May 18, 2022

"The defeat for now ends Mr. Cawthorn’s brief political career, which began with the promise of being the youngest person ever elected to Congress."

"Now, at age 27, he is left with an enormous social media following and potentially lucrative career opportunities outside electoral politics." 

Those are the last 2 sentences of the NYT piece "Election Deniers Thrive Even as Trumpism Drifts: 5 Primary Takeaways."

Obviously, "the promise of being the youngest person ever elected to Congress" means that it was promising to begin one's career as the youngest person ever elected to Congress. As written, it seems more likely to mean that he had a shot at becoming the youngest person ever elected to Congress.

We're prompted to wonder what will Madison Cawthorn do next. Is an enormous social media following really translatable into a lucrative career? I question how much of the following is real. It could be bots and it could be people who are only interested in him as a member of Congress, perhaps specifically as a Republican in hot water.

When I saw the news about Cawthorn, I did not think: Where will his meteoric career zoom next. I thought: Okay, now I don't have to think about Madison Cawthorn anymore.

May 17, 2022

The moon at sunrise.

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Looking toward the sun:

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Talk about anything in the comments.

"As a practical matter, personal loans will sometimes be the only way for an unknown challenger with limited connections to front-load campaign spending."

"And early spending — and thus early expression — is critical to a newcomer’s success. A large personal loan also may be a useful tool to signal that the political outsider is confident enough in his campaign to have skin in the game, attracting the attention of donors and voters alike."

Wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, quoted in "Supreme Court Rules for Ted Cruz in Campaign Finance Case/The Texas senator challenged a federal law that put a $250,000 cap on repayments of candidates’ loans to their campaigns using postelection contributions" (NYT). 

Roberts wrote for the 6-person majority. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the 3-person dissent, said:

"Repaying a candidate’s loan after he has won election cannot serve the usual purposes of a contribution: The money comes too late to aid in any of his campaign activities. All the money does is enrich the candidate personally at a time when he can return the favor — by a vote, a contract, an appointment. It takes no political genius to see the heightened risk of corruption."

Why are we hearing this?

Here's a featured snippet of the long-running Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial. This is Heard on cross-examination, as she's made to listen to extensive audio of a fight the married couple had at some point in the past:

 

I can't take the time to watch the whole trial, but I am noticing things, especially the way social media is siding, apparently massively, with Depp. There's so much contempt for Heard that I'm inclined to construe things in her favor just to be fair. In the clip above, we're hearing 2 actors, doing who knows what to each other. Why does this ultra-private interaction exist in recorded form?

I looked up the answer. I found this Mirror article from 2 years ago (when Depp was losing a defamation lawsuit against The Sun): "Johnny Depp... told the court he frequently recorded conversations with Heard to remind her what had been said." That doesn't say whether she knew or whether the recordings were ever used in a constructive way.

I see that at The Spectator, Eleanor Harmsworth is speculating that the entire trial is Depp and Heard engaged in sexual role play:

"The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023."

The new U.S. News list — topped by Huntsville, Alabama.

Some of the important factors used in this calculation are irrelevant to me — notably the average commute — but I'm really interested in looking for place where we might move. The place to beat is Madison, Wisconsin, which I see U.S. News puts at #17, a notch above Boston and 2 notches above Washington, D.C.

Why not Portland, Maine (#8)? Why not Fayetteville, Arkansas (#7)? Why not Green Bay, Wisconsin (#3!)?

"School funding is tied directly to enrollment numbers in most states, and while federal pandemic aid has buffered school budgets so far, the Biden administration has made it clear..."

"that the relief is finite. Some districts are already bracing for budget shortfalls. 'When you lose kids, you lose money,' [said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University]. 'There’s no hidden piece to this puzzle. You have to close schools and lay off people. And every day you spend trying to avoid that, your kids are getting older and still not reading, and your district is spending money it’s not going to have.'... State education officials have appointed a task force to investigate the decline and to try to determine the whereabouts of unaccounted-for students and their reasons for leaving the public school system. The drop defies a significant infusion of money and manpower to keep students in classrooms, including mass coronavirus testing and outreach for chronically absent students."

From "With Plunging Enrollment, a ‘Seismic Hit’ to Public Schools/The pandemic has supercharged the decline in the nation’s public school system in ways that experts say will not easily be reversed" (NYT).

"Composed and genial, [Karine] Jean-Pierre was successful in observing the first rule of media briefings – do no harm – but did appear a little too cautious on one point."

"She was repeatedly asked if she would 'call out' individuals such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson or Republican members of Congress who fan the flames of extremism and the 'great replacement' theory. Time and again she refused. 'It doesn’t matter who it is,' she insisted. 'If a person espouses hatred, we need to call that out. I’m not going to get a back and forth on names and who said what.' One reporter asked if Biden sees a connection [between the Buffalo massacre and] Trump’s 'ultra-Maga' movement.... When the press secretary said, 'We’re not going to get into politics here,' another journalist loudly objected that this seemed to be letting the culprits off the hook.... Critics will say the Biden administration is pulling its punches.... [T]he job of White House press secretary is often about ducking controversies and not making headlines. Psaki was masterful at promising to 'circle back' and 'not get ahead of the president.' Now, like the TV time traveller Doctor Who, the press secretary has regenerated in different and diverse form but with essentially the same character."

From "Karine Jean-Pierre makes history but inherits a world of trouble/The White House’s first Black press secretary used her opening remarks to reflect on this new chapter" by David Smith (in The Guardian).

It's an odd locution — "diverse form." Smith is referring to something Jean-Pierre herself said as she introduced herself on her first press briefing: She's "a Black, gay, immigrant woman." How can one person be "diverse"? Anyone is only the collection of characteristics that they are, and each of us has our set of things. I think "diverse" ought to refer to a group of people, and to call an individual "diverse" is to expect your listeners to fill in the picture, to visualize a larger set of people who are different from the one we're calling "diverse." The group — here, presumably, all the White House press secretaries in history — is understood to be white, straight, and born in the U.S.A., so Jean-Pierre makes this group more diverse. 

It reminds me of how people sometimes say about an individual, "He's different." That tends to be an insult. Different from what? You're presuming a norm, and he's off the norm. Someone saying "She's diverse" ought to think about whether the intended praise is some kind of insult. It presumes the person you're talking about is the variation, and the basic form is somebody else. It's otherizing!

Anyway, I'm glad Jean-Pierre didn't indulge in connecting dots about the Buffalo murderer's manifesto and things Republicans think. That's some of the lowliest discourse I've seen in this millennium.

Ketanji Brown Jackson loves "Survivor" — calls it "the best show ever."

Why? — asks the Washington Post interviewer

Answer:

Because it’s like a social experiment. It’s human nature, what do people do when they’re starving and how do they react to one another? It’s like this Hobbesian state of nature: How are we going to deal with this situation? I love it.

It really isn't a Hobbesian state of nature, though. If it were a Hobbesian state of nature, the tribes wouldn't be taking votes and eliminating competitors one by one in a strategic way with notion that one person would win a pile of money to take back when the game ends after a known, set number of days. If it were a Hobbesian state of nature, one tribe could raid another and kill them all, and you'd want to keep the best competitors around to help you as the game of survival would go on until you reached the only exit possible: death. There would be no bags of rice to tide you over, no sudden infusion of Applebee's calories. There would be bloody violence and no medical personnel to swoop in. There would be rape. And babies.

But it's my favorite TV show too. It's a wonderful game that shows something about how people attempt to find order within a group as they pursue an utterly selfish goal. But I would think a judge would see how much law there is.

(I'm not really knocking the judge. I'm sure that she realizes all the things I've said here and that if I were talking to her in person about "Survivor," we'd have a great conversation. And then she'd plot to vote me off the island.)

"The voice who had been with her longest warned of catastrophes coming for her family in Zionsville, a town north of Indianapolis, calamities tied in some unspecified way to..."

"... TV images from the gulf war: fighter planes, flashes in the sky, explosions on the ground, luminous and all-consuming. A woman’s voice castigated her at school, telling her that her clothes smelled and that she had better keep her hand down, no matter that she knew the answers to the teacher’s questions. Another voice tracked her every move, its tone faintly mocking. 'She’s getting out of bed now; oh, she’s walking down the hall now.'..."

From "Doctors Gave Her Antipsychotics. She Decided to Live With Her Voices. A new movement wants to shift mainstream thinking away from medication and toward greater acceptance" Daniel Bergner (NYT)(adapted from the book "The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches"). 

"The F.D.A. said it expected Abbott to restart [infant formula] production in about two weeks... at the plant in Sturgis, Mich."

"It has been shut down since February after several babies who had consumed formula that had been produced there fell ill and two died. The agreement stems from a U.S. Department of Justice complaint and consent decree with the company and three of its executives. Those court records say the F.D.A. found a deadly bacteria, called cronobacter, in the plant in February and the company found more tranches of the bacteria later that month. According to the complaint, the same Sturgis factory had also produced two batches of formula in the summer of 2019 and 2020 on different production equipment that tested positive for the bacteria. Abbott staff 'have been unwilling or unable to implement sustainable corrective actions to ensure the safety and quality of food manufactured for infants,' leading to the need for legal action, the documents state. In a release, Abbott said 'there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott’s formulas to these infant illnesses.'" 

"F.D.A. and Abbott Reach Agreement on Baby Formula to Try to Ease Shortage/The company said production could resume in about 2 weeks and store shelves would be restocked several weeks later" (NYT).

Here's the Wikipedia article on cronobacter: 

Cronobacter was first proposed as a new genus in 2007 as a clarification of the taxonomic relationship of the biogroups found among strains of Enterobacter sakazakii.... 

Cronobacter (Cro.no.bac'ter) is from the Greek noun Cronos (Κρόνος), one of the Titans of mythology, who swallowed each of his children as soon as they were born, and the New Latin masculine noun bacter, a rod, resulting in the N.L. masc. n. Cronobacter, a rod that can cause illness in neonates.

May 16, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...

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 ... you can talk about whatever you want. 

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"Personal essays that don’t make an argument are generally not op-eds."

"Even if the op-ed includes a personal story, it should have a point to make — something readers can engage with and think about. Journalistic investigations without an argument are not op-eds. Poems and works of fiction usually aren’t op-eds either. Neither are reviews of books, movies, television shows or other media.... When considering op-eds, we look for pieces that will accomplish one or more of the following goals for our readers:

  • Help people more deeply understand a topic in the news
  • Help them understand what it means for them.
  • Equip them with arguments they can employ when talking about the subject.
  • Elevate ideas that help them think about the world differently.
  • Expose them to topics they might not have heard about.
  • Help them better articulate their own perspective.
  • Help them understand perspectives different from their own....
"We strive to publish a diversity of opinions on our op-ed page. Often, that means we are specifically seeking viewpoints that are different from those of our columnists or the Editorial Board."

From "The Washington Post guide to writing an op-ed" — featured at the top of the website front page today.

You know, people are not that good at making arguments. Way too much of what we see these days is a demand for agreement and a threat or insinuation that you're going to be in trouble if you don't agree. Or there's a pettish insistence on avoiding anyone not already on your side and not inclined to go along with whatever's the next thing that people like you go along with. 

What if you had to convince people who don't agree with you and don't crave your approval? What on earth would you say? Well, maybe WaPo has some op-eds that will give you some talking points.

"Behavioral economists and psychologists have, in recent years, shown employers that there’s a business case for their fixation on positivity."

"One study in the Journal of Labor Economics found that people who were given chocolates to eat and comedies to watch — common happiness generators — were 12 percent more productive than a group left alone.... 'There’s evidence that we get the causal arrow of happiness wrong,' said Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist who teaches Yale’s popular course on happiness. 'You think, "I’m feeling productive at work and things are going well at work and therefore I’m happy." But the evidence seems to suggest that the other arrow exists as well, that happiness can really affect your work performance.'...  But many see a risk for workers in believing that their employers are cultivating an emotional relationship with them, when in reality the relationship is about money. 'Your boss is not there to provide you with happiness,' said Sarah Jaffe, author of 'Work Won’t Love You Back.' 'No matter how much they say they’re focusing on happiness, they’re focusing on profits.'"

From "Are You Happy? Your Boss Is Asking. To some, the pursuit of workplace happiness — and its price, like an $18,000 'happiness M.B.A.' for managers — can seem like a corporate attempt to turn feelings into productivity" (NYT). hap

For the annals of Things You're Not Going to Do.

"Strengthen your tongue. One of the most common causes of snoring is when your tongue slides back in your throat. The simplest way to prevent this is with a daily set of tongue exercises. But Dr. Chang said it can take weeks to have an effect and most people are not diligent in keeping them up."

From "How Can I Stop Snoring? This sleep-disrupting problem can be caused by a variety of things, but experts say there are ways to find relief" (NYT).

"In recent years, a growing number of medical and public health groups have introduced public awareness campaigns warning people to drink with caution, noting that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of cancer, behind tobacco and obesity."

From "Should Your Cocktail Carry a Cancer Warning? As pandemic disruptions lead many of us to drink more, experts underscore the link between alcohol and disease" (NYT)(the article is featured on the front page of the NYT right now, but it was published in 2021).

There's not too much talk about alcohol causing cancer, but there's even less talk about obesity causing cancer. In fact, I don't believe I'd ever heard that obesity can cause cancer, and yet, apparently, it's the second leading preventable cause of cancer.

The article is about alcohol as a cause of cancer, so I had to look up what cancer is caused by obesity. Here's what the CDC has to say. It lists "13 Cancers... associated with overweight and obesity"

Meningioma (cancer in the tissue covering brain and spinal cord)
Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
Multiple myeloma (cancer of blood cells)
Kidneys
Uterus
Ovaries
Thyroid
Breast (post-menopausal women)
Liver
Gallbladder
Upper stomach
Pancreas
Colon and rectum

This is a huge deal, but we don't hear about it — presumably because it's strongly believed that telling people to lose weight only makes it worse.

Look at this CDC graphic (from 2016) — it's so governmental and tragic:

This is great: SNL parodied the show we've been watching.

We hardly watch anything, so this was a real delight. What good are parodies when you don't know the original thing? They do give you some explanation, in case you don't know "Old Enough," but suffice it to say, they track many elements of that Japanese show about little kids sent out alone to do errands:

Here's the trailer for the original show, which is a wonderful celebration of toddler independence, that is, it shows Japanese parents doing what would get you arrested in the United States: