Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, race is important.

13) The Republican war on public universities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

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

enten-democratic-edge-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12) Drew Linzer has put his votamatic into gear.

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

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

15) James Hamblin with enough of the cupping already.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits part II

1) My little sister got married at Duke Chapel this weekend so I’m a little behind.  One heck of a site for a wedding.  Here’s my dad, two of the boys, and me (and tux, courtesy of DJC!)

IMG_3813

2) Excellent piece on why it is so hard to reform police departments (not that we shouldn’t damn well try our best).

3) In a similar vein, race, policing, and legitimacy.  Good and important stuff.

4) How Denmark has this American dream thing figured out.

5) Brendan Nyhan on the pervasive myth of in-person voter fraud:

Strikingly, however, a Marquette Law School poll conducted in Wisconsin just a few weeks later showed that many voters there believed voter impersonation and other kinds of vote fraud were widespread — the likely result of a yearslong campaign by conservative groups to raise concerns about the practice. Thirty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters believe that vote fraud affects a few thousand votes or more each election. One in five believe that this level of fraud exists for each of the three types of fraud that individuals could commit: in-person voter impersonation, submitting absentee ballots in someone else’s name, and voting by people who are not citizens or Wisconsin residents.

6) Greg Sargent with a headline that captures it all, “Republicans nominate dangerously insane person to lead America, then panic when he proves he’s dangerously insane.”

7) The huge supply and demand problem for science PhD’s.

8) EJ Dionne on how the Republican party has lost it’s soul.

9) Should we just leave city rats alone?

10) Go ahead and let your baby cry it out to learn to sleep on its own, because… science.

11) This Dave Wasserman piece on the real (rather than pretend, i.e., “rigged!”) problems with our political system is excellent.   I think he is probably right that, as much as anything, we need to re-think how we do primaries:

How do we escape this insidious cycle of polarization? I have no easy solutions. But it might be time for a national conversation about how we can structurally modernize our system of elections to incentivize bipartisanship instead of fringe behavior. I tend to think redistricting reform is a bit overrated and primary reform is underrated. Left untouched, our politics will reach a breaking point — maybe we’re already there. And ultimately, voters get the government they deserve.

12) I’m not sure I’m ready to eat natto, “a stinky, fermented soybean condiment.”  But I’m for thinking more about healthy food being healthy because of its benefits to our microbiome.

13) Brendan Nyhan on how Trump’s claims of “rigged” elections are harmful and dangerous for any democracy:

Despite the public’s tendencies to blame a loss on fraud, no losing presidential candidate has ever endorsed such a claim. The results of a 2002 academic experiment involving a challenge by a losing candidate suggest that the consequences of a candidate endorsement would be substantial. This effect could be intensified by favorable coverage of voter fraud claims in allied media outlets, where Mr. Trump’s claims are alreadybeingamplified by supporters. Research in Europe shows that high news consumption in polarized media environments widens the gap in the perceived legitimacy of the political system between supporters of winning and losing candidates.

Even if he contests a loss, Mr. Trump will not undermine American democracy by himself. The institutions and norms of the system are strong enough to withstand such a challenge. But questioning the integrity of the electoral system could encourage other losing candidates to challenge their own defeats, creating the risk of a more serious crisis of legitimacy in the future.
14) Read books, live longer.  Sounds great to me!

Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.

They found a similar association among those who read newspapers and periodicals, but it was weaker.

“People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale. “And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”

Given all the controls, I really wonder what is really going on here.  For now, I’ll happily keep reading my books (enjoying The Three Body Problem right now).

15) Life-long Republican Max Boot is so done with the Republican party.

16) How think tanks serve the corporate agenda in Washington DC.

Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

3) David Brooks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how do you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

9) Wikileaks has lost the moral high ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

14) The problem of victim impact statements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

//

//

Photo of the day

Wired’s photo of the week:

sakurajima_02.jpg

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN/GETTY IMAGES

MOUNT SAKURAJIMA ERUPTED in Japan on Tuesday, sending a plume of smoke rising more than 16,000 feet into the air. It was an astonishing sight, followed by something equally amazing.

This remarkable image shows a dirty thunderstorm raging within Showa crater on the southeastern side of the 3,665-foot volcano. Such storms occur when immense bubbles of gas pop inside the volcano, causing small but powerful explosions of incandescent rock and ash that fly hundreds of feet per second. All that ash creates friction, which creates static electricity. And that is what causes the lightning encircling the eruption.

Dirty thunderstorms typically are rare, but they’re common at Mount Sakurajima. The volcano has been at alert level three (out of five) since February, when authorities closed a 1.2-mile radius around the crater, and has seen nearly 50 eruptions this year. So the odds are it won’t be long before the mountain puts on another amazing show.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Watched “This is Spinal Tap” with David last weekend.  Very pleased to report he very much enjoyed it.  First time I saw this movie– in college– I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest I’ve ever laughed watching a film.  Somehow, I’ve never seen the full video for Hell Hole.  “Folks lend a hand in a hell hole.”🙂.  Brilliant satire of 80’s music videos.  Nice Mental Floss piece on the movie.

2) Diane Ravitch column bashing the Common Core, but most of her complaints are about standardized testing (which is still the legacy of NCLB) and she doesn’t actually have very much bad to say about the actual standards at the heart of it.

3) Thought-provoking post from Conor Friedersdorf on HRC and working-class white men:

The framework of white privilege can be invoked with insight and subtlety, or with myopia and exaggeration; but either is a lot easier for white people to hear and to assimilate into their worldview if they’re college graduates who anticipate rewarding careers and stable family lives and mostly socialize with the similarly advantaged. They’re told that they ought to be thriving given their race … and they are thriving!

But imagine that you’re a white man from a working-class family who dropped out of college because you couldn’t swing the tuition. You worked construction, but that dried up—you’re presently unemployed, with child-support payments piling up, a sister addicted to pain pills, and a brother who is in jail again for felony drunk driving. You drive a beat up car with a broken turn signal that you can’t afford to fix. You get pulled over regularly, and you’re often harassed by the cops, who hate your tattoos. Would you identify with a coalition that alighted on white privilege as the center of its cultural outlook and that mostly disseminated that worldview through people with more educational, social, and financial capital than you’ll ever have?

Of course you wouldn’t. To do so would seem at odds with all the struggling white people in your familial and social circles. It would seem to imply that failing despite having all the advantages in the world makes you a special kind of loser. It would seem to focus on race to the exclusion of other hugely important factors. And as far as you can tell, when a white family gets their door kicked down and their dog shot in a drug raid, or when a white high school classmate of yours commits suicide, no one in the world of national media much cares.

Then you watch the DNC, where Michelle Obama, Cory Booker, Eva Longoria, and numerous other black and brown people who are much more successful than anyone you know take the stage. This needn’t feel threatening in and of itself to cause alienation. All it takes is being told that you’re the privileged one.

4) I think the season 3, episode 4, “Fish out of Water” of Bojack Horseman may be the single most impressive piece of 30-minute television I have seen.

5) Nice essay on thinking about the changing nature of Hillary hatred and what it all means.

6) Jordan Weissman on Green Party Jill Stein’s anti-science, economically ignorant platform.

7) Toobin in the emails:

Do these e-mails strike anyone as appalling and outrageous? Not me. They strike me as . . . e-mails. The idea that people might speak casually or caustically via e-mail has been portrayed as a shocking breach of civilized discourse. Imagine! People bullshitting on e-mail!

But that is what people do on e-mail. They spout off, sound off, write first, and think later. Of course, people should do none of these things. They should weigh carefully the costs and benefits of each e-mail that they write, and consider the possibility that someone might make the e-mails public someday. (They should also change their passwords regularly and get lots of exercise.) Last year, unfiltered talk on e-mail also got several people in trouble during the notoriousSony hack. But the real question is whether any of these e-mails really matter. Do they reveal deep-seated political or philosophical flaws? Do they betray horrible character defects? In the case of the Democrats, it seems clear that the answer to these questions is no. The vast majority of the e-mails contain normal office chatter, inflated into a genuine controversy by people who already had axes to grind.

8) This Trevor Noah segment on the absurdity of all Christian-based support for Trump is terrific.

9) Great Paul Waldman column on what the Republican backlash to Michelle Obama’s speech says about our disparate takes of race and American history.

10) I don’t suppose Khizr Khan’s denunciation of Trump will change many votes, but damn is it edifying.

11) NBC Headline, “Mike Pence: Politics is No Place for ‘Name Calling.'”  Seriously?  Mike Pence– biggest sellout in political history?

12) Love this– it strikes me as so true– Ray Kurzweil says “the world isn’t getting worse; our information is getting better.”

13) Obviously, one of the great lines from the Democratic convention was, “Imagine—if you dare, imagine—imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”  James Fallows points out that Trumps response the following morning shows just how true this is.

14) From Quartz— what Amazon’s homepage looked like when it was new, 21 years ago.  I don’t remember this, but I was probably on Amazon 20 years ago.

15) Really interesting take from a new book on “hillbillies” on “how the white working class lost its patriotism.”

16) Isaac Chotiner with a great interview on Trump, modern media, email hacks, etc., with Glenn Greenwald— lots of interesting back-and-forth.

17) Former McCain economic adviser sees Trump’s economic plans as disastrous and Hillary’s as pretty darn good:

Moody’s Analytics estimates that if the Democratic presidential nominee’s proposals are enacted, the economy would create 10.4 million jobs during her presidency, or 3.2 million more than expected under current law.

 The pace of GDP growth would also accelerate to an annual average of 2.7%, from the current forecast of 2.3%.

“The upshot of our analysis is that Secretary Clinton’s economic policies when taken together will result in a stronger U.S. economy under almost any scenario,” Moody’s writes in its report.

Moody’s Analytics is an independent research group, but the lead author of the report on Clinton is Mark Zandi, who donated $2,700 to her campaign last year, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics…

Moody’s published a similar analysis of Donald Trump’s plans in June. It concluded that the Republican presidential nominee’s policies would result in an economic downturn that would last longer than the Great Recession. About 3.5 million Americans would lose their jobs, unemployment would jump to 7% and home prices would fall. [emphasis mine]

The reports are based on a forecasting model similar to those used by the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office.

That’s got to make into an ad– doesn’t it?

18) Just in case you didn’t hear about how the NC Republican Party’s official twitter account called Tim Kaine “shameful” for wearing a Honduras flag pin instead of an American flag pin.  Whooops, actually a blue star service pin in honor of Kaine’s son deployed with the US Marines.  What I do appreciate is that the executive director of the NC GOP issued a full-on apology (unlike the tweeter).  We need more of that in American politics.

19) Chait says that Hillary Clinton is running as the candidate of democracy itself.  Whereas Ezra says this election is between normal and abnormal.

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