National Park Service ends policy encouraging parks to ban plastic water bottle sales (The Hill)

The National Park Service has ended a policy encouraging national parks to end the sale of plastic disposable water bottles that was aimed at reducing pollution and plastic waste.

In a statement, the NPS said they were lifting the policy to “expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.”

“While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods,” acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds said in the statement.

I find the arguments against bottled water to be pretty compelling in general, but I think Trump is in the right on this one. Symbolic legislation has its place, but this is the government making bottled water less accessible where it’s most useful. Most bottled water is consumed around the house, where people can really come up with alternate arrangements (such as tap and filter) easily enough. Even those used outside the home are in places where there is a degree of flexibility waiting for the next water fountain. On the other hand, national parks tend to be places where you’re most likely to be concerned with hydration. You don’t want to stand in the way of people and their water because they forgot their bottle.

The policy formulation strikes me as “Bottled water is bad” and “We have control over the national parks” therefore “We should ban bottled water there.” Which is true, true, and false.


Category: Newsroom

I had a dream last night – bear with me, this is not just a post about my “weird dream” – that I was out somewhere and there were these cute baby goats. I kept trying to take a picture of the baby goats with my phone but the camera on my phone just wouldn’t work. I never got a picture of the goats and, in fact, even said to myself “There are no goats. This is a dream.” right before I woke up.

But the goats aren’t the important part. The camera is. As it happens, I’ve been having some difficulty with my camera phone lately. So the problems in the dream were not usual or off-the-wall. But I’ve had this dream before. This is the first time it has involved goats, but my inability to take a picture has become a recurring thing.

I wonder if anyone else has had that happen in a dream. Or more than one. And if so, what that might be tapping into.

Collective dreams are not that uncommon. A lot of people have dreams of losing their teeth, showing up naked, or that class that you’ve never studied for and there is a test. That last one is of particular interest because it is the most situation or society specific. Losing teeth is one of the oldest problems in the history of problems. Being naked goes back to whenever we first started wearing clothes. But school? As a universal thing? In the greater scheme of things, that’s pretty recent. Yet our collective subconscious has adapted it into an exemplar of unpreparadness.

These social dreams are interesting because they don’t appear to be something we get from one another. It’s not that we hear about someone having a dream about X and our subconscious says “Ohhhh, that’s a good way to rag myself over lack of preparedness.” A lot of us have these dreams for really long times before realizing that other people are dreaming them.

Do any of you have dreams involving cameras or other modern inventions malfunctioning?


Category: Bedroom

So far good. In fact, a pretty good looking guy for his age.

So far, still good. In fact, that’s a nice head of hair.

Something went horribly wrong here.


Category: Theater

Once again, I have a somewhat sqishy view of the whole thing. But one that will put me mostly outside of my class’s mainstream. This doesn’t include all of my thoughts on the whole thing, but includes a lot of them.

Pro: First, I don’t really blame Google for firing him. When he sent that out on company channels, they became responsible for it. They’re also dealing with some liability and failing to take action on this hurts them.

Anti: The above and Walter Olson make a fair case that this was partially the result of public policy rather than a strictly silent decision. Not unlike how the Obama administration basically pushed private universities across the country to some rather questionable due process policies for sexual misconduct charges. The federal government’s hands are clean, but they’re not, both at the same time.

Pro: All of this would be an issue if the memo weren’t as troublesome as it is. If it had been presented with more delicacy. If it had been some unearthed private blog instead of through company channels.

Anti: It was through company channels but was apparently not, as initially reported, a memo sent out of the blue or something emailed to everybody. Rather, it was in an internal forum dedicated to discussion of precisely these sorts of issues. Google said they wanted a free discussion. This wasn’t some memo sent out of the blue, it was part of a discussion.

Pro: Okay, but what are we, five? On what basis should he have had any faith that this was ever a free and open discussion? On what basis should he have felt free to speak his mind knowing that there were some really controversial views in there? Knowing that it would be disruptive to the workplace? Knowing that women would likely respond in a way that would make his continued empoloyment there difficult? If he didn’t know these things, he should have. Even if we ignore the fact that the left almost never wants the free and open discussion that it says it does, how did he think this would end? Did he think they would look at his statistics and say “Woah, he’s totally right. Women aren’t getting these great jobs because they don’t want them and they’re not capable.”

Anti: That’s not an accurate summary.

Pro: No, but it’s an obvious one. It’s an oversimplified response to a more nuanced argument… and if something can be summaried that way, it probably will be by someone. And if nobody wants to put nuance back in there, that’s going to be the official interpretation. Then you run into a situation where people can sit back and say “It doesn’t matter how accurate your words are. It doesn’t matter if your argument was too nuanced. People won’t work with you. You’ve got to go. QED.” And they’ll say this and they won’t be wrong.

Anti: That’s really not fair, though. It sets up a “discussion” wherein the first person says it’s all about discrimination and anybopdy responding to that is walking through a minefield. It is almost impossible to imagine a 10-page memo claiming that it’s 100% discrimination and harassment getting this kind of response.

Pro: Yes. This is a common tactic in these discussions – to win arguments by default by declaring illegitimate counterarguments (sexist, racist, etc) and counterarguers (whatever your marker of privilege is removes you from the discussion). And in this case, it works. And it works in large part because the other side blew it by actually being sexist and saying sexist things. Enough connections can be drawn between this memo and things written by people that have said some truly awful things that you’re stuck.

Anti: That’s not fair.

Pro: Maybe, but life seldom is. But it’s also not fair to tell female employees that they have to work with and under the guy and that they’re comfortable with his attitude. If they’re not, that’s a problem for them and that’s a problem for the company. A lot of people are mad at the women that no-showed, but getting employees to band together is difficult and that probably indicates existing problems.

Anti: How responsible is Memo Guy for these problems Why should be pay for Google’s sins?

Pro: He made himself a target when he introduced himself into the discussion.

Anti: The free discussion Google said it wanted.

Pro: He shouldn’t have believed that the discussion needed to include deeply unpopular points of view. His bad. He put himself in front of the Mack Truck.

Anti: But look, what he had to say hasn’t been discredited and the science is on his side.

Pro: At least some of it is. There seem to be some feedback loops going on that we have some control over above and beyond the things pointed out in the memo. Computer science has become more male over time rather than less. Their genes didn’t change, and it’s unlikely their priorities have. So culture has an effect.

Anti: Okay, even if it does, it’s not clear they’re accepting anything other than sexism as an explanation. We are, as Jesse Singal says, making Blank Slate-ism a litmus test.

Pro: Which is unfortunate. But we’d have a better way to gauge where everybody is coming from if the original piece hadn’t been as sweeping in the other direction.

Anti: What if the solution are those things you condemn, like stripping computer science of its cultural markers (Star Trek posters in the workplace, etc) and taking the freak flag down?

Pro: Well, screw that. But just because some people are too cavalier about what we can do doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.

Anti: That seems kind of weak.

Pro: Yeah, it kind of is, but no less weak than “This is just the way there is and there’s nothing we can do.”

Anti: So we’re okay with him being fired?

Pro: Yeah, I think so. He doesn’t belong on any blacklists and the list of people who should also be fired should have zero or few names on it, but it’s hard to see any other conclusion, even if it reveals some unflatting things about the conversation we’re supposed to be having.


Category: Office

Utah is lying.

Louisiana is being very honest.

Washington state is being pretentious.

New Hampshire hates God?!

If you’re Casey Affleck, you have to have mixed feelings about ChesapeakeDelaware.


Category: Elsewhere

You may be aware of the Disney movie Frozen. Lain hasn’t seen it yet, though she has an Ilsa doll that she got as a gift. But there was another movie by the name that came out a few years before.

It’s a very, very different movie.

The acting was okay. I only recognized one of the actors as the kid partner from The Following.

Not Disney’s Frozen is about three friends who get stuck on a sky lift. Nobody is going to be back for five days and if they don’t do something about it, they’re going to freeze to death. It’s an independent filmmaker’s dream of a plot, because for filming all you need to do is rent out a ski area when it’s not being used and that’s all you have to do for location expenses! All of the drama takes place right there.

The downside to that plot is that it’s hard to fill 90 minutes with it. They aren’t stuck until they’re about 30 minutes in. Some of the stretches of the movie are pretty slow. It’s one of those movies to watch while you’re doing something else.

Don’t watch it right before bed, though, because it is really really dark. I will share with you only one spoiler to give you an idea of how dark. One of the characters, after breaking his legs jumping off the ski lift, is eaten alive by wolves while the others look away. And the kicker? His fate isn’t the worst of the three.

The jumping character made the mistake of holding his legs out straight. Anyone who has ever watched movies knows that’s not what you do. It turns out that I was wrong about what you do do, though. I thought you’d be best just jumping in a ball, but you’re supposed to have bent legs that take some of the pressure as you fall. Lesson learned!

Anyway, I neither recommend the movie nor tell you to stay away from it. You can watch it for free (with ads) on TubiTV. It’s a good background movie, but only if you’re in the mood for something dark.


Category: Theater

A new CDC report could reignite the debate over Hollywood’s influence on teen tobacco use

The drop in the percentage of youth-oriented films featuring tobacco use, as well as the dramatic decline in tobacco occurrences in G and PG films, is positive. Still, tobacco impressions within films geared toward teens and young adults hasn’t improved since 2010. If it had, the CDC reports that all youth-rated films would have been completely smoke-free by 2015. Instead, “the average number of tobacco incidents increased 55 percent in youth-rated movies with any tobacco depiction,” a result of five of Hollywood’s six major movie companies — all of which have corporate tobacco depiction policies — featuring more tobacco use.

The answer to the issue lies with where, how much, and what type of tobacco is being used in cinema. In short, fewer movies are featuring not just more smoking but more kinds of tobacco use. That concentrated increase is once again raising concerns about the relationship between tobacco’s presence in media and an increased likelihood of picking up the habit.

To clarify: Smoking in youth-oriented movies is down, it’s especially down in movies aimed at younger audiences where people are most impressionable, and of course smoking rates among the young are down. They really, really need something to be alarmed about.

Smoking rates are down and have been doing down a while. Smokers are going broke paying ever-increasing taxes on cigarettes. Most people hate smoking, and smokers. More smokers than not hate smoking and themselves for their havit. Can public health at some point just declare victory and go home?


Category: Newsroom

When Will Wonder Woman Be a Fat, Femme Woman of Color? (Ms Magazine)

Why couldn’t Wonder Woman be a woman of color? When it was announced that Gadot would play Wonder Woman, audiences went wild body shaming her for not having large enough breasts. One can only imagine the white supremacy that would have emerged had the announcement said instead that she would be played by a Black woman. On Paradise Island, there are Black warriors in addition to white ones, which is a good start, but other women of color are missing. Also, while the female warriors are strong and ass-kicking, they all have tall, thin body types and they all could be models on a runway. In fact, in a pivotal battle scene, Wonder Woman struts across the battlefield as if on a catwalk. As a result, their physical strength plays second fiddle to their beauty, upholding the notion that in order to access power women must be beautiful in a traditional way. Especially with the body positivity movement gaining steam, the film could have spotlighted female warriors with fat, thick and short body types. While people have said that warriors can’t be fat, some of our best paid male athletes are, particularly linebackers on the football field, and no one doubts their physical strength.

Another problem is that the story’s overt queerness gets sublimated by heteronormativity. Diana comes from a separatist commune of women who have intentionally chosen to live without men. In one of the first scenes between Diana and Steve, she explains that she read 12 volumes of a series on sex that concluded that while men are required for reproduction, when it comes to female pleasure, they’re unnecessary. While a love story develops between them, a requirement in superhero stories, Diana thankfully doesn’t compromise her integrity for him.

The Sham Psychology of Wonder Woman The beauties of the soul and body do not correspond. (American Conservative)

It doesn’t help that Diana is a beautiful woman. The film never shows the realism of what great beauty can inflict on a person: the deathblows to maturity that are attention, flattery, and unearned affection, and the self-complacency and mistrust of others that can follow. Just as she is unaware of her superpowers, Diana is unaware of her womanly powers. She attempts to undress in public, oblivious to the effect it might have on those watching. She doesn’t understand the concept of partner dancing, complaining that it’s “just swaying.” When she tries it for herself she remarks, with the sterility of a doctor, that the bodies of men and women are very close in this kind of dance.

Not that I can say too much. I have myself complained about female cop characters (and some males) looking more like underwear models than police officers. In Batman vs Superman, Gadot doesn’t really fall into that category, though. And while I do wish Hollywood would be less myopic when it comes to standards of beauty, Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman, and the Amazonians are Amazonians, and it’s built in to the concept that I would not choose to die on that particular hill.


Category: Theater

Walking back

It’s presumptuous to criticize members of a profession for acting “unprofessionally,” especially true when I have not acquainted myself with the specific norms of that profession. I did that when I said recently that some mental health professionals “are acting unprofessionally and to a certain extent dangerously in their public diagnoses” of Mr. Trump. Part of what I meant was that mental health professionals ought not to comment publicly on a public official’s mental health.

I no longer believe that. Dr. X–both in his comments here at Hit Coffee [for example] and in some posts at his own blog [here and here]–has convinced me that it’s sometimes appropriate for mental health professionals to make such public commentary and that whether or not it’s “professional” is more arguable than I allowed.

Cautions are still in order

I still urge caution when it comes to public diagnoses, but before I proceed, I’ll note a few terms I am probably using wrong, or at least too globally. “Mental health”  and “diagnoses” here in this post are catchalls and may not necessarily encompass what public commentary on public officials is really about. “Mental health professional” is a broad term, too. It can include MD’s, PsyD’s, PHD’s, LCSW’s, and probably others–the key point is that I’m referring to people who are licensed or otherwise credentialed to counsel others or to people who study mental health academically. While my use of these terms is sloppy, I ask your indulgence.

Now, on to the cautions…

Caution #1: “can’t” is a sliding scale

It’s important not to confuse the general sense and professional norm that such commentary is “improper” with a strict prohibition against such public commentary. I understand the Goldwater rule is somehow encoded into the American Psychology Association’s code of ethics. I suspect, however, a mental health professional who offers public diagnoses does not usually risk being hauled before an ethics board or otherwise sanctioned in the same way he or she might by, say, inappropriately breaking confidentiality.

Anti-caution: We should presume that professionals take the established norms of their profession seriously. Even if they disagree with the norms and seek to revise or ask others to reconsider them, we should presume the professionals feel in some way answerable to those norms or at least believe the norms something that merit discussion and are not to be  lightly disregarded. Even without a strong enforcement mechanism, these injunctions still act in some ways as a prohibition.

Caution #2: There is never enough information

I submit that any public diagnosis has to be upfront about what is not known and ought to be open to the concern that the diagnosis might be too hasty. In the meta-sense we just cannot see into other people’s minds. In the non-meta-sense, there’s always something we don’t know about others’ history or actions or influences.

Anti-caution: Thus is it always and everywhere. No matter how much is known there are always unknowns. And yet, we have to come to conclusions and mental health professionals are no different.

I am informed that in at least some cases, the mental health professional can diagnose an individual in a matter of minutes. I am also informed that in other cases, mental health professionals may be called upon to create psychological profiles of others whom they have never met (say, psychological profiles of employees or profiles of foreign leaders for state intelligence). And regardless of these examples, some persons’ actions do demonstrate what they are likely to do in the future, and if a mental health professional can yield discipline-specific insights into those actions that a layperson cannot offer, then that’s probably okay.

Caution #3: my corollary to the McArdle rule

Megan McArdle often says that just because there’s a problem doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a solution to the problem. My corollary is that just because a public diagnosis is correct doesn’t mean it tells us what to do with the person so diagnosed. (I’ll add here that a good model is Dr. X. He may offer opinions grounded in his area of expertise, but when he discusses policy solutions he takes care to distinguish what his expertise can and cannot tell us.)

Anti-caution: My corollary doesn’t mean such public diagnoses are worthless. A diagnosis might very well and very rightly warn us, for example, against false assurances that someone will “pivot.”

Caution #4: there will be blowback and it will be unfair

In one of my posts, I referred briefly to objections that Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine has about public diagnoses. I don’t agree with everything he says there, and I agree with less of it now that I’ve heard Dr. X’s counterpoints. Still, the following objection from Mr. Lerner rings true to me:

I believe that making these kind of diagnoses without the benefit of having a carefully constructed private relationship with the public political  personality being analyzed leads many of the tens of millions of supporters of the political character who has been labeled in this way to believe that implicitly they too are being judged and dissed. This plays into a central problem facing us in the liberal and progressive world….When we use the kind of psychiatric labeling suggested by those who insist that Trump is a clinical narcissist, that is heard by many who support him as just a continuation of the way the liberal and progressive forces continually dismiss everyone who is not already on our side as being racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti- Semitic, or stupid.  This makes many of these people feel terrible, intensifies their self-blaming, but then often generates huge amounts of anger at those who have made those judgments without ever actually knowing the lives and details of the people that are thus being dissed. And this contributes to the ability of right-wing demagogues like Trump (not a psychiatric term, but a political judgment) to win support by telling a deep truth to  many Americans: “many on the Left know nothing about your lives, but they have contempt for you, think that if you are white or if you are a male you are specially privileged and should spend your energies learning how to renounce your privilege.”….

First, I should say my quotation is deceptive. The ellipses elide quite a bit. If you go back to read Lerner’s comment in full (I’m quoting from his point no. 4, but I recommend reading all his points), you’ll see his argument is not merely pragmatic, but enmeshed in a broader, ideological critique of the faults he finds with capitalism and meritocracy. I don’t necessarily share that broader critique and if I hadn’t elided those points, the quote would have been not only longer, but would have seemed more contestable as well.

Second, what Lerner seems to me to be saying (in part) is that however accurate a public diagnosis, it might elicit a stronger reaction and in the process do little good. His point is at least partially about prudence. We live in the world, and the world is going to react. It’s not fair, but that’s what will happen.

Anti-caution: We out not overlearn that lesson and make an idol of prudence. If someone speaks the truth, that is a value unto itself. The truth is an end. If that truth is commanded or informed by one’s professional memberships and professional training, then sometimes (maybe always?) it must be uttered and pursued, regardless of prudential considerations. And as Mike Schilling Over There has reminded me, the principal bearers of blame are those who don’t acknowledge the truth and those who create or pursue or gainsay the lies.

If you’re right, you’re right

I’ll probably never be comfortable with public diagnoses. But that said–and in contrast to a point I made very recently–those public diagnoses of Mr. Trump that I’ve seen seem to be correct. Even if they’re not correct, they’re correct enough. Mr. Trump’s actions have shown him to be a dangerous, petty man. So I’ll end where I began above. I retract my blanket statement that mental health professionals ought never issue public diagnoses of public figures.


Category: Hospital, Statehouse

yearbookquoteThis October piece by Michael Brendan Dougherty seems kind of prescient. There’s a degree to which people who a few weeks ago were bragging about how the Deep State was going to obstruct Trump’s agenda are now freaking out that Trump is going after the Deep State.

And from November, Ed Krayewski argued that if you don’t understand how anyone could have voted for Trump, you’re why Trump won.

Never mind whether it’s fair to conservatives, Musa al-Gharbi argues that the lack of ideological diversity is hurting social research. I don’t know what you do about a feedback loop this far in, though. {More}

As Uncle Steve alludes to, it’s easier to be a sanctuary city where nobody unrich can afford to live.

Jason Richwine notes that the children of immigrants are learning English, but fears they are not sufficiently forgetting Spanish. Yeah, not too worried about that.

DishGirl writes of abortion regret and the sorry it can leave behind.


Category: Newsroom

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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