Catching Catcalls On Camera, Ctd

Oct 30 2014 @ 1:11pm

A reader pinpoints another unintentionally revealing aspect of that Hollaback video:

The elephant in the room here that no one is discussing is the racial aspect. It’s pretty clear that the vast majority of men catcalling in that video, and the most egregious examples, are displayed by minorities – either African-American or Latino men. I’m not saying that harassment like this is exclusive to non-whites, as any women that has encountered a gaggle of drunk frat boys can attest. But whether intentional or not, the video presents a particular theme that people seem to be conveniently avoiding discussing. This is somewhat reminiscent of the inconvenient truth of minority support of Prop 8.

Many more readers comment along those lines:

The desire to criminalize catcalling is a classic example of two progressive causes heading on a collision course, because it would almost certainly have a disproportionate impact on young minority males, particularly African Americans.

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What Do These Midterms Mean?

Oct 30 2014 @ 12:28pm

President Obama Delivers Statement In East Room Of White House

It seems safe to say that the GOP will pick up the Senate this year. No one can quite know the details yet, and the scale and extent of the wave (or not) remains again up in the air. But what this actually means – for policy and this presidency – is a more complicated question.

Here’s what we know empirically. The public is underwhelmed by these elections and engagement is low; the average Senate seat gain for a midterm in a second presidential term is six seats for the opposing party (which is a highly likely scenario right now); the president is unpopular and many Republican candidates have made this election about him, while most Democrats (as is their wont) are running fast away; the GOP itself remains, however, also deeply unpopular; wrong-direction numbers are at a high. No great policy debate has defined these races, and when such issues have risen – such as illegal immigration or the ACA – they tend to be virulent reactions to existing law or proposed changes, rather than a constructive, positive agenda. I see no triumph for conservative or liberal ideas here, no positive coalition forming, no set of policies that will be vindicated by this election.

So these midterms mean nothing? That can’t be right either. They seem to me to be reflecting at the very least a sour and dyspeptic mood in the country at large, a well of deepening discontent and concern, and a national funk that remains very potent as a narrative, even if it has become, in my view, close to circular and more than a little hysterical. So what is the reason for this mood – and why has Obama taken the biggest dive because of it?

Here’s my stab at an answer. Even though the economic signals in the US are stronger than anywhere else in the developed world, even as unemployment has fallen, and as energy independence has come closer than anyone recently expected, the underlying structure of the economy remains punishing for the middle class. This, in some ways, can be just as dispiriting as lower levels of growth – because it appears that even when we have a recovery, it will not make things any better for most people. This shoe falling in the public psyche – a sense that we are in a deep structural impasse for the middle class, rather than a temporary recessionary hit – means a profound disillusionment with the future. And the fact that neither party seems to have a workable answer to this problem intensifies the sense of drift.

Events overseas have had another, deeply depressing effect. The last great triumph of the US – the end of the Cold War, the liberation of Central Europe, the emergence of a democratic Russia – is now revealed as something more complicated. If Americans thought that the days were long gone that they had to worry about Russian military power, they’ve been disabused of that fact this past year. Then the other recent success: getting out of Iraq and defeating al Qaeda. For many of us, this was one of Obama’s greatest achievements: to cauterize the catastrophe of the Iraq War, to decimate al Qaeda’s forces in Af-Pak, and to enable us to move forward toward a more normal world. The emergence of ISIS has dimmed that hope as well. It does two things at once: it calls into question whether our departure from Iraq can be sustained, and it presents the threat of Jihadist terror as once again real and imminent. So ISIS is a reminder of the worst of 9/11 and the worst of Iraq. Any sense that we have moved beyond those traumas has been unsettled, at the very least.

So the core narrative of the Obama presidency – rescuing us from a second Great Depression and extricating us from a doomed strategy in response to Jihadism – has been eclipsed by events. And that’s why Obama has lost the thread. He has lost the clear story-line that defined his presidency. And he has, as yet, been unable to construct another, consumed, as he has been, by the pragmatism of the moment.

You can argue, and I would, that Obama is not really responsible for the events behind this narrative-collapse.

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The Gluten-Free Fad

Oct 30 2014 @ 12:12pm

Michael Specter tackles it:

While there are no scientific data to demonstrate that millions of people have become allergic or intolerant to gluten (or to other wheat proteins), there is convincing and repeated evidence that dietary self-diagnoses are almost always wrong, particularly when the diagnosis extends to most of society. We still feel more comfortable relying on anecdotes and intuition than on statistics or data.

Since the nineteen-sixties, for example, monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has been vilified.

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Always Tell Kids The Truth? Ctd

Oct 30 2014 @ 11:55am

Dahlia Lithwick argues that it’s no longer possible to hide scary news from one’s children:

At a dinner party recently, pondering the tsunami of bad and worse news this summer, a group of parents I know wondered whether the world is just a much more terrible place than it used to be (ISIS, Ebola, Hannah Graham, Ray Rice, Ferguson, Ottawa) or whether our parents just did a better job of lying to us as kids (Watergate, the Challenger crash, the Easter Bunny, Iran-Contra). The consensus seemed to be that lots of awful stuff happened when we were children too, but access to information was limited and slow, and schools and parents managed crises in such a way as to shelter us from the gruesome details.

Those times are decidedly over.

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Races Called When

Silver calculates them:

Our model estimates that while Republicans have a 64 percent chance of winning the Senate eventually, there’s only a 27 percent chance they’ll be able to claim their victory within the first 24 hours or so after polls close on Nov 4. Democrats are even less likely to win a quick victory — they have just a 12 percent chance. The other 60 percent of the time, it will take days or weeks to sort everything out. The chart [above] lists the states that are the biggest part of the problem.

Catching Catcalls On Camera, Ctd

Oct 30 2014 @ 11:11am

Many readers are scratching their heads over this video:

Oh c’mon – street harassment? I watched the video, read the posts, and I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Yes, it is cringe-worthy, especially where the guy walks along beside her for too long, but she is on the crowded streets of NYC. I never felt any kind of actual fear for her, mainly because none of the comments were really all that threatening. They appreciated her young beauty, and expressed it, so what’s the big deal? OK, gee, she felt “uncomfortable”, but so what? We have all kinds of things to feel uncomfortable about – that’s life in the 21st century. Deal with it.

Now I’m of a certain age where I can say that I was in the more or less in the first wave of feminism. I was young, blond and attractive, and all kinds of comments were made to me at school, at work, and while traveling. They never really bothered me, and I’m certainly not psychologically scarred by it. As women, being told one is pretty is the least of our problems. Yes, I know, it “objectifies” us, but oh, gee, so do lots of things.

I’m not going to contribute to Hollaback, no thank you. My feminist dollars are better spent at Planned Parenthood, or any of the host of other worthy organizations that support women’s health and well-being.


I’d love to see the full 10 hours of footage. If all they could get is a boiled down two minutes of mostly guys saying hello, good morning, god bless, it seems like the world is not quite as hostile as they hoped it would be. I wonder how many thousands of men she walked by in that 10 hours that said nothing, didn’t notice her at all.

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As the above chart illustrates, the epidemic remains a serious public health crisis in parts of West Africa. Nonetheless, Helen Epstein sees signs that the tide may be turning in Liberia, where “the number of new cases each week … is falling, not rising”:

In August, the streets of Monrovia were strewn with bodies and emergency Ebola clinics were turning away patients. Today, nearly half of the beds in those treatment units are empty. I’ve been here a week and have yet to see a single body in the street. Funeral directors say business is off by half. Of course, the situation remains very serious. More than two thousand have succumbed to the disease here since the outbreak began—along with thousands more in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the CDC—and Liberia faces looming economic and political crises. This fragile country urgently needs help—both for the well being of its own people, and for the safety of the rest of this interconnected world. But the epidemic is far from the cataclysmic disaster currently on display on American TV screens.

How did things get so bad in Liberia in the first place? Shikha Dalmia blames “a hopelessly dependent political class that stays in business by ignoring good governance and appealing to its Western benefactors”:

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A “Great” Debate

Oct 30 2014 @ 10:16am

Aaron David Miller’s latest book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President, makes the case that Washington, Lincoln, and FDR were America’s only truly “great” presidents, and as the title implies, we’re not about to get another. In an article adapted from the book, Miller lays out the rudiments of his argument:

Like the ghosts in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, great presidents continue to hover, to teach, and to inspire. And we have much to learn from their successes and failures. But there is a risk in thinking, let alone succumbing to the illusion, that we will see their likes again, even in an altered contemporary guise. The world and country have changed and so have we. And besides, we should not want to see them again. Greatness in the presidency is too rare to be relevant in our modern times and — driven as it is in our political system by big crisis — too risky and dangerous to be desirable. Our continued search for idealized presidents raises our expectations and theirs, skews presidential performance, and leads to an impossible standard that can only frustrate and disappoint. To sum up: We can no longer have a truly great president, we seldom need one, and, as irrational as it sounds, we may not want one, either.

In response, Julia Azari points out that assessments of “greatness” often rely on historical distance, which can make leaders look more independent and decisive than they really were:

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A Rocket Launch Gone Wrong

Oct 30 2014 @ 9:39am

On Tuesday, the unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after launching:

Ioffe highlights Russia’s reaction:

Russia Today reported that the Antares rocket was “American-Ukrainian,” and other outlets ran with it. The spectacular failure, wroteone Russian tabloid, “is the work of Ukrainian and American specialists.” The rocket, based loosely on the Soviet Zenit rocket, was designed by the originally Soviet, now Ukrainian, Yuzhnoe Design Bureau, according to various Russian news sites. … It would be perfectif only the Russians were right about the Antares’ origins. But it turns out that the rocket’s engine, like the engines of other privately-made American rockets, was made in … Russia.

Justin Bachman provides more background on the rocket design:

The Soviet-era AJ-26 engine was designed in the 1960s as part of Russia’s space race with the U.S., originally envisioned as a way to propel cosmonauts to the moon. The engines are “refurbished and Americanized,” Frank Culbertson, the Orbital Sciences executive in charge of the NASA program, said Tuesday night in a news conference, defending the AJ-26 as “very robust and rugged” and with a successful track record.

At least one person in the industry disagrees.

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Charles Kenny delivers a reality check:

It’s not just that the link between growth and particular policies is weak—so is the link between growth and politicians as a whole, whatever their ideological persuasion. Bill Easterly and Steven Pennings of New York University looked for (PDF) evidence of the impact of national leaders on growth since 1960. Their findings suggest that, if national leaders matter anywhere, it’s in autocracies rather than in democracies like the U.S. and Europe. But even in autocratic regimes it’s hard to pinpoint the influence of individual leaders on economic growth—good or bad. Some leaders were in charge during periods of high growth and some during periods of low growth, but no more often than you would expect if random chance rather than leadership quality was driving the results. Across 50 years and 100 countries, they suggest, 2 percent of the variation in growth rates might be explained by political leaders—with 98 percent accounted for by other factors.