How's this for unusual election stories?

From Male, Female or Both? Reactions to Intersex Americans Through History

In the early to mid-19th century, doctors began to record and discuss encounters with intersex people in medical journals. One of these people was Levi Suydam, a 23-year-old white man and property owner in Connecticut who tried to register to vote in 1843. When someone challenged Suydam’s application on the grounds that he was more female than male and therefore couldn’t vote, a doctor from Hartford named William James Barry stepped in to examine him.

Based on the presence of some male sex organs, Barry decided Suydam was “a male citizen, and consequently entitled to all the privileges of a freeman,” as he wrote in The New York Journal of Medicine. That spring, Suydam was able to cast the deciding vote for the Whig party in a local election. Yet afterwards, Barry wondered whether he’d been wrong. He and another doctor found out Suydam menstruated and lacked facial hair. They also realized Suydam was sexually attracted to men, a characteristic the doctors considered inherently female.

Barry didn’t record how his follow-up examinations affected Suydam, so we don’t know if he ended up losing his right to vote.

More random links

Moral Memories and the Belief in the Good Self
"First, there is a tendency for people to willfully and actively forget details about their own moral transgressions but not about their own morally praiseworthy deeds. Second, when past moral transgressions are not forgotten, people strategically compare their more recent unethical behaviors with their more distant unethical behaviors to foster a perception of personal moral improvement over time."
Harvard falls to the diversocrats
Previous clients of the lawyer who lost his position at dean of one of Harvard's residential college after choosing to represent Harvey Weinstein: "it isn’t unusual for Professor Sullivan to represent unpopular clients. In the past, he has represented Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player accused of a double murder, and the family of Usaamah Rahim, a man accused of being a terrorist who was shot by the Boston Police. But his decision to represent the man at the centre of the #MeToo scandal proved too much for some radical students". Power in society and who holds it is often better examined by observation rather than claims highlighted in the media as to who holds it.
Hot Sauce in Oatmeal Makes Cold Weather More Bearable
Western breakfasts tend to be sweet - but there are a lot of other approaches you can take. Been experimenting with a few alternatives of late. (Relatedly, I'm not sure that I've ever seen a pho restaurant in the West open during breakfast hours, but it's the most popular breakfast in Vietnam.

Random links

What For?
"In the slightly less than a hundred years from 1898 to 1994, the U.S. government has intervened successfully to change governments in Latin America a total of at least 41 times. That amounts to once every 28 months for an entire century"
‘Nothing Kept Me Up At Night the Way the Gorgon Stare Did.’
"Get this: Amazon has a patent for a system to analyze the video footage of private properties collected by its delivery drones and then feed that analysis into its product recommendation algorithm. You order an iPad case, a drone comes to your home and delivers it. While delivering this package the drone’s computer vision system picks up that the trees in your backyard look unhealthy, which is fed into the system, and then you get a recommendation for tree fertilizer. There is tremendous value in the data that can be collected from the sky and people will seek to take advantage of that data."
Gender Stereotypes Have Changed: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of U.S. Public Opinion Polls From 1946 to 2018
"Belief in competence equality increased over time, along with belief in female superiority among those who indicated a sex difference in competence. Contemporary gender stereotypes thus convey substantial female advantage in communion and a smaller male advantage in agency but also gender equality in competence along with some female advantage."

Cass Sunstein on attitudes to expert opinion in academia and government

It seems worth noting, to add a little context, that Sunstein ran the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for the first few years of the Obama-era, and at least per a Harvard press release in 2018 is by far the most-cited legal scholar in the US.

He's probably best known for "nudging", but some of his other research interests I think are at least as interesting and which may explain some of the blowback he's gotten. I'm thinking here of things like availability cascades and preference falsification (though the latter is better associated with former coauthor of his, Timur Kuran). If you're interested in trying to get an overview of his thought, he was recently a guest on the 80000 hours podcast discussing How Change Happens. He's also almost certainly the highest profile academic to have written for Quillette1, where he published Conformity and the Dangers of Group Polarization, an excerpt from a recent book of his.


  1. I should add that I was far from surprised to hear when waking up this morning that Quillette had finally been confirmed to have published a hoax article. I figured it was only a matter of time. That said, if you've got time to dig into things in some depth on a topic, I recommend oversampling the edge cases. That probably explains why it was Jacobin where I first heard this. Would always suggest reading sources like Jacobin or Quillette with a grain of salt though. ↩︎

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