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Category: General

Health News as Entertainment

[ 10 ] October 25, 2014 |

Hiltzik has another good piece, this time featuring maps of preventable diseases to show the impact of the anti-vaccination foolishness. The general outlines we know here since we have slammed on the anti-vaxxers many times. But I thought this was an important point we probably haven’t really covered:

The surge of measles and whooping cough cases underscore the irresponsibility of opinion leaders like Katie Couric in giving anti-vaxxers a popular platform. Too many figures in the entertainment business (Dr. Oz, I’m looking at you) don’t care about making sure their audiences get information tested by science, as long as they can rake in the big bucks. They have a lot to answer for.

Indeed. Much like climate change, the idea that news has to be entertaining and thus present “both sides,” as if there are two sides to the need to get your children vaccinated or the science behind climate change, is incredibly damaging to the world.

Throwing that Punk Party with the Right Level of Tasteful Decor

[ 30 ] October 25, 2014 |

If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s Martha Stewart’s website telling people how to host punk rock parties.

The comment section is really great here.

A couple of weeks old, but I figure most of you hadn’t seen it.

Andrew Sullivan: Team GamerGate

[ 266 ] October 24, 2014 |

Does this surprise anyone? It didn’t surprise me in the least.

When Misogyny and American Gun Culture Meet

[ 65 ] October 24, 2014 |

The results can be horrible:

Two students are dead after one of them opened fire Friday morning in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria before turning the gun on himself, according to law-enforcement sources.

Police said four other people were wounded  in the 10:45 a.m. shooting.

Austin Joyner, a student at the school, said on Twitter that he saw the shooter come into the cafeteria, walk over to a table, pull out a gun and shoot students who were sitting there.

Jarron Webb, 15, said the shooter was angry at a girl who would not date him, and that the girl was one of the people shot.  He said he believes one of the victims was his friend since kindergarten.


Bobo’s Comedy Classics

[ 58 ] October 24, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim David Brooks:  “The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.”

Yes, it’s a real puzzle. If both Republicans and Democrats support major infrastucture investments, why hasn’t Congress passed any since the ARRA?  Why, it’s almost enough to make me think that one of the premises is false!

The same problem infects people nostalgic for the 1970s Golden Age of the Democratic Party and The Last Liberal President Richard Nixon, when we would never have gotten a neoliberal health insurance industry bailout like the ACA.  Richard Nixon supported national health care!  Democrats supported real national health care!  The fact that a Democratic Congress did not pass and Richard Nixon did not sign any comprehensive health care reform might suggest that these assumptions are not in fact true.

Friday Links

[ 63 ] October 24, 2014 |

(Ed: How about a dark-skinned guy with a squeegie that looks like a scythe? Can you get me that?)

[ 78 ] October 24, 2014 |

My coworker, who is from East Africa, did not appreciate this image on the front page of USA Today.


It Is A Sordid Business, This Supreme Court Permitting States to Discriminate on the Basis of Race

[ 77 ] October 24, 2014 |

Shorter John Roberts: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. Unless racial discrimination can provide electoral assistance to the Republican Party, in which case it’s perfectly fine.”

Is Obama Any Kind of Republican? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 159 ] October 23, 2014 |

Bruce Bartlett has an American Conservative cover story arguing that Obama is best described as a moderate Republican. It is…not persuasive. I’ll leave aside the arguments about foreign policy, simply because these issues don’t break cleanly on party lines, so foreign policy views can’t really prove much of anything. (You could say that Obama is a “Republican” because his foreign policy is closer to Eisenhower than LBJ, but this is a not a productive argument.) I don’t really agree with calling Obama a “hawk” in the context of actually existing American politics but quibbling over the semantics is beside the point of his argument.

On the domestic policy questions, none of Bartlett’s analysis holds up at all:

Stimulus Bartlett makes a telling error when discussing the ARRA, arguing that “this legislation was passed without a single Republican vote.” (There were two three GOP votes in the Senate, and had to be.) In one sense, this could be seen as helping his argument — there was minimal Republican support for the stimulus makes it even more Republican! But I don’t think so, because a lot of the tax cuts in ARRA were there to appease Snowe, who had a veto over the bill. It’s obviously true that “the election of McCain would have resulted in savings of $816 billion,” but I don’t necessarily agree that under McCain there would have been “a stimulus plan of roughly the same order of magnitude,” and Bartlett concedes that whatever the magnitude it would have been tilted much more heavily towards tax cuts. So…I just don’t see how the example helps Bartlett at all. The ARRA was Democratic policy, it doesn’t reflect the priorities of any strand of Republicanism, and Obama’s proposed ARRA was more progressive than the one that needed the support of the moderate Republicans he’s allegedly interchangeable with to pass.  The fact that the ARRA was closer to a moderate Republican proposal than one might like isn’t shocking given that actual moderate Republicans had a veto over it, but this doesn’t tell us much of anything about Obama.

The ACA I’ve explained many times why Bartlett’s repeated assertions that the ACA is a Republican policy is plainly false. I will observe here only that Bartlett’s version of the argument is a particularly extreme and caricatured form. You would think based on Bartlett’s argument that the ACA consisted of one sentence saying “you must buy the health insurance kthxbi.” Just as in the version of the argument that comes from the nominal left, Bartlett ignores the historic Medicaid expansion that has resulted in more of the increase in coverage than the exchanges, despite the Supreme Court re-writing the expansion in a way that resulted in greatly reducing a scope. And this is a rather crucial omission from Bartlett’s argument, given that it’s dispositive of the idea that the ACA is “Republican policy.” Even John Chafee’s decoy health care proposal — which didn’t actually represent the preferences of any meaningful number of Republicans either — had no Medicaid expansion. Even if you want to reduce the ACA to the exchanges, they’re very different than what Heritage proposed — but you can’t do this. The ACA just isn’t Republican policy, moderate or otherwise, end of story.

Social issues As if he knows how weak the argument is, Bartlett’s discussion of Obama and same-sex marriage is perfunctory: “Simply stating public support for gay marriage would seem to have been a no-brainer for Obama, but it took him two long years to speak out on the subject and only after being pressured to do so.” Well, first of all, this still puts him to the left of most Republicans. But even so prior to explicitly supporting same-sex marriage, he opposed Prop 8, he signed legislation repealing DADT, and he refused to defend DOMA. These are not “Republican” positions. Women’s rights Bartlett just ignores entirely for obvious reasons.

Civil Rights In perhaps the most remarkable part of his essay, Bartlett asserts that “[e]ven when Republicans have suppressed minority voting, in a grotesque campaign to fight nonexistent voter fraud, Obama has said and done nothing.” This could not possibly be more ridiculous, unless you think that Eric Holder is a rogue official acting against Obama’s wishes. He has also criticized Voter ID laws. Barlett’s argument here is quite simply embarrassing, particularly in a context in which 5 Republican Supreme Court justices (including quintessential country-club moderate Republican Anthony Kennedy) are willing to rehabilitate Roger Taney to gut the Voting Rights Act.

Giving Republicans credit for Democratic policies One puzzle of the essay is exactly how Bartlett defines what a moderate or liberal Republican consists of, a point on which he is strategically slippery. Two public officials dominate the discussion: Richard Nixon and Mitt Romney (as governor, not presidential candidate.) The obvious problem with this is that the ends up giving “Republicans” credit for policies favored by overwhelmingly Democratic legislatures. One searches in vain for examples of “Republican” policies that were actually favored by unified Republican governments at either the federal or state level.

All that remains of the argument, then, is just a logical fallacy that renders the argument entirely useless. Bartlett might object to my point about reproductive rights, for example, by pointing out that liberal Republicans don’t oppose them. But so what? The fact that some Republicans support(ed) abortion rights doesn’t make everyone who supports reproductive rights a Republican. The fact that in the early 70s Republicans were not as hostile to environmental regulations as they are now does not make every supporter of environmental regulation a Republican, and so on.

This is really not complicated. Obama is a moderate liberal Democrat. He’s not any kind of Republican and in the context of American politics he’s not any kind of “conservative.” Pretending otherwise involves some combination of distorting actual Republican preferences, ignoring inconvenient facts, and simply making stuff up.

Today In the Noble Ideals of Amateurism

[ 212 ] October 23, 2014 |

But I’m sure this is a total outlier:

For 18 years, thousands of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took classes with no assigned reading or problem sets, with no weekly meetings, and with no faculty member involved. These classes had just one requirement: a final paper that no one ever read.

The academic fraud in the university’s African-American studies department was first revealed three years ago. But a new investigation shows that the fake classes were even more common than previously thought, and that athletes in particular benefited from the classes, in some cases at the behest of their academic counselors. Previous investigations had found no ties to campus athletics.

On campus, the fake classes, which at least 3,100 students took, were hardly a secret. They were particularly popular with athletes, who made up about half of enrollments. Nearly a quarter of students who took the classes were football and basketball players. And the classes made a difference: good grades that students didn’t have to work for made more than 80 eligible to graduate who otherwise would have flunked out.

In the most crucial finding, no player was paid $10 for an autograph, so it’s a minor scandal in the end.

Ever wondered how horror films work?

[ 24 ] October 23, 2014 |

For those of you who enjoy my breakdown of films — and in the spirit of Halloween — I’m going to link to this Vox article that I had no input into the choice of films selected or the techniques discussed.

In all seriousness, it was supposed to be a collaboration, but events intervened — so Todd had to settle for doing a fantastic job writing it up on his own.

As for my next AV Club column, it’s been pushed back a bit so it can take part in the site’s “Horror Week” theme. It’ll cover some of the same territory as the Vox article, but will be about Ringu.

Thai Braised Chicken

[ 18 ] October 23, 2014 |

Last night I needed to use up some chicken thighs and legs I had thawed. I was tired of the same crap I usually make and was really crazing some Asian flavors…so I came up with this:

Thai Braised Chicken

  • 6-8 pieces dark meat, bone-in chicken (Skin chicken if you are averse to having a fattier, richer sauce. Skin will not get crackly crisp, but will not be soggy gross, either.)
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • I can coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 heaping tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (Adjust for your heat tolerance; I use a heaping 1 1/2)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. yellow Indian curry powder
  • lime wedges and chopped cilantro, for serving
  • hot, cooked rice
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a bowl combine coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, curry mixes, and lime juice
  3. In a large dutch oven, heat some oil ’til almost smoking. Salt and pepper chicken pieces, brown them, then remove them from the pan and set aside.
  4. Season (lightly!) the veggies then sauté them in the oil/fat for a minute or two.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk/curry sauce, stirring to mix everything.
  6. Nestle the chicken pieces in the sauce (taking care to keep skin above braising liquid) and put the (lid-off!) dutch oven in the oven. Braise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until chicken is almost falling off the bone and veggies are tender.
  7. Serve over rice with lime wedges (a squeeze of lime here is wonderful) and chopped cilantro.

Also, check out these sweet dance moves. 


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