National b(L)I(N)Ke to School Day

Regarding the title:

Now, moving on to business as usual.

DrumpfTaking a cue from the NPR game show “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” here’s some of the latest absurdities to start us off.

The Jordanian Airline Making Money Off the Laptop Ban (Alice Su, The Atlantic, 25 March 2017): At least one airline is doing something right (and not by jacking the prices on renting you a janky, overpriced DVD player for the duration of your flight).

Meet the Everyday People Who Have Sued Trump. So Far, They’ve Won. (Vivian Yee, The New York Times, 29 March 2017): “One of the reasons I came here [from Iran] was because I thought, here we’re going to have the freedom of speech and religion and all these. But if I don’t have those freedoms, then what would be the point of staying here?”

“In a funny way, even though I’m discouraged about how they’re vilifying Muslims and using the presidential seal of approval to vilify Muslims, the lawsuits and people’s response has made me feel even stronger about this country…In any other country, when the president wants something, he gets it…The fact that a lowly judge somewhere can basically stop the most powerful man on earth with a simple ruling is gratifying, and it shows what this country’s all about.”

Religion and PoliticsMostly serious, a few silly, some liberal, some conservative.

The president as pharaoh? Trump is turning up in Passover seders. (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, 9 April 2017): And I quote, “Anti-Trump activist group Indivisible Nation BK’s online Haggadah…replaced the traditional hunt for the afikomen, a piece of hidden matzoh, with a hunt for Trump’s tax returns.”

Soul-searching at Princeton Theological Seminary (Jeff Chu, Religion News Service, 12 April 2017): “Is feeling unwelcome the same as not belonging? Does having your beliefs questioned threaten one’s sense of belonging as much as having your identity doubted or devalued?”

“Humility might help us see how the attempt to honor Keller felt like dishonor to those long marginalized by the church. Humility might help us understand how we try to outshout or ignore voices who disagree with us theologically. Humility might help us resist the temptation to rank our suffering ahead of others”

Joy I Cannot Share (Serena J. Poon, Inheritance Magazine, Issue 53): “Coming out didn’t make me lose Jesus — it led me closer to Him because in experiencing the fullness of myself, I could more fully see how God loved and accepted all of who I am. I felt that I was finally fulfilling His designs for me. In this, I found joy and wanted to share in this joy with my family and friends — including my parents … A few years later, I came out again — for the final time. I endured harsh and desperate words from my parents: I would die, because if I get sick, God wouldn’t heal me; I was a terrible daughter; I gave my mom cancer as punishment for my sins; and my greatest pride was their deepest shame. Those last words hurt me the most. As an Asian American, bringing pride to my parents is one of the few ways I get to make them happy. Bringing shame to them and our family is one of the worst things that I could’ve done.”

The American Health Care Act’s Prosperity Gospel (Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic, 5 May 2017): “Although public-health circles might want to believe that the view of sickness as a curse has been supplanted by epidemiology, it’s very clear that prosperity gospel has stuck around as one of the major pillars of American health policy.” (This article presents an interesting possible explanation of one aspect of the red state paradox.)

The Passion of Southern Christians (Margaret Renkl, The New York Times, 8 April 2017): “Partly this divide comes down to scale: You can love a human being and still fear the group that person belongs to.”

“My people are among the least prepared to survive a Trump presidency, but the ‘Christian’ president they elected is about to demonstrate exactly what betrayal really looks like — and for a lot more than 30 pieces of silver…But I also believe in resurrection. Every day brings word of a new Trump-inflicted human-rights calamity, and every day a resistance is growing that I would not have imagined possible, a coalition of people on the left and the right who have never before seen themselves as allies. In working together, I hope we’ll end up with something that looks a lot like a Christian nation — not in doctrine but in practice, caring for the least among us and loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

(More on the red state paradox.  Also, don’t jump to conclusions about this article just because it was published by a typically liberal paper.)

A Brief Note on Mike and Karen Pence’s Dinner Arrangements (Katherine Fritz, I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog, 30 March 2017): Yes, this is a problem because after-hours “mingling” is how you get the metaphorical (and literal) seat at the table in DC, and this categorically excludes 50% of the population from that opportunity to influence one of the most powerful people in the world, a person who is supposed to represent all Americans, not just those with a penis and not a vagina.  However, I do think the media/interwebs in general had its heyday over the wrong issue here: he doesn’t have this rule because he wants to be a misogynistic asshole (even if you think he is), he has it because of his religious beliefs (even if these may make him, in your opinion, a misogynistic asshole).  Being an asshole (perceived or real) isn’t the problem: there are lots of asshole politicians.  The problem is when a politician’s assholery impinges upon his or her ability to govern fairly and effectively.  And that’s the biggest problem here.

“Mike Pence’s religious beliefs, like the religious beliefs of many Americans, aren’t always great for women’s rights and freedoms — even though a lot of women are happy practicing those same religious beliefs…So as long as Mike Pence’s religious beliefs don’t get in the way of his ability to govern effectively, we don’t anything to worry about. He is free to dine with whomever he wants, believe whatever he wants, and pray however he wants, so long as he is governing according to the will of the people, and not to the canon of his religion.”

Also, relating to another article up and coming, “Muslim religious beliefs sound a whole lot like the religious beliefs of most conservative Americans.”

When Conservatives Oppose ‘Religious Freedom’ (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 11 April 2017): “After 9/11, some prominent evangelicals denounced Islam. But overall, a review of responses to the attacks noted that the Christian right is ‘refusing to vilify Islam after September 11 and remains committed to an alliance of “orthodox believers.”‘…There are several potential explanations for the growing Christian conservative hostility to American Muslims. One is surely the endurance of jihadist terrorism and the bitter failure of America’s wars in the Middle East and South Asia, which has left conservatives both scared of Muslims and skeptical of their ability to embrace ‘Western values.’ A second, less obvious, factor may be the weakening of the social conservative agenda that might have bound Muslims and conservative Christians together.”

Polarization Is for Magnets, Not for People: Also, rhetorical and political literacy is really important!

The Tricks People Use to Avoid Debate (Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, July/August 2015 Issue): “Want to avoid a debate? Just tell your opponent to check his privilege. Or tell him he’s slut-shaming or victim-blaming, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or Islamophobic, or cisphobic, or some other creative term conveying that you are simply too outraged by the argument to actually engage it. Or, on the other side of the coin, accuse him of being the PC thought police and then snap your laptop smugly.”  I really really wish this argument had been developed further, but alas, the limitations of printed(!) media.

Checking Privilege Checking (Phoebe Maltz Bovy, The Atlantic, 7 May 2014): “To call someone ‘privileged’ is to say that his or her successes are undeserved. It’s a personal insult posing as social critique.”  Sense a theme?  So maybe the person you’re criticizing is wrong/is being insenstive/doesn’t realize they’re the beneficiaries of societal mechanics: so tell them that and why, not just that they’re privileged.  Or maybe they aren’t, and you (probably plural) need to spend some time listening and not talking.  Don’t shortcut your arguments, folks!

UC Berkeley Declares Itself Unsafe for Ann Coulter (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 20 April 2017): “Her critics would have done well to deny her attention by treating her scheduled appearance with the ambivalent yawn every provocateur most dreads. Instead, they began playing into her hands, situating her appearance in a paradigm where free speech is cast as being in conflict with anti-racism—a wrongheaded frame anathema to civil-rights heroes and marginalized protesters the world over. It guarantees either that bigots like Coulter will be seen by many as occupying a moral high ground, or that free speech will suffer, hitting marginalized groups hardest in the end.”

People don’t like paying taxes. That’s because they don’t understand them. (Marjorie E. Kornhauser, The Washington Post, 14 April 2017): I have never thought about taxes this way before.  It’s an enchantingly straightforward solution to a complex problem, sort of like fluoridating tap water to prevent cavities.  Sure, people still get cavities for a lot of reasons (eg, genetics, drinking acidic beverages, not brushing teeth), but it’s a start.


I Am Not Your Muslim (Nesrine Malik, NPR, 6 May 2017): “to frame everything in terms of refutation is the opposite of empowerment.”  (Could also go under the heading about religion and politics, but I think this has more to do with identity politics than the sort of politics mainly featured in that section).

‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks (Kat Chow, NPR, 19 April 2017): This is a really really good summary of why anti-Asian racism was/is fundamentally different than anti-Black racism, and why using Asian Americans (a fraught definition by itself) as a measuring pole for anyone else with not-White skin is terrible for everyone.

Reporter’s notebook: Riots or uprising? 25 years since the Rodney King verdict, a Korean American story (Juju Chang, ABC, 29 April 2017): Despite being a West Coast Asian, this is an event that frankly I hadn’t heard much about growing up.

Feminism: Yes I said the F word.

seriously, the guy has a point (Greg Fallis,, 14 April 2017): “But here’s the thing: you can completely agree with the woman who responded to my comment AND you can still acknowledge that Arturo Di Modica has a point. Those aren’t mutually exclusive or contradictory points of view.” In brief: The girl statue is nice.  The girl statue derives its power from the bull statue.  The presence of the “fearless” girl implies the bull represents something fearful (eg, patriarchy, aggression, misogyny).  The bull’s artist did not intend it to represent fear; it was supposed to represent positive things (eg, strength of the American market, hope in America).  Thus the girl subverts the bull (duh, that was the girl’s creator’s intent).  This makes the bull’s artist upset because that’s not the story he wanted to tell, not because he’s a misogynistic asshole.  (This could also go under polarization but that section was huge already.)

As a woman in science, I need to conceal my femininity to be taken seriously (Eve Forster, Vox, 4 May 2017): Ugh yes.  I’m thankful not to have experienced too much of this (I work in a female-dominated sub-specialty having to do with primarily women’s health issues), but even in university coursework, the mansplaining was never incessant but almost always present.  Student-to-student, student-to-TA, even student-to-freaking-professor.

One More Barrier Faced by Women in Science (Lily Cohen, The Scientific American, 21 April 2017): “It’s not that this challenge was career ending, and after a day of over-hydration, I would not have to repeat my urination re-education. However, this charade took time that I would have otherwise put towards improving the data logger program for a precipitation monitor in the Arctic, testing our new snow depth probe, or otherwise forwarding my career. No individual’s discrimination or hostility directly led to me peeing on myself; it’s just one more challenge of being a woman entering roles that are historically held by men.” Before someone uses this as an excuse to argue that women really are just pansies, that’s not the point.  Women (and men) who are dedicated to their field don’t let things like the lack of a loo inhibit their research or work; they find a way to work around it.  Women just have more to work around than men do, sometimes at high personal, financial, or even chronological cost.

‘Penis Seat’ Causes Double Takes on Mexico City Subway (Sopan Deb and Marina Franco, The New York Times, 31 March 2017): Why is catcalling harmful?  Why is creepily staring at/leaning over/leering at/repeatedly talking to random women not okay?  Because it’s uninvited, intimidating, and just plain creepy.  How do you feel about a sculpture of a dick on a subway seat?  Because that’s about how I feel about all of those behaviors.

The pros and cons of male athletes lending support, appreciation to their female counterparts (Michelle Smith, espnW, 1 May 2017): “I think people struggled to find a woman to compare me with, so they went to men as the default. And that’s fine, but I also want to be compared with Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird and players like that.” (Kelsey Plum, UW point guard with too many accolades to name, number one draft pick 2017)

“But we also need to do a better job of promoting our stars. We want people to see that Diana Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne are great players, and not just because Kobe said so. Right now, more girls in Seattle want to be Kelsey Plum. And we’ve got to continue to push, to get the exposure and the branding and the media coverage.” (Lindsay Gottlieb, head coach at Cal)

Tangentially related, for all the bros who trash on the WNBA: if star NBA players appreciate it, why can’t the average guy?

Women in Sports: Feminism reprise

Analyze This (Sue Bird, The Players Tribune, 10 March 2016):  Wins prize for favorite narrative article.

“The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring. Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game.  Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.  There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league.”

“But Dee deserves it, too. And so does Maya. And so does Elena. We all do, and so does this league.  One day, I won’t even have to tell my niece about how great Diana Taurasi was.  The numbers will speak for themselves.”

Sports, equality, numbers.  Can Sue Bird get any more awesome?  I don’t think so.

50 Years Ago, Doris Brown Put U.S. Women’s Distance Running on the Map (Roger Robinson, Runner’s World, 21 March 2017): “One of America’s greatest distance running talents had one major flaw: She was too fast for her time.”

“She’s the first woman known to have run 100 miles a week. ‘When I read that Jim Ryun was running twice a day, I tried it, and immediately my times improved, even at sprints,’ Heritage said.”

I am incredibly thankful that I got to interact with Doris just a little through my high school program.  Even more than her running accomplishments, her character and optimism is an inspiration.

Science Is Cool: One of my favorite pastimes at work is to read a weird paper (usually from Science, Nature, etc) and then drop a “So I was reading this paper…didyaknow?!” randomly in conversation.  It never fails to throw people for a loop.

Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird (Rae Ellen Bichnell, NPR, 20 April 2017): The naked molerat exhibit was always my favorite at the children’s museum growing up (much to my mother’s chagrin.  “But they’re so ugly!” cried she.  “Nuh uh, they’re cute!” retorted me.)  They (usually) don’t get cancer.  They resist pain.  They change sex.  And now they…use the environment to regulate body temperature? (Warning: lots of paywalls).

Octopuses and squids can rewrite their RNA. Is that why they’re so smart? (Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, 6 April 2017): Next in line for the Weird Animal Award are octupus and squid who in addition to being proteges of Harry Houdini have now also been found to edit their mRNA.

Octogenarian Couple Donates $10 Million Insect Collection (Camila Domonoske, NPR, 24 March 2017): “‘He would like me to know more about weevils,’ she said. ‘But the more I know about weevils the more I have to help him.'” I hope by the time I am in my 80s I have accomplished a fraction of this, both professionally and personally.

Science and PolicyThe weird parts are cool but science is also serious sometimes.  We’re not just crackpot academics up in an ivory tower; the stuff we study has very real political and social consequences.

Accidental therapists: For insect detectives, the trickiest cases involve the bugs that aren’t really there (Eric Boodman, Stat, 22 March 2017): Wins prize for favorite non-narrative article.

“But it wasn’t hard to see how this creature could potentially shape-shift in her mind, from a harmless half-inch garden-dweller to something much more sinister: an uncontrollable swarm. Already, these few bugs had taken up residence in her thoughts. That could happen to anyone.  And Ridge knew just how fragile the boundary could be between the insects in someone’s house and the ghostly insects of the mind…’Insects are most often not the problem,’ she said.  The problem is us.”  This is science journalism at its finest.

The ban on mentally ill people buying guns wasn’t ever based on evidence (Jeffrey Swanson, The Washington Post, 10 February 2017): Depolarize!  The world is complex!  “The gun restriction rule is a well-meaning policy that gets some things right, notably its support of federal efforts to improve detection of risky people who should not have legal access to guns. But despite its good intentions, what the policy actually does is take away the gun rights of a large category of individuals without any evidence that they pose a risk of harm to self or others, and without legal due process protections commensurate with abridging a constitutional right…When the government takes away people’s rights, usually they have a hearing, a chance to contest the proceedings, and legal representation. None of those is provided when a person is assigned a money manager by the Social Security Administration, nor would it be feasible to do so routinely. But when such a determination is later leveraged for a totally different purpose — suspension of a person’s Second Amendment rights — the lack of process becomes a legitimate civil rights concern.”

Kathryn (David Muller, The New England Journal of Medicine, 23 March 2017): “From their very first shadowing experience to their first foray in the lab; from high school advanced-placement courses and college admissions tests to grade point averages and the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); with helicopter parents, peer pressure, violins and varsity soccer, college rankings, medical school rankings, medical licensing exams, and the residency Match, we never let up on them — and it’s killing them.”


Feel free to insult each other, forget your manners, create straw men, ignore empirical data, and commit as many other fallacies as you can, all from the cozy, anonymous protection of your keyboard.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s