye closed and even walk at a brisk pace are all tied to longevity.

2) Okay, my energy policy expert friend says this take is a little unfair to the left, but, I think there’s some really good points in here, “Why Internet Leftists Are So Pissed About Democrats’ Historic Climate Bill: The legislation is a win for the planet—and a loss for an entire philosophy of fighting climate change.”

In the end, there are essentially four main ways that a country can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions:

• It can put a price on carbon, using schemes like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.

• It can simply force businesses and utilities to emit less via regulations.

• It can try a supply-side approach by shutting down the development of new fossil fuels, in order to increase their costs.

• Or, it can just throw money at the problem by subsidizing cheap renewables so that they take over the market.

Climate groups have tended to advocate for some mix of all these approaches. But the most hardcore corners of the movement are deeply attached to supply-side solutions; they’ve spent years on efforts to keep fossil fuels buried and stop the construction of new oil and gas infrastructure, such as the lengthly battles against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines as well as efforts to limit fracking.  In the process, “keep it in the ground” has become an international rallying cry…

Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity have warned that these lease sales will effectively lock in oil production on federal land for years to come. Analysts have concluded that offering additional leases is unlikely to make a major difference in U.S. oil drilling, most of which happens on privately owned land, and is easily a worthwhile price to pay for the rest of the bill, which would amount to the biggest climate investment in American history. Multiple forecasts have concluded the legislation could roughly double the speed at which the U.S. is reducing its carbon emissions, bringing us reasonably close to the commitments the government made under the Paris climate accords. According to a preliminary study by the think tank Energy Innovation, for each ton of emissions added by its oil and gas provisions, the rest of the bill cuts 24.

For the most part, the bill achieves those reductions by subsidizing clean energy and transport—or, as I put before, throwing money at the problem. This, in the end, has turned out to be the core of Manchin’s approach to fighting climate change; rather than make fossil fuels more expensive, his philosophy has been to make zero-carbon power much, much cheaper, while allowing oil and gas to flow…

In some ways, this is as much a rebuke to Washington’s technocratic class as it is to climate activists; the biggest names in economics, for instance, have in recent years all rallied around carbon taxes as the most cost-effective and efficient ways to combat climate change, even as they’ve fallen out of public favor. It also has some obvious downsides of its own; subsidizing solar and wind costs money, whereas something like a carbon tax and dividend scheme—where revenue raised by the levy is sent back to taxpayers—is basically free.

But what Manchinism has going for it, perhaps above all else, is political palatability. The Inflation Reduction Act hasn’t aroused much opposition from industry, because it offers mostly carrots and few sticks. (Exxon’s CEO is perfectly happy with the legislation, as are most power companies.) And it’s been difficult for Republicans to attack, because the legislation doesn’t ask voters to make sacrifices. Instead, it does things like lower electricity costs by pouring money into renewables, giving Democrats a kitchen-table win to brag about at a moment of high inflation. For better or worse, it’s a lot easier to sell that sort of climate bill than it is to convince people that they should pay more to fill up their SUV.

3) I think I was bitten by a copperhead last year, but it was just a very mild bite reaction.  A snake expert friend/student, says that’s the best explanation and that many copperhead bites actually are pretty mild.  I’ve been trying to get some confirmation on this and finally have in the N&O:

Half of copperhead bites are dry or really mild. About 46% of the bites Poison Control was involved in treating received antivenom, Beuhler said, though the absolute treatment rate is unknown.

“You can get a tetanus shot from your pharmacy and clean the wound yourself — why take a trip to the ER and pay ER bills if you don’t have to? Let us help you make that decision and save you a potentially really expensive few hours,” he said.

Some disagreement on who/when to get antivenom.  There’s be more disagreement if it wasn’t insanely expensive:

Antivenom at WakeMed costs between $11,000 and $14,000 per vial, spokesperson Kristin Kelly said. For the typical initial dose of four to six vials, this costs at least $44,000.

UNC Health charges between $76,000 and $115,000 for the typical initial dose, The N&O previously reported. Duke Health declined to share current figures, but The N&O reported in 2020 that 12 vials cost $200,000.

4) And I really don’t quite understand why we still have to rely on horses making antibodies to actual snake venom to make this all happen.  I’m surprised our biotechnological abilities haven’t fully solved this by now. 

5) German Lopez with a good summary of the climate bill (aka IRA):

The bill’s climate provisions are mostly a collection of subsidies for energy that does not emit any carbon, like solar, wind and nuclear power. Without those subsidies, polluting fossil fuels are often still cheaper. The subsidies try to give cleaner energy an edge.

“I don’t mean this as an exaggeration: This really changes everything,” said Jesse Jenkins, a climate policy expert at Princeton University. “It is effectively going to shift the financial case away from dirty energy toward clean energy for everyone.”

For consumers, the subsidies will reduce the prices of electric vehicles, solar panels, heat pumps and other energy-efficient home improvements. You can claim the subsidies through tax filings; as a separate rebate if you don’t file taxes; or, in some cases, immediately when you make a purchase.

Let’s say you want to buy one of the cheaper, new electric vehicles on the market right now, priced around $40,000. To get the subsidy, you will first want to make sure the car qualifies; the bill requires, among other things, that the vehicles are assembled in North America. (Ask the car dealer or manufacturer to find out.) Then, make sure that you qualify; individual tax filers cannot make more than $150,000 a year, for example. And, given high demand, you might have to order a car well in advance.

If you meet the requirements, you can claim up to $7,500 in tax credits — effectively bringing the price of a $40,000 vehicle to $32,500.

That is the tax credit for new cars. For used cars, there will be a smaller tax credit of up to $4,000. The goal of both credits is to even the playing field: Cars that burn fossil fuels are still generally cheaper than electric vehicles. With the credits, electric cars will be much closer in price to, if not cheaper than, similar nonelectric vehicles.

For home improvements, the process will be different, but the basic idea is similar. For a typical $20,000 rooftop solar installation, tax credits will cut the price by up to $6,000. There are also subsidies for heat pumps, electric stoves and other energy-efficiency projects. The hope is to make all these changes much more affordable for everyday Americans, leading to less reliance on fossil fuels and expanding the market for cleaner energy…

The bill does include a compromise: It requires more leasing of federal lands and waters for oil and gas projects. Senator Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, demanded this provision.

But experts say that it will have only a modest impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the bill will subtract at least 24 tons of carbon emissions for each ton of emissions that the oil and gas provision adds, according to Energy Innovation, a think tank.

“It’s a trade-off,” my colleague Coral Davenport, who covers energy and environmental policy, told me. “But in terms of emissions impact, it’s a good deal.”

The bottom line

The bill will make cleaner energy and electric vehicles much cheaper for many Americans. Over time, it will also likely make them more affordable for the rest of the world, as more competition and innovation in the U.S. lead to cheaper, better products that can be shipped worldwide.

And it will move America close to President Biden’s goal of cutting greenhouse emissions to half their peak by 2030, according to three independent analyses.

Modeling for the new climate bill is based on draft legislation from July 27, 2022. | Source: REPEAT Project, E.P.A. | By Nadja Popovich

The bill is also a sign that the U.S. is starting to take climate change seriously. That will give American diplomats more credibility as they ask other countries, such as China and India, to do the same.

Still, many scientists believe the U.S. will eventually need to do more to prevent severe damage from climate change. “This bill is really only the beginning,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

6) Two of my kids are unhealthily obsessed with the idea of “favorite children” in our family.  I did enjoy this Caroline Hax discussion of the issue:

Dear Carolyn: I have three kids. I love them all.

But one of them is my delight. I don’t admit this to anyone, not even my husband. I try so hard not to favor her in any way. There are big age gaps between all three kids, so it’s reasonably easy to hide. Plus, I’m seriously motivated.
In all my courtside, backstage, poolside, deck-chair conversations with other moms, no one EVER talks about this, no matter how many margaritas have been swirled. Is this the dirty little secret of parenting? Or are most people really fair in their affections?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I’m choosing against any answer that requires purity of “most people.”

I do think it’s common to feel and highly uncommon to express. Not because I have insight into a statistically significant sampling of parents, or specific firsthand knowledge (of course!), but because it makes too much sense.

Take the feelings people do express freely: We prefer one parent to another, one sibling to others, one grandparent, aunt, colleague, neighbor, dog, barista, TV character to others. Are you friends with a couple? Then you like one half better. The Earth is round, the sky is blue and some people fit better than others.

Follow the logic, and having equal feelings for multiple children would be the affront to nature, yet the reverse seems to earn that distinction.

It’s obvious why: Children are different. There are many reasons, but it’s mainly because there’s no greater power than a parent’s over a child. A good parent knows this, knows the weight of it, and wants to use it to uplift, not to crush. And how better to crush Sammie than to reveal her own mommy likes Pammie better?

So, you summon the same enthusiasm for their different strengths. Your kids will figure it out regardless, but it will matter that they never heard it from you.

7) The Greensboro News & Record used to be a really good paper.  Like most local papers… not so much any more.  The story of it’s decline and how the loss of local news is just so bad for democracy. 

8) A painted bunting hanging out in Raleigh.  Would’ve been so cool to see.

Birders converge on Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh to photograph a rare painted bunting in Raleigh, NC. BOB KARP ZUMA Press

9) Really cool NYT interactive feature on why restaurant meal prices have gone up so much.  You really should check this out– gift link

10) I’m not going to be watching Yellowstone anytime soon, but I did enjoy this discussion of tv shows and political views:

Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone”is a prime example. While liberal audiences mostly ignore it, this soapy conservative prestige television juggernaut is gobbling up audience share. An informal survey of my own filter bubble bears witness. When I asked my roughly 220,000 Twitter followers for television and movie recommendations, many offered up the usual award-winning and buzzy fare. Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy,” Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” and HBO’s “Hacks” were givens. Critical darlings “Stranger Things,” “The Bear” and “Only Murders in the Building” rounded out the list. I saw only one person suggest “Yellowstone,”and only in a private message. I dare say my bubble leans coastal elite.

These asymmetrical responses match findings from a working paper by two sociologists, Clayton Childress at the University of Toronto and Craig Rawlings at Duke University. The paper is titled “When Tastes Are Ideological: The Asymmetric Foundations of Cultural Polarization.” It is part of the subfield of sociology that studies how culture reflects and reproduces inequality. Childress and Rawlings draw out several asymmetries in how liberals and conservatives consume cultural objects like music and television…

“People on the left like more pop culture than people on the right,’’ Childress said. “And people on the left don’t dislike what people on the right dislike.” Liberals watch, read and listen to more stuff than conservatives do. They also do not necessarily reject a cultural object because conservatives like it. That is not because liberal audiences are more accepting. Anyone who has ever argued with a Grateful Dead or Phish fan can tell you otherwise.

But when it comes to identity and tastes, Childress said it is a “mark of social status for liberals to be culturally omnivorous.” In contrast, conservative audiences do not consider reading, watching or listening around a mark of status or identity. And they are more likely to dislike what liberals like than liberals are to dislike what conservatives like.

11) Speaking of which, BB says I really should be watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  Three episodes in and… it’s pretty good, but I don’t love it.  I’ll watch more though.  That said, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, I thought the new Ron Howard movie about the Thai boys soccer team trapped in a flooded cave was terrific.  Really loved it. 

12) Interesting take from Yglesias on Trump and Republicans’ candidate quality problem:

Donald Trump is the GOP’s biggest candidate quality problem

That’s a dismal performance considering that it’s a midterm with an unpopular incumbent Democratic Party president. And that dismal polling reflects the fact that Republicans have fielded a ton of individual candidates who are underperforming expectations. Some of those underperforming candidates, like JD Vance in Ohio, are clearly favored to win anyway. But others, like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, stand a real chance of blowing clearly winnable races. And there are two common threads among the currently underperforming GOP Senate candidates:

  • The party nominated an “unconventional” candidate rather than a sitting House member or down-ballot state officeholder.

  • Donald Trump personally intervened to help the candidate win.

In most of these cases, there is no Meijer-like martyr figure. Nobody is totally sure why Trump favored Oz in the Pennsylvania race, but it wasn’t because there were no anti-impeachment, pro-insurrection Pennsylvania Republican politicians available. Trump just decided he wanted to support a Turkish dual citizen who lives in New Jersey.

Normally you expect party leaders to prioritize electability over ideological considerations. And to the extent that they do prioritize ideological considerations, you expect there to be some kind of logic to their actions.

But Oz doesn’t have any unusual policy views at all, as far as I can tell. He’s running as a standard-issue conservative Republican who just happens to live in New Jersey and lacks political experience. He’s a veteran, which is a good resume item for a non-politician, but he’s a veteran of the Turkish military — normally American political parties try to nominate people who served in the American military. It’s just a weird blunder of a choice. I’d say Trump is looking for sycophants and personal loyalists, but Vance once argued that Trump is like heroin, poisoning the communities he claims to represent. I thought it was an insightful article, but again, an odd choice when there are plenty of banal Republican politicians kicking around Ohio.

I’m inclined to believe that a lot of people in D.C. underestimate Trump’s smarts and that there’s some kind of angle he’s working that I just don’t quite see. But whatever the angle is, it’s not the best interests of the Republican party as conventionally defined. And that, much more than anything Democrats are doing, is the proximate problem facing the GOP.

13) This is good, too, from Yglesias, “What do Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis think about federal abortion policy?”

Abortion is a quintessential culture war issue. It’s not totally without technical nuance, but broadly speaking, some people want to ban abortion in all cases with no exceptions. Some favor narrow exceptions for rape or to save the life of the mother. Others favor a broader health exemption to allow for therapeutic abortion. Most voters seem to favor legal abortion for the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions take place) and pretty strict restrictions after that. This is the kind of thing that’s relatively easy to discuss in plain language and doesn’t require a lot of math or technical models.

So it’s really weird that I have absolutely no idea what either Trump or DeSantis thinks about federal abortion policy.

The dog that caught the car

 

To some extent, this reflects the fact that the Republican Party had a bit of a “dog that caught the car” moment once the Dobbs opinion was handed down.

I don’t really follow the logic of anti-abortion theology, but one of its core tenets is that a fertilized embryo has rights that override any considerations of social consequences and of a pregnant woman’s bodily autonomy.1 This means that sentimental ideas like “you shouldn’t have to carry your rapist’s child to term” or “you shouldn’t have to continue a pregnancy that carries major risks to your health” are out. This is a view that very few Americans — but all of the intellectual leaders of the anti-abortion movement — adhere to…

Most conservatives I know think that it’s dirty pool for liberals to run around talking about rape victims because, in practice, rape victims constitute a very small share of abortions. By the same token, it would be trivially easy for Republicans to address that concern by allowing the exception. They don’t because the leading lights of the anti-abortion movement believe this is an important matter of principle.

But most Republicans also don’t want to lose elections by coming out and saying that they adhere to the FRC/USCCB position on this. Yes, every once in a while a state legislator will pop off about how pregnant women should be forced to carry non-viable fetuses to term. But in general, that’s considered amateur hour stuff, and savvy politicians don’t do it. They just also don’t come out and say, “okay, here are some situations in which I think abortion should be legal.”…

But that’s why it’s a little curious to me that very prominent and frequently discussed people like Trump and DeSantis haven’t been asked to clarify their views on federal abortion policy.

Now that Dobbs is the law of the land, what should the United States Congress do about abortion?

To an extent, I’m annoyed that none of the journalists who cover these guys have bothered to ask some pretty basic questions.

But more broadly, I think our ignorance on this point highlights an important asymmetry between the party conditions. I just don’t think you could run for president as a Democrat without articulating a public position on any issues that have dedicated advocacy groups. Planned Parenthood and NARAL ask candidates for office to publicly support the Women’s Health Protection Act, and they’d be very mad at someone who didn’t. And that’s not unique to abortion. Across a whole range of issues, advocacy groups have policy asks, and on the Democratic side, those asks tend to take the form of demands for public pledges of fealty.

Republicans are not generally like this.

I think it was understood during the 2020 primary that any Republican Party president would ease regulation of air and water pollution relative to the Obama administration’s policies. But industry groups never asked the candidates to publicly outline a specific agenda for increasing pollution. And the candidates didn’t get on stage at the debates and try to one-up each other with different specific agendas for allowing more air pollution. Marco Rubio said Trump had a small penis, and Trump dunked on Jeb Bush’s brother, but the test of one’s true commitment to conservatism was never a willingness to explicitly swear allegiance to unpopular and politically unrealistic activist demands.

The progressive side does things very differently, and we spent a lot of the 2020 primary engaging in a pointless debate over which candidates would and wouldn’t enact a ban on private health insurance.

It’s to the right’s credit that they don’t go that far overboard on this kind of thing. But the opposite extreme — no debate at all over the anti-abortion party’s abortion policy goals and platforms — is very odd. And I’m not sure how tenable it is.

14) Hard agree with this, “The F.D.A.’s Misguided War on Vaping: The government is putting stricter restrictions on vaping than on smoking. That’s bad for public health.”

People smoke primarily to experience the effects of nicotine—for stimulation and pleasure; to reduce stress and anxiety; and to improve concentration, reaction time, and cognitive performance. For some people, these effects improve their quality of life. But on the dark side, nicotine use can lead to dependence.

Crucially, however, it is smoke, not nicotine, that causes the overwhelming burden of disease and death.Inhaling the toxic particles and gases from the burning tip of a cigarette exposes the body to thousands of chemicals, of which hundreds are known to be hazardous. The result is widespread death and disease, with cigarettes killing 480,000 Americans annually and leaving around 16 million suffering from a smoking-induced disease. Without the harmful effects of smoking, nicotine use starts to look more like moderate alcohol consumption—a modest substance use that fits within the normal risk appetites of modern society.

With vaping, we have a solution to two related problems. First, millions of American smokers have the option of switching from smoking to vaping, greatly improving their health prospects. Second, people in the future who want to use nicotine will be able to do so with considerably reduced consequences.

In a liberal society, we should not prohibit or aim to eliminate drug use or pretend that it can be risk-free, but we should try to limit the risks to the extent possible. Vaping is the best opportunity we have to do that for nicotine.

15) Yes, I do think it is insane for a social science organization to require a DEI statement for you to get on their conference program.  This is bad. “Mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statements at SPSP”

A series of Orwellian emails recently appeared in my inbox. It all started sensibly enough. Much to my surprise, Jonathan Haidt, founder of Heterodox Academy and staunch defender of the type of liberal science advocated by JS Mill, Robert K. Merton, and Jonathan Rauch,1 had emailed a letter to Laura King, President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP is a high-profile professional society for this group) protesting SPSP’s mandate that its members produce DEI statements if they wish to present at its prestigious and influential annual conference.2

No longer would acceptance of proposals be based exclusively on evaluations of scientific merit. Everyone had to state how their work advanced Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); and this would be included in evaluations of which proposals SPSP would accept for presentation.

16) Similarly, Jeffrey Sachs and FIRE on misguided DEI ideological litmus tests at U of Oregon.

17) Investing in the IRS is another great feature of the IRA:

f the $80 billion total allotment to the tax agency, $45.6 billion will go to enforcement, marking a projected return-on-investment of $4.50 in revenue for every dollar spent on enforcement.

Experts say that figure — which is much lower than what the IRS typically brings in — has two potential explanations.

The first is that it could simply be a conservative estimate; with resources to hire hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, the agency could significantly exceed its revenue projections by both pursuing more tax cheats and by improving taxpayer services to make it easier for Americans to voluntarily comply with the tax code.

“If you are able to bring on a cadre of people who are really thinking forward … if they’re able to bring on the technology that allows them to bring on some of the data that they already have, that would have a compliance effect and help them going forward,” said Nina Olson, who served as national taxpayer advocate, the IRS’s internal consumer rights watchdog, from 2001 to 2019. “That would help, and I hope that’s what they’re planning to do.”

18) And a helluva photo essay on how incredibly outdated the IRS is as Republicans have quite intentionally starved their budget.  Apparently, law and order is good except for 1) Donald Trump and 2) rich people who want to cheat on their taxes.  Check it out— gift link

19) Jane Mayer, (Republican) “State Legislatures are Torching Democracy”

20) A (rare) conservative with some integrity on Trump: “Do We Believe Our Own Dogma?”

The FBI’s serving a search warrant on Donald Trump’s residence is not — in spite of everything being said about it — unprecedented. The FBI serves search warrants on homes all the time. Donald Trump is a former president, not a mystical sacrosanct being.

If we really believe, as we say we believe, that this is a republic, that nobody is above the law, that the presidency is just a temporary executive-branch office rather than a quasi-royal entitlement, then there is nothing all that remarkable about the FBI serving a warrant on a house in Florida. I myself do not find it especially difficult to believe that there exists reasonable cause for such a warrant. And if the feds have got it wrong, that wouldn’t be the first time. Those so-called conservatives who are publicly fantasizing about an FBI purge under the next Republican administration are engaged in a particularly stupid form of irresponsibility.

There are no fewer than five different congressional committees with FBI oversight powers. I’m not especially inclined to take federal agencies and their officers at their word in almost any circumstance, and so active and vigorous oversight seems to me appropriate here, as in most other cases. But if it turns out, in the least surprising political development of the decade, that Donald Trump is a criminal, then he should be treated like any other criminal.

21) It’s also insane that Republicans should be upset because Cracker Barrell is simply offering plant-based sausage to patrons who may want to eat it:

The blowback was immediate and intense. Comments, hundreds and hundreds of them, were split along ideological, generational and political lines.

The more conservative takes:

“All the more reason to stop eating at Cracker Barrel. This is not what Cracker Barrel was to be all about,” one person wrote.

“I just lost respect for a once great Tennessee company,” another injected.

“If I wanted a salad … I would in fact order a salad … stop with the plant based ‘meat’ crap,” wrote a third.

“Oh Noes … the Cracker Barrel has gone WOKE!!! It really is the end times …,” another commented.

 

22) And Never-Trumper Mona Charen, “Republicans Are Rooting for Civil War”

Executing a valid search warrant, FBI agents arrived in the morning to search the office. The word “unprecedented” was on everyone’s lips. They seized business records, computers, and other documents related to possible crimes. An enraged Donald Trump denounced the FBI and the Justice Department, saying not that they had abided by the warrant issued by a federal judge, but rather that agents had “broken into” the office.

The year was 2018, and Trump was livid about the FBI’s investigation into his longtime attorney/fixer, Michael Cohen.

At the time, many observers, including me, assumed that the investigation would yield bushels of incriminating documents about Trump. Cohen was his personal lawyer, after all, the guy who wrote the hush-money checks to porn stars and presumably had access to many of Trump’s dodgy or downright illegal acts. It didn’t turn out that way. Yes, Cohen was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to eight counts of criminal tax evasion, campaign finance violations (that was the Stormy Daniels piece), and other frauds. But Trump himself? Nothing. He skated while his faithful minion became a guest of the Bureau of Prisons in Otisville, New York. It was soon thereafter that we learned from Cohen that Trump keeps few records, shuns emails, and speaks not in commands but in Mafia-esque insinuations. Trump doesn’t give direct orders, Cohen testified, he “speaks in code and I understand that code.”

So, there may be less than meets the eye in those crates the FBI carted off from Mar-a-Lago on Monday. Or it could be a motherlode of incrimination. We don’t know, we can only speculate. But what is not open to doubt is that the Republican party, which seemed to be flirting with post-Trumpism just a few weeks ago, has now come roaring back as an authoritarian cult. Trump has not changed. But he has changed Republicans….

Now, as a substantive matter, McCarthy’s tweet is meaningless. The House of Representatives, along with the Senate, already exercises oversight authority over the Justice Department. The Judiciary Committee asks the attorney general to testify regularly. That’s how the system works. And if McCarthy is truly concerned about “following the facts,” Merrick Garland has nothing to fear. But the importance of the tweet is not its substance but its tone—the call for vengeance. McCarthy displays zero interest in whether Trump actually committed a crime. The clear message is “You’ve gone after our leader so we’re coming for you.” The merits of Garland’s actions are irrelevant. The facts are irrelevant. It’s war.

For some in the wooly precincts of the MAGA right, the call to arms was literal. As Vice reported, some Trumpists were explicit: “‘Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,’ one user wrote on Twitter, with another adding, ‘One step closer to a kinetic civil war.’ Others said they were ready to take part: ‘I already bought my ammo.’” Steve Bannon, who was pardoned for bilking Trump supporters who thought they were building a wall, declared that “This is war” and called the FBI the “Gestapo.”

Trump is a sick soul who cannot imagine a world in which people act on principle or think about the welfare of others. While in power, Trump wanted to use the FBI to punish his political opponents (“Lock her up”) and reward his friends (“Go easy on Michael Flynn”). He projects his own corrupt motives onto others and assumes that the FBI investigation is nothing but a Democratic power grab. It would be pathetic if he had not dragged an entire political party into the fever swamps with him.

This experiment in self-government requires a minimum amount of social trust to succeed. With every tweet that spreads cynicism and lies, with every call to arms that welcomes civil conflict, Trumpist Republicans are poisoning the nation they so ostentatiously claim to love.

 

 

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.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) This was really interesting from Rory Smith on whether we are seeing the beginning of the end of headers in soccer and how that would change the game:

It would be futile to predict when, precisely, it will come. It is not possible, from the vantage point of now, of here, to identify a specific point, or an exact date, or even a broad time frame. All that can be said is that it will come, sooner or later. The days of heading, in soccer, are numbered…

This is not an attempt to introduce an absolute prohibition of heading, of course. It is simply an application to banish deliberate heading — presumably as opposed to accidental heading — from children’s soccer.

Once players hit their teens, heading would still be gradually introduced to their repertoire of skills, albeit in a limited way: Since 2020, the F.A.’s guidelines have recommended that all players, including professionals, should be exposed to a maximum of 10 high-force headers a week in training. Heading would not be abolished, not officially.

And yet that would, inevitably, be the effect. Young players nurtured without any exposure to or expertise in heading would be unlikely to place much emphasis on it, overnight, once it was permitted. They would have learned the game without it; there would be no real incentive to favor it. The skill would gradually fall into obsolescence, and then drift inexorably toward extinction.

From a health perspective, that would not be a bad thing. In public, the F.A.’s line is that it wants to impose the moratorium while further research is done into links between heading and both Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) and dementia. In private, it must surely recognize that it is not difficult to discern the general direction of travel…

The same would be true of a soccer devoid of heading. It is not just that the way corners and free kicks are defended would be changed beyond recognition — no more crowding as many bodies as possible in or near the box — but the way that fullbacks deal with wide players, the positions that defensive lines take on the field, the whole structure of the game.

Those changes, in the sense of soccer as a sporting spectacle, are unlikely to be positive. Players may not head the ball as much as they used to, now, but they know they might have to head the ball just as much as their predecessors from a less civilized era. They cannot discount it, so they have to behave in such a way as to counteract it. The threat itself has value. Soccer is defined, still, by all the crosses that do not come.

Removing that — either by edict or by lost habit — would have the effect of removing possibility from the game. It would reduce the theoretical options available to an attacking team, and in doing so it would make the sport more predictable, more one-dimensional. It would tilt the balance in favor of those who seeks to destroy, rather than those who try to create. Clough did not quite have it right. Soccer has always been a sport of air, just as much as earth.

If heading is found — as seems likely — to endanger the long-term health of the players, of course, then that will have to change, and it would only be right to do so. No spectacle is worth such a terrible cost to those who provide it. The gains would outweigh the losses, a millionfold. But that is not the same as saying that nothing would be lost.

 

2) Catherine Rampell, “Texan politicians won’t say this, but solar is saving their tushies right now”

The heat waves searing the United States and Europe have generated huge demand for energy, as air conditioners work overtime. Texas, for instance, has busted records for energy demand at least 11times this summer. Europe is simultaneously attempting to wean itself off Russian-produced natural gas, increasing demand for other fuel sources.

Solar power, meanwhile, has been heroically filling in the gaps.

That’s because there has been an enormous ramp-up in solar investment in recent years. This has been driven by multiple factors, including government incentives, customer demand and especially technological advancements that have made solar astonishingly cheap. Sun-drenched Texas — not exactly known for its bleeding-heart liberals — has nearly triple the solar capacity this summer than it had last summer.

3) Jessica Grose, “Calendar management is a frustratingly difficult task to equalize”

Sonya Bonczek wanted to make sure she was inviting all of her son’s favorite kids to his 4th birthday party, which is in August. But she quickly realized she didn’t have all of their parents’ email addresses, and her son’s preschool doesn’t give them out. When she saw one of these parents at pickup, she flagged him down and asked for his contact info for an Evite. “Let me give you my wife’s,” he said.

“I didn’t even think about it,” Bonczek told me. Until the next day, when the same thing happened again. She saw a dad at the local pool in their Chapel Hill, N.C., neighborhood, and asked for his email — he gave out his wife’s instead. When this happened a third time in a single week, Bonczek, who works at the University of North Carolina Press, tweeted, “Been running into dads of my 3yo’s classmates and asking for their emails for his birthday party and so far 3 out of 3 dads have proceeded to give me their wives’ emails instead. This is now a social experiment.”

The tweet went viral, and the replies to it are like answers to a wild Rorschach test, revealing all kinds of intimate and specific interactions among parents. Some dads responded that their wives are just better at scheduling kid activities, and many people pushed back that moms are better at it because dads aren’t really trying and women have been socialized to manage their children’s schedules. Others responded that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving a “strange” woman their email, because they’d be concerned it was inappropriate. Dads in families without moms expressed that they’re often left out of kid socializing because it takes place in female social circles…

What these varying responses tell me is that, despite all of the progress American dads have made in the past several decades in terms of active involvement with their children, scheduling remains one of the frustratingly difficult aspects to equalize in heterosexual couples. Even in couples where both parents work full time, 54 percent of parents say the mother does more managing of children’s schedules and activities, according to a 2015 Pew Research survey.

Interestingly, Pew notes that mothers are more likely to say they do more of every activity, while fathers are more likely to say that many activities are shared equally. “For example, 64 percent of mothers in two-parent households say that they do more than their spouse or partner when it comes to managing their children’s schedule and activities. And while many fathers (53 percent) concede that the mom in their household does more of this than they do, dads are much more likely than moms to say this responsibility is shared equally (41 percent vs. 31 percent of moms).” This reminds me of an epic Claire Cain Miller headline from early in the pandemic: “Nearly Half of Men Say They Do Most of the Home Schooling. 3 Percent of Women Agree.

4) Who knew the Opossum was so interesting:

First, let’s get a few things straight. Opossums do, in fact, play dead when threatened; they do not hang upside down by their tails. Dozens of different opossum species can be found in the Western Hemisphere, but only one lives here in America. This is Didelphis virginiana—given name, Virginia opossum. Possums, sans O, do exist; furrier and slightly more squirrel-like than opossums, they live in Australia and were once thought to be the same as our Virginia opossum. They are not—but they are both marsupials. Experts believe that early relatives of the Virginia opossum waltzed over to Australia way back when the continents were joined, millions of years ago.

Today, the Virginia opossum can be found basically all over North America: in cities and suburbs, fields and forests. One interloping opossum was recently tossed out of a Brooklyn bar. She thrives alongside humans, and she thrives without them, too. In his 2016 essay titled “Everything What’s Wrong of Possums,” the writer Daniel M. Lavery wondered what, exactly, an opossum eats: “IS IT FRUIT? IS IT … NIGHT DIRT? IS IT OTHER RATS?” The answer is yes. The opossum shovels up all of those things like the Dyson of the natural world. She savors carrion, cockroaches, earthworms, and insect exoskeletons. She feasts on small mice, and ticks that attach themselves to her hide. In cities she gobbles down rotten vegetables, bones, and greasy paper from your garbage. She scavenges—she cleans the streets! Opossums “have their own job,” Donna Holmes Parks, a biology professor at the University of Idaho, told me. And for all that hard work, she added, “they deserve to be admired.”

The Virginia opossum alone is known for all sorts of fascinating behaviors. Baby opossums, which are born the size of an ant, somehow manage to travel from the birth canal into their mother’s pouch. Those that survive the journey stay there for months, latching on to the mother’s teat with their tough palates. Grown, these opossums may not hang by their tails—but they do use them to carry around leaves in the winter. They make smacking sounds with their lips to communicate. Sometimes, they shuffle their back feet in a dance that Parks described to me as “a lot like the mashed potato.” Opossums are also immune to most snake venom. They literally eat pit vipers such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads for lunch. “They’re just so astounding!” Mason Fidino, who studies opossums at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute, told me. “I’ve got mad respect for them and their little bare toes.” Opossums “get a bum rap as being ugly, overgrown, ratlike things that have no brains,” Steven Austad, a biology professor at the University of Alabama, told me. Their brains are pretty small. But what they lack in brain size they make up for in olfactory power and memory. “If they eat something that’s bad, they remember that better than dogs or cats or pigs,” Austad said.

5) So much this “The Covid Virus Keeps Evolving. Why Haven’t Vaccines?”

6) Thought this was a really interesting take in the N&O, “As college football evolves, lessons can be learned from NASCAR’s rapid growth, decline”

In the crumbling speedways and long-faded echoes of the roars that once gave rise to a national sporting phenomenon, there are now lessons and quiet whispers that a different regional pastime would be wise to heed: There’s a mighty cost in abandoning one’s roots.

There was a time, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, when NASCAR was considered America’s fastest-growing sport. The likes of Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon became household names in those days, and those in charge might’ve thought the future to be boundless.

And so the businesspeople believed it wise to expand, to take races from places that had given birth to stock car racing, and from people and communities that had nurtured it to civilization from its moonshine-running roots, and move them somewhere else.

Phoenix. New Hampshire. Texas. California. NASCAR, suddenly too big and too corporate for places like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham and Darlington, South Carolina, went national.

It made more money, for a while. More people watched, for a while. The sport grew, for a while. Now, more than 15 years after the most-watched Daytona 500 ever, NASCAR’s premier race comes and goes with much less interest than it used to. More than 19.3 million people tuned into Fox to watch it in 2006, according to sportsmediawatch.com. Fewer than half that many watched it earlier this year.

7) Harrowing account, “Inside a Uvalde Classroom: A Taunting Gunman and 78 Minutes of Terror”

8) Really appreciated Jesse Singal taking on this awful form of argumentation that’s become all too common among many liberals, “On Rashida Tlaib And Chase Strangio’s Ridiculous, Bad-Faith Attack On The New York Times (Updated): “Bad people could use your words to do bad things” is, in most cases, a nonsensical argument”

9) This is long overdue, especially know in light of Dobbs, “F.D.A. to Weigh Over-the-Counter Sale of Contraceptive Pills”

10) Good stuff from David French, “The Constitution Isn’t Working” 

What does any of this have to do with the Founders? How do these cases reflect a challenge to American democracy? The problem is simply this: Congress was intended to be the most potent branch of government. It is now the most dysfunctional. And it’s dysfunctional in part because the Founders did not properly predict the power of partisanship over institutional responsibility.

Even worse, Congress’s dysfunction radiates to other branches of government. Both the presidency and the judiciary assume more power than they should, escalating the stakes of presidential elections and the intensity of judicial confirmations.

Describing the branches of government as “co-equal,” as many people do, is simply wrong. Read the Constitution and you’ll quickly see that Congress has more theoretical power than any other branch. It can fire the president. It can fire any member of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. It can define the jurisdiction of federal courts and the numbers of judges and justices. Its powers are enumerated in the first article of the Constitution for a reason. It’s not equal. It’s preeminent.

Only Congress can declare war. Only Congress can authorize public spending. And for all the talk of the Founders’ suspicion of democracy, they gave these significant powers to the most democratic branch of government.

In reality, however, this independent congressional power depends a great deal on its willingness to uphold its institutional responsibility, to see itself as a separate branch of government that is jealous of its own power and prerogatives. The constitutional theory isn’t that, say, Democrats will check Republicans but that Congress will check the presidency.

Substitute an overriding partisan purpose for institutional responsibility, and the system starts to falter. We see this most plainly in the impeachment context. Congress has quite clearly tended to view impeachment primarily through a partisan lens. When Mitt Romney voted to convict Donald Trump during Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2019, he was the first senator in American history to cross partisan lines to vote to convict a president.

Congress is now less an independent branch of government and much more a collection of partisan foot soldiers supporting or opposing the sitting president’s agenda. Combine this partisan purpose with a closely divided country and you have a formula for deadlock, and worse.

Politics abhors a power vacuum, and Congress’s absence has been filled by the presidency. As Congress shrinks, the presidency grows. On a bipartisan basis, presidents now choose to act whenever Congress “fails.”

So now it is presidents who, in effect, declare war. Time and again, they initiate military hostilities without congressional approval. Their administrative agencies write laws of great consequence. They draft executive orders that are even designed to redirect funds appropriated by Congress to new presidential priorities. And the quirks of the Electoral College mean we now face a system where most Americans (who live in safe red or blue states) don’t cast truly meaningful votes for the one person who holds all this power. This reality breeds instability, and that instability is amplified each time a president is elected in spite of losing the popular vote.

And this brings us back to the Supreme Court. An emerging Court majority is now highly skeptical of presidential power. Through a series of technical rulings grounded in both the Administrative Procedure Act and in the Constitution itself, the Court is imposing intense scrutiny on executive actions—such as the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal DACA and add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the Biden administration’s OSHA vaccine mandate, and the Obama-era clean-power rule.

On a pragmatic basis, a dangerous game is afoot. The Supreme Court is telling Congress, “If you want something done, you’ll have to do it yourself.” But what if Congress simply doesn’t do anything? What if it continues to place partisan imperatives over its institutional responsibilities? The Supreme Court can deny the president additional power, but it cannot force Congress to do its work.

11) Nice summary of key public opinion from 538, “How Americans Feel About Abortion And Contraception”

12) As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I do an oral daily gratitude journal with my kids.  This is some great guidelines for gratitude from Eric Barker, who’s book, Plays well with others, I’ve really been enjoying:

Here’s how to be more grateful:

  1. The Right Way To Keep A Gratitude Journal: Vary what you write about. It’s the searching for ideas that matters in the end. Don’t say, “I can’t think of anything.” Did you just get back from a chemotherapy appointment? No? Then you have something to be grateful for.
  2. Remember The Bad: Reflecting on how much worse life was reminds you how much better it is now.
  3. Get A Gratitude Buddy: People nag you at work. People might nag you to do things around the house. Do yourself the favor of getting someone to nag you to live a happy life.
  4. Hey! Watch Your Language!: Your Inner Critic does not get the last word. Change how you talk to yourself and you’ll change how you feel. “But does that really work, Eric?” Yes, Inner Critic, it does.

13) Jonathan Weiler, “Depraved Indifference: The senseless cruelty of rejecting Medicaid expansion”

Every individual who holds significant political office has the power and burden of making life or death decisions (so, you’re off the hook if you’re the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska :)). Politics involves tradeoffs. When you allocate resources here, you draw them from there. In favoring some groups, policies and priorities, you are disfavoring others. If you agreed to a certain level of health funding, the difference between what you settled for and the higher amount you might have fought for can be statistically inferred to result in increased mortality. While having inescapable real world consequences, these choices typically exist in a moral gray zone. Maybe you wanted to do more, but were blocked from doing so. Maybe other urgent priorities required your attention. And you have to make these choices in the face of the ultimately finite resources available to you. In any event, there is no such thing as a perfectly crafted policy that can enhance and optimize the well-being of every single potentially affected person. We are fallen.

In some cases, though, the tradeoffs are so lopsided in favor of basic well-being that choosing otherwise isn’t just the normal, inescapable to and fro of politics. Choosing otherwise amounts instead to calloused, pointless cruelty that deserves to be called senseless killing.

This is how we ought to be thinking about the ongoing obstruction of Republican leaders in a dozen states to accepting Medicaid expansion.

14) Business Insider, “The only demographic in America that reliably opposes abortion access is older men”

15) James Fallows, “How to Rein in an Out-of-Control Judiciary”

Yesterday a group called Fix the Court released proposed legislation with a Plan A / Plan B structure.

—The main effect of the law, Plan A, would be to enact 18-year fixed terms for Supreme Court Justices, as many groups (including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and several U.S. Representatives) have proposed, and is long overdue.

—The innovation of the law is its “contingency” provision. The Constitutional validity of any term-limit rules might ultimately be appealed to the same Supreme Court whose members would be affected. And suppose they ruled against it? To keep themselves in their seats?

If that happened, according to this provision, Plan B would kick in: the Court would automatically be expanded, from nine members to 13. The logic of this approach was laid out by G. Michael Parsons, of NYU’s law school, in a detailed law-review article and an op-ed last year.

Parsons summed up the argument this way:

Popular plans [to reform the Court] get watered down to preempt legal concerns, while controversial policies dominate the debate based on their constitutional pedigree. For example, Fix The Court’s plan would require justices to take senior status after 18 years (a widely popular approach), but the plan exempts sitting justices to avoid potential legal issues. Take Back the Court, meanwhile, argues that packing the court is the only viable option because anything else might be invalidated.

But what if this choice between popularity and predictability is a false one? Rather than settling on one plan, Congress instead should use a rare legislative tool known as “backup law” to layer its policy preferences from most politically desirable to most constitutionally secure. If the court holds the first preference unconstitutional, the second will automatically take its place. 

16) Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this, “The coaching and parenting lessons I learned coaching my son’s pee-wee football team”

17) I’m here all day long for taking right-wing Christians to task for consistently ignoring Jesus’ core message of concern for the poor:

Let’s talk about the culture war we should be fighting. When we think of what’s important to the “religious right” or to “white evangelicals,” the focus tends to be on social issues: abortion, the role of religion in public life, conflicts around sexual orientation and gender identity, and lately, controversy over critical race theory.

Social issues determine which corporations conservative Christians deem moral or immoral, good or bad. There have been calls to boycott Disney for its seemingly pro-L.G.B.T. stance. Disney also angered conservatives by pledging to help employees travel to other states to obtain abortions. On the other hand, Hobby Lobby is viewed as a “Christian” company because of its stance on contraception, its “Jesus Saves, Bro” coffee mugs and its commitment to print “full-page ads celebrating the real meaning of Christmas, Easter and Independence Day.” One Christian legal nonprofit puts corporations on a “nice” or “naughty” list each year based on their use of the term “Christmas” versus the more general “holiday” celebration. There was even a minor dust-up in a niche corner of Christian Twitter about “Whole Foods Christians” versus “Cracker Barrel Christians.” This is the stuff that the culture wars feed on. It’s the fodder for trending hashtags, outrage and denunciations.

But the people who debate the morality (or lack thereof) of Disney or Hobby Lobby rarely discuss how much paid time off these companies provide employees or whether they pay a living wage or what the wealth disparity is between their top and bottom earners or whether they have adequate maternity leave policies or how much a corporation financially gives back to a community.

Meanwhile, economic disparity continues to widen. In 2020, Pew reported that the middle class has been shrinking since the early 1970s. Since the 1980s the biggest spike in income has occurred for the top 5 percent of earners in America. The report concludes that over the past five decades — the whole course of our lives for many of us — there’s been a “long and steady rise in income inequality.” Still, despite the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary, a Pew report from the same year said that while a majority of Americans think there is “too much economic inequality” in the nation, fewer than half view this as a top political priority. The report also said that Republicans are likely to blame individuals rather than systemic forces for economic inequality, citing lifestyle choices or that “some people work harder than others.”

 

But how would our contemporary understanding of politics change if economic justice is in fact a “traditional value”? The indifference Christians on the right often show about wealth disparity flies in the face of thousands of years of Christian teachings. While Christians throughout church history cared deeply about sexual and personal morality, the linchpin of a Christian vision of the social order was the flourishing of the economically disadvantaged. When church leaders across the ages cited evidence of social disorder, they consistently pointed to vast economic inequality.

It’s not news that Christianity, like many other religions, values care for the poor. Throw a dart at the Bible and you are likely to hit a verse about the need to aid the vulnerable, to care for orphans and widows, to love the “least of these.” And most conservative Christians today would affirm the value of individual charity. But what strikes me as I listen to voices across history is not just that Christian leaders called for charity toward the poor but that they also emphasized economic justice. The poor were not simply those masses that we must patronizingly remember in our Christmas giving; they were entitled to material well-being. The rich were denounced as being in grave spiritual danger. Beyond that, the church proclaimed that society — including the government — had a responsibility to rein in greed and to ensure just distribution of wealth.

18) This is wild. 

An explanation here.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Yascha Mounk with a great interview with Graeme Wood about January 6, MBS, and more:

You call it the “dumbest coup in history.” What makes it a coup, what makes it dumb, and what would it have taken for the coup to succeed? 

Wood: When I call it the dumbest or most pathetic coup in history—or one of them, anyway—what I’m referring to is the very fact that Trump—although there’s this moment in Hutchinson’s testimony where he lunges for the steering wheel of his SUV so that he can be taken to the Capitol, and then is thwarted by his Secret Service detail—then went back to the White House and sat around for hours. The content of these hearings is pretty strange from the perspective of anyone who looks at coups elsewhere in the world, where there is a physical attempt to thwart the legitimate handover of power, or the legitimate governance of the country. And that did happen (that’s what makes it a coup), but what is strange about this, is that the actual orders and action by Trump that would have really caused this to be a coup in a more familiar sense, didn’t happen. He was sitting back and observing, as if to say, “It would be nice if someone did all the risky things that go into making a coup. But I’m not going to do it myself.” 

One template for this would be the Beer Hall Putsch of Hitler: what if Hitler, instead of going to the Bürgerbräukeller, himself firing a shot into the ceiling and saying, “The government is dissolved,” instead just stayed back and let someone else do it for him? That would be a strange turn of events, and that seems to be what has happened here. Trump could have issued all sorts of orders that would have made this an unambiguous coup and made the January 6th Committee proceedings kind of irrelevant, because these orders would have established very clearly what had happened (and also made it more likely that the coup would have succeeded). He just didn’t do these things, because for as long as he’s been a political figure, he has been characterized by lethargy, inaction, and aversion to exertion and personal risk. And in fact, that’s what happened. Luckily for the United States, that’s probably what kept the attempted coup from being a possibly successful one. It certainly would have increased the violence and increased the uncertainty in subsequent days. But coups do not generally happen when the person who can make those orders and commands sits back and instead lets a bunch of Proud Boys with some tourists mixed in just do it on their own. 

He could have said, “Look, I’m in charge here. Military: listen to me–not Joe Biden—indefinitely.” He could have said, “Mike Pence is under house arrest. We need to keep him sequestered in his residence for his own safety.” All of these things that typically happen in coup attempts didn’t happen. So in retrospect, maybe even at the time, it was pretty horrifying and scary. It remains horrifying to me. But it is also just weird, almost humorous, that the main thing that could have caused this coup to move into the territory of possible success is that the guy whose participation was absolutely necessary was doing nothing. He was watching TV the whole time…

Do you have any kind of evaluation of what would have transpired if Trump had gone to the Capitol that day?

Wood: There was a period when, had he done these things—taken unilateral control of executive power and stated clearly “I’m not going to let go of it”—these things would, at the very least, have made the transition of power not a sure thing over the days and weeks ahead, and would have probably ensured a lot a lot more violence. What I think has characterized Trump through the years is a kind of extreme desire to avoid personal risk and instead, in a way, to beg to be invited to do things by others who have done risky and criminal acts for him. So he seems to have always wanted to be a Cincinnatus-like figure who has been called in to save things by others. If there is something that has to be done that is illegitimate, better that they do it than that he do it. There are many examples of coups that have failed (and some that have succeeded) where the leader who was put into power has hung back physically while the actual mechanism of the coups is happening. But Trump’s failure, even behind the scenes, to order the seizing of power is anomalous. Without that, I don’t think there was any chance that this would have succeeded.

2) On the horribly muddled law (and unclear law is inimical to the effective rule of law, among other things) in states banning abortion:

n some states, the confusion felt by providers and patients is compounded by ambiguous, irresolute language in the new and forthcoming laws themselves. Ten states allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, and some require the pregnant person or physician to report the assault to law enforcement. It is not necessarily clear whether, or to what extent, the victim must then coöperate in a potential prosecution—or what, if any, obligations an abortion provider has to the police or prosecutors in this situation. In South Carolina, for example, a provider must disclose the assault to their local sheriff’s department and include the victim’s contact information, although the law does not obligate law enforcement to follow up on the report. (At least two sheriff’s departments in the state have announced that they will not do so unless the patient requests it.) A physician in Utah who performs an abortion on a rape survivor will be required to verify that the assault has been reported, but Heuser told me that “everyone is at a loss” as to what that means. “Do we need to see a police report?” she asked. “Just ask the patient?”

Other exceptions written into abortion bans—most of them for terminations that save the patient from death or serious injury—are similarly muddled. The ban now in effect in Tennessee criminalizes most abortions from the first trimester onward; the Tennessee Human Life Protection Act, a near-total abortion ban that is slated to replace the current law later this summer, likewise criminalizes abortion unless a licensed physician determines that it is “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” But, according to the text of both of these measures, a life-threatening scenario is not an exception per se but, rather, an “affirmative defense.” This distinction is alarming to Chloe Akers, a criminal-defense attorney in Knoxville. Akers pointed out that a physician who performed an emergency abortion, and was taken to court, would need to prove its necessity “by a preponderance of the evidence.” By contrast, if a person in Tennessee is accused of homicide, and successfully raises a claim of self-defense, the burden of proof is on the state to disprove the claim.

3) The decline of the death penalty:

Public opinion polls conducted by Gallup show support for capital punishment hovers just above 50 percent — its lowest point since the early 1970s. Death sentences and executions are both falling, thanks in large part to aggressive efforts by defense lawyers.

Last year, just 18 people were sentenced to death in the United States, down from 315 in 1996, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Twenty-seven states retain capital punishment, but just 14 have carried out an execution in the past five years. About a third of the country’s 2,500 death row prisoners are in California and other states with official moratoriums on executions.

The Supreme Court, with six conservative justices, has largely left it to state and local leaders to decide who should die and by what method. One might assume that as with abortion, the court’s approach would reflect a sharp divide between red and blue states, but there is far less uniformity among Republican leaders on the death penalty than on abortion. While some conservative governors and attorneys general pursue executions, a growing number of lawmakers on the right are teaming up with civil rights groups and Democrats to curtail the punishment or even abolish it…

4) 538 midterm forecast, “Why Republicans Are Favored To Win The House, But Not The Senate”

Republicans are substantial favorites to take over the U.S. House of Representatives following this November’s midterm elections, but the U.S. Senate is much more competitive, according to FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterm election forecast, which launched today. Democrats are also favored to hang on to the governorships in a trio of swing states in the Rust Belt — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — although they are significant underdogs to win high-profile gubernatorial races in Georgia and Texas against Republican incumbents.

The split diagnosis reflects the difference between macro- and micro-level conditions. The national environment is quite poor for Democrats. Of course, this is typical for the president’s party, which has lost seats in the House in all but two of the past 21 midterm elections. But Democrats are also saddled with an unpopular President Biden and a series of challenges for the country, including inflation levels that haven’t been seen in decades, the lingering effects of the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and fraying trust in civic institutions — caused, in part, by Republican efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election

Democrats, as a predominantly urban party, also face a longstanding problem in the Senate, where every state has equal representation regardless of its population, resulting in a substantial built-in bias toward white, rural states. And although Democrats are very slightly better off following the redistricting process in the House than they were under the 2020 maps, there are still more Republican-leaning seats than Democratic-leaning ones…

In the Senate and gubernatorial races, by contrast, individual factors can matter more. And the GOP has nominated — or is poised to nominate — candidates who might significantly underperform a “generic” Republican based on some combination of inexperiencepersonal scandals or having articulated unpopular conservative positions. This is not a new problem for Republicans: underqualified or fringy candidates have cost them seats in the Senate in other recent cycles

5) Adam Serwer, “Don’t Forget That 43 Senate Republicans Let Trump Get Away With It”

The truth is that Hutchinson’s testimony, had it been given at Trump’s second impeachment trial, may not have changed a single vote. Joining with Democrats to hold Trump accountable would have done too much damage to the party. Better to erode the foundations of American democracy than risk giving the rival party any advantage.

This is cowardice, but also ideology: Since liberals are not Real Americans, it is no sin to deprive them of power by undemocratic means. In this view, Trump’s behavior might be misguided, but his heart remains in the right place, in that his mob sought to ensure that only those worthy to participate in American democracy can hold the reins of power, regardless of whom the voters actually choose.

Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.

6) Very disturbing to see this insulting balderdash coming from an actual government agency, “Oregon Health Officials Delayed a Meeting Because ‘Urgency Is a White Supremacy Value‘”

7) Interesting chart. “Which topics do American couples argue about most?” They don’t have “wokeness” on here, which is definitely the answer in the Greene household (though, presumably a subset of politics).

r/dataisbeautiful - [OC] Which topics do American couples argue about most?

8) And another interesting chart.  Whoa. 

9) Good stuff on the 9th amendment and abortion.

Remember that when the Constitution was first ratified, it did not yet contain its famous first 10 amendments, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. Those amendments arrived a few years later. They were added in response to the fierce criticism leveled against the Constitution by the Anti-Federalists, who opposed ratification on several grounds, one of which was that the document lacked a bill of rights, and therefore, in their view, left a number of key rights unprotected (because unmentioned).

The Federalists, who labored on behalf of the Constitution’s ratification, rejected this argument. Why? Because, explained James Wilson, one of the leading figures at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, “if we attempt an enumeration, everything that is not enumerated is presumed to be given.” And the consequence of that, Wilson told the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention, “is, that an imperfect enumeration would throw all implied power into the scale of the government; and the rights of the people would be rendered incomplete.”

James Iredell, a future justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, made the same argument at the North Carolina Ratification Convention. “It would not only be useless, but dangerous, to enumerate a number of rights which are not intended to be given up,” he said. That is “because it would be implying, in the strongest manner, that every right not included in the exception might be impaired by the government without usurpation.” Furthermore, Iredell added, “it would be impossible to enumerate every one. Let anyone make what collection or enumeration of rights he pleases, I will immediately mention twenty or thirty more rights not contained in it.”

James Madison, one of the principal architects of the new Constitution, closely followed this debate. On June 8, 1789, he gave a speech to Congress proposing the group of amendments that would ultimately become the Bill of Rights. While doing so, he directly addressed the Anti-Federalist/Federalist debate. “It has been observed also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration,” he said, “and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the general government, and were consequently insecure.” Madison acknowledged that “this is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; But, I conceive, that may be guarded against. I have attempted it.”…

Madison’s attempt became enshrined in the Constitution as the Ninth Amendment. Here is what it says: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In short, unenumerated rights get the same respect as enumerated ones.

Today, most legal conservatives purport to be constitutional originalists. What that means for the legal debate over abortion is that any purported originalist must face the question of whether abortion rights may be considered to be among the unenumerated rights “retained by the people” that Madison’s Ninth Amendment was specifically written and ratified to protect. Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization entirely fails to grapple with this necessary question.

10) Great stuff on our Supreme Court versus judicial power in other democracies from German Lopez:

But the Supreme Court’s power is strange in a global context. The highest-level courts in other rich democracies tend to be less dominant. Elsewhere, courts can still overturn laws and restrict the government’s reach, but they often face sharper limits on their decisions.

There are two major reasons that the U.S. Supreme Court is unusual, and today’s newsletter will explain them. First, the court’s structure allows for few checks on the justices’ power: They have lifetime tenure, and other branches of government have few ways to overturn a ruling. Second, the dysfunction of the rest of the U.S. government, especially Congress, has created a vacuum that the Supreme Court fills.

Supreme Court justices remain on the bench for life or until they choose to retire. In other countries, there are term or age limits: Judges on Germany’s federal constitutional court, for example, serve for 12 years or until age 68, whichever is sooner.

 

The U.S. model means the current court’s makeup of six conservatives and three liberals is likely to remain in place for years if not decades. And if justices are careful about timing their retirements to benefit their ideological side, it could last even longer. As a result, future elections and public opinion can end up having little influence on the court.

In other countries, limited terms and mandatory retirement ages create opportunities for more recently elected lawmakers to remake the highest courts and keep them in check. “There is some accountability,” said Tom Ginsburg of the University of Chicago Law School. “If a court is too out of control, there is pressure to rein it back in.”

The U.S. also makes it more difficult to overrule a court’s decisions. A two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate, or approval from two-thirds of state legislatures, initiates a constitutional amendment. Then three-fourths of the states must ratify the amendment. This has only been successfully done 17 times in the more than 230 years since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified — and never since 1992.

In other countries, legislators can more easily overrule the courts. Canada’s Parliament can pass laws that ignore court rulings, although such laws must be reapproved every five years. British courts are so weak that their decisions act more as recommendations than orders, said Kim Lane Scheppele, a legal expert at Princeton University…

The U.S. Supreme Court is also empowered by the frequent gridlock across the rest of the federal government. For example, Congress could pass a federal law guaranteeing access to abortion in the first trimester, which most Americans favor. Or Congress could pass laws giving the E.P.A. clearer authority to deal with climate change. Neither has happened.

Congress’s struggles demonstrate a broader problem: The U.S. has built so many checks into its political system that it has become what political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy.” Each part of the lawmaking process, from the House to the Senate to the White House, is a potential veto point for bills. Then there are additional barriers — like the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 of 100 senators to pass most legislation.

The many veto points make it difficult for even the party that controls both Congress and the White House, as the Democrats now do and the Republicans did in 2017 and 2018, to get much done. The courts fill the void.

Other advanced democracies tend to have simpler parliamentary systems. So when a political party or coalition wins an election, it can quickly pass laws to act on its promises.

“When courts wind up doing so much of the work, it is often precisely because the parliament is broken,” Scheppele said.

11) So true from Chait, “The Democratic Party Needs Better Moderates”

A valuable critique available to the centrists is that their party has been captured by affluent, college-educated professionals and is steadily losing working-class voters as a result. But the reality is that the centrists are compounding that problem rather than alleviating it…

The context for the drama between the Democratic moderates and their party’s leadership is that the moderates have failed to differentiate themselves from the progressive wing on cultural grounds. (They have focused on their disdain for defunding the police, though their response came after the slogan was already abandoned by virtually the entire progressive wing.) They have likewise failed to formulate a coherent economic agenda that improves either substantively or politically upon the ideas identified with the party. Instead, they have thrown up objections to the administration’s attempt to tax the rich and use the proceeds for programs to benefit the working and middle classes…

To be fair to the Democratic Party’s moderates, complainers like Gottheimer and Murphy get all the attention in the media while moderates with more constructive approaches often fail to attract media attention. That is one of the difficult aspects of moderation: It’s more difficult to redefine the party’s brand as moderate when the press defines moderation as disagreement with the party.

That said, the Democratic Party’s moderates have largely failed to think creatively and rationally about the problems caused by the progressive wing (problems that, in many instances, are very real.) Instead, they have reduced their moderate identity to a collection of petty grievances unworthy of sympathy. The party’s struggles belong to them too.

12) Cool birth order research: “Birth order differences in education originate in postnatal environments”

Siblings share many environments and much of their genetics. Yet, siblings turn out different. Intelligence and education are influenced by birth order, with earlier-born siblings outperforming later-borns. We investigate whether birth order differences in education are caused by biological differences present at birth, that is, genetic differences or in utero differences. Using family data that spans two generations, combining registry, survey, and genotype information, this study is based on the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). We show that there are no genetic differences by birth order as captured by polygenic scores (PGSs) for educational attainment. Earlier-born have lower birth weight than later-born, indicating worse uterine environments. Educational outcomes are still higher for earlier-born children when we adjust for PGSs and in utero variables, indicating that birth order differences arise postnatally. Finally, we consider potential environmental influences, such as differences according to maternal age, parental educational attainment, and sibling genetic nurture. We show that birth order differences are not biological in origin, but pinning down their specific causes remains elusive.

13) If fans stopped coming to NC Courage women’s soccer games because a single player doesn’t support LBGTQ rights, that’s nuts.  Also, are there no other explanations?

It would be an understatement to simply call Jessica Turner a fan of women’s soccer. She absolutely loves the game and wants to see it grow.

The 33-year-old Raleigh resident went to France for the Women’s World Cup in 2019 and she’s been a season-ticket holder of the National Women’s Soccer League’s North Carolina Courage since the team moved to the Triangle in 2017. She is also the vice president of the club’s lone official supporters’ group, The Uproar.

And typically, when it comes time to renew her season tickets for the Courage, she shows no hesitation. But this season was different. Turner felt conflicted.

“I was asking myself: ‘Do I want to give money to an organization that may not align with my values, and that has — very publicly — decided to employ someone who I know does not align with my values?’ So, that was really hard for me,” Turner told WUNC recently. “What it came down to for me is that I do want to support the players. And I do think that women’s soccer and our league — and the way our league is growing — is bigger than one club or one player. But it is very difficult.”

While Turner has continued to show up and support the Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary this season, some of her peers have not.

The past year has been an eventful one off the field for the Courage. The team fired its long-time head coach following a report outlining his history of sexual coercion and harassment, they parted ways with fan favorites from the U.S. Women’s National Team, and — the most crucial issue for Turner and many others — they brought back a player who is not a favorite among some supporters.

“For me, the biggest sticking point was the re-signing of Jaelene Daniels,” Turner said. “They knew that there had been issues in the past with this player, very publicly… And they decided to go with that knowing that there is going to be backlash, knowing that there is going to be a whole section of our fanbase that are going to feel harmed by this and are going to feel like the club doesn’t support them.

“That was the biggest thing that made me really question renewing my season tickets.”

Daniels, an undeniably talented player, has made statements on her social media accounts that fans, players, and others called homophobic. Most notably, in 2017, Daniels declined a call-up to the U.S. National Team and later revealed in an interview with the 700 Club — a Christian television program — that she did so because she refused to wear a jersey with rainbow decals honoring LGBTQ Pride Month.

Also, who knows what other things players may believe that fans disagree with, but never come up because there’s not jersey night for them?  I mean, maybe some of these players love guns, but there’s never a “gun rights” night.  People should watch sports to appreciate great athletes and competition, not because they agree with the political views of the players.  

14) Enjoyed Jonathan Weiler’s take on Dobbs:

I want to make one more comment, for now, about the Dobbs decision. The majority in that case enumerated the “legitimate” interests the state has in banning abortions as the now valid basis for upholding those laws. Those interests include ”respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development…; the protection of maternal health and safety; the elimination of particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures; the preservation of the integrity of the medical profession; the mitigation of fetal pain.”

About the first “legitimate” interest, numerous foundational religious texts, including the Bible, are ambiguous about or do not recognize the proposition that life begins at conception. More broadly, there is profound theological debate over that proposition. And there is no scientific consensus on the matter. But the Court majority has asserted that one very particular religious-cultural perspective about when life begins counts as a legitimate state interest. Concerning fetal pain, the prevailing science of neurological development says the mechanisms necessary to experience pain do not exist before about 24 weeks, i.e. viability. That fact renders disingenuous the state’s supposed interest in avoiding “particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures” before viability. Disingenuous because, if there is no evidence of fetal pain before about 24 weeks, then any procedure done prior to that threshold cannot reasonably be distinguished in its barbarity from any other invasive medical procedure that involves blood, cutting or other surgical necessities.

The Court majority’s meaning when discussing “integrity of the medical profession” is barely veiled cover for defending those practitioners who refuse to carry out abortions. At the same time, the Court has ensured that many doctors will face nearly impossible choices about whether to perform abortions when weighing their responsibility to the health of their patients against the increasing probability of criminal prosecution. It’s hard to imagine a more direct threat to the integrity of the medical profession than that. So, once you strip away the highly contested premise that life begins at conception and the scientifically dubious claim that fetuses experience pain before 24 weeks, there is nothing legitimate about almost any of the interests the Court says states have prior to viability. Though the Court did say protecting “maternal health and safety” is a legitimate state interest, it has clearly put its thumbs on the scale in favor of fetuses. That’s because the Court majority cannot shake its core belief, deeply rooted in misogyny, that fetuses are more sacred and more worthy of state protection than the humans who carry them. As a result, the Court has simply punted on trying to meaningfully balance the interests of the latter with those of the former. The laws that are now going into effect make that crystal clear.

15) I thought I’d see at least some liberals agree with me that the EPA decision was not necessarily so unreasonable.  Fortunately, Drum came through:

Their conclusion is that generation shifting is too big a deal to infer from throw-away language. If this is what we want to do, it needs authorization from Congress, not a federal agency feverishly parsing generic language to give itself huge, highly specific new authority.

This doesn’t strike me as unreasonable, though it’s obviously tricky to figure out just how broad a grant of authority Congress gave to EPA in this case. Unfortunately, the liberal position on this is done no favors by the Lazarus argument: namely that the Supreme Court knows Congress is paralyzed right now, so they have to allow EPA to step in and take action.

This is sophistry, and no court in the world would pay any attention to it. On the contrary, it would be taken for what it is: a tacit admission that EPA doesn’t have the authority it wants, but we should all agree to pretend otherwise because the stakes are too high to waste time with the doofuses in Congress. Like it or not, this is never going to fly.

As many legal observers have pointed out, this case is not really about the EPA or about climate change. (In fact, the EPA plan at the core of the case has been on hold for a while as the Biden administration crafts its own plan.) It’s about how much deference we should pay to federal agencies who are exercising authority delegated to them by Congress. Liberals generally want agencies to have lots of interpretive authority while conservatives want to rein it in. This case is yet another example of conservatives reining it in.

The good news here is that, by itself, this case doesn’t set any big new precedent—not that I see, anyway. Like last week’s decision in American Hospital Association, it merely prohibits a specific action without taking a sledgehammer to current rules about agency deference in general.

The bad news is that the Court’s conservatives are obviously working themselves up to swing that sledgehammer eventually. It’s still unclear just how much wreckage they plan to leave behind when they’re done.

16) Interestingly, just as they’ve turned 100, I’ve rediscovered a love of Klondike bars, which I had all the time in my youth, but barely in the past 30 years.  

17) Who stops a bad guy with a gun? Usually nobody.  On occasion, but rarely, a “good guy” with a gun.

18) It’s nothing short of amusing that some of the pro-life types think there’s even the remotest chance that red states will try and do better by struggling mothers and newborns.

19) Apparently there’s a lot of products with super-high THC levels out there now and it’s not good.

20) Some important perspective on the typical person getting an abortion:

THE TYPICAL PATIENT …
Is Already a Mother.
Is in Her Late 20s.
Attended Some College.
Has a Low Income.
Is Unmarried.
Is in Her First 6 Weeks of Pregnancy.
Is Having Her First Abortion.
Lives in a Blue State.

I find that “is already a mother” fact very compelling.  These are women who know what pregnancy and parenthood entail.

21) Damn is this good from deBoer:

Ten years ago, let’s say fifteen to be safe, if you saw an essay titled “Consequences are Good, Actually,” you might naturally assume that it came from the political right. Conservatives, after all, believe in law and order, retributive justice, and the God of the Old Testament. But nowadays, it’s liberals who constantly call for consequences, liberals who sneer at the concept of forgiveness, liberals who stand for a Manichean worldview that permits no deviation from white-hat/black-hat morality. And so in that linked piece OG carceral feminist Jessica Valenti insists that the object of her ire deserves only hellfire, and this is quite in keeping with the contemporary progressive id in 2022. Valenti is reacting specifically to New York magazine cover story about a teenager who shared nude photos of his girlfriend and the social consequences that followed for him and others. But she is reacting as she and her liberal peers react to everything: “someone has to burn.” She just does so in the vocabulary of a disapproving pre-K teacher.

We’ve spent the past two years with the left-of-center world debating, and largely endorsing, quite radical ideas about ending policing and prisons. This would seem to suggest a certain predisposition to forgiveness and equanimity in human affairs, a communal understanding that life is complicated, all of us are sinners, and there but for the grace of God go we. But as the various groans about the New York piece show, the urge to defund the police etc. is really much less about a particular ethic of caring and much more about simply nominating a communally-approved target for progressive anger. It happens that the abstract category “the cops” is a good thing for people to target, but the broader point is that most liberal criminal justice reform energy isn’t derived at all from a desire to be more compassionate and understanding but simply to have a new designated hate object. And this condition is unhealthy, is my feeling. Because forgiveness is good and absolutely central to the left-wing conception of the world.

The contradiction here is badly exacerbated by the fundamentally weaselly way that the left-of-center mass talks about criminal justice reform. The constant instinct is to refer to more-sympathetic criminal classes, like the gold-standard “first-time nonviolent drug offenders,” when calling for an end to mass incarceration. The trouble with this is that a huge majority of our incarcerated population is not in fact drawn from those more cinematically compelling victims. Most people locked up in state prisons are there for violent offenses and most people in local jails awaiting trial and sentencing who end up in state prisons will be too…

But it gets worse for our liberal champions of anti-carceral measures. Within this large bulk of violent offenders, there’s also many who have committed sex-based offenses like sexual assault, domestic violence or intimate partner violence or similar, or hate crimes. These are considered (to borrow a term) especially heinous by liberals for various ideological reasons. What I frequently feel moved to remind anti-carceral-state lefties is that their efforts to shutter prisons will necessarily involve letting a lot of the guys responsible for those things out. Let me highlight this: there is no path to dismantling the prison industrial complex that does not let out a lot of people guilty of “identity crimes” like sexual assault, hate crimes, or domestic violence. [emphasis in original] And so you have a bit of a dilemma if you’re a standard-issue (read: not particularly well-considered) liberal, which is that you must rail against the punitive state knowing that if your efforts were to succeed you would inevitably free a lot of people you would prefer stay locked up, perhaps even for longer than initially sentenced.

This conflict is like so many others within 21st-century liberalism in that it’s not only blindingly obvious but totally under-discussed. There’s been both a reflexive endorsement of all manner of ideas related to police and prison reform under restorative justice auspices, but it’s arisen alongside a shamelessly punishing left-wing culture that does nothing all day but look around for the right person to rake over the coals. And this is a conflict of values, obviously. You can come up with some sort of undergraduate justifications of anti-carceral politics that have nothing to do with forgiveness, but ultimately the urge to liberate people from physical prisons is a reflection of a desire to embrace greater compassion and understanding for the guilty. This runs completely against the assumption that the heart of left-wing practice is being a sneering and vengeful hall monitor who never stops passing judgment on others. In a healthy political culture, this kind of conflict of values would result in debate, an assessment of where people stand, and potentially breaking into explicitly-separate camps. But internet leftism is not a healthy political culture, and so there is no healthy debate. Instead, people just ignore the obvious conflict, mostly because they only pretend to care about this shit when chatting up girls at Union Pool.

22) Happiness strategies

23) Sadly, this seems about right from Brownstein, “Is Biden a Man Out of Time? Democrats have a growing sense of panic about conservative advances but are not seeing a president who shares their urgency.”

Even many of Biden’s critics agree that his establishment pedigree, and his promises to unify the country and work with Republicans, contributed to his victory over Trump. He reassured, they concede, many center-right voters who might have preferred the former president’s policies but recoiled from his belligerent personality and style. But to frustrated Democrats, the administration’s cautious response to the abortion decision is further evidence that Biden’s roots in an earlier political order have left him slow to acknowledge, much less respond to, the radicalization of the Trump-era GOP. The growing chorus among the president’s internal critics is that even if Biden was the right man for beating Trump, he has become the wrong man for combatting Trumpism.

“I go back in my mind to 2020 and ask: Could anyone else have beaten Trump? I don’t think so,” Tresa Undem, a pollster mostly for progressive causes, told me. “But from the perspective of some Democratic voters [now], he just doesn’t get it. Biden will be presiding over this critical period when so many people are losing rights. Can you imagine being the president when women lost the right to abortion, and election subversion [is advancing], and the whole country is worried about democracy, and you are like, ‘The Supreme Court is just fine’?”

Similarly, when asked on a conference call with reporters this week what Biden could be doing differently to respond to the ruling, Sarah Lipton-Lubet, the executive director of the Take Back the Court Action Fund, a group advocating for expanding the Supreme Court, told me he should “stop treating the Supreme Court like it’s some untouchable panel of demigods. This Court is brazenly political, and we have to stop pretending otherwise.” That sentiment among Democrats escalated further today, when the Court capped its term by hobbling the federal government’s ability to regulate the carbon emissions that cause climate change.

As concerned as many Democrats are about Biden’s advanced age and his diminished approval ratings, the persistent chatter among them about whether he should run again in 2024 centers as much on the fear that he’s a man out of time. Many activists express a similar frustration with the party’s politburo of aging congressional leaders. “It’s not necessarily only an age thing, but I do think the younger crop of leaders have cut their teeth during times when they never really believed our institutions were legitimate,” Adam Jentleson, a former Democratic Senate leadership aide and a co-founder of Battle Born Collective, a liberal advocacy group, told me. “They don’t have this nostalgia for a [prior] set of norms and principles, because they never experienced them.”

24) My 16-year old was quite surprised to learn that he knows more about the relative genetic diversity of humans and chimps than me.  But, now that’s rectified:

The researchers also contrasted the levels of genetic variation between the chimpanzee groups with that seen in humans from different populations.

Surprisingly, even though all the chimpanzees live in relatively close proximity, chimpanzees from different populations were substantially more different genetically than humans living on different continents. That is despite the fact that the habitats of two of the groups are separated only by a river.

Professor Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University and a senior author on the study, noted: ‘Relatively small numbers of humans left Africa 50,000-100,000 years ago. All non-African populations descended from them, and are reasonably similar genetically.’

‘That chimpanzees from habitats in the same country, separated only by a river, are more distinct than humans from different continents is really interesting. It speaks to the great genetic similarities between human populations, and to much more stability and less interbreeding over hundreds of thousands of years in the chimpanzee groups.’

25) Really enjoyed this on worldviews from Clearer thinking:

What makes a worldview?

Worldviews are a type of story we learn about how the world works and about what things matter and why. In this post, we put forward a theory of worldviews that will help you understand how different worldviews work. We call this “Snow Globe Theory.” Every worldview includes many beliefs, but after reflecting on a wide variety of worldviews, we believe that almost every one has four central components. There are other common elements that some worldviews have but others don’t – for example, a strong culture, or a theory about trustworthy sources of knowledge – but this article will focus on these four central elements:

  1. What is good?

  2. Where do good and bad come from?

  3. Who deserves the good?

  4. How can you do good or be good?

You can understand a worldview quite well if you know what thoughtful people with that worldview would all answer in response to these four questions. While each individual member of a group will have somewhat different answers to the questions above, it is the portions of their answers that most members of that group share with each other that compose the group’s worldview.

Interestingly, the “effective altruist” seems to come closest to my own (many others here, too, at the link)

Is America becoming more censorious?

Sure as hell seems that way.  

Dan Drezner’s farewell column today:

At some point over these past eight years, however, it seems as though the judgment of public discourse shifted. Years ago, many were lamenting the notion that prominent pundits could prove to be massively wrong about big questions and still not lose their standing in the marketplace of ideas. That trend mostly persists, but it has been obscured by a more prominent one, in which the consequences of being impolitic are far more severe.

We live in an age in which retweeting a tasteless joke and then apologizing and deleting it 10 minutes later still winds up being on your permanent record. Not all infractions are equal, and in some cases such behavior merits serious sanctions. There is something bizarre, however, about the capricious nature of reactions and overreactions to acts that less than a decade ago would barely have merited a shrug.

It is entirely possible that as a middle-aged straight White guy, my read on this is wrong. Another trend I have noticed over the past eight years is that my inner cranky-old-man voice is starting to get louder. I am keenly aware that this voice is not always wrong, but it ain’t always right, either. That said, a public discourse that is implacably hostile to only a particular slice of norm infractions is not fertile ground for the contingent writing that inspired Spoiler Alerts.

And David French’s newsletter today: “How Grassroots Censorship Threatens the American Experiment”

While I believe that parents should be deeply engaged in the education of their children—regardless of where they’re educated—punitive parental uprisings teach their children exactly the wrong lessons and corrupt a core purpose of American education.

First, punitive parents are teaching children to appeal to authority when they’re upset by ideas, rather than engage with the ideas themselves. When we teach children from the earliest ages until they’re 18 that exposure to a contrary idea—even an upsetting idea—is a cause for complaint, then we’re preparing them to mimic that same behavior in college and beyond.

We’re training them that fragility is a path to power. That their hurt feelings can trigger immediate action and real-world change. And that, perversely, learning a degree of stoicism and toughness achieves nothing in the short term.

Second, punitive parents are teaching children to see their political opponents as inherently untrustworthy and problematic. Whenever I object to firing or disciplining teachers for expressing political opinions, I always get the same response: “Can we trust them to grade fairly?” But is there any evidence that they have graded unfairly, or is that a presumption based on a prejudice against people who disagree?

Actual evidence of ideologically biased grading should be grounds for discipline (I once filed a lawsuit after an activist professor refused to grade a Christian student’s paper and wrote, “Ask God what your grade is”), but evidence that a teacher possesses an ideology is not the same thing as evidence that they possess bias against dissenting students. Many of my best teachers (at all levels of schooling) disagreed with me vocally and profoundly.

Third, punitive parents are helping raise the temperature of American politics to the boiling point. If you teach generations of Americans to appeal to authority in the face of disagreement and that their political opponents are inherently suspect, then attaining and holding political power is of paramount importance. After all, what good is an appeal to authority for emotional redress if the authority is politically hostile? And if political disagreement is evidence of a character defect, then how can you possibly trust any politician of the opposing party?

Under this formulation, both your fundamental liberties and your sense of belonging are directly related to the extent of your cultural and political power. This spirit directly contradicts the principles of American pluralism, which preserves individual and associational liberty so that a variety of American factions and communities can flourish side by side in American life, even if they can’t win elections or dominate corporate boards.

One thing I can confidently say is that we need to far more readily extend the principle of charity and stop making the worst possible interpretation of what other people say or do. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to be racist, but it does mean that if the situation is at all ambiguous, don’t default to “racist/sexist/homophobic” etc.  And, if it was and the person is genuinely contrite, that should count for something.  I also think it’s pretty clear that the modern media/social media world super-charges these worst tendencies of ours.  I know I’m trying to do better, but, damn do we need to do better as a society.  

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Picking up on yesterday’s cancer theme, Eric Topol with a nice post about all the progress we appear to be making:

The narrative has been incubating for many years, but in recent days we are witnessing some extraordinary progress in treating and monitoring cancer. The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as “unheard-of” by expert oncologists. This represents the essence of individualized medicine, whereby understanding the unique biologic basis of a person’s cancer can lead to highly accurate and effective treatment, and also avoid the toxicity of classical chemotherapeutic agents. Here I will review 4 recent studies, all published in the last week, and a new screening test that has become available…

We dread the diagnosis of cancer, not only because of its threat to life, but also the conventional chemotherapies that are given, with considerable toxicity. But the theme of the clusters of individualized medicine I’ve reviewed here offers a way forward that links biology and therapy. That reduces the need for chemotherapy. Moreover, as plasma cell-free tumor DNA tests get more informative, the dream of the earliest possible diagnosis of cancer may ultimately be fulfilled, and coupled with an individualized, biologic-based treatment when necessary. So at the very least, I hope you’ve now heard of some “unheard-of” important, new results that foster considerable hope for better cancer outcomes in the future.

2) I love this from Jessica Grose because so many kids have missed out on so much due to Covid and I’m really grateful that my kids have been at good ages to suffer a lot less than many, “You get only one fourth-grade block party”

Covid ran through my family in May at a languid pace: There was only one week of the past month when none of us had it, and none of our cases were concurrent. While I am incredibly grateful that we’re all vaccinated and no one had a remotely serious case, it was, of course, pretty disruptive, especially for my older daughter.

She was stuck at home isolating, but she felt sick for only about 12 hours. After which, her biggest symptom was being extremely salty about having to miss a set of fun end-of-the-school-year activities. Though she was a little bummed about skipping her class performance of the song “Anything Goes,” she was devastated to miss her school’s annual block party, which involves bounce houses, deafening Top 40 jams, a cotton candy machine and an army of sweaty, hopped-up neighborhood children.

At first, she tried to convince me that we shouldn’t let her little sister go to the block party, either. My little litigator’s argument was that her sister is only in kindergarten; she has so many years of the block party ahead of her, whereas this is the third block party my older daughter has had to miss because of Covid. (It wasn’t held in 2020 or 2021.) She has just one year left of elementary school, and in her mind it was “unfair” that her sister will probably get six years of block parties, while she had to suffer.

Though I wasn’t swayed by this argument — which was made multiple times after my kid realized she’d have to stay home — I felt awful for her by the time the party rolled around. When little sister walked out our door, big sister immediately burst into tears.

And then she said something that burrowed into me so deep, I won’t forget it. She said that her sister is only 5, so she won’t remember Covid or anything she’s had to miss. But my older daughter, who is 9, will remember it all…

But kid time is different from adult time, and it’s marked by annual activities that you can’t just reschedule. A wedding can move, and a Fourth of July party can happen every year, but they will get only one fourth grade. She gets only six elementary school block parties, and in her mind, three were taken from her. As my daughter totted up all the things she’d had to miss since 2020 (the end of her second-grade school year, an acrobatics activity only third graders get to do, the fourth-grade class trip to Philadelphia, which was canceled), her tears dotted the kitchen table. I held her, and I told her I understood that it was really very sad she couldn’t get those things back.

3) Sometimes McWhorter gets it wrong, like this time, “San Francisco Schools Are Retiring ‘Chief.’ That’s Not as Frivolous as It Seems.”  I read the essay– it really is that frivolous.

4) Yglesias, “America spends a lot more on schools than on police: And in international terms, our funding of both is very average”

Since the summer of 2020, I’ve noticed a steady drip of misleading commentary that overstates the scale of law enforcement spending relative to other more worthy items, most notably education.

I think people making these assertions are typically sincerely confused. The structure of local government in the United States is very complicated; it’s not unusual for a city to exist as a separate budgetary entity from the school district that serves its population, with public safety occupying a huge share of the municipal budget alongside some desultory “youth services” item that excludes school spending. But while I do think this line of argument reflects a genuine misunderstanding, I find it frustrating that a lot of outlets give it a pass rather than attempting to clear up this confusion.

I think this has helped entrench some misunderstandings in the minds of a lot of casual observers. When I try to correct inaccurate viral tweets about school versus police spending, I hear from a lot of progressives who say something like, “the real point is we spend too much on police.”

I don’t want to re-relitigate the police funding question,1 but polluting the environment with inaccurate facts makes it harder to reason about real tradeoffs.

Schools currently receive about five times as much money as police departments, which means cutting public order spending wouldn’t generate large increases in education spending. That’s not to say spending more on education is necessarily a bad idea, but you’d first need to convince people that paying higher taxes is a good idea. That hardly seems inconceivable to me — lots of countries have higher taxes than the United States of America — but as we’ve written before, taxes are the real issue here

America’s school/cop priorities are pretty normal

 

The United States of America is an international outlier in a number of very real ways. Private spending plays a uniquely large role in our health care system, and the same is true of our higher education system. Unusual doesn’t mean bad — I’m a defender of our higher education finance setup — but it does raise the question.

And in terms of crime and crime control, the United States is a clear outlier on two dimensions: the number of people locked in prison and the number of guns circulating on our streets. A social phenomenon like “young men form gangs that fight each other” has drastically different implications in a society when those fights are conducted with guns versus knives and bludgeons.2 This is at least part of the reason why our police are more heavily armed and trigger-happy than European cops, and you might think it means we fund policing more generously than other rich countries.

But in reality, this does not seem to be the case; OECD data indicates that the United States spends a pretty average amount on policing.

On education spending, we are the median member of the G7, spending more on our K-12 schools than Japan, Germany, or Italy but less than Canada, France, or the UK. The OECD average is to spend 3.1 percent of GDP on K-12 education, and we spend very slightly higher than that at 3.2 percent of GDP.

5) Jeff Maurer’s take on the rise in LGBT+ identity:

Clearly, these numbers are capturing three things:

  1. The momentous shift in attitudes that has allowed more gay and transgender people to live as their authentic selves;

  2. Deep confusion; and

  3. Embarrassing straight people trying very hard to be interesting.

I doubt that anyone would dispute that thing #1 has happened. You don’t have to be very old to remember when being gay or transgender was widely seen as a form of deviance, like being an animal torturer or someone who takes their socks off on an airplane. There weren’t any openly gay people at my high school, which makes me sound very old; saying “I knew no openly gay people” feels like saying “I saw Babe Ruth play” or “my first job was Zeppelin Conductor”. The fact that everyone from IHOP to the Marine Corps now trumpets their support for gay rights is a pretty good sign that times have changed.

I always felt that the main point of Pride was to push back against the mindset that forced people into the closet. Hence the name “Pride”, the slogans (“we’re here, we’re queer”), and the scores of mostly-naked men doing body shots off of each other in full view of everyone. Pride meant living without fear or shame at a time when those things were common. It seemed important that the crowds be large — which required straight people to show up — in order to say: This is all good. Those of us in attendance accept people as they are. If my presence contributed to that, then great, because that’s why I was there, though honestly the street food didn’t hurt, and as the cause went mainstream Pride also became a great place to meet women…

The core of the arguments that proved persuasive in Obergefelland Bostock(which legalized gay marriage and outlawed discrimination against transgender people, respectively) was that being gay or transgender is an ascriptive characteristic. That is: It’s not a choice. Remember when people argued that being gay was a choice? That period was from from BCE 200,000 until 2015. Thankfully, we’re mostly past the days when people thought you could “cure” being gay or transgender with an intense bible camp or some idiotic “scared straight” program. The “it’s not a choice” argument has won the day, thanks to its brilliant articulation by activists, lawyers, and a very persuasive Lady Gaga song.

But the expansion of LGBTQ+ dialogue often includes things that are choices. We now frequently discuss behaviors, not traits. The “Q” in “LGBTQ” is the problem. The “Q” stands for “queer”, and “queer” — which is not a slur in this context — can encompass basically any behavior that’s gender nonconforming. The Human Rights Campaign says that the term refers to “a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream.” Okay — but what does “counter to the mainstream” mean? And what “identities and orientations” are we talking about? Remember: This term was added to LGBT, so it’s not any of those. Ultimately, attempts at definitions (see more here and here) don’t do much to build on the Webster’s definition of “queer” as “at variance with what is usual or normal”.

That opens the door for bored straight people. We can cram any gender nonconforming behavior under the “queer” umbrella. Are you a woman who likes football? A guy who paints his nails? Congratulations: You are now the same as a person born with a characteristic that at an absolute minimum complicated their life and who very likely faced serious discrimination. You’re just like my gay friend whose family is from Pakistan, Guy Who Likes To Wear Jazzy Socks. Birds of a feather, you are. You should get together and swap stories; you can tell him about the time you’re pretty sure you got a sideways glance from a co-worker, and he can tell you about how he will never, ever come out to his dad for as long as he lives.

Obviously, this straight co-opting of gay identity is massively insulting. But it’s not unheard of. I don’t for a minute believe that 20.8 percent of Gen Z is gay; I believe that some of that 20.8 percent have rounded up minor eccentricities into a gender identity. Those lost little doofuses are aided by activist rhetoric that seems designed to be confusing. I’m not surprised that many gay people are annoyed by this; what surprises me is that normie liberal culture seems to tolerate it. We’ve nodded along as voices claiming to speak for the marginalized have blurred the line between fundamental orientations and minor proclivities. This seems to be part of the broader left-wing project to be completely duped by any movement that wraps itself in the language of social justice no matter how stupid or antithetical to the cause of actual social justice that movement may be.

6) This is good, “There’s still no HIV vaccine. The science behind coronavirus shots may help.”

7) I get that hitting and violence are part of hockey.  But it is still too easy to seriously injure a player (and make the game worse for their absence)

Look, I love hockey. But I hate this garbage.

Kane, MacKinnon and Landeskog are three supremely gifted hockey players, all with often uncontainable combinations of skill and strength. They’re capable of majestic beauty on the ice, with a brutalist touch. That’s what we want to see: jaw-dropping plays, not jaw-breaking hits. But this is the NHL, and we’re simply not allowed to have nice things. Even in the fastest, most aesthetically pleasing series we’ve had in years.

So instead of raving about Connor McDavid’s steal-and-score 38 seconds into Saturday’s Game 3, or Mike Smith’s old-school pad-stack save on Landeskog, or Cale Makar’s uncanny ability to create a zone exit and zone entry out of nowhere, or Draisaitl’s incredible toughness, or just the breathtaking end-to-end hockey we’ve been gifted in this Western Conference final, we’re talking about dirty, dangerous hits. We’re talking about the Department of Player Safety. We’re talking about all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons. We’re stuck in the feedback loop, The Discourse that never ends.

Again.

I get it. Hockey’s a tough sport. The physicality of the game has always been a selling point, and there’s a sort of beauty to a perfectly delivered — and clean — hit. A shoulder through the chest, a smear along the boards, a well-executed hipcheck that sends a guy soaring.

And there’s always going to be a part of the fan base with an animalistic need for violence, those who long for the days of frequent ferocious fights, who want real life to be like “Slap Shot,” who scream at the idea of ever regulating contact in any meaningful way. Hell, when I arrived in Edmonton on Friday night, the customs agent asked why I was in town. After I told him, he immediately started calling for Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft to put Brett Kulak on the top pairing and bury Darnell Nurse, who’s been struggling mightily as he battles an injury. When I pointed out to him that Kulak’s biggest contribution to Game 2 was an elbow to MacKinnon’s head (he got all of two minutes for it), the customs agent smiled and exclaimed, “Yeah! Real hockey!”

But it’s 2022, not 1982. We know what causes brain injuries, and we know the long-term effects of them. We know that boarding a guy is extremely dangerous. We know that slew-footing a guy is extremely dangerous. We know that elbowing a guy in the head is extremely dangerous.

And none of that is hockey, anyway. Hockey is MacKinnon turning on the afterburners and leaving a defenseman in the dust. Hockey is Kane powering his way through the offensive zone and willing the puck into the net.

8) Twitter thread summarizing excellent new research on the Supreme Court:

9) Michael Gerson, “The GOP spin on gun rights is wrong — morally and legally”

A significant group of Americans believe it is. In a recent CBS-YouGov poll, 44 percent of Republicans agreed that mass shootings are “unfortunately something we have to accept” in a free country. It is the “unfortunately” that gets to me.

This is a case involving unequally distributed peril. For most observers, such misfortune amounts to reading a depressing newspaper article. For the families involved, it means suffering beyond measure and grief beyond relief. Government cannot take all the risk out of life. But is it permissible to “accept” the risk of murder on behalf of other people’s children? Is it moral to make our peace with such evident evil?

Any consideration of gun regulation in the United States immediately involves a debate about our fundamental law. Through most of American history, the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” — determined the meaning of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This made sense in a country where the entire western frontier was ragged and bloody with danger. Every able-bodied man was expected to possess a useful weapon to fight for the security of his state. And at least part of the reason to stay armed was that many people feared and opposed the accumulation of federal power.

The Virginia Constitution made this connection explicit, saying “that a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free State; … that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”…

This means that one of the main pro-gun arguments — that reasonable gun restrictions violate sacred, natural rights — is somewhere on the far side of laughable ignorance. The right to keep and bear arms does not mean the right of 18-year-olds to buy assault rifles. Many Republicans seem intent on combining the stability and wisdom of teenagers with military-grade firepower.

10) This seems crazy, “How Do You Say Your Name? Difficult-To-Pronounce Names and Labor Market Outcomes”

Abstract

This paper tests for the existence of labor market discrimination based on a previously unstudied characteristic: name fluency. Using data on over 1,500 economics job market candidates from roughly 100 PhD programs during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 job market cycles, we find that having a name that takes longer to pronounce is associated with 1) a significantly lower likelihood of being placed into an academic job or obtaining a tenure track position; and 2) an initial placement at an institution with lower research productivity, as measured by the research rankings in the Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) database. We obtain similar results using two alternative ways of measuring pronunciation difficulty, a computer generated algorithm based on commonality of letter and phoneme combinations and a subjective measure based on individual ratings, and they hold after the inclusion of many control variables including fixed effects for PhD institution and home country.

11) This was so much fun to watch, “Taika Waititi Answers the Web’s Most Searched Questions”

12) We shall see if this proves true. Gallup, “Abortion Poised to Be a Bigger Voting Issue Than in Past”

Gallup first asked voters how the abortion issue factors into their voting calculus in 1992, leading up to the presidential election that year. The question has been asked in all recent presidential election years except for 2008 and was asked in the 2014 midterm election year.

Gallup has also asked the question in some nonelection years, often finding lower percentages saying abortion would not be a major issue in their vote than was the case in the nearest election year. Even then, the percentage saying abortion would not be a major issue had never been lower than the 23% measured in a 2007 survey. The full trend can be found in the linked PDF at the end of this article.

The current results are based on a May 2-22 poll, which began just after the leaking of a draft opinion of a Supreme Court ruling that indicated the court was going to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision and allow states to impose new restrictions on abortion. The poll finds that Americans are opposed to overturning Roe and that their attitudes have shifted toward greater support for legalized abortion.

Until 2016, fewer than one in five voters said a candidate must share their views on abortion. Since then, the percentage has continued to grow, reaching 24% in 2020 and 27% this year.

Likewise, the percentage of voters who say abortion is not a major issue in their vote has declined over the years.

  • Between the 1992 and 2012 election years, 30% to 37% of voters said abortion was not a major issue for them, eclipsing the “candidate must share views” response by about 2-to-1.
  • In 2016 and 2020, the percentage saying abortion would not be a major issue fell to 27% and 25%, respectively. In 2020, roughly equal proportions of voters said a candidate must share their views on abortion as said it wasn’t a major voting issue for them.
  • The 16% today saying abortion is not a major voting issue for them represents the first time less than 25% have attached this little significance to it in an election year and lags the 27% saying a candidate must share their views by a sizable margin.

13) This is very good from Brookings, “5 things to understand about pharmaceutical R&D”

Much has been made of the threat to new drugs and “new cures” posed by legislation such as Build Back Better. However, looking carefully at the data on R&D patterns and evidence on how the industry responds to market expansion suggests a less dramatic impact of reduced revenues on R&D. Thus, modest changes in the size of payments to the pharmaceutical industry would likely have little impact on the future health of Americans. This is especially the case since the Build Back Better legislation promises three things: 1) a focus on drugs that have exceeded “normal” durations of market exclusivity; 2) safe harbors for drugs developed by smaller biotechnology companies; and 3) that the U.S. will continue to pay the highest prices for brand name drugs in the world by a significant margin.

14) Since the ACLU does not actually seem committed to free speech any more (they are at least still doing good work on criminal justice) FIRE is stepping into the breach on free speech.

15) First, I thought it was interesting that the Tampa Rays had several players refuse to participate in the Pride celebration.  I also thought it was quite interesting to see just how much opinion can now make it into a straight NYT news article if it’s on LGBT issues:

As a low-payroll team that challenges convention, the Rays prioritize clubhouse harmony; without buy-in from players, their unorthodox on-field strategies might not work. The organization wanted to share its values with the uniforms, Silverman said, but would not force players to comply if they were uncomfortable.

Yet by allowing the players to opt out of the promotion — and to use the platform to endorse an opposite viewpoint — the Rays undercut the message of inclusion they were trying to send. Words like “lifestyle” and “behavior” are widely known tropes often interpreted as a polite cover for condemning gay culture.

The Rays held their promotion the day after the Dodgers had honored the memory of Glenn Burke, a former outfielder for the team who was the first major leaguer to have come out as gay, at the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night in Los Angeles. The resistance of some players in St. Petersburg — despite the Rays’ best intentions — showed how far the movement still has to go.

16) This is nuts, “Republicans want to hand-count paper ballots. That’s less accurate.”

Supporters of former president Donald Trump’s false claim that he actually won the 2020 election are preparing for the next election by attacking the ballot scanners that tabulate the results, arguing that hand-counting paper ballots is more accurate.

For instance, this week the Wisconsin Republican convention called for all votes to be cast on paper and counted by hand. And last month, Arizona’s Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state filed a federal lawsuit demanding that scanners be barred in upcoming elections, arguing that the “voting system does not reliably provide trustworthy and verifiable election results.”

Republicans are arguing that humans are more likely than machines to get the count right. Evidence, however, suggests the opposite: Computers — which ballot scanners rely on — are very good at tedious, repetitive tasks. Humans are bad at them. And counting votes is tedious and repetitive.

17) David French, “Against Gun Idolatry

No, the threat to America’s gun culture comes from the gun rights movement itself. The threat is gun idolatry, a form of gun fetish that’s fundamentally aggressive, grotesquely irresponsible, and potentially destabilizing to American democracy. And it’s become so prevalent that I would not—I could not—write the same piece for The Atlantic again. 

What is a gun fetish? It’s a concept that’s tough to define, but easy to observe. When a leading candidate for Senate runs on a platform that’s “pro-God, pro-Gun, and pro-Trump,” then guns (and Trump) are elevated far above their proper place in American life. The same goes for popular t-shirts and signs that declare a person “pro-life, pro-God, and pro-gun.” 

We see the gun fetish when a member of Congress appears on television with crossed AR-15s behind her head. Or when another member of Congress raffles off a .50 caliber sniper rifle. You definitely see it when a third member of Congress posts a Christmas message that looks like this:

The gun fetish rears its head when politicians pose with AR-15s in their campaign posters, or when a powerful senator makes “machine-gun bacon” to demonstrate just how much he loves the Second Amendment.

It’s certainly not the case every time a politician publicly shoots a gun that they’re exhibiting a gun fetish, but the sheer prevalence of the open display of firearms (and not just any firearm, but the AR-15 specifically) illustrates that something has changed…

Something has changed in the streets as well. It’s now common to see men and women armed to the teeth, open-carrying during anti-lockdown protests and even outside public officials’ homes. This is when the gun is used to menace and intimidate. It’s displayed not as a matter of defense but rather as an open act of defiance. It’s meant to make people uncomfortable. It’s meant to make them feel unsafe. 

This transition from defense to defiance can destabilize our democracy. The concept of self-defense is rooted in a high view of human life. In his Second Treatise of Civil Government, John Locke described a “fundamental law of nature” (his description of the “will of God”) that man be “preserved as much as possible” yet “when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred.”

Indeed, scripture makes multiple allowances for self-defense, in both the Old and New Testaments. While I respect Christian pacifism, I simply don’t see it required by the biblical text. My own view is that the refusal to protect innocent life can constitute a grave moral wrong. If a violent man came after my family, and I did not do everything in my power to stop his attack—even if it meant killing him to save my wife and kids—then I would have failed a profound obligation as a husband and father.  

Defiance is different. It’s rooted in the will to power. It is designed to implant fear, not to save lives but to exert control. It contradicts a core value of a classically-liberal society, that change comes through courts and the ballot box, not through intimidation and fear. 

18) Cool and disturbing New Yorker interactive, “When Cars Kill Pedestrians.” 

 

%d bloggers like this: