The Age of Self Promotion

When a person’s image and/or reputation is inflated, sometimes people lament, “Big hat, no cattle.” A lot of people today, like the President of the United States, excel at promoting themselves more than anything else. Thanks to the public’s allegiance to valueless media, we’re making a mockery of merit.

A case study. My July morning routine entails working out, eating breakfast, making a green tea latte, and then settling in to the day’s Tour de France stage which I spend about thirty minutes fast forwarding through.

This year there are three cyclists from the U.S. in le Tour, meaning about 1.5% of the total peloton. One of the U.S. riders is barely surviving the mountain climbs, just making the maximum time cuts. But because we’re living in the Age of Self Promotion, that same rider is starring on the U.S. television coverage, dropping daily broh-heavy “behind the scenes” video segments that add nothing to the event. He seems likable enough because of a goofy personality. And maybe the fact that both of his parents were professional cyclists and he’s bounced back from a horrific accident a few years ago contribute to some of his faux-fame as well.

But even accounting for those extenuating circumstances, the fact that he’s in damn near last place would only matter if we were in an Age of Meritocracy, but we’re not. Increasingly, we’re surrounded by people with really, really big hats. Which makes it tough to see the front of the race.

What Distinguishes Our Species

This NY Times opinion piece is going to be very widely read and much discussed. Of the many interesting points:

While most people tend to be optimistic, those suffering from depression and anxiety have a bleak view of the future ‚ÄĒ and that in fact seems to be the chief cause of their problems, not their past traumas nor their view of the present. While traumas do have a lasting impact, most people actually emerge stronger afterward. Others continue struggling because they over-predict failure and rejection. Studies have shown depressed people are distinguished from the norm by their tendency to imagine fewer positive scenarios while overestimating future risks.

 

One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice For Those With Economic Means

How can anyone argue the U.S. is the indisputable best country in the world when our tax and health insurance systems are so flawed. On top of that, our legislature is broken. Yet, none of that has done much to quell our arrogance.

Reading David Grann’s story,¬†Trial by Fire,¬†from the New Yorker, reveals an even more fatal flaw. The more money one¬†has, the better our judicial system works. Put differently, people are not equal under the law¬†because not all people can afford competent, let alone expert representation. In the U.S. today, people’s¬†ability to pay determines how much justice they¬†receive.

If you don’t believe that, read Grann’s¬†story about Todd Willingham.¬†If you’re like me, when you¬†finish it, you’ll be completely gutted.¬†Gutted for the masses of working class people wrongly convicted. And gutted for¬†what economic disparity has wrought.

Peak United States

How do¬†we know if we’re in decline? What are signs of slippage? Do mirrors help? What about comparisons to other people and places?

What psychological barriers prevent us from acknowledging our decline?

Why, despite being very well educated and very comfortable with numbers, do I not understand our tax system well enough to prepare my family’s¬†taxes? Why do I have to pay an expert to prepare them?

Why are there 1,000+ deductions? Why is Congress so susceptible to accounting firms’ lobbyists? And realtors’ lobbyists? Why hasn’t there been meaningful¬†tax reform since 1986? Why does our tax accounting system benefit members of Congress more than their constituents? Why do well-to-do, stock owning citizens, pay less in taxes than others? Why do most other developed countries have far more simple, fair, and efficient tax systems? Why aren’t more people agitating for answers to that question? Why have¬†citizens allowed their representatives to defend the status quo for 30+ years?

Why, despite being very well educated and very comfortable with numbers, do I not understand my health insurance? Why am I told what my doctor visit, biopsies, surgical consultation, and minor surgeries all cost a few weeks afterwards? What if restaurants didn’t have menus, but instead, just told you what you owed after you ate? Why are¬†there initial charges and secondary “what insurance allows” charges? Why does Kaiser-Permanente¬†make me go to a “surgery consultation” when the surgeon said it was unnecessary, “but Seattle won’t let us do our own scheduling”? Why was I charged $206 for the unnecessary 20 minute “consultation”?

Why is Congress so beholden to medical insurance lobbyists? Why do many other developed countries have far more simple, comprehensive, and efficient health insurance systems? Why are so many citizens resigned to health insurance pricing and paperwork lunacy? Why do citizens continue to elect representatives who preserve the medical insurance status quo?

How does anyone of sound mind claim¬†that the U.S. is “the greatest country on God’s green earth” when our tax and health insurance systems are fucked up way beyond¬†our compromised legislative body’s¬†ability to fix them?

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Paragraph to Ponder

From “The Family Man” by Katy Waldman.

“Donald Trump‚Äôs 36-year-old son-in-law has now been tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East, destroying ISIS, reshaping the federal government, halting the opioid epidemic, and wooing China to our side. This would be an ambitious set of action items for a century‚Äôs worth of competent presidential administrations. Trump has handed the to-do list to a boyish cipher whose dad paid millions for him to get into Harvard.”

The Vitamin D Bandwagon

You on it? Ima gonna pass. Why Are So Many People Popping Vitamin D by Gina Kolata.

Related, below is an excerpt from an important new book by Richard Harris whose science reporting you may have heard on National Public Radio, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions.

The Breakdown in Biomedical Research.

Makes one wonder, why do we tend to put scientists and docs on pedestals?