Monday Readings & Comments

February 3, 2014, 2:44 pm

Why, yes, I’ll take your survey
Starfish Oregon coast

First, the perils of surveying people, especially teenagers:

So imagine the surprise and confusion when subsequent revisits to the same research subjects found more than 70 percent of the self-reported adolescent nonheterosexuals had somehow gone “straight” as older teens and young adults.

“We should have known something was amiss,” says Savin-Williams. “One clue was that most of the kids who first claimed to have artificial limbs (in the physical-health assessment) miraculously regrew arms and legs when researchers came back to interview them.”

Well, yes, unless you’re interviewing starfish, the regrowth of limbs would seem to throw a fair number of the survey responses into doubt.

Next up, James Fallows eloquently argues that the Cory Remsburg tribute in the State of the Union was misguided here and here:

But while that moment reflected limitless credit on Sgt. Remsburg, his family, and others similarly situated; and while I believe it was genuinely respectful on the president’s part, I don’t think the sustained ovation reflected well on the America of 2014. It was a good and honorable moment for him and his family. But I think the spectacle should make most Americans uneasy.

The vast majority of us play no part whatsoever in these prolonged overseas campaigns; people like Sgt. Remsburg go out on 10 deployments; we rousingly cheer their courage and will; and then we move on. Last month I mentioned that the most memorable book I read in 2013 was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. It’s about a group of U.S. soldiers who barely survive a terrible encounter in Iraq, and then are paraded around in a halftime tribute at a big Dallas Cowboys game. The crowd at Cowboys Stadium cheers in very much the way the Capitol audience did last night—then they get back to watching the game

Eloquent but, I think, wrong. Fallows is making the mistake that many thoughtful people do: they want an issue discussed in the way that they think it should be discussed. Fallows (I take from his comment) wants a long, thoughtful national discussion and engagement with our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that’s not happening. But what is happening is that the American public is, haltingly, sporadically, but consistently, telling their government that 1) they honor and respect the service the troops have given, and 2) that they want America out of both Irag and Afghanistan. Public opinion on both #1 and #2 has been pretty consistent since around 2008. That’s no small thing, and it has allowed, in a way that no serious minded comments in the web could have, Barack Obama to wind up the missions in both places over both partisan and elite opposition.

Third, a draw down in operations which, I think, has at least partially led to this beneficial result:

Suicides in the Army fell by 19 percent in 2013, dramatically reversing a rising trend plaguing the Army for almost 10 years.

There were 150 suicides among soldiers on active-duty status last year, down from a record 185 in 2012, according to Army data. The numbers include both confirmed and suspected suicides.

Still too high (and the military needs to be careful that the vulnerable group hasn’t simply been shifted to the veteran population), but better.

Fourth, snow fall and school cancellations, in one impressive map:


The color around DC looks accurate to me.

Fifth, 9/11 still echoing more than a decade later, Flight attendant’s pins from 9/11 crash returned to American Airlines:

It just helps you to know they will never be forgotten, even 13 years later,” said Cathie Ong, who received the pins on behalf of American and the families of crew members who died in the terrorist attacks during a ceremony at the C.R. Smith Museum. Ong’s sister, Betty, was a flight attendant on American Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center.

Finally, it was the shortest Super Bowl in a long time, being pretty much over by the end of the first quarter. The only worse beating I can remember is San Francisco taking out (wait for it!) Denver in 1990.

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