Why I eat food off the floor

Okay, not always.  It depends on the food and the circumstances, but I figure I’m mostly relying on my hardy immune system most of  the time anyway.  I would think nothing of picking one of Sarah’s toys up off the floor and then using that same hand to eat a tortilla chip.  So, why not just eat a tortilla chip that fell on the floor?  Aarron Carroll with a great piece in the Upshot on why it probably is okay to eat food off the floor:

Our metric shouldn’t be whether there are more than zero bacteria on the floor. It should be how many bacteria are on the floor compared with other household surfaces. And in that respect, there are so many places in your house that pose more of a concern than the floor… [emphases mine]

They found that the kitchen floor was likely to harbor, on average, about three colonies per square inch of coliform bacteria (2.75 to be exact). So there are some. But here’s the thing — that’s cleaner than both the refrigerator handle (5.37 colonies per square inch) and the kitchen counter (5.75 colonies per square inch).

We spend so much time worrying about what food might have picked up from the floor, but we don’t worry about touching the refrigerator. We also don’t seem as worried about food that touches the counter. But the counter is just as dirty, if not dirtier…

Things get dirty when lots of hands touch them and when we don’t think about it. We worry about the floor and the toilet seat, so we clean them more. We don’t think about the refrigerator handle or the faucet handle as much…

Think about how many people have handled the money in your wallet. Astudy of one-dollar bills found that 94 percent were colonized by bacteria, 7 percent of which were pathogenic to healthy people and 87 percent of which were pathogenic to people who were hospitalized or who had compromised immune systems. Where do you keep your money? In a wallet or purse? When did you last clean it? It’s probably filthy.

I see people pay for food every day and then eat what they’re handed with no concern that the food might have been contaminated. And the money and the hands that just held it could be much dirtier than the floor…

All of this should remind you that it’s always a good idea to wash your hands before you eat. Hand-washing is still one of the best ways to prevent illness.

People react to news like this in one of two ways. One is to become paranoid about everything. Such people start to clean compulsively, worry about all the things they’re touching, and use hand sanitizer obsessively.

The alternative is to realize that for most of us, our immune systems are pretty hardy. We’ve all been touching this dirty stuff for a long time, without knowing it, and doing just fine…

I clearly fall into the latter group. If I drop food on the floor, I still eat it. I do that because the harm I might get from the floor is not worth my concern compared with many, many other things. You may feel differently. Either way, make an informed judgment based on relative risks, not on any arbitrary span of time that one thing has been touching another.

More often than not, I probably don’t actually eat food off the floor, but given that open my refrigerator is likely far more hazardous, it’s certainly not something I’m going to worry about.

Spilled candy.

Spilled candy.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’ll be honest, I think Arlie Hochschild gives these Tea Partiers more empathy than they deserve.

2) An algorithm for determining fiction best-sellers.

3) Surprise, surprise, more evidence that drug testing welfare recipients is just dumb public policy.

4) Ummm, Victorian bereavement photography (i.e., photos of dead people, posed to look alive, with their families) is really creepy.

5) So, you are an “intellectual” conservative what do you do?  Make a straight-faced argument that Hillary Clinton (and pretty much all liberals) are a greater threat to America’s Constitutional order than Donald Trump.

6) Samatha Bee takes on those telling Hillary to smile, including David Frum.   Good stuff.  And Frum’s defense.

7) Love Chait on the “pivot” euphemism.

Virtually the entire Republican professional class understands at some level that their presidential candidate is wildly unfit for the presidency. They have all made the professional decision that they cannot say so in public. Instead, their plan is to conceal Trump’s unfitness through the elections and hope for the best, without much regard for what would happen if they succeed in handing control of the Executive branch to an unstable bully. It is one of those moral decisions so awful it can’t be described in plain terms.Pivot is their euphemism of choice.

8) At least in this election, Democrats are killing it with the fundraising thanks to the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision.

9) Matt Yglesias with some interesting pushback on Trump/Hitler book review.  Some really good points.  I still love the review.

10) If the rest of the world got a vote, it would be Clinton in the biggest landslide ever.

11) Paul Waldman with a pretty compelling take on why the second debate, with it’s town hall format, may be even more conducive to a Clinton victory.

12) As swing states go, Ohio ain’t what it used to be:

But even some of the state’s proudest boosters acknowledge that Ohio, which is nearly 80 percent white, is decreasingly representative of contemporary America.

“Ohio, like a melting iceberg, has slowly been losing its status as the country’s bellwether,” said Michael F. Curtin, a Democratic state legislator and former Columbus Dispatch editor who is co-author of the state’s authoritative “Ohio Politics Almanac.”

He continued: “It’s a slow melt. But we have not captured any appreciable Hispanic population, and there has been very little influx of an Asian population. When you look at the diversity of America 30 to 40 years ago, Ohio was a pretty close approximation of the country. It no longer is.”

13) I think I forgot to post Ezra Klein’s takedown of Trump on trade.

14) A thorough history of Trump’s corruption.  Be warned, it’s looooong.

15) Really interesting Jordan Weissman take on the long-term impact of trade normalization with China under Bill Clinton.

16) Sure, one could entirely fill up quick hits with Trump’s ignorance on policy, but, hey, it really is important stuff, and this piece from Fred Kaplan on Trump’s foreign policy incompetence is quite good.

17) A Bernie Bro has seen the light and apologizes for “despising” Hillary Clinton.

18) Maybe the police should not always rely on yelling commands as a first option.

19) Among mammals, humans are quite violent within species.  As primates go, however, we’re pretty par for the course.

20) The case for more brevity in your emails.

21) Given all the other post-debate coverage, not much on how Clinton attempted to paint Trump as a Romney-like lover of the rich.

22) You know what, Donald Trump really does not have a good sense of humor:

Granted, a lot has been made of Hillary Clinton’s sense of humor—her laugh is shrill, too many of her jokes have seemed too prepared for far too long. But undoubtedly, at the first presidential debate on Monday, it was confirmed: Her sense of humor exists! And this mattered, because humor showed Clinton to be as self-aware as she was serious, and served to isolate Trump, making him seem like an angry spider caught in a tangled dystopia of his own construction.

This isn’t to say that Trump can’t get laughs. It’s simply that when he gets them, he’s humiliating people—whether “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Lyin” Ted Cruz or “Little” Marco Rubio. Humor borne out of cruelty happens to be the easiest and therefore lowest form of comedy: It is cheap stuff and it does not elevate the candidate, nor make him a more fundamentally sympathetic character. And when Trump does manage to grab laughs, his smile is a forced, flat line—a concession to facial spasm more than a natural expression of amusement or mirth.

23) Will Saletan on how the Iraq War created lasting damage to the Republican Party.

24) I basically have no interest in psychedelic drugs (like pretty much all mind-altering drugs except caffeine), but there’s ever more evidence that there are valuable therapeutic benefits.  Alas, our war on drugs is, as always, getting in the way.

25) Nate Cohn on the post-debate movement towards Clinton in the polls:

Usually, a good way to test the durability of a swing in the polls is to ask whether it brings the race closer or farther from the so-called fundamentals, like the president’s approval ratings.

A shift that brings the polls in line with the fundamentals might be a little likelier to last than one that cuts the other way. Mr. Kerry’s recovery, for instance, brought the tighter race implied by Mr. Bush’s approval ratings. Barack Obama’s gains in 2008 gave him the considerable advantage implied by the economy and Mr. Bush’s low approval ratings. The opposite could be said of Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Romney’s surges in 2000 and 2012.

This year, it’s a lot harder to tell. That’s in part because there is no incumbent president on the ballot, which always makes it a little harder to tell where the natural resting point of a race sits. But it’s also because Mr. Trump is such an extraordinary candidate that many analysts believe the fundamentals will be less significant than usual.

In lieu of the traditional fundamentals, here’s something to consider instead: Over the longer term, Mrs. Clinton has led Mr. Trump by around five percentage points nationally.

The debate has bumped her poll standing back closer to her longer-term average, and it seems plausible it could stay in that range. The debate has also reinforced doubts about whether Mr. Trump is prepared for the presidency. No matter how you interpret polls, Mrs. Clinton is in a decent position with less than 40 days to go.

Photo of the day

Love this Washington Post gallery of photos of the Solar System and beyond:

Geyser-like jets of water vapor, gas and ice spurt from the southern pole of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, suggesting that the icy moon has a subsurface ocean with volcanic activity on the sea floor. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Quick hits (part II)

1) At least temporarily– and hopefully longer– NYT has put an end to awful he said, she said journalism with regards to Trump’s lies.

2) More evidence showing that it’s much better to be a 6th grader not in a middle school.

3) Ross Douthat with a very thought-provoking column on Clinton’s “Samantha Bee” problem.  This provoked a lot of interesting social media discussion among my professor friends.

But the Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its problem is Samantha Bee.

Not Bee alone, of course, but the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.

The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line…

At the same time, outside the liberal tent, the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.

4) NYT editorial takes on NC’s horribly misguided HB2.

5) Not a single Fortune 100 CEO has given to Trump.  A whole bunch gave to Romney.  And this is despite the fact that Trump assures them large personal tax cuts.

6) And speaking of which, Trump’s tax plans would cause deficits to explode.  But nobody cares because it’s Trump and policy.

7) Drew Magery knows he’s not going to convince any Trump voters, so he just unloads with what he really thinks:

Nothing that Trump says, no damning piece of Trump reportage, and certainly no opinion piece like this one will stop his voters from pulling the lever. Nor will anything stop Trump from being the officious, braindead goon that he is. He will never answer for his crimes, and there’s a frighteningly large portion of the electorate that will always love him for that.

And so I’d just like to say to that portion of the electorate: Fuck you. No, seriously. Go fuck yourselves. I’m not gonna waste any more time trying to convince you that you’re about to do something you’ll regret forever. I’m not gonna show you old clips of Trump saying rotten things. I’m not gonna try to ANNIHILATE Trump by showing you records of his hypocrisy and greed. I’m not gonna link to a John Oliver clip and be like, “THIS. So much this.” Nothing’s gonna take down Trump at this point, so I’m not gonna bother. No no, this post is for ME. I am preaching to the sad little choir in my soul here.

Because while Trump is a miserable bastard, YOU are the people who have handed him the bullhorn. YOU are the people willing to embarrass this nation and put it on the brink of economic ruin all because you wanna throw an electoral hissy fit. YOU are the people who want to revolutionize the way America does business by voting for its worst businessman, a disgusting neon pig who only makes money when he causes problems for other people instead of solving them. YOU are the thin-skinned yokels who clutch your bandoliers whenever someone hurls the mildest of slurs at you (“deplorables”), while cheering Trump on as he leaves a bonfire of truly hateful invective everywhere he goes. YOU are the people willing to overlook the fact that Trump is an unqualified, ignorant sociopath because DURRRR HILLARY IS BAD TOO DURRRR.

8) Does terrorism help Trump?  Saletan says the evidence says no.

9) And Adam Gopnik on New Yorker’s non-terrorized response to terrorism.

10) Kevin Drum on who Republican elites listen to summed up in a single chart:

11) Ed Yong with a really nice piece on the inevitable survival of the fittest of bad science (it’s all about the bad incentives).

12) I’ve never been one to fool myself by thinking getting food off the floor in less than five seconds will render it bacteria free (the latest research suggests decidedly not), yet, I figure I would think nothing of picking up a pencil off the floor than eating some food.  So, I’ll just count on my immune system– it’s worked well so far.

13) Political Scientist and media critic extraordinaire, Thomas Patterson, on the media coverage of Trump and Clinton:

IF Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative. [emphasis mine]

While Trump declared open warfare on the mainstream media — and of late they have cautiously responded in kind — it has been Clinton who has suffered substantially more negative news coverage throughout nearly the whole campaign.

14) Just in case you didn’t hear about the Trump county chair in Ohio who said that racism was over in America until Obama brought it back.

15) It’s from just about a year ago, but this Brendan Nyhan piece on the media’s misguided search for “authenticity” is great.

16) Paul Waldman asks if Trump is running the sleaziest foundation in America?  Hell, yes!  The fact that pretty much only the Post is taking this issue seriously is perhaps the largest media failure of the campaign.

In case you haven’t been following the story of the Trump Foundation, that last part is critical: Trump has given zero dollars to the Trump Foundation since 2009. Instead, he gets other rich people to donate money to the foundation, and he then uses their money for self-aggrandizement and sometimes self-enrichment. As Fahrenthold has documented, Trump has used foundation money for things like buying a six-foot-tall painting of himself, sometimes at charity events held at Mar-a-Lago, where he charges the charity for use of the facility, which means that not only is he not making the donation for which everyone is praising him, he’s actually making money on the deal. And then of course there’s the conveniently timed, illegal $25,000 donation from the foundation to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, which was followed quickly by her decision not to join a lawsuit charging Trump with fraud over Trump University.

We’ll have to see if the IRS investigates the self-dealing Fahrenthold has identified and what kinds of fines might result. But one of the many striking details in this story is the shock experts in nonprofit and foundation law express when they hear about how Trump uses the Trump Foundation. “I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” one lawyer told Fahrenthold. “If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while.”

17) No, immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans (says the latest study).

18) Dahlia Lithwick on why Hillary should not stoop to Trump’s level in the debate:

But it seems to me the real challenge for Clinton is that she must stand on a stage and debate the single most awful political person in modern American consciousness. Trying to stifle the impulse just to walk across the stage and belt him in the face would seem an insurmountable task. Add to that the fact that Clinton is expected to speak and listen, and it seems beyond human capability.

When considering these obstacles, Clinton should realize that she has one sole job in these debates: Be the grownup. She doesn’t need to be funny. (She isn’t.) She doesn’t need to be emotional—that’s how the deeply unfortunate “basket of deplorables” remark happened. She doesn’t have to bend over backward to be charming or personable. Her job is to ignore the crazy circus monkey with the broken cymbals and do what she does best: Listen carefully, respond reasonably, and speak to the part of America that truly understands what it means to entrust someone with the nuclear codes.

19) Short Term 12 is a sweet little movie you probably never heard of.  It’s streaming on Netflix and it’s really good.

20) Tim Noah on the death of telephone calls.

21) How lobbying for government regulations helped make the EpiPen so expensive.

22) You really should read James Fallows‘ great Atlantic cover story on the debates before the debate.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The evolving relationship between facebook and politics.

2) Great collection of anti-women’s suffrage propaganda.

3) Italy has an incredibly low birth rate.  Not good.  Their PR campaign to improve things is, also, not good.

4) Drum on the totally ignored Bush-Cheney email scandal.

5) Also very much enjoyed Drum’s takes on Trump’s maternity leave proposal.  (Partial short version: it is a pointless exercise to take anything Trump says about public policy remotely seriously).

6) 538 on the science of your body clock:

Foster also pointed out that being an early riser or a late sleeper is hardwired into our genetic code. It’s a gift from our parents, who, by hereditary law, will always have a say in when we go to bed at night. This, he said, is what makes it so difficult to reset our biological clock when we travel across the world or take up the night shift.

Hardwired or not, my wife has recently transitioned to being an early riser rather than a late sleeper (never a night owl).  Weird.

7) Jedidah Purdy on NC Republicans versus NCAA basketball.  My favorite part is the absurdity of our Tea Party Lieutenant Governor:

Asked about the loss of tournament revenue, Forest replied, “Our women and girls in North Carolina are not for sale. They’re not for sale to Hollywood, to any concert venue, to the N.B.A., or the N.C.A.A.” Warming to his theme, he added, “I don’t put a price tag on our women and girls. I think it’s shameful that these entities would think it’s acceptable to invade the privacy or security of a woman or a girl in a shower or a locker room. I think that’s a shameful act.”

The lieutenant governor’s chivalrous assurances fall into a familiar Southern tradition: defending legally enforced separation as the only bulwark against sexual predators. For its apologists, Jim Crow segregation protected white womanhood from black rapists. Now those rapists have been replaced by the farcical figure of the sexual opportunist who switches genders for a look inside the women’s room. As anyone familiar with the pervasive victimization of trans people would expect, the Charlotte statute was designed to avoid potentially threatening encounters, not produce them. Either Forest does not know better or he believes that his constituency does not know better, or perhaps both.

8) Inside the collapse of Trump’s DC Policy shop.  So unpredictable and surprising this would not stand the test of time.

9) Lawrence Krauss on 20 science questions for Trump.  Somebody in his campaign who actually can string together coherent sentences answered these.  Still not quite ready to admit that climate change is real.

10) Kristoff’s take on the false equivalence:

I’m wary of grand conclusions about false equivalence from 30,000 feet. But at the grass roots of a campaign, I think we can do better at signaling that one side is a clown.

There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.

We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.

There frankly has been a degree of unreality to some of the campaign discussion: Partly because Hillary Clinton’s narrative is one of a slippery, dishonest candidate, the discussion disproportionately revolves around that theme. Yes, Clinton has been disingenuous and legalistic in her explanations of emails. Meanwhile, Trump is a mythomaniac who appears to have systematically cheated customers of Trump University.

Clinton’s finances are a minefield, which we know because she has released 39 years of tax returns; Trump would be the first major party nominee since Gerald Ford not to release his tax return (even Ford released a tax summary). And every serious analyst knows that Trump is telling a whopper when he gleefully promises to build a $25 billion wall that Mexico will pay for.

Then there’s the question of foundations. Yes, Clinton created conflicts of interest with the family foundation and didn’t fully disclose donors as promised. But the Trump Foundation flat out broke the law by making a political contribution.

11) Are you an egoist?  Actually, I don’t think I’m too bad.  I think it helps that I know so many super-smart and successful people.  Also, all the references to the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, remind of of A Man in Full, one of the most entertaining novels I’ve ever read.

12) Why the Democrats don’t have a Freedom Caucus.  Great take on the party asymmetry.

13) John Cassidy with a pretty good argument that Trump may very well not be paying any income taxes.

14) Seriously, what’s David Frum doing with a tweetstorm instead of a regular column?!  But it’s a damn good one about Trump and the media.

15) I’m not impressed by explanations I quickly found for why we have two kidneys.  If we really only need one (like a heart, liver, spleen, etc.,) why would natural selection have not eliminated the extra over time rather than wasting resources on an unnecessary organ?

16) Liberals who are unhappy with Clinton and supporting Gary Johnson are morons.  Jim Newell version.  And Drum.

17) Maine voters keep on being really stupid with their gubernatorial votes.  Ranked choice would be a good solution for them.

18) Alternatives to asking your teenager “how was school?”  Ironically, my teenager usually spends 10-15 minutes telling me about his day in high school where I have the hardest time getting more than “fine” or “just a normal day” out of my 5th grader.

19) No,, Jimmy Fallon is not exactly a hard news reporter.  But with Trump, still…

20) The Post takes a look at who the prominent climate change deniers are.

21) Damn did Trump make the cable news networks look like fools with his birther announcement.

22) What’s with all the Japanese virgins?!  Sure, I get it in misogynistic societies with a great stigma on pre-marital sex, but that’s not Japan.

23) Krugman on Obama’s “trickle-up” economics.

24) Missouri has passed new gun laws.  Time for a new motto, “The Shoot Me State.

25) It is breathtaking how pathetic our NC Governor, Pat McCrory is:

Speakers at Hood Hargett Breakfast Club events routinely take questions from the floor. McCrory required that all questions be submitted in advance in writing.

When the moderator asked how to get started, McCrory said, “Anything you like. No filter here.” Sure, who needs a filter when you posed the questions yourself?

When I tried to ask McCrory a question, the filter went up. “We’ve got three Observer questions answered already. I think you guys dominate the news enough.”

Of course, those weren’t Observer questions. They were softballs from his staff about what he wanted to do with his next term; how he wanted to reduce the state’s rape kit backlog; and how the state crime lab performed under McCrory’s opponent, Roy Cooper.

When the event was over, McCrory did not meet with the throng of reporters who were there. He ducked out a side door and down a hall that led to a back exit. I followed him to try to ask him about HB2, but his staff blocked me.

26) This interview with Sasha Issenberg on how Trump’s campaign is a throwback to 1980 style campaigns (and not in a good way) is really, really good.  Kept meaning to give it it’s own post.

Issenberg: I’ll say that I think Trump has a more coherent worldview about campaigns than many politicians, and his tactics actually do a pretty good job of reflecting his strategic assumptions. He considers campaigns to be purely a candidate-driven, mass-media exercise. One could also say, perhaps less charitably, that he sees his candidacy as an extension of the mechanism of becoming a celebrity: It’s about using television to get in front of as large an audience as possible to get as many people as you can to like you. Even as his campaign has grown and changed, he has been remarkably disciplined at not spending much time or money on anything that doesn’t reflect that approach.

Now I think that dramatically fails to appreciate the extent to which campaigns are not just about changing people’s opinions to get them to like you. Now more than ever, thanks to partisan polarization, campaigns are about modifying the behavior of people who already like you — getting the unregistered to register, mobilizing infrequent voters to turn out. That is best done through targeted communications that don’t involve the candidate.

Quick hits

1) Kaepernick’s girlfriend is Muslim.  Official embarrassment to Congress, Rep. Steve King, thinks that must mean he supports ISIS.

2) James Hamblin on Clinton’s pneumonia.  I love the headline and subhead, “Hillary Clinton Attended a 9/11 Memorial Service Despite Illness: Some see this as weakness.”

Pneumonia would explain both the coughing and fatigue. In contrast to the classically severe bacterial pneumonias that are a common cause of death in older and chronically ill people, a relatively mild “walking pneumonia”—usually caused by an atypical microorganism like Mycoplasma—tends to leave a person feeling well enough to walk around despite fighting a significant infection. Patients often don’t take adequate time to rest and recover, but try to operate while coughing and feeling fatigued.

The condition is common and treatable, and as a cause of Clinton’s symptoms—even for those who have no trust in the candidate’s physician—this is simply a much more likely diagnosis than anything more serious. And having pneumonia, especially of the variety where a person is so high-functioning, does not raise concern over her ability to execute the duties of the office. Presidents can and have served well with much more serious conditions (coronary artery disease,paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome, Addison’s disease, and, of course, various bullet wounds).

Rather, Clinton was told to rest and take it easy, but instead made a point of going to a 9/11 memorial service.

3) NYT feature on just what Trump supporters in rural Kentucky are thinking.

4) Yes, many obese people should  try a low-carb diet before going with bariatric surgery, but if it was just as simple as following a diet, would they be so obese?

5) Speaking of which… how the sugar industry successfully (and disastrously for American’s health) shifted the blame to fat.

6) This essay on the “Falling Man” photo of 9/11 is fabulous.  Seriously, just read it:

The resistance to the image—to the images—started early, started immediately, started on the ground. A mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: “Maybe they’re just birds, honey.” Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chasing a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, “Don’t you have any human decency?” before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo—the only images from which Americans were proud to avert their eyes. All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network’s news bureau, calls “agonized discussions” with the “standards guy,” it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all…

But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

7) Fairfield, CT spends $16,000 per student per year and way outperforms Bridgeport and it’s $14,000.  But I’m sure if you switched those numbers, little would change.  Yes, Bridgeport may need more funding, but this is ultimately a story about the impact concentrated poverty has on school systems.

8) Krugman on Trump’s Putinophilia:

There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.

Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.

When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!

9) Apparently, the giant island of garbage in the Pacific is pretty much a myth.  Whoa!  Not that we don’t have a huge problem with ocean pollution.

10) This XKCD on global warming is so, so good.  Take a look.

11) It’s a shame that the NYT’s Public Editor just doesn’t get the problems with false equivalence.  Chait eviscerates her.

12) Now NC is losing NCAA tournament basketball games (and NCAA soccer championships right here in Cary!) due to HB2.  And all the GOP can offer up is the most absurd comments.

13) Another example of our party asymmetry.  Democratic governors just never are half this crazy, “Kentucky Gov Predicts, Calls for Bloodshed If Hillary Wins.”

14) So guilty of this common mistake of basing my spending/time decisions based on percentages instead of absolute dollars.

15) David Frum with the case against college diversity officers:

Today’s New York Times offers one modest illustration. Over the past 18 months, the Times reports, 90 American colleges and universities have hired “chief diversity officers.” These administrators were hired in response to the wave of racial incidents that convulsed campuses like the University of Missouri over the past year. They are bulking up an already thriving industry. In March 2016, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education held its 10th annual conference in San Francisco. Attendance set a new record: 370. The association publishes a journal. It bestows awards of excellence.

As diversity officers proliferate, entire learned specialties plunge into hiring depressions. In the most recent academic years, job postings for historians declined by 8 percent, the third decline in a row. Cumulatively, new hirings of historians have dropped 45 percent since 2011-2012.

I anticipate the response: This only represents a tiny fraction of the growth among administrators! Diversity is important! Graduation rates among black university students have improved in recent years. Surely all these chief diversity officers are accomplishing something?

Yet the closest studies of disadvantaged-student performance discover that what such students need most is more intensive teaching and mentoring. As my colleague Emily DeRuy has reported, young people from impoverished backgrounds live in “relationship poverty”: “Research, which involved surveys of thousands of young people and in-person interviews with more than 100, suggests that if a web of supportive relationships surrounds these students, the chances that they will leave school shrink dramatically.” But that’s not only expensive—it also requires extraordinarily hard work, with uncertain chances of success. Even more relevantly: The students at risk are not all or even mostly “diverse,” as diversity is conventionally understood in the United States in 2016. If J.D. Vance’s marvelous Hillbilly Elegy pounds any one idea into the heads of America’s university presidents, that idea should be it.

But maybe the university presidents already know it. “Diversity” is an easier problem to manage than “disadvantage.”

16) Blaise Pascal figured out back in the 17th century the social-science-validated approach for how to change minds.

17) Conor Friedersdorf explains how Trump exploited charity for personal gain.  Of course, since this is just Trump being Trump, nobody seems to care.  Imagine if Romney or McCain or Clinton had done these things.

18) James Surowiecki on the huge, anti-reform, problem of police unions:

On August 26th, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the national anthem, as a protest against police brutality. Since then, he’s been attacked by just about everyone—politicians, coaches, players, talk-radio hosts, veterans’ groups. But the harshest criticism has come from Bay Area police unions. The head of the San Francisco police association lambasted his “naïveté” and “total lack of sensitivity,” and called on the 49ers to “denounce” the gesture. The Santa Clara police union said that its members, many of whom provide security at 49ers games, might refuse to go to work if no action was taken against Kaepernick. A work stoppage to punish a player for expressing his opinion may seem extreme. But in the world of police unions it’s business as usual. Indeed, most of them were formed as a reaction against public demands in the nineteen-sixties and seventies for more civilian oversight of the police. Recently, even as the use of excessive force against minorities has caused outcry and urgent calls for reform, police unions have resisted attempts to change the status quo, attacking their critics as enablers of crime.

Police unions emerged later than many other public-service unions, but they’ve made up for lost time. Thanks to the bargains they’ve struck on wages and benefits, police officers are among the best-paid civil servants. More important, they’ve been extraordinarily effective in establishing control over working conditions. All unions seek to insure that their members have due-process rights and aren’t subject to arbitrary discipline, but police unions have defined working conditions in the broadest possible terms. This position has made it hard to investigate misconduct claims, and to get rid of officers who break the rules. A study of collective bargaining by big-city police unions, published this summer by the reform group Campaign Zero, found that agreements routinely guarantee that officers aren’t interrogated immediately after use-of-force incidents and often insure that disciplinary records are purged after three to five years.

19) House Freedom Caucus looking to impeach the IRS Commissioner because they hate taxes that much.  Shameful.

20) Apparently Chromebooks are about to transform laptop design.

21) A full deconstruction of the hilariously absurd NC GOP response to the NCAA.

22) Ginning up false fears of voter fraud in Wisconsin.

23) Andrew Rosenthal on the deplorableness of Trump’s deplorables.  And the photo KE cannot resist:

Damon Winter/The New York Times

24) So, how much do parents really matter anyway?  Lessons from around the world.

Friedman: Is there one particularly brilliant parenting technique you came across in the course of your research?

Sarah: In South Asia—I’ve worked a lot in Nepal, and also in India—I’m very impressed by two particular parenting behaviors. One is that parents are very physically affectionate. Fathers as well as mothers, and close relatives are too. And that is combined with totally clear expectations on the part of the parents: You know, “I love you—and this is what we expect of you.”

Well, I’ve at least got one of the two, down🙂.

25) Really good Toobin piece on Kaepernick and a famous Supreme Court case on free speech:

More important, even amid the patriotic displays associated with the mobilization for war, the degradations of Nazi Germany had impressed themselves upon the American conscience. The result of the case flipped the result to a six-to-three victory for the family, and Jackson’s opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette stands as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of expression ever formulated by a Supreme Court Justice—and, not incidentally, a useful message for the N.F.L.

The core idea in Jackson’s opinion is that freedom demands that those in power allow others to think for themselves. In nearly every line, Jackson’s opinion is haunted by the struggle on the battlefield against, in his phrase, “our present totalitarian enemies.” “Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good, as well as by evil, men,” Jackson wrote. “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.” Such melodramatic phrasing may feel more appropriate for the worldwide crisis of that era than for the present one, but the message of tolerance also resonates on the less fraught setting of a football gridiron.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I found this analysis of how Chip Kelly’s NFL offenses have failed to evolve, a fascinating look at how football offenses and defenses are always in some what of an evolutionary arms races of ideas.  Evolve or lose.

2) Analytics and the Clinton campaign.

3) Philip Bump, “It’s not clear that Donald Trump understands the relationship between the president and the military.”  Of course, you can add that to a giant list of important things about how government works that Trump does not understand.

4) Speaking of which, all those generals supporting Trump?  Not actually at all impressive in context.

5) NC State research on how middle school teachers’ climate change beliefs influence their students.

6) Apparently, chemicals in the venom of Brazilian vipers are pretty awesome for curing things.

7) I’ve actually been using the neighborhood social network, Nextdoor, for a few months.  Not great, but I really like the concept.  Apparently, alas, a lot of racial bias goes on in posts about crime.  But, awesomely, Nextdoor is doing what they can to limit it.

8) The gender wage gap explodes in the 30’s because…. kids.

9) Drum has been on a tear with a series of great posts about Hillary Clinton’s email.  This was a really good one:

When you put all this together, it leads to an obvious conclusion: Hillary Clinton did want to protect her emails from FOIA, but the emails she was concerned about were her personal emails. [emphasis in original] Unfortunately, her initial decision to use only a single email account—probably because she was technically illiterate and simply didn’t understand why this was such a bad idea—turned everything into a circus. Before turning her records over to State, she had to carefully pull out all the personal emails and then make it clear that she wanted them deleted so they could never, ever be retrieved. Her experience led her to believe that personal or not, if they were somehow accessible they would be subpoenaed and leaked and everyone would go bananas over them.

So her staff complied. Once the official emails had all been turned over, they ordered the electronic records deleted, the hard disks erased with BleachBit, and the backups destroyed, along with a new retention policy that all of Clinton’s personal emails would be deleted after
60 days. This was done not because there were missing official emails they wanted to hide, but because they wanted to make sure Clinton’s personal emails were well and truly gone.

I believe the fact pattern of Clinton’s email usage fits this conclusion far better than any other. We’ve now seen tens of thousands of Clinton’s official emails—more than we’ve ever seen from any other high-level federal official—and they’re boring as hell. We’ve seen emails that were deleted and then recovered from other people’s accounts. They’re boring as hell. The vast bulk of them are short conversations with a handful of close aides, and are largely restricted to the tedious minutiae of press releases, talking points, schedules, and other day-to-day matters.

What’s more, paranoia over exposure of her personal emails fits perfectly what we know about Clinton’s character. She distrusts Republicans in Congress, she distrusts the press, and she feels that both will take any chance they can to embarrass her with out-of-context leaks of her personal life. Whether or not you think this attitude is justified, it’s unquestionably the attitude she has.


10) The exceedingly disturbing view of immigration propagated by Breitbart.

11) The lack of racial diversity for soccer in the US is a really intersting problem.

12) The headline says it all.  Based on smart analsis from Brookings, “Why the federal government should stop spending billions on private sports stadiums.” Hell yeah!

All together, the federal government has subsidized newly constructed or majorly renovated professional sports stadiums to the tune of $3.2 billion federal taxpayer dollars since 2000. But because high-income bond holders receive a windfall gain for holding municipal bonds, the resulting loss in total revenue to the federal government is even larger at $3.7 billion.

13) Tom Edsall on the return of the paranoid style in American politics.

14) How GMO-based vaccines can save lives.

15) David Pogue with the best take on the headphone-jackless IPhone I’v read.  At first I thought this was nuts till I learned the new phones will actually use the lightning port for a jack.  Number of times I’ve personally wanted to charge my phone and use the headphones?  Zero.

16) Not at all surprised to learn that in the competetive process for NYC’s best public high schools, higher SES kids have a huge advantage.

17) Just came across this from three years ago, but I love it.  It’s ridiculous that we expect high school students to answer essays on their college admissions that might be hard for a 44-year college professor to answer.

18) With all that talk about Matt Lauer’s horrible moderating, it is important to note, as Drum does here, that what has been overlooked is Trump’s fabulous ignorance of national security:

The phrase “not even wrong” is a cliche by now. It was Wolfgang’s Pauli’s reaction to a physics paper he had been given to read, and it basically means that something is so far off point that it’s entirely
meaningless. It’s like asking about 2+2 and answering “blue.”

This is what Donald Trump sounded like tonight at the Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC. It’s hardly even possible to fact-check him. What have you done in your life to prepare for sending men and women to war? I have great judgment. Can we afford a president who pops off all the time with stuff he later regrets? After my visit to Mexico, some guy was forced to resign. Do you really believe you know more about ISIS than the generals? Obama has reduced the generals to rubble. After you crush ISIS, how will you make sure another terrorist group doesn’t come back? I’d take the oil. How would you take the oil? I would just leave some guys behind where the oil is. How would you de-escalate tensions with Russia?Did you see that China didn’t put out stairs for Air Force One last week? Do you really want to be complimented by a guy like Vladimir Putin? We’re losing jobs like we’re a bunch of babies. What are you doing to prepare for being president? I’ve been endorsed by 88 admirals and generals. How much time are you spending on this? A lot.

19) It’s really just flat-out morally wrong that one county with an overzealous prosecutor can completely ruin lives in a way that would not happen at all a few miles over in a neighboring county.  Just so wrong:

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.

If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.

But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison.

20) The formula for a richer world– equality, liberty, and justice.  Sounds good to me.  Let’s have more of all three.

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