Later On

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Archive for May 15th, 2019

Political reporting in the US has been very bad for a long time: A trip down memory lane

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Kevin Drum points out this post by Bob Somersby:

When “Trump before Trump” took us down: The role of The Crazy has been substantial in modern American discourse.

Crazy people advance crazy claims; millions of people believe them. American discourse bows beneath the weight of this widespread crackpot behavior.

In yesterday’s report, we tracked this phenomenon back to the pious Reverend Falwell and the endless crazy claims about all the people Bill and Hillary Clinton had murdered. The syndrome extends to more recent claims by radio crackpot Alex Jones, and by the disordered Donald J. Trump himself.

That doesn’t mean that this destructive syndrome only exists “on the right.” The mainstream press corps has been mired in this type of conduct too.

Future scholars are now calling such conduct “Trump before Trump.” They sometimes refer to this mental erosion within the press as “The Rise of Leadership Down.”

The Crazy flourished within the mainstream press during the era of Falwell. Consider a crazy statement which appeared in Marc Fisher’s weekly column in the Washington Post magazine.

The crazy statement to which we refer concerned a White House candidate’s clothes. The candidate in question was also the sitting vice president. He was the odds-on favorite to receive the Democratic nomination in Campaign 2000.

In late November 1999, Fisher wrote a highly peculiar essay about Candidate Gore. His crazy claim was lodged among a raft of other peculiar and unfortunate statements. Here’s how his essay ended:

FISHER (11/28/99): So when Al Gore sneaks around and spends $15,000 a month to hire an oddball like Naomi Wolf, a controversialist who campaigns against the tyranny of the beauty culture and then plasters soft-lit glossies of herself and her perfectly teased hair all over the Internet and on her book jackets, we have two choices: We can say Gore’s a good man who’s been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, “Okay.”

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.

Just for the record—back in those days, we pseudo-liberals slept in the woods when people like Wolf were savaged in such identifiable ways. We let that kind of thing go.

That said, did Naomi Wolf “make her living by writing pop philosophy about sex?” It’s pretty much as you like it! For the record, two of the three books she’d written by that time had been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

One of the books, The Beauty Myth, had been chosen as one of the top hundred books of the century. But now, the disordered men and women of the upper-end mainstream press were spreading a web of noxious claims about Wolf, a campaign adviser to Gore.

These slanders included the noxious claim that Candidate Gore had “hired a woman to teach him how to be a man.” Candidate Gore was “today’s man-woman,” Chris Matthews loudly proclaimed on his crackpot TV show, Hardball.

These disordered figures were also convinced that Wolf had instructed Gore to wear “earth tones” on the campaign trail. This unfounded assertion helped lead to months of disordered claims about this targeted candidate’s clothes.

By Sunday, November 28, this ordered discussion had been underway for more than a month. This apparently forced Fisher to bump his roving band’s craziness up a notch.

Does Donald J. Trump make crazy claims? Yes he does, quite often. But on this day, Fisher was making crazy claims too. The craziest of his crazy claims may been this crazy statement:

Naomi Wolf had told Candidate Gore that “he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American.”

Truly, that was a crazy claim. As such, it was an example of the phenomenon known as Trump before Trump.

Had Naomi Wolf advised Gore about wardrobe? Like Fisher, we have no idea.

Candidates do take wardrobe advice, and Wolf was a campaign adviser. (With a crackpot press corps like the one we’re now describing, a targeted candidate must pay substantial attention to both wardrobe and hair.)

Wolf and Gore had both denied the claim that Wolf had offered wardrobe advice, but denizens of the upper-end press enjoyed the tale they were telling. In this case, Fisher seemed to be referring to a brown or perhaps olive suit Gore had worn to his first Democratic debate with Candidate Bradley, his only campaign opponent.

More than a month had passed since that time. But manifest crackpots of the press were still obsessed by the choice.

In fact, there was nothing outrageous about Gore’s suit, except in the mind of the crackpots. New Hampshire voters who watched that first Democratic debate had scored the event a draw. No one seemed troubled by Gore’s choice of clothes, and conservative icon Kate O’Beirne had praised the two candidates for the erudition each had displayed in discussing health care that night.

But alas! Inside the press room at Dartmouth College, three hundred journalists were hissing, booing and jeering every time Gore spoke. (On the record sources: Slate’s Jake Tapper, the Hotline’s Howard Mortman, Time’s Eric Pooley. We heard about this astounding conduct in a phone call from the site that very night.)

The children had been hissing and jeering every time Gore spoke! At the Washington Post, a Pulitzer winner decided to tell the world this:

MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—”I am not a well-dressed man.” It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation’s earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.

Mary McGrory, a veteran columnist and a Pulitzer winner, was writing live and direct from the realm of The Crazy.

She never mentioned the health care discussion whose erudition O’Beirne had praised. Instead, she chose to savage one candidate’s clothes in a pre-Trump manifestation.

McGrory was typing at the start of the war against Gore’s wardrobe. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 6:32 pm

Kevin Drum takes an honest look at worker pay (in contrast to Michael Strain, who takes a dishonest look)

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The epidemic of outright lying by the Right is unstoppable. Kevin Drum points out another deliberate effort to mislead, this time by Michael Strain. Read the post and look at the graph.

I am really tired of GOP lies.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP, Math

Exxon Predicted 2019’s Ominous CO2 Milestone in 1982

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But they kept quiet about it. Brian Kahn reports in Gizmodo:

Atmospheric carbon dioxide sets a new record every year. This year’s cracked the ominous milestone of 415 parts per million (ppm) thanks to ever rising emissions from human activities. The sharp rise might seem like something nobody could’ve predicted but there’s at least one group of scientists that were on the money 37 years ago: Exxon’s ace team of scientists.

Internal memos unearthed in InsideClimate’s Pulitzer-winning 2015 investigation into the company revealed all sorts of solid science being done even as the oil giant sowed doubt in public. Bloomberg reporter Tom Randall revisited the memos in light of the world’s new carbon dioxide milestone and tweeted a graph from one showing just how much Exxon knew what our future would look like.

It’s eerie seeing how well the company understood both climate science and the world’s patterns of economic growth built on the back of fossil fuels. Here’s that chart, annotated for ease of reading:


Red lines show where Exxon thought the world’s carbon dioxide levels and temperatures would be at around 2019.Image: InsideClimate News

The prediction is a pretty damn good one. The world is now about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was and carbon dioxide levels are at 415 ppm. The estimate was part of Exxon’s “high case” scenario, which assumed fossil fuel use would quicken and that the world would be able to tap new reserves in the late 2000s from at the time unreachable shale gas. The memo also warned that the extra carbon dioxide would enhance the greenhouse effect and that an “increase in absorbed energy via this route would warm the earth’s surface causing changes in climate affecting atmospheric and ocean temperatures, rainfall patterns, soil moisture, and over centuries potentially melting the polar ice caps.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 1:21 pm

After men in Spain got paternity leave, they wanted fewer kids

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Apparently they had not realized that taking care of newborns is a lot of work.  Corinne Purtill and Dan Kopf report in Quartz:

In March 2007, Spain introduced a national policy granting most new fathers two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. The policy proved exceptionally popular, with 55% of men eligible in the first year opting to take the paid time. The amount of leave covered by the program was doubled in 2017 and expanded to five weeks in 2018, with additional increases expected between now and 2021.

Economists studying the effects of the original 2007 policy examined what happened to families that had children just before and just after the program began, and found differences in the outcomes. While the early cohort of men who were eligible for paternity leave were just as likely to stay in the workforce as the men who weren’t eligible, they remained more engaged with childcare after their return to work, and their partners were more likely to stay in the workforce as well. In that sense, the program seems to have done what policy makers would have hoped.

Unexpectedly, though, the researchers also found that families who were eligible for the paternity leave were less likely to have kids in the future. In a study published in the Journal of Public Economics (paywall), economists Lídia Farré of the University of Barcelona and Libertad González of University of Pompeu Fabra estimate that two years on, parents who had been eligible for the newly introduced program were 7% to 15% less likely to have another kid than parents who just missed the eligibility cutoff. While the difference dissipated further into the future, even after six years, parents who had been eligible for the leave were still less likely to have a child again.

The researchers suggest an intriguing reason why.

After paternity leave was instituted, surveys of Spanish men ages 21 to 40 showed they desired fewer children than before. Farré and González think that spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, as the researchers put it, “shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.”

At the same time, women started showing preferences for slightly larger families—perhaps a sign that having more children seemed more desirable with a slightly more equitable balance of labor at home. . .

Continue reading. Graphs at the link are interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 1:15 pm

Sailors Report Enduring Concerns About Navy Readiness and Leadership

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Kengo Tsutsumi reports in ProPublica:

This story was originally published in our Disaster in the Pacific newsletter. Read earlier reporting from this series here, and sign up to get emails when we publish updates.

The responses by the sailors — consistent, repeated — can be jarring to read:

Are you getting enough sleep? “No.”

Do you feel well-trained to do your job? “No.”

Have there been scenarios in which you or your bosses had concerns about the safety of the ship and crew but felt they could not say no to new tasking? “Yes.”

Please rate your confidence in Navy leadership in the Pentagon. “I am not confident.”

On Feb. 26, ProPublica published a callout aimed primarily at active-duty men and women in the U.S. Navy. We had published two stories about neglect, exhaustion and deadly mishaps in the 7th Fleet, the largest armada anywhere and once the Navy’s crown jewel. Now, we wanted to take a measure of the confidence in the many reforms the Navy had announced in assuring the nation that it was addressing the systemic shortcomings laid bare after two fatal accidents in the Pacific in 2017.

We’ve received dozens of responses from active-duty sailors and their families, but also from people who retired from the Navy, academics and contractors.

Thirty active-duty sailors have completed our callout so far. Twenty-eight of them testified to some combination of fear, lack of training and an absence of confidence in the Navy’s leadership. Almost one-fifth of them described working 100 hours a week or more while underway.

One officer in the 2nd Fleet lamented that there was still not consistent training to enable men and women to master the wide variety of steering systems in place on the fleet’s ships. A sailor on a 7th Fleet aircraft carrier worried that the widespread problem of sleep deprivation was leading to profound mental health issues, with some sailors being placed on suicide watch. Another 2nd Fleet sailor said that the promised reforms aimed at improving training, adequately staffing ships and better caring for overtaxed service members sounded fine on their face, but that they ran the risk of proving to be a largely empty exercise.

“If the Navy paid more attention to the job satisfaction and intrinsic motivation of sailors, then a lot of these other systemic issues will fix themselves,” the sailor wrote. “All of these recommendations are great, but if it is not a joint effort for change, with ideas and suggestions from those expected to implement the change, then it will just continue a ‘culture of compliance,’ which Navy leaders have stated they want to transform into a ‘culture of excellence.’ This change cannot be forced down, but must be grown from the ground up.”

A spokesman said that Navy leadership continues to take “aggressive action” implementing changes meant to address the issues revealed by ProPublica’s reporting. “The reform process will take time, resources, and most importantly, trust,” Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey said. In response to sailor feedback, some commanders have “taken action where appropriate,” including canceling deployments for ships that weren’t ready.

The callout, to be sure, is limited, and it is perhaps not surprising that responses have so far been dominated by people who felt alarmed or found fault with the Navy. But the responses certainly echo the themes the Navy has already conceded are problems. As well, almost two years after the deadly crashes involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain, the Navy has yet to fully satisfy its congressional overseers that the reforms have been accomplished. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

A good resource for those moving to a plant-based diet

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I mentioned in this post the “Daily Dozen” foods advocated by Michael Greger MD, and noted that there is a free app for iPhone and Android that lets you track those foods. One of the resources he suggests is Plant-Based on a Budget and they list several resources on this page. The last item listed is “The Daily Dozen (On A Budget) Meal Plan.” It’s a PDF that you can download for $5, and IMO it’s worth it. With that, planning meals becomes much easier, starting with making the shopping list.

Take a look.

This video is also interesting (the awful soundtrack at the beginning stops fairly soon, so just endure it). I find that I respond negatively to the word “vegan” but positively to “plant-based.”

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 11:24 am

Donald Trump Is a One-Man Foreign Policy Catastrophe

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Kevin Drum posts at Mother Jones:

Doyle McManus reviews Donald Trump’s foreign policy:

As president he named himself negotiator-in-chief and tried to cajole North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to abandon nuclear weapons. He reimposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, betting he could force the ayatollahs to change their ways. He vowed to force China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union to give up what he called unfair trade practices. He backed an uprising in Venezuela aimed at toppling its leftist president, Nicolas Maduro. He declared victory against Islamic State and ordered U.S. troops home from Syria. In his spare time, he asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to arrange peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

He has achieved none of those outcomes.

But he might declare war on Iran. And impose tariffs on European cars. And commit the United States to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2019 at 11:09 am

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