Mid-week Quick hits

I’m going to be on a retreat and totally without electronics but my phone, so not a lot of blogging.  The least I can do is post the delinquent quick hits part II

1) NYT on the nonsense of the “wellness-industrial complex.”

2) Great Daily Show segment on Trump voters and Space Force.

3) Great Ezra Klein piece on “white threat in a browning America.”  Consider this a must-read.  Seriously– this means you.

I spent months talking with politicians, social psychologists, and political scientists about what happens in moments like this one, moments when a majority feels its dominance beginning to fail. The answer, attested to in mountains of studies and visible everywhere in our politics, is this: Change of this magnitude acts on us psychologically, not just electorally. It is the crucial context uniting the core political conflicts of this era — Obama and Trump’s presidencies, the rise of reactionary new social movements and thinkers, the wars over political correctness on campuses and representation in Hollywood, the power of #MeToo and BlackLivesMatter, the fights over immigration.

Demographic change, and the fears and hopes it evokes, is one of the tectonic forces shaping this era in American life, joining income inequality and political polarization in transforming every aspect of our politics and culture. But to understand what it is doing to us as a country, we need to begin by understanding what it does to us as individuals.

4) Fentanyl has made German Lopez reconsider his take on drug legalization.  Sensible, but we still sure need decriminalization, if not full legalization.

5) Paul Waldman on what Democrats have learned from Republicans:

But what distinguishes this moment from the past few decades is that policy caution has become unacceptable to Democratic voters, and Democratic politicians are responding. Past Democratic candidates would say, “Of course we’d all like X, but the policy and political challenges make it impossible, so Y is the best we can achieve.” Democratic candidates in 2018 (and 2020) are saying, “We should do X, and don’t tell me it’s impossible.”

By now you may have heard of the Overton Window, which was articulated by a think-tank scholar named Joseph Overton in the 1990s as a way of explaining to potential donors why they should fund the advocacy of ideas that didn’t seem to have a lot of popular support. The idea predated Overton by some time, but for whatever reason, his metaphor stuck. The theory is that at any particular moment, certain ideas are considered worthy of debate and others are considered too radical to even talk about, but if you can shift the window of debate, you may be able to make a radical idea sound mainstream and eventually turn it into policy.

It’s important to understand that the Overton Window isn’t some kind of magic key anyone can use to transform politics; plenty of activists try to shift the debate and fail. But there are times when we see the process in action. Right now, Democrats have taken an idea — single-payer health insurance — that used to be considered unworthy of consideration and forced it into the center of the national debate.

6) National Geographic, “Early Native Americans Imported Exotic Parrots, DNA Reveals: The discovery suggests that scarlet macaws were being bred for trade centuries earlier than previously thought.” (Thanks, EMG)

7) Rick Gates’ public lesson on money laundering.

8) Not so sure of the validity of suing a nicotine delivery product for getting you addicted to nicotine.

9) Sit better and fix your back pain.  I keep trying to remember to do this.  When I do, it does feel good.

10) David Frum takes it to Dinesh D’Souza:

The desire to wipe the smirk off the condescending face of some resented critics—to expose them, diminish them, hurt them—is that not the mainspring for so much of the pro-Trump political movement? Shortly before the 2016 election, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal seethed at those who believe that “not only is Donald Trump coarse and boorish, anyone who supports the man is as revolting as he is.” The conservative columnist David Limbaugh lamented in the summer of 2017 the “snobbish condemnation” he suffered on social media from Never Trump conservatives. Tucker Carlson Tonight is a nightly eruption of rage against elite “preening.” “Don’t for a second let them take the moral high ground,” Carlson warned in June of this year. Certainly in D’Souza’s case, Obama’s success came to seem more and more of an affront to the proper order of things.

11) Sure, definitely fair to claim, “‘Unite the Right’ flops while the left triumphs,” but we’re talking about the morons in the Washington Post all over the news media.  You know how much news coverage a march of 40 people deserves?  Zero.  Any coverage for these morons is a victory for them.  Just ignore them!

12) Forget “Medicare for all,” how about dramatically expanding Medicaid?

13) It is great that the public school Lebron James is helping is just an ordinary public school.

14) The chicken we eat in America is riddled with Salmonella.  What’s frustrating as hell is that it just doesn’t have to be this way:

Gremillion notes that other countries have taken steps that protect consumers to a much greater degree. Whereas the US regulatory system focuses on salmonella in the slaughterhouse, and the “preferred solution is dousing the chicken with antimicrobial sprays,” regulators in some European countries “make sure that the breeder stock for the poultry are not infected and passing down salmonella, that the feed is not contaminated, that the birds have the vaccinations they need, that the workers follow biosecurity protocols.” As a result, he says, Sweden and Denmark “have practically eliminated salmonella from poultry products.” [emphasis mine]

If knowing that US supermarket chicken quite often carries salmonella isn’t chilling enough, consider this: In a recent analysis of Food and Drug Administration data, the Environmental Working Group found that “over the last five years of available data, on average, 1 in 5 strains of salmonella found on grocery store chicken were resistant to amoxicillin, a type of penicillin.” In short, it’s getting harder for doctors to treat infections from this common pathogen.

We are so damn stupid in this country.  Yes, I’m sure chicken costs a bit more in Europe, but ask people how much money they’d be willing to pay to avoid the risk of Salmonella.

15) Jason Alexander as Colonel Sanders.

16) Just in case you missed the amazing Stephen Miller takedown written by his uncle.

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Having a “nice” weather day

Chances are you are if you live in Long Beach, CA.  Unsurprisingly, odds are much lower in Anchorage, AK.  Based on a reasonable, but ultimately somewhat arbitrary definition of nice days, the Post has a cool article on which cities have the most and least:

Using automated weather stations with relatively complete data between 1998 and 2018, we systematically evaluated every daily and hourly observation for 373 stations around the country for all 365 days of the year and computed the number of days per year that met all of the following specific criteria:

  • High temperature between 65 and 85 degrees
  • Maximum dew point temperature less than or equal to 65 degrees
  • Peak daily wind (including gusts) less than 25 mph
  • Average daily cloud cover less than or equal to 65 percent
  • No measurable precipitation

 

I’m no expert on Honolulu’s climate, but pretty sure I’d take it over most any other place but Southern California.  And I’m 99.9% sure I’d prefer it to Lubbock.  Maybe it’s too humid?  Presumably the 0 measurable precipitation is a problem for places that have brief rain on lots of days, too.  Dew point under 65 is definitely a good thing, but I wonder how much better, Raleigh, for example, would do if you let that get up to 66 or 67 (okay, probably not all that much).  Raleigh does make the top of the “middle of the pack” not worth an actual chart:

Here are additional city annual nice-day counts — ranking close to the middle of the pack:

  • Albuquerque: 50
  • Denver: 52
  • Miami: 53
  • Detroit: 54
  • Memphis: 54
  • Houston: 54
  • Louisville: 56
  • Indianapolis: 56
  • San Antonio: 57
  • Columbus: 57
  • New Orleans: 58
  • Nashville: 59
  • El Paso: 66
  • Raleigh: 66

Anyway, a fun exercise to think about all this.  My 2000-2002 home of Lubbock is definitely losing some days to the overly-windy problem.  And Raleigh may only have 9 more “nice days” per year than Columbus, but I would argue that, overall, the weather here is dramatically better.  I suppose we also need a count of “pretty good” days :-).  I think we’d do really well there.  A count of “bad days” would be fun, too.  No sun at all definitely hits that mark for me.

Anyway, fun stuff.

Quick hits (part I)

1) There’s some stuff that I know so well and have heard so many times, fertilitythat it is easy to forget that it is actually not as widespread knowledge as I think.  Damn, people are ignorant on the reality of human !

The study, published in the journal Human Fertility, was based on a survey of 1,215 students at a university in Melbourne, Australia.

Most study participants said they wanted to have children, but many women said they plan to postpone childbearing until after they complete their education, advance in their careers, have access to child care and jobs that could be combined with having children, and have traveled and done other things that may be difficult with children.

“Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception,” said Dr. Eugénie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, who led the study.

Only 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women stated correctly that a woman’s fertility declines between 35 and 39 years of age, and only 18 percent of men and 17 percent of women knew that men’s fertility declines between 45 and 49, the authors said.

Many study participants thought male fertility starts to decline before 45, but about a quarter of men and nearly a third of women thought male fertility starts to decline only at 50. Many respondents also thought female fertility starts to decline before age 30, but about a third of men and women thought female fertility starts to decline only at 40.

Participants also overestimated the chances that a 40-year-old woman will be successful in having a baby after one round of in vitro fertilization.

2) The case for getting rid of borders completely.

3) Unsurprisingly, sharks make terrible pets.  Also, how does this WSJ editorial not mention Bond villains‽ (Yes, notice the punctuation there!)

4) Hell yeah it’s time to stop job applicant drug testing.  Again, unsurprisingly, the research connecting any of this to job performance is really weak.

5) I did enjoy this interesting profile of white workers in a chicken-processing plant where the vast majority of workers are Hispanic.  Also, if that’s you, just learn to speak Spanish.

6) This NYT feature on the mystery of the tick-borne allergy to meat is terrific.  Also, the microbiome!

7) I don’t doubt at all that it is easy to fool AI grading of student essays with paragraphs like this:

“History by mimic has not, and presumably never will be precipitously but blithely ensconced. Society will always encompass imaginativeness; many of scrutinizations but a few for an amanuensis. The perjured imaginativeness lies in the area of theory of knowledge but also the field of literature. Instead of enthralling the analysis, grounds constitutes both a disparaging quip and a diligent explanation.”

But, I suspect that the AI would be 90% accurate for 90% of my students.  There really are just some basics of good writing (that sadly, so many are lacking).

8) We maybe had a chance to do something about climate change back in the 80’s and didn’t.  That said– I think the huge amount of cheap energy stored in the ground always made that unlikely.

9) How medical providers use the rules to help charge a ton and we all pay for it (the “why you can’t get an affordable MRI” version).

10) Love this from Annie Lowery, “Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure: Growing inequality in the United States shows that the game is rigged.”

Bezos and Amazon are in many ways ideal exemplars of the triumph of capital over labor, like the Waltons and Walmart and Rockefeller and Standard Oil before them. That the gap between executives at top companies and employees around the country is so large is in and of itself shocking. Bezos has argued that there is not enough philanthropic need on earth for him to spend his billions on. (The Amazon founder, unlike Gates or Zuckerberg, has given away only a tiny fraction of his fortune.) “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

In contrast, half of Amazon’s employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings.* Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. (Amazon said it does not track or limit employee bathroom use.) Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift. Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago.

The impoverishment of the latter and the wealth of the former are linked by policy. Take taxes. The idea of America’s progressive income-tax system is that rich workers should pay higher tax rates than poor workers, with the top rate of 37 percent hitting earnings over $500,000. (The top marginal tax rate was 92 percent as recently as 1953.) But Bezos takes a paltry salary, in relative terms, given the number of shares he owns. That means his gains are subject to capital-gains taxes, which top out at just 20 percent; like Warren Buffett, it is possible he pays effective tax rates lower than his secretary does.

11) More good stuff from Pope Francis: the death penalty is never okay:

12) Some research in support of the traditional lecture approach to teaching:

Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student–teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.

13) Chait on Republicans and health care:

The new Trumpcare plans will be cheap for people who are healthy enough to qualify. But they don’t cover much. If you find you’re having a baby, or need a weekend stay at a hospital, or even something as exotic as prescription drugs, you’re out of luck. The Journal editorial page insists this will all be fine, because “not everyone needs all benefits,” and also, “[t]he HHS rule also stipulates that issuers must prominently display a notice that the coverage isn’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Everyone will know what they’re buying.” Right, because everybody in America is already aware of what the essential benefits of Obamacare contain, and thus what their absence implies. Anyway, insurers are definitely going to make sure you’re aware of all the shortfalls and gaps in the product they’re selling you.

What is striking about the Trump-era Republican health agenda is the lack of policy ambition. Having spent years insisting they had an army of wonks who could design a better alternative to the Obamacare “train wreck,” the Republican plan of attack has dissolved into a rearguard sabotage campaign with no pretense of doing anything to help the poor and sick afford medical care. Health care remains a policy ground with which conservative-movement dogma cannot grapple.

14a) Loved this on the Sarah Jeong tweet controversy:

But others were quick to say that the statements Jeong made could be skewed as racist only if the culture, history and current sociopolitical context of the United States were ignored. [emphasis mine]

“Part of the reason it was so easy for the outrage to be manufactured in the first place was it was completely decontextualized and ahistorified,” said Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who will publish a book in the fall about racial attitudes held by white college students. “Then it was easy to drum up anger and say it looks like she hates white people. That only makes sense if you are willfully ignorant of 400 to 500 years’ history and contemporary social context and also the context from which the tweets were sent.”

It is likely true, as many have pointed out, that if any minority group were substituted in the place of white people into Jeong’s statements, she would not have kept her job. Some edited Jeong’s tweets to hammer home that idea, replacing the words “white people” in her tweets with “black people” and “Jewish people.”

But Cabrera said the idea was “a complete false equivalence,” noting that whiteness isn’t a cultural identity the way being black, Japanese American or Jewish is. Cabrera listed off examples of government policies that targeted various racial groups, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and Operation Wetback, calling racism a “systemic reality” that necessarily favors white people.

14b) And this from the Verge:

But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists. From cries about “ethics in journalism” to “fake news,” journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith [emphasis mine] who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.

Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

15) And I liked this take on racist/homophobic tweets from baseball players.

16) How California’s birds are adapting to climate change:

Of 32,000 birds recorded in California mountain ranges in the old and new surveys — from thumb-sized Calliope hummingbirds to the spectacular pileated woodpecker — Dr. Tingley and his colleagues discovered that most species now nest about a week earlier than they did 70 to 100 years ago.

That slight advance in timing translates into nesting temperatures about two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the birds would encounter had they not moved up their breeding time — almost exactly counterbalancing the two-degree rise in average temperatures recorded over the last century.

17) I don’t know that Sarah will even stick with soccer long enough for her to start heading the ball, but if she does…

And according to a study published Tuesday in Radiology, female players are more sensitive to the impact than males.

The study authors found that female amateur soccer players who frequently head balls showed more white matter brain alterations than their male counterparts. The study included 49 women and 49 men, ages 18 to 50, and examined MRI imaging of players’ brains. Each female player was compared to a male player of a similar age and with other similar characteristics including frequency of heading exposure.

Lead author Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says white matter in the brain can be compared to fiber optic cable, which connects a network of computer. White matter is made up thread-like axon nerve fibers that connect neurons to each other, and their protective covering, myelin.

Heading causes these brain tissues to become disorganized, Lipton says. His previous research found that these abnormalities accompany poorer cognitive functionassociated with memory or attention issues when associated with heading.

“The most important finding here is that we see that in women’s brains, actually looking at brain tissue, there seems to be a greater sensitivity to repetitive, very low-level injury relative to men,” he says.

An important note about this research, Lipton says, is that it isn’t about concussions. Instead, it’s measuring “sub-concussive injuries,” or repeated impacts that don’t cause any immediate, acknowledged problem for the player, but could be problematic in the long-term.

18) I must it really bugs me that nobody seems to be talking about the McGlockton “stand your ground” shooting in Florida.  This deserves protests!

19) I’m thinking of planting an apple tree or two in my yard, and so it was time for a little more apple research.  I finally found an answer to a question that’s been bugging me… why the hell do Red Delicious apples even still exist.  Short answer: export market (and the difficulty of switching to new cultivars) Still doesn’t explain why these poor excuses for apples are always in my grocery stores.

Almost everyone agrees: The Red Delicious is a crime against the apple. The fruit makes for a joyless snack, despite the false promise of its name, with a bitter skin that gives way to crumbling, mealy flesh. The Red Delicious is a bit like a Styrofoam prop: It looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth. Maybe that’s why the New York Apple Association suggests people use their Red Delicious in holiday wreaths and centerpieces. They sure look nice, but they taste like inanimate objects.

The Red Delicious looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth.

As fruits go, the Red Delicious has an unparalleled power to inspire visceral disgust. (There are whole Reddit threads devoted to bashing it.) And yet the variety is ubiquitous. Though it’s no longer the most popular apple in America—since its heyday in the 1980s, it’s been overtaken by newer, tastier varieties—the Delicious remains the most heavily produced apple in the United States. Which means that, even though we’ve long since caught on, you can still find the red scourge everywhere.

This raises some important questions. Why do we keep growing 2.7 billion pounds of Red Delicious apples every year? And are growers still excited by the Delicious or are they stuck between a declining market and an orchard they can’t afford to tear up?

20) This is infuriating, “Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”  In North Carolina.  The willingness of Republicans to ruin people’s lives to score political points is just disgusting.

Photo of the day

Most intense fire-tornado ever!

A large pyrocumulus cloud (or cloud of fire) explodes outward during the Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., on July 27.  (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty images)

Quick hits (part I)

1) Really interesting feature on the difficulty of making life after hate for former hardcore white supremacists:

Confronting white supremacists online and in the streets may feel personally gratifying and politically urgent. Yet as liberals and the anti-Trump “resistance” fawn over Life After Hate, deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind. As Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University in California, puts it, “You probably don’t ever fully move on from violent extremism.” The uncomfortable truth is that the best way to reform racist thugs may be to offer them precisely what they aren’t willing to offer others, and precisely what many people in this polarized political moment feel they least deserve: empathy.

2) Goop (Gwynneth Paltrow’s monetized pseudo science) the magazine is not happening with Conde Nast (publisher of New Yorker, among others) because quality magazines insist on fact-checking.

3) The reality is that Paul Ryan is an horrible person who has protected Trump at every opportunity:

That’s important defensive work on behalf of Trump, and Ryan has been deeply engaged in it

Far more numerous, however, are Ryan’s sins of omissions: things he could have done to strengthen the Mueller investigation, protect it from interference, and subject the Trump administration to real scrutiny.

Ryan could condemn House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte for holding farcical hearings on FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok meant to cast the whole effort to investigate Trump’s Russia conduct as a witch hunt.

He could threaten to strip Gowdy and Goodlatte of their chairmanships unless they commit to launch investigations into Trump’s fraudulent charity, into his potentially corrupt real estate deals abroad, and into the possibility that Trump actively collaborated with Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks, or both. He could urge them to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and search them for irregularities. He has not done any of that.

Ryan could bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect Mueller against arbitrary firing, to the House floor for a vote, or force House Goodlatte to consider it in committee. He has not; he hasn’t even endorsed the bill.

Ryan could force a floor vote on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a bill with 200 co-sponsors (two of whom are Republicans) to create a National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election to investigate what exactly happened with Russia’s interference. He hasn’t endorsed the bill, let alone brought it up for a vote.

Ryan could also force a floor vote on a version of the Senate’s Secure Elections Act, which would get rid of paperless electronic voting machines that are hackable and push states to engage in routine audits to verify election results are legitimate. Mainstream Republicans like Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) are on board. Ryan is not.

A recent report by Politico Playbook suggested that congressional Republicans think all the criticism they’re receiving for carrying water for Trump is unfair. The message, Playbook reported, boiled down to, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT US TO DO?” They claim they’ve held sufficient hearings and slapped enough sanctions on Russia.

The litany above is what I want them to do, and the person who could make them do it is Paul Ryan. He could remove Devin Nunes with the stroke of a pen. He could bring floor votes on the above legislation whenever he wants. He could whip votes for the legislation too, and push Mitch McConnell to move it in the Senate.

That he doesn’t do any of that, and in fact actively enables the cover-up, is telling. Ryan genuinely believes that the cause of slashing corporate taxes and tax rates for rich Americans is worth collaborating with a reckless administration in an elaborate attempt to cover up wrongdoing. He makes that choice every day, and it should blacken his historical legacy.

4) I do find the controversy about Mesut Özil, the meaning of nationality in Germany, and the German soccer team pretty fascinating.

5) Why don’t more men take their wife’s last name?

And so it is that, even after generations of feminist progress, the expectation, at least for straight couples, has remained: Women take the man’s last name. Seventy-two percent of adults polled in a 2011 study said they believe a woman should give up her maiden name when she gets married, and half of those who responded said they believe that it should be a legal requirement, not a choice. In some states, married women could not legally vote under their maiden name until the mid-1970s.

The opposite—a man taking his wife’s name—remains incredibly rare: In a recent study of 877 heterosexual married men, less than 3 percent took their wife’s name when they got married. When her fiancé, Avery, announced that he wanted to take her last name, Becca Lamb, a 23-year-old administrative assistant living in Washington, D.C., told me that, at first, she said no: “It shocked me. I had always expected to take my husband’s last name someday. I didn’t want to do anything too out of the norm.”

6) I had no idea who James Gunn was but I think Disney was totally wrong in firing him.  And I also think we should not be aiding conservatives in weaponizing old tweets.

7) Sea-level rise is wreaking havoc on NC beaches.  But our Republican legislature requires we pretend otherwise.

8) Is there anything more pathetic than all the racist white people who insist that it is minorities and the anti-racists who are the problem when it comes to race?  David Roberts: on the reaction to his twitter “white people” poll:

Substantively (if you can call it that), there were two basic reactions. One is to say that I’m a racist, or liberals are the real racists, because they keep calling attention to race and dividing people up by race, while conservatives are just trying to be individuals and judge people by the content of their character. It’s the “No puppet! You’re the puppet!” of racism.

(I’m not going to pluck out individual tweets and embed them here because I don’t want to drag individuals on Twitter into a public dispute like this; you can read the thread to see if I’m characterizing it accurately.)

These are mutually contradictory points, of course. “You’re the real racist, and white people rule.” But they are both very familiar in conservative rhetoric and both delivered behind the same aesthetic, using the same keywords, in the same jumbled tone of fury and contempt.

9) I quite loved Billy Joel back in the day (pretty much never listen any more, though still have a soft spot for “Matter of Trust”).  Loved this NYT interview on what he’s up to and why he stopped recording new songs.

10) Speaking of music, had a great time seeing Weezer (for the third time) this past week.  Though, I realized it seems like rock and roll (i.e., guitar-driven rock) really is dead these days.  Given my negativity towards jazz, this little bit in a “rock and roll really is dead” piece really set me back:

Top 40 radio, which has always been for teenagers, is mostly devoted to post-rock pop and hip-hop. In 2016, rock is not teenage music.

Rock is now where jazz was in the early 1980s. Its form is mostly fixed.

Well, damn, nothing I love like catchy, guitar-driven music.

11) A victory for the Impossible Burger.  I remain a techno-optimist on widespread, affordable, and tasty plant-based meat in our future.  Good for our environment and good for humane treatment of animals.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice, disturbing NYT feature of pregnancy discrimination in major American companies.

2) I didn’t know you could make ice cream in a plastic bag.  Cool!  That said, I’m pretty happy with the results we get from this.

3) Why do we keep having food-borne illness problems.  Because, unsurprisingly, we need more regulation:

After that, the industry developed the Leafy Green Marketing Association, to start training growers on the best hand-washing and anti-contamination practices. And in 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, compelling the FDA to develop regulations for water safety on produce. It took four years after that, however, for the FDA to enact the regulations—and they only require very large farms, rather than all farms, to sample and test the water used to grow and clean produce. Today, those regulations are still being phased in—meaning some farms have started monitoring programs, and others have not. No farms are required to report their data to the FDA until next year.

While the LGMA insists its member growers go above and beyond to ensure water safety regardless of regulations, Detwiler believes that’s not the case. “Do you know how many corporate officers have gone to prison for flouting health and safety rules that led to people’s deaths?” he asked. “Three—and the largest sentence ever handed down was three months.” That’s why Detwiler believes farmers don’t have enough incentive to ensure water safety. “If I’m a farm owner, I ask myself: Do I pay to have a third party lab to test these water samples on a regular basis for me to use this water? Or do I consider the small likelihood of someone being able to tie the problem back to me, and decide against it?”

4) I liked Yglesias take on how accepting we’ve become of just how radical Republicans have become:

More broadly, the Kavanaugh view that the Constitution grants powerless individuals little in terms of democratic participation but powerful interests much in terms of exemption from regulation is a very normal Federalist Society view.

But that’s exactly the problem. The American constitutional order is very robust against any effort by an eccentric madman to build a personalized dictatorship. But it’s very vulnerable to the efforts of a disciplined minority to entrench itself in power…

But the party has, as a whole, made a collective and unanimous decision that they are all on the same team and fighting for the same cause. It’s a cause they’ve given up on securing majority support for, but believe can be effectively advanced through gerrymandering, filibusters, judicial review, vote suppression, cable news propaganda, etc. It’s high time to take them at their word that, all things considered, they think this is a good way to go.

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is very normal Republican politics, and that’s exactly the problem.

5) This Radley Balko column is so disgusting and depressing and America at it’s worst.  Ugh.  “An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.”

6) Michele Goldberg on Republicans and sexual assault/harassment:

Donald Trump just hired Bill Shine, who was forced out of Fox News in the aftermath of sexual harassment scandals there. He will be deputy chief of staff for communications. As of this writing, seven men say that an influential Republican congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, knew about the widespread sexual abuse of athletes when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, and did nothing to stop it. Jordan has alternately denied any knowledge of abuse and dismissed what he did hear as “conversations in a locker room.” Many of Jordan’s conservative colleagues continue to publicly support him, as does Trump. Last week Trump made a gross, sexually demeaning joke about a female senator, but most of the public seemed too exhausted to make a fuss.

Amid the flood of personal stories of sexual coercion that has marked the #MeToo movement, we learned how often people — particularly women — will submit to sex they don’t want because men wear them out with entitled demands. In the face of men bent on violation, maintaining one’s own boundaries takes energy, and sometimes it flags. It feels as if we’re now experiencing something similar as a nation…

That may be why Jordan believes he can brazen out his own sex scandal. (Some of his allies, taking a page from Trump, are claiming that accusations against him are part of a “deep state” conspiracy.) You might think that Republicans would be wary of a story involving a congressman and the sexual molesting of student wrestlers. It was only two years ago that the former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert admitted to molesting teenage wrestlers when he was a wrestling coach, before going to prison.

But who can remember 2016? Who can remember December? Without the force of law behind it, #MeToo can create change only in institutions that are susceptible to shame, and the Trump administration is shameless. After all, if Trump cared about the American people’s consent, he’d resign.

7) NC State Sociology professor and friend, Sarah Bowen (and her co-authors), with an excellent and important NYT-Op, “If Congress Changes Food Stamp Requirements, Kids Will Go Hungry.”

8) Metformin is a pill that sounds too good to be true, but might also actually be true.

9) Emily Yoffe again brings a sober, thoughtful take to issues of sex and sexual assault and American society in looking at Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual malefactors.

As one viral post by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg put it: “The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Today, as headlines are dominated by stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, a similar phrase comes to mind: ‘It’s the power, stupid.’” Former Vice President Joe Biden reprised the theme in a speech honoring campus activists. “This is not about sex,” he said. “This is about power. Usually fat, ugly men using their power, as you saw with that creep”—a clear reference to Harvey Weinstein…

To leave the sex out of the conversation is to be blinkered about the sexual psychopathology that can upend people’s lives. Abuse of power is indeed intrinsic to the Me Too stories. But power alone does not explain why a man would choose to masturbate into a potted plant in front of a horrified woman rather than have sex with a willing one. Only when we examine the sexual aspect of these violations will we understand fully what is going on—and how to address it.

10) Somebody might want to tell Paul Ryan about this little thing called a veto override.  Damn, I hate that man more than ever.

11) OMG the ATT exec taking over HBO is a moron.  HBO’s value lies in the fact that it has a tremendous reputation for quality discerning viewers subscribe and give it’s shows a chance.  His idea is to make it like Netflix.  Sorry, you simply cannot produce shows at the volume of Netflix and maintain a reputation for consistent

12) This is true and indeed concerning, “The community newspaper is America’s vigilant guardian, and it’s under siege.”

13) Good God Russia’s plan to influence American politics is insidious:

Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news.

The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details.

They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines.

NPR has reviewed information connected with the investigation and found 48 such accounts. They have names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post.

“A not-insignificant amount of those had some sort of variation on what appeared to be a homegrown local news site,” said Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian influence operations and first noticed this trend.

Another example: The Internet Research Agency created an account that looks like it is the Chicago Daily News. That newspaper shuttered in 1978.

The Internet Research Agency-linked account was created in May 2014, and for years, it just posted local headlines, accumulating some 19,000 followers by July 2016.

Another twist: These accounts apparently never spread misinformation. In fact, they posted real local news, serving as sleeper accounts building trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort.

14) Love this takedown on the doctrine of originalism which pretends to be all about judicial humility and consistency, but ends up being about justifying Conservative judicial decisions.

15) Speaking of which, loved John Cassidy on Kavanaugh and why liberals should be angry:

At the risk of giving yourself a headache, consider some counterfactuals. Absent the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling, in 2000, under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, to halt the Florida recount and allow the election of a Republican President who lost the popular vote, John Roberts and Samuel Alito might not be sitting on the Court today. If, in 2016, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, had adhered to precedent and allowed filibusters on the nomination of Merrick Garland, Gorsuch might well not be a Justice, either. And but for the quirks of the Electoral College nullifying Hillary Clinton’s almost three-million-ballot margin of victory in the popular vote, Kavanaugh would still be a relative unknown.

If these points sound like the complaints of sore losers, they are. But Democrats, Independents, and anybody else who cares about the functioning of American democracy have good reason to be sore. There is no majority of voters out there clamoring for a ban on abortion, restrictions on collective bargaining, roadblocks to legal claims against big companies, or the purging from the electoral rolls of voters who skip a couple of elections. These are the concerns of smaller groups, with strong ties to the Republican Party, whose interests will be disproportionately represented…

By slowly fashioning a ruling conservative bloc on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has carefully exploited the biases and shortcomings of the political system. Ultimately, that is what makes the prospect of Kavanaugh’s ascension so objectionable. It wouldn’t just cement in place a reactionary and unrepresentative majority. It would be the latest act in an anti-democratic (small “d”) heist.

16) Finally got around to the Atlantic cover story on how being a gender-confused adolescent can be more complicated than is always portrayed.  I found it thoughtful and fair.  Now that I’ve read the article, I’m especially unimpressed with the line of attack given time on The Gist (though with excellent pushback from Pesca).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Maps of Israeli settlements that shocked Obama.

2) When you consider the economy, Trump is really unpopular.  Ezra Klein:

3.8 percent unemployment and 42 percent approval. Is that “winning”?

Here’s another way to think about this question: Would President Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Mitt Romney be at 42 percent amidst 3.8 percent unemployment? I doubt it. But I also can’t prove it.

The strongest argument Allen and VandeHei make, in my view, is that Trump, for all his erratic behavior, is registering numbers in line with some past presidents. They note that at this point, Barack Obama was at 46 percent, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent, Ronald Reagan was at 45 percent, and Jimmy Carter was at 43 percent. This makes Trump’s performance sound, if not impressive, at least normal.

What they fail to note is that all those presidents were managing much more troubled economies than Trump. In June of their second year, the unemployment rate was at 9.4 percent for Obama, 6.1 percent for Clinton, 9.6 percent for Reagan, and 5.8 percent for Carter. (And this understates how bad the economy was, given stagflation and the other aftereffects of the OPEC oil embargo.)

And Allen and VandeHei leave out both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While there were foreign policy dynamics present in their presidencies that make them a tricky fit, I’m not sure they’re worse comparisons than Trump’s combination of peace abroad and extremely low unemployment and high stock prices at home.

According to Gallup, they were at 63 percent and 76 percent approval, respectively, at this point. (It must gall Trump that both Presidents Bush, given how little regard he has for their political skill, were so much more popular at this point in their terms than he is.)

Another way to think about this question is to look at the last time the economy was at 3.8 percent unemployment amid a record stock market. That was in April of 2000, when Bill Clinton registered a 59 percent Gallup approval rating — 17 points above where Trump is now.

3) (Don’t miss this EMG) The anti-vaxxers take on a horse vaccine for the super-deadly Hendra virus (I learned about this in the great book, Spillover).  

4) Is there nothing NC Republicans won’t do to try and prop up their candidates?!

5) And speaking of that last sentence, yeah, the interrobang is cool, but a “?!” seems to work just fine for me.

6) Loves this Fresh Air interview with a pastor who was formerly militantly anti-abortion, but now seems more interested in Jesus’ actual message.  So nice to see self-reflection and humility.

7) And, let’s just keep with a Podcast string here… Loved this Radiolab segment on just how biologically complicated sex (i.e. male/female) actually is.  (Make sure you listen, Nicole).

8) In a less busy week, I so would have done a post on Derek Thompson’s great article on how Canada has been pro-immigrant without a populist backlash.  History, man– it matters!

For decades, Canada has sustained exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell. It is the most inclusive country in the world in its attitudes toward immigrants, religion, and sexuality, according to a 2018 survey by the polling company Ipsos. In a ranking of the most important Canadian symbols and values, its citizens put “multiculturalism” right next to the national anthem—and just behind their flag. In the U.S., those supportive of multiculturalism say they’re the least patriotic; in Canada, patriotism and multiculturalism go together like fries and cheese curds.

To be clear, Canada has not discovered some magical elixir to eradicate intoleranceracism, or inequality, all of which are present in the nation of 36 million. Its indigenous communities, which have endured centuries of brutalization and discrimination, often live under conditions that are still described as “third world.” And the country is not equally welcoming to all newcomers. But at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and populist politics are sweeping across Europe and America, Canada stands apart.

What’s Canada’s secret? A blend of imperial history, bizarre and desolate geography, and provincial politics have forged something unique in the Great White North. Countries now buckling under the strain of xenophobic populism should take note.

9) “Carb-rinsing“… who knew?

10) Save the planet, eat beans, not meat.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”She and her colleagues conclude in the journal Climatic Change: “While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”

11) Josh Marshall on Jim Jordan.  Such a shame that everybody is lying about this man of unquestioned honesty and integrity ;-).  And Paul Waldman:

Today, when allegations of this sort surface against a Democrat, the first impulse of those in the Democratic Party is to assume that the victims are probably telling the truth and ask whether the member should resign. That wasn’t always their response in the past, but now it is. The first impulse of Republicans when such a scandal touches their own, on the other hand, is to defend the member no matter what the facts suggest and charge that it’s a liberal conspiracy.

That may be partly because they all pledged their loyalty to a president who is on tape bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”), and who was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women. Whatever the reasons, they haven’t caught up to the morality of the 21st century.

12) Really enjoyed Megan McArdle asking for more intellectually honest conversations around affirmative action.

13) Political Scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins on what really needs to be banged into the heads of political journalists, “No, Democrats Aren’t Ruining Their Midterm Chances.”  Of course, among actual media bias, the bias towards conflict is a very real thing.

14) Matt Yglesias on Brett Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate motivating ideology:

While it’s certainly true that a few important remnants — most notably, some semblance of a legal right to abortion — of that old debate remain relevant, the real debate in the American judiciary is whether the Constitution allows the people’s elected representatives to meaningfully regulate the national economy.

Kavanaugh clearly believes it does not: He has called the existence of independent regulatory agencies — notably including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but potentially the entire alphabet soup of FCC, FTC, CFTC, SEC, FEC, etc. — a “threat to individual liberty.”

But rather than debate this squarely, we are instead faced with grifters like Kavanaugh’s former boss Ken Starr insisting in the pages of the Washington Post that Kavanaugh stands for nothing more than a simple “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision.” The truth is quite the opposite — Kavanaugh’s vision, which he shares with Starr and the bulk of the conservative legal academy, is one in which the courts should stand as staunch allies of capital and block any effort at democratic control of big business…

In short, Starr praises Kavanaugh for favoring judicial activism in pursuit of a light-touch regulatory agenda.

The way the American political system works is that passing laws is clunky and difficult. Between bicameralism, the presidential veto, the committee system, and the filibuster, it’s just very hard to get new legislation enacted. At the same time, the business world moves fast to try to exploit profit-making opportunities. So if you want to regulate business effectively, you can’t play legislative whack-a-mole and spot abuses in real time. What reformers do instead is try to create regulatory agencies that are given broad mandates to police areas of conduct.

A classic example is the Clean Air Act, which charges the Environmental Protection Agency with identifying forms of harmful air pollution and promulgating rules to cost-effectively reduce it, rather than counting on Congress to pass new laws every time science or business practice changes. To make this system work, judges need to show deference to the regulatory agencies and acknowledge that the congressional reformers who created them wanted the agencies to have some flexibility and discretion. Kavanaugh, as Starr correctly observers, does not believe that this deference should be granted. This is a crucial aspect of his judicial philosophy, and Starr is right to call attention to it.

But Kavanaugh’s doctrine is not about the promotion of self-government or even about deference, it’s about viewing discretion as a one-way street that is always biased against regulation.

15) John Cassidy on Peter Strzok:

Strzok was far from fazed, however. With his close-cut hair, sharp features, and self-confident bearing, he looked like Hollywood’s idea of a senior F.B.I. agent, and he seemed delighted to have his say in public. In his opening statement, which he read out slowly, in a firm voice, he had already effectively demolished the Republican theory of the case: that he was out to get Trump, and prevent him from becoming President. “In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said. “This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Not content with undermining the logic of his inquisitors, Strzok also dared to question their motivation, and even their patriotism, saying, “I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity, but the honest truth is that Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy.” The Russian attack had been “wildly successful—sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions,” Strzok continued. “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”…

As Strzok spoke, Gowdy leaned back in his chair, a cold look on his face. What was he thinking? He hasn’t served entirely as a White House patsy on the Russia affair. At one point, he suggested that Trump should start acting more like he is innocent. But Gowdy and other House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television. After Strzok said the words “deeply destructive,” there was a brief silence in the hearing room. Then there was a round of applause from the public gallery.

16) The deadly superbug yeast that is coming to get us.

17) Republicans kills off super-useful medical database because, of course, their corporate masters would rather physicians not have ready access to what costly treatments are not actually effective.

18) I love how Waldman puts it, “If this is a ‘witch hunt,’ it sure is finding a lot of witches.”

Early Friday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had indicted 12 Russian officials in connection with the Kremlin’s effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, making even clearer what we already knew: The Russian government had a comprehensive program intended to hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump get elected.

The fact this has been treated as anything less than a profound national emergency — and that one of our two parties has argued again and again that it’s no big deal — is something that should appall anyone who has even the slightest concern for U.S. national security.

It is notable that these indictments come a day after Republicans mounted a farcical hearing meant to advance the ludicrous notion that the entire Russia investigation is illegitimate because one FBI agent said disparaging things about President Trump in private text messages during the campaign. But here’s part of what Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said during his news conference today:

The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents and release those documents with the intent to interfere with the election. One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering the elections, including state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.

The indictment contains numerous intriguing details, including the fact that the Russian hacking of the emails of Clinton associates began on the same day that Trump publicly said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing.”

19) Really interesting feature on how armed citizen good guys in Oklahoma stopped an active shooter, but how the full story is more complicated.  Also, these good guys were an active member of the OK Air National Guard and a former police officer.  This is not just some wannabe heroes who took a couple hour concealed carry class.

20 Nice thorough story of the Thailand Cave rescue was pulled off.

21) The Chait article on Trump’s 30-year connections with Russia that everybody has been talking about.  And NeverTrumper Tom Nichols’ take on it:

Instead, what Chait presents, without having to get too far out on a ledge about agents or assets, is a plausible case that a U.S. president is compromised by a foreign power that has damaging information about him…

Finally, whatever one thinks of Chait’s piece, the attacks from Trump defenders are no more than a reflex that reveals the exhausting double-standard that pro-Trump Republicans must now carry like a cinder block around their necks. People who once wanted to imprison Hillary Clinton for a uranium deal approved by the U.S. government are now waving away 30 years of Moscow’s personal and financial investments in Trump as though it’s nothing more than a condo purchase on an overdrawn checking account.

I do not know how much pressure the president is under from the Russians. Neither does Chait. Neither do Trump’s defenders. We may never get the full story, unless it is revealed to us by Robert Mueller or found in a future tranche of declassified documents. But there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious. [emphasis mine]

22) Vox headline and subhead says it (mostly) all, “A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth: Families seeking asylum often miss their court dates — not because they’re criminals, but because the system is broken.”

23) Another reason to hate penalty kick shoot-outs to settle soccer games.  In something where the result should be close to 50-50, the team that shoots first wins about 60% of the time.

24) Olga Khazan on the absurd influence of baby formula producers, as recently seen via the Trump administration:

This latest tussle in Geneva follows a decades-long battle by infant-formula makers to promote themselves as essentially on par with breast milk. And while health experts instead say “breast is best,” as this incident shows, policymakers aren’t always willing to put legislation behind that message.

Formula makers have responded to the cultural battle over breastfeeding in true corporate form: by lobbying for their interests and marketing their products. For example, Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac and other formulas, spent $790,000 on lobbying this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Though the company has spent more in past years, this year their disclosure lists having lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative, among others, on “proposals regarding infant nutrition marketing.” …

Since 1981, the infant-formula who code has been updated through resolutions at the World Health Assembly. The last update was in 2016, during the Obama administration, and it was a big policy push, according to Elizabeth Zehner, a project director with Helen Keller International. As they often do, industry groups spoke out against it, said Sullivan, the 1,000 Days director who attended the 2016 session. The World Health Assembly “welcomed” the 2016 resolution “with appreciation,” a notch below endorsing it.

However, this year’s resolution wasn’t about updating the code. It was more modest, simply intended to remind countries of the importance of promoting breastfeeding, Sullivan said, and notify them about best practices around breastfeeding and HIV, or during natural disasters.

So it surprised health advocates that the United States would use such heavy-handed efforts to try to kill it. “They used very aggressive tactics to get rid of a resolution that really wasn’t a policy grab,” Zehner said.

Of course, aggressive is often the way of the Trump administration. As President Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday, “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out.”

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