The Other American Expansionism

Sep 18 2014 @ 7:12pm

Julia Belluz flags new research showing that American waistlines are growing:

Researchers looked at waist circumference measurements taken from over 32,000 adults in 1999 and 2012. During that period, participants’ waists grew nearly a whole pants size, from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches. Some groups gained an even more significant amount of abdominal girth. White women, aged 40 to 49, experienced a 2.6-inch expansion; the waists of black men, aged 30 to 39, got padded with 3.2 extra inches; Mexican-American men, aged 20 to 29, added 3.4 inches to their frames; Mexican-American women over the age of 70 packed on 4.4 inches; and black women between the ages of 30 to 39 increased their waists by 4.6 inches. (Abdominal obesity was defined as a waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.) That racial minorities are experiencing greater gains maps on to the fact that they’re also disproportionately struggling with obesity compared to white people in the US.

Interestingly, Americans’ average body mass index has held relatively steady over the past decade. Or as Alison Bruzek puts it, “People haven’t been getting fatter, but their waistlines are still increasing”:

“We’re a little bit puzzled for explanations,” Dr. Earl Ford, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of the study, tells Shots. The two measures are closely related: While body mass index or BMI measures fat overall, waist circumference helps measure fat distribution. Stress, hormonal imbalances, environmental pollutants, poor sleep or medications that help pack on abdominal weight are possible causes, health and nutrition researchers speculate. And older adults typically lose muscle as they age, while fat continues to increase.

A Poem For Thursday

Sep 18 2014 @ 6:43pm

Retiarius_vs_secutor_from_Borghese_mosaic

“Colosseum” by Jericho Brown:

I don’t remember how I hurt myself,
The pain mine
Long enough for me
To lose the wound that invented it
As none of us knows the beauty
Of our own eyes
Until a man tells us they are
Why God made brown. Then
That same man says he lives to touch
The smoothest parts, suggesting our
Surface area can be understood
By degrees of satin. Him I will
Follow until I am as rough outside
As I am within. I cannot locate the origin
Of slaughter, but I know
How my own feels, that I live with it
And sometimes use it
To get the living done,
Because I am what gladiators call
A man in love—love
Being any reminder we survived.

Previous poems from Brown here and here.

(From The New Testament © 2014 by Jericho Brown. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. Detail of the Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century CE, via Wikimedia Commons)

Sam Kamin and Joel Warner expect that, “as marijuana prohibitions continue to weaken and an increasing number of states reconsider stringent drug sentencing rules, people could begin to lobby to remove more serious pot convictions from their rap sheets or even get out of prison”:

However, if either the courts or clemency boards take up the work of reviewing past marijuana convictions, they will have to tackle a very thorny issue: Convictions don’t always match the crime that was committed. Many of the low-level offenders who might seek clemency struck plea deals with prosecutors, and those negotiations can obscure the underlying crimes. UCLA drug policy expert Mark Kleiman offers an example: “It’s entirely possible that a guy was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cannabis, and the plea bargain he pled to was just the cannabis charge.” So how do you determine, sometimes many years later, whether a given conviction actually corresponds to a defendant’s true criminal culpability? And even if a marijuana conviction does in fact correspond to a marijuana offense, are all marijuana offenses created equal? Should it matter whether the 12 ounces of pot someone was busted with came from small-scale farms in Humboldt County, California, or were imported from Mexico by drug cartels?

Fascinating. At some point in the future, if and when cannabis is seen as the simple plant and medicine that it is, those behind bars – some for life – for non-violent offenses involving cannabis are going to seem awful victims of a regime long since discredited. Some relief will surely have to be granted – but I can sure see the complexities.

Slave_Market-Atlanta_Georgia_1864

In his new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Edward E. Baptist details how “the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich.” Excerpt from the book here. Yglesias puts Baptist’s approach in context, explaining that he is countering “a tradition which views slavery as a kind of archaic institution … a New World form of feudalism that was doomed by the growing tide of industrialization”:

First, he shows that the slave economy was as modern as any other aspect of the mid-19th Century. There were, for example, slave-backed mortgages and other sophisticated financial products. So the genre of social history which pits old-timey southern agrarianism against modernizing northern industrialism is simply mistaken — major proprietors on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line participated in the rise of modern financial institutions.

Second, he argues that the slave economy’s success was critical to the larger success of what we call the Industrial Revolution. This is commonly portrayed as a question of technology — spinning jenny, mechanical loom, etc. — but developing the modern textile industry also required an enormous amount of fiber as inputs. All that technology would have run into fundamental ecological limits if you’d tried to fuel the factories with British wool. There isn’t nearly enough space for all the sheep.

Riding to the rescue was American cotton. In the 70 years between the adoption of the Constitution and the outbreak of the Civil War, US production rose 2,000-fold from 1.2 million pounds to 2.1 billion pounds.

(Photo of a slave market in Atlanta, Georgia, 1864, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cartoonist and 2014 MacArthur fellow Alison Bechdel may be best known for her eponymous sexism screening tool, but Alyssa Rosenberg believes more people should be familiar with comic strip that put her on the map:

“Dykes to Watch Out For” dives deep into a fictional lesbian community, considering the impact of transgender politics, marriage and even the death of independent bookstores on her characters. Pop culture as a whole has had an unfortunate tendency, upon telling the stories of white, affluent gay men (and, less often, lipstick lesbians), to consider its task of diversification complete. “Dykes to Watch Out For,” which ran from 1983 to 2008, when Bechdel put it on hiatus, is a testament to just how much material other projects and other media have left on the table.

Her characters were multi-generational, multiracial and in all sorts of relationships, including marriages to gay men and house-sharing arrangements. They also ranged up and down the class spectrum: Mo Testa, the main character, started out as a bookstore clerk and ended up as a reference librarian, Toni Ortiz was a certified public accountant and several other characters were academics.

I always enjoyed the strip – a dykey Doonesbury that also managed to convey the complexity and nuance of lesbian life. Tim Teeman takes the opportunity to revisit a 2012 conversation he had with Bechdel about “Dykes”:

Read On

Alexandra Sowa McPartland describes a crisis in the medical profession:

Doctors commit suicide at a rate more than twice the national average. Every year approximately 400 physicians take their own lives. That is roughly one per day, or the equivalent of two entire graduating medical classes each year.

As a recent graduate of an internal-medicine residency, I know that physician depression and suicide are not routinely discussed in medical school or training. Significant time is given in medical education on how to recognize depression and suicidal thoughts in patients, but never once did I hear of my own increased risk of suicide.

One might expect that older physicians, after years in an emotionally and often physically taxing profession, bear the burden of an increased suicide risk. But it is really a phenomenon of young physicians. Suicide accounts for 26 percent of deaths among physicians aged 25 to 39, as compared to 11 percent of deaths in the same age group in the general population.

Mental Health Break

Sep 18 2014 @ 4:20pm

This program break brought to you by Mike Myers’ Scottish dad:

Whither Now, Ukraine?

Sep 18 2014 @ 4:00pm

Michael Weiss’s overview of the situation in Ukraine today touches on several salient topics—corruption, nationalism, the economy, Russia—and is worth a full read. Here, he addresses the law the Ukrainian parliament passed this week granting a measure of autonomy to the country’s eastern regions:

There are already signs that Ukraine and Russia will interpret it differently. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for instance, said in a statement that the law grants the “development in certain regional districts of cross-border cooperation designed to deepen good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation’s administrative and territorial units,” which is a pretty way of describing a breakaway autonomous zone removed in all but name from the central authority in Kiev. … For their part, the Ukrainians who elected Poroshenko largely on his campaign promise to ensure the territorial integrity of their country fear that this deal is another kind of sellout: the de facto ceding of the Donbass to Russia, or the perpetuation of an occupation in all but name. This is why protests objecting to the special status law have recently erupted outside the Rada.

“The mood at the ministry, specifically with the new foreign minister and his team, is to get it over with,” a Ukrainian diplomat told me, referring to a then-nascent cease-fire agreement. “There is one fear that we will have a new Transnistria. The other is that [the war] goes on indefinitely. The first is more awful.”

Alexander Motyl, however, argues that a frozen conflict “will actually be to Ukraine’s benefit”:

Read On

The Racial Divide On Spanking Kids

Sep 18 2014 @ 3:40pm

In the wake of the Adrian Peterson case, various threads are emerging. Josh Voorhees investigates the race angle:

The perception that black parents are more likely to employ corporal punishment than their nonblack counterparts is borne out by academic research. In one study that examined 20,000 kindergartners and their parents, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that 89 percent of black parents had spanked their children, compared with 79 percent of white parents, 80 percent of Hispanic parents, and 73 percent of Asian parents. There is no single reason why blacks are more likely to turn to the rod for discipline, but the numbers are correlated with factors that include socio-economic status, religious upbringing, and even the heartbreaking feeling that, as it’s often put, “I’d rather my child get a beating from me than from police.”

Still, it’s important to note that while black parents might be more likely to spank their kids, they’re not alone in raising a hand to administer punishment—the rates for white, Hispanic, and Asian parents in that University of Texas study are all above 70 percent.

Michael Eric Dyson had a deeply moving piece today – on the roots of such violence in the slavery era. I learned a lot. Money quote:

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit. Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense. Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop. They would rather beat their offspring than bury them.

But the rates are not that much higher than for whites. Maybe it’s another function of the greater levels of and tolerance for physical violence in Jacksonian America. Aaron Blake has some data to back that up:

Read On

Ramesh Ponnuru makes plain how they have and haven’t shifted:

On same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, public attitudes have, in fact, changed. A majority has gone from opposing to supporting both of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that opposing them is going to hurt Republicans: It depends on, among other things, whether there’s a large pool of voters who would be open to Republican candidates if only they supported gay marriage. It does, however, mean that Republicans are going to talk less about these issues.

On the other hand, the public has not shifted on abortion, which has been a politically important social issue for much longer than same-sex marriage or legal pot have been. When pollsters for CBS ask people whether abortion should be “generally available,” or Gallup asks whether it should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” the answers look nearly identical to what they were a decade ago. The same is true when Gallup asks whether people consider themselves “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”

Isn’t it obvious why? Marriage equality and legal cannabis cannot plausibly be described as harming anyone. They’re both classically libertarian, live-and-let-live initiatives. But abortion touches on something very different. Many people believe (and I am one of them) that abortion doesn’t just affect another human life, but ends it. The individual liberty argument – so potent with marriage and cannabis – is checked by a legitimate concern for the unborn child. That’s why the younger generation is close to unanimous on cannabis and marriage but still divided over abortion. Kevin Williamson is in agreement:

Read On