Men: don’t be bullied into protecting predators

I was, to put it mildly, in shock. Here, sitting comfortably before me, leaning out from the detention room cubbie next to me, was… Nick.

Nick was an asshole. Nick was what I called at the time a CPA: a Certified, Public Asshole. He ran with a lot of kids and was liked by none. He frequently influenced events around him, but lacked the ability or the social juice to affect them alone. Instead he sat like a parrot on the shoulders of stronger kids, whispering into their ears and taking what scraps fell from their mouths. He knew the easy meat when he saw it. He took more than his share. Nick was an asshole.

Nick was also a victim. I would learn later that Nick’s dad was in jail for the umpteenth time and his mom was.. ill-prepared, to be charitable. Nick was a child not without his reasons to be angry and to seek easy victories. This excused absolutely nothing but explained quite a bit.

And anyway: here he was. Docile – chatty, even – in a detention room alone with me. Where he could have done anything.  Like the meanest dog in your neighborhood, off the chain and rolling on his back, looking for belly rubs. What the everloving fuck was this?

What the everloving fuck it was

It wouldn’t be until my thirties, long after my bully had disappeared into the landscape, before I recognized the truth: bullies never bully alone. Ever. They pick out the weakest defenses and shatter those walls in full view of their shared social circle. Gym class was always a good choice, if they could manage it, but the lunch room always worked in a pinch. They would find one person to make squeal while everybody else watched.

No. Nobody did anything about it. Yes. A few of his lunkhead friends laughed. But it wasn’t until my adulthood that I would understand that most of the audience were just as terrified to be next. Or at least, uncomfortable enough not to want to change their own lanes in the Darwinist supercollider that is High School. How could they risk it? There are no rules for bullies.

All of which is to say: bullies aren’t just bullying their victims, they’re also forcing the group to cede to their demands. The group itself is bullied. Some go along willingly. Others might be ashamed to see their behavior. But one way or another, all bend to his will because it’s just easier than resisting. Group behavior – the tendency of individuals to act in concert with the group around them – is being hacked by a single sadist. And as soon as things break up, he says, “everybody laughed! It was great fun for all of us!”

But it wasn’t fun for all of us.

Our bullies live among us

In the year 2018, the #MeToo movement has swept through Hollywood like a wildfire, now ready to raze the halls of the Senate, and white men like me are… jumpy. Some of us are belligerent and defensive; some of us have our eyes on our own papers, hoping not to be noticed. Some of us have centered our man buns to achieve the elite yoga pose that is the “woke bro.” But whether by dint of special wokeness, a guilty conscience or generalized anxiety, most of us feel like we need to profess our innocence.

We do so because we’re afraid to be the next under scrutiny. We do it because, in the back of our minds, we worry that being innocent won’t be enough, this time. Or that something we thought was innocent at the time might have crossed some line we won’t be able to defend now. How can we know? The rules have changed.

But be honest with yourself: you’re not a rapist. Awkward? Nervous? Out on a limb?.. An idiot? Quite possibly. But not a predator. Misunderstandings happen all the time. Dating is like that. But awkwardness isn’t a crime.

Neither are the things Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of innocent mistakes. Even in isolation, any of the three accusations is a clear crime according to the law at the time. And your stomach probably would have turned at the thought of his behavior in 1982 as much as it does in 2018.  The rules have not, in fact, changed. The willingness to prosecute the law is what has changed.

You’re getting bullied, but not by women

Don’t explain to the women in your life that “wouldn’t do that.” They’ve got your number. It isn’t them and it isn’t Alissa Milano that’s making you feel like shit.

The person that’s bullying you is every asshole who says, “everybody laughed, and we all had fun.” “Boys will be boys,” and anyway, if it happened, it couldn’t have been that bad. It is the men who insist “anyone can get caught” and “you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

It is people like Brett Kavanaugh, accused by three women. Its people like President Donald J Trump, credibly accused by no less than 19 women. It’s the actual bullies. Same as they ever were, riding the shoulders of more ethical men, whispering in their ears and looking for cover in numbers.

These are the men who are the self-appointed arbiters of who among us are the “winners” and who are the “losers.” In Brett’s case, of which private schools’ girls deserve victimhood and which do not. Of which girls are “fuckable” and which are “dateable.” No doubt, the stone-faced Misses Kavanaugh had a very different experience of Brett Kavanaugh than did Miss Blasey-Ford.

Brett Kavanaugh can take care of himself

In fact, not only is Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior not “normal” in any era – not only is Donald Trump not “an innocent man” – these are exactly the kinds of rich kid, private school bully-boys that invariably got fucked at the end of every 80’s college movie, ever. Because nobody really likes those motherfuckers. We’re all quite happy to see them in a movie, covered in mud, their girls gone to hang with the nerds, with some unspeakable thing wrong with their private parts. Yet we’re expected to defend them in real life? Why?

Don’t be bullied. Don’t get conned into thinking that, just because you’re the same sex as an accuser, that makes you the same. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the women in your life and demand the law be enforced evenly.


Political Cravenness Cannot be Patriotic Selflessness

Who wrote that anonymous OpEd in the New York Times? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Why didn’t they come forward publicly? Why didn’t they sound the alarm sooner? And again: who could it possibly be?

All of this evades the obvious issue the editorial itself points to, over and over: whomsoever wrote this article and whomsoever they implicate in their cabal to “save the presidency” took pains to tell us all the good that they’re doing:

  1. Their policies have made us all “safer and more prosperous.”
  2. “Effective deregulation,”
  3. “Historic tax reform”
  4. “A more robust military”

Sound familiar? That’s basically every speech at the Republican National Convention for 100 years. Every wishlist item in the Republican play book, checked off. Not, we are told, because of Trump: in spite of him.

You cannot spend your days whistling past the grave yard that is our Oval Office for the sake of your political score-settling, then cry patriotism because you didn’t let him do “the really bad things.” Whomever this article represents has been criminally derelict in their duty to serve the office of the presidency. They have deliberately taken advantage of their positions serving the man who is the president for the benefit of their patrons.

In fact, depending on how you read this para, it almost amounts to elder abuse:

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

If you stole your grandmother’s welfare checks, would the explanation be any better? No one wanted to be the one to say something, so they just quietly kept doing what they were doing.

Other Republicans like those in the leadership in the House and Senate have not written similar letters. Yet. But we should expect at least that much honesty. If we won’t get it out of their mouths, they should expect us to take it out of their asses come November.


Feckless, Feckless

A few weeks ago (or was it years? Who can tell?), Samantha Bee got herself into hot water by calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” I’ve said my peace on the cunt part. But what I find interesting is that mere weeks later, Steve Schmidt, a long-time Republican operative and former chair of the John McCain presidential campaign, renounced his party membership by using the word “feckless” to describe his former party fellows:

I couldn’t help thinking that this transference of the word could not be accidental. That in fact, Sam Bee may have introduced a word into our common lexicon that has stuck to the Party of Trump. So I took a look at Google Trends, and what do you know?

We may presume that the solid red line which represents the searches for “cunt” probably represent a lot of porn searches. At least, let’s hope so. But once the phrase “feckless cunt” enters into the lexicon, you can see the word feckless far outperforms the word cunt. And indeed, continues to show interest. The mutual rise in searches indicates the phrase “feckless cunt” became a popular search term. But the fact that feckless outperforms cunt indicates that the word itself was of interest. People are searching for the term, which we may presume means they’re seeking to define it.

Even if we can’t all define it, the word “feckless” seems to resonate: it sound right.

It sounds right because it gets to the heart of the matter. After all, the suffix “less” indicates a loss or a lacking. And we certainly expect more out of our government, in this moment. Something seems lacking. Our train seems to be careening off the rails and those in charge don’t seem to just be complicit. Worse than that, they just seem incapable. We are left wanting something we can’t find in Congress, at all.

We expect the three branches of government to work independently, but that’s not happening. Republicans are supposed to be a party of fiscal responsibility, but even when Trump threatens our economy with trade war, that party remains mum. Republicans are supposed to be the standard-bearers for Christianity (in an explicitly non-denominational government, but still). Yet even as we watch children pressed into the service of their own continuing psychological troubles – psychological troubles voluntarily pushed upon them by our government and in our name – they complain and preen, but do nothing. They accomplish nothing. Not because they agree with the policy. Simply because they cannot rise to this moment.

In the past, Americans have been willing to believe that having a Republican in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress (or vice versa) was a net benefit to our government. We believe that because we believe in the balance and separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution, and assume the conflicting ambitions of the two parties will guarantee that separation.

Whether having an opposing majority in Congress will help with our present situation remains to be seen. But one thing can be said for certain, which is that as bad as Trump may be, this moment in history will be remembered for how far wrong our democracy can go wrong when one branch of our government pointedly refuses to check another. When one branch of our government chooses the path of least resistance in the face of so much wrongdoing from another. When one branch of our government, given the opportunity to right the wrong of another, simply punts. When our leaders are, in a word, feckless.


Miss America isn’t a beauty contest, anymore

Well, so there. Miss America will no longer judge women on the basis of their physical appearance. Because Miss America is evolving!

I’m all for modernity and evolution, but how does Miss America get away with this kind of “evolution?” After decades of parading women around in swim suits, now they’re going to take a deep dive into contestants’ minds? To the exclusion of judging contestants’ physical appearance?

I don’t mean this as a “woke” insult. It’s just that this plan is terribly off-brand. Like Old Spice feminine hygiene products: it’s not that you’re not allowed, it’s just that you really, really shouldn’t.

Miss America is THE beauty pageant, its garish materialism known world-wide, for better or worse. It’s got its own song. It has it’s own swag. Every teenage girl who wins the Insert-Local-Agricultural-Product-Here Festival gets asked the same question: “does this mean you’re gonna be the next Miss America?” Very few brands achieve the collective-conscience market saturation that the Miss American pageant has.

It doesn’t feel like a wise move to attempt to completely reinvent the pageant. Not only unwise, but likely to disappoint: going from beauty pageant to pageant-of-the-mind – all while still publicly judging women and only women – doesn’t seem like a reachable goal.

I’m also all for lovely women who like to wear pretty things (or not) and get their pictures taken. I’m nobody’s prude, as readers well know. If the Miss America pageant has been a paragon of body-shaming in a culture that left woman no alternative role models, objecting to that fact need not include the belief that woman cannot use their physical attractiveness to their advantage. Lots of people, male and female, find work using their physical comeliness.

Instead, allow me to propose that the problem is that the Miss America Pageant is adopting a definition of evolution that doesn’t match the evidence. Species do not evolve. Evolution happens through the production of new species, often to the doom of the previous species. We don’t need Miss America to evolve: we need evolution to present us with it’s alternative.


Relax, ya cunts.

She said the C-word. On television: the place where your grandmother gets her Internet news.

Now, I have to admit that, when I think of a “C-word” that I’d rather not hear out loud, it’s probably something like “chlamydia.” Because let’s face it: that word evokes the painful, milky discharge of an uncomfortable truth. But “The C-Word®”? Honestly, I don’t get the aversion.

I don’t like to brag, but I’ve seen my share of C-words. On balance, I’ve liked them. They’re nice. It’s true I don’t actually own one of my own, so there’s a good chance I’m missing part of the story. But my personal experience is one that always brings a smile to my face. It’s not the kind of thing that makes me think ill of someone.

By the way: do you have to have a C-word to be the C-word? Or can you be a C-word with a cock? Are C-words fungible?

Can you be a C-word and have penis envy? That almost feels like a given. Can you be one dumb pecker and have C-word envy? I don’t think I’ve ever looked that one up. If you can balance an equation with C-words, can you also balance the equation with penises? Because it feel like some sort of Law of Transference should apply, in other words?

Speaking of other words, another celebrity said the A-word, recently. By A-word, of course, I don’t refer to the normal “A-word”: appendicitis. (because who would want one of those?) Rather, I refer to the word “ape.”

Ape isn’t a nasty word – certainly, not in need of it’s own letter-designated euphemism – but tweeting the word caused offense, nonetheless. I mean, sure: there’s the N-word. We all know about the N-word. You’re not allowed to say the N-word, unless you rap or are writing a book about pre-Civil War America. You’d have to be some sort of C-word to say the N-word. And ain’t all that just a kick in the ol’ schlong?

But even though “ape” is not a bad word, it caused offense? Whereas the word-that-dare-not-speak-its-name refers to an inoffensive part of the human anatomy? And who was the dick that wanted us to draw an equivalence between C-words and apes, anyway?

It’s almost as if vulgarity and offense aren’t the same things. But of course that can’t be true, wonder the entire cast and crew of Fox and Friends? It’s very confusing. And this woman just says the C-word on television. Where your grandma gets her internet news.

What a cunt.


Zuck’s “data” dodge: it’s important.

Watching some of the highlights of Marc Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, I see lots of Senators asking him yes or no questions such as, “do you believe FaceBook users have a right to download or delete their data.” Zuckerberg’s response was an unequivocal “yes, Senator” in all cases. But when asked questions about allowing users to decide how data accrued on them could be used or corrected, Zuck began to backpedal and attempt to slip back into tech speak.

It’s really important to understand why he pulls short when asked about deleting or correcting erroneous data. One reason is that all the questions asked to that point were about the “user’s data,” which Zuck can very quickly and easily answer in ways that make the Senators happy.

Because those answers were already beaten out of FaceBook a decade ago. Then, the question was about copyright: FaceBook originally claimed copyright ownership over your photos and posts, a notion which was received with howls of condemnation at the time. The result was a change in FaceBook policy which carved out for itself a limited license for that kind of data.

All of which is to say no: FaceBook does not own your “data,” nor does it hold unlimited copyright to it. Yes, you already have a legal right to all of that information, including your posts, comments, likes, photos, uploads and the whole kit-and-caboodle.

But companies like Cambridge Analytica (and Coca-Cola. and Pepsi. and Sony) are really after is the metadata that is created by the pattern your data creates. The fact that you “like” Roseanne is a lot less important than the fact that you watch more FaceBook videos at 3pm than other times of day. You are available to be advertised too and influenced at those times.

Holding on to actual data about any one individual is a waste of server space, even if you think you might want an archive for some reason. What matters is the ability to observe behavior in real time. That’s why “meme” images with sloganesque sayings on them are so important: you can send one out that’s intended to seem racist and watch what happens.

How long does the average person look at that image? The average Republican? The average 4-year degree holder? The average cop? Does the length of time they look at an image correlate to likes and comments? Does it even need to?

None of this data is “yours.” It wouldn’t exist in digital form without FaceBook providing a platform and third-party businesses aggregating it into actionable insights. Which is why “correcting” data about you is so important and so difficult for Zuck to agree to: that would require that companies open up their data operations to allow you to see their assumptions of you.

Doing so would most likely be an infuriating experience for the end user and a nightmare for businesses. Which isn’t to say that they shouldn’t allow us to see what their assumptions are. But that’s what I think the line he’s going to try to skirt will be.


Don’t count your continuing resolutions before their signed.

Goodie gumdrops. The government is, I guess?

No one seems all that happy with the result. Lots of liberals and immigration activists are incandescent with fury. I can’t pretend to share their indignation. All we really ended up with is a government that can only be guaranteed open for another three months. Again. CHIP got reinstated, which is very good. The WaPo makes a passing and deeply-troubling reference to “roll[ing] back several health-care taxes.” That’s not great. And after everything, the two great political furies that brought us to shutdown – DACA and border security – both got shelved.

Liberals had hoped for a clearer victory for our causes and a stronger validation of our momentum. We didn’t get it. But on balance, it’s a win. It’s a win because border security – and more importantly, Stephen Miller and President Donald Trump – were deferred. That’s a place Trump generally regards as intolerable.

Can he stay there all night? Can his tolerance survive a morning watching Fox and Friends? History suggests not. Methinks I spot more turbulence ahead.


Rochester 10-72: is this the way it normally works?

As much as I think Officer Jeff McEntee ought to be raked over the coals for whatever the events of Black Friday morning turn out to be, another issue has my attention. According to Bob Lonsberry, the official response to one missing kid was 75 officers and a police helicopter. He doesn’t go on to say, but we may presume there were at least several black-and-whites, one or two special vehicles and maybe police dogs?

All this for a kid they found less than two hours later in bed.

Jeff McEntee will have to answer for his actions, soon enough. But can we talk about how completely unnecessary the police response was? I don’t pretend to know police procedure. Could it be that finding a kid in his own home only takes, say, 20 officers? Less?

I’m not seeing a lot of conversation to that effect in the local media. In fact, the D&C quotes the Greece Police Chief, saying that the incident “required a huge amount of manpower.” I call bullshit on the word required.

Back to Lons and his rambling, defensive blog post. He doesn’t question the response for a second. He praises it. And writing about the leaks he received from officers who were at the scene, he offers this self-conflicting claim:

That is a refutation of the belief that cops cover for each other. It is a demonstration of just the opposite, in fact. Each of these officers was willing to risk trouble from bosses in order to make sure the right thing got done.

I think the Rochester Police Department, whose officers thought to search the father’s home, was standup throughout this matter. RPD officers came in force and quickly when summoned. They worked hard and smart and they got the job done. The RPD has nothing to be ashamed of in this matter.

(emphasis mine) Again, I call bullshit. I’ll happily amend my statement if anyone can show me where a missing person call escalated to 75 cops and a helicopter in less than two hours – and critically, before anyone checked the missing person’s bed.

In fact, the whole affair smacks precisely of “cops covering for each other”. Officer Jeff McEntee kid is in trouble, no less than 75 officers from two precincts swarm to over-respond, McEntee turns out to be a drunk-ass dick, his kid is fine, and everybody goes home with no charges. Even with my limited white person interactions with law enforcement, I’m pretty sure I’d end up in the back of a wagon, bound for the Monroe County Bed and Breakfast were it I who misplaced my progeny.

How much did the people of Rochester and Greece pay for this fiasco? And just what is a normal response to a missing person? How does a person lose track of their kid whilst drinking and end up sleeping in his own bed the same night? And for fuck’s sake, why wouldn’t you check the kid’s bed first?


I just can’t get that upset by Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. is not the first of my comedy heroes to disappoint me. Bill Cosby’s early comedy was so a part of my life and way of thinking that I still catch myself launching into a sketch of his by way of conversation every once in a while. It was and remains a painful revelation to find that, off stage, Bill Cosby’s darker habits made him a monster.

Since the dozens of charges levied against Cosby became the stuff of Internet justice legend, there has been an avalanche of revelations about powerful men with horrific, predatory habits. So many are the stories – and so drearily repetitive – that I feel like any discussion I’ve had about sexual assault in the past was about some completely different, more innocent topic.

And perhaps I’m still in the thrall of that naive concept when I say I just don’t see any reason to get that upset by Louis C.K.’s transgressions. Right and wrong is not a spectrum and we don’t give out points for good intentions. But even the least upsetting story from Harvey Weinstein’s trove of horrors makes Louis jerking off in a hotel room look like a scene from Home Alone.

Home Alone child's face, "It's a wiener!"
Home Alone child’s face, “It’s a wiener!”

Let’s stipulate that what Louis C.K. did was wrong by way of his being a professional and a mentor to fellow comedians. More importantly, making sexual advances on people who work ostensibly for you, like the women on the set of his TV show, is dead wrong. It’s a reckless risk that anyone in a position of authority has to do their best to resist.

But absent that professional prohibition, the dude took his dick out. He took it out.

You or I might choose a different opening move. A woman could be forgiven for never wanting to hang out with the dude again. Then again, maybe another woman would find it fascinating. That’s not for us to judge. But even kissing someone presupposes violating their personal space; you’re not really expected or even encouraged to ask for permission first. If masturbating is your thing, that’s even tougher ice to break.

Louis’s got a kink, in other words. That’s not a crime. It’s not disgusting or morally reprehensible or unhealthy, nor attestation of some deeper insufficiency. It’s a kink.

Let’s hope none of us ever has to live in a world where our kink is on display. Where we’re judged to be in the same bad company as rapists and woman dopers because of a few awkward or cringe-worthy attempts at satisfaction. Let’s hope our world is kinder and more forgiving than that one.

Economy Politics

Rothization: Peter? Meet Paul.

The Republicans are proposing massive tax cuts, including a 15-point decrease in the Corporate tax rate from 35 down to 20, in their new tax code “reform” bill. But to do so, they need to at least have the veneer of those tax cuts being paid for.

There have been a few proposals to do this, but one that has gained steam in the Senate is what is euphemistically being called “Rothization.” In short order, this means capping the amount of pre-tax money you’re allowed to invest in your 401k. You can invest more, but that money will be taxable.

Trump, in his predictably self-harming way, has thrown cold water on this idea. But Trump being Trump, that’s far from saying the idea is dead. So what is Rothization? Like everything else about taxes and tax policy, it’s goddamned confusing. Here’s the basics as I see them:

What is Rothization?

What this really means is a cap on the amount of pre-tax deduction a private individual can invest in their 401k. The cap has been proposed at $2,400. After you’ve invested that $2,400, the rest of your 401k money would move into an investment that is called a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are investments of post-tax money, meaning you’ll be paying taxes on anything above $2,400. The advantage of Roth IRAs, such as they are, is that when it comes time to withdraw your money, you won’t be required to pay taxes on it.

That doesn’t sound bad to me?

It’s not. Roth IRAs are an excellent investment tool if you have the money to contribute to your retirement above and beyond what your 401k will produce. But they’re not a substitute for 401k investments.

So… what’s the problem?

401k was created specifically to incentivize investment in our futures. By making contributions tax-exempt, 401k investments can reduce your taxable income quite a bit, making them an excellent way to both save for the future and also provide a short-term gain for your family’s pocketbook. Taking this tax incentive away deincentivizes investment and raises your taxes. It’s a double hit on your economic health.

This is a very-specifically targeted Middle Class tax hike

Actually, if your employer matches at 5% and you make 30k a year, you’ll only invest about $1,500 a year. You’re fine.

But if you’re in the middle of our tax brackets, this is going to hit you hard. Anyone making over $48k and contributing at 5% is going to see a tax increase. If you’ve been aggressive until now about saving for retirement, investing more than your employer’s match, you’ll see an even bigger tax increase.

Also, it’s unclear if this $2,400 cap holds for dual-income families. If so, even lower-income families could see a tax hike.

This disincentivizes retirement investment

I guess I thought Republicans were always scolding me about not investing my income. I guess I always thought I heard them justify tax cuts because they “could be invested.” But now, Republicans are telling us that, in order to pay for a corporate tax rate cut, we’re going to need to either invest less or pay more taxes. We have those two choices, under their tax plan. That doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.


In the sport of White House leaks, The Mooch gives a master class

Have you read this article? Of course you have.

What’s weird to me is this: after almost a week of discussion on Twitter, on television and at water coolers everywhere, I have yet to hear anyone state the obvious: in pissing to a reporter about “leaks,” The Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci gave a master class in how leaks work. And without the benefit of speaking on background.

Think about it: regardless of what he’s bent out of shape about, he’s bent. And rather than just vent his frustrations to a friend, he goes after a reporter to find the source of the leaks. In doing so, he unloads a gusher of insider gossip, dinging Reince Preibus and even the Dark Lord, himself: Steve Bannon. That he didn’t ask to speak on the condition of anonymity is just icing on the cake for us spectators; his dick-tripping buffoonery is on display for all to see. But absent that one fact, everything else proceeds exactly as it does every time people leak internal dramas to the media.

The upshot here for us spectators is as follows: leaks are caused by internal frustrations. Whether those frustrations come in the form of one Secretary or one page who feels jilted by the overall Administration, or in the form of a deluge of freaked-out functionaries, the result is the same. And the results are probably not quantifiable in any exact sense, but it’s safe to assume the more and greater the leaks, the worse the situation in the White House.

All of which is to say: this White House easily the least-functional White House in recent memory. That supposition is bearing itself out in the dismay of Congressional Republicans whose own dysfunctions could easily have been overcome with proper leadership.

Those of us who value the health and well-being of our fellow Americans – to say nothing of our own aging relations – can be glad of the dysfunction for now. But as things heat up in the Korean Peninsula, the time to enjoy the opposition’s collective fatuity seems to be fast closing.


Relax. Your Brain is not “Eating Itself.”


By now, you almost certainly have run across an article like this one in the New York Post. A breathless headline about zombie brains eating themselves announces a slightly-less apocalyptic article about brain cells that are indeed eating each other. Some even mention Alzheimer’s, just for the hell of it. Your brain has gone rogue, late night television watcher! Now, brush your teeth and go to sleep, like your mom told you.


What they’re describing is body’s process of returning the building blocks of life back to a useable state. Cells die all the time. They need to be disposed of, but nature in it’s wisdom leaves no opportunity wasted. Any bit of a dead cell that can be recovered will be recovered and the rest will be washed away.

Because it appeared to early scientists that some cells are “devouring” others, the process was called “phagocytosis” (literally: devouring cells). That’s a very dramatic name for a thing. Something straight out of George Romero’s nightmares. But phagocytosis is far more banal than all that. It is routine. It is a nightly routine.

And therein lies the problem, it seems. Because this research suggests that brains that haven’t been given enough time to perform their nightly routines go a little ape-shit. Microglia, which are the neural cells that are responsible for phagocytosis in the brain, start attacking cells that aren’t either sick or dying.

Since chronic lack of sleep early in life seems to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers posit that perhaps this is the exact nexus. Sleepless people’s waste disposal system is on the blink and BOOM they’re getting Alzheimer’s. Well, maybe.

“But,” he intoned solemnly, “correlation is not causation.”

This is great research. There’s no doubt that there is a correlation that needs to be explored. Sleep deprivation may lead to Alzheimer’s, or they may both exist as symptoms of some more fundamental problem. It is even still possible that the two symptoms have nothing to do with one another.

And it’s worth noting that “chronic lack of sleep” is not the same thing as “watching too much late night television.” Sleep deprivation is a condition all it’s own that you’d know if you had. “Normal” late-night activities probably just do a bit of extra pruning, sort of like how a little alcohol is also good for the brain.

Either way, there is nothing zombie-like about what is happening. There is no monster living in your cranium. And getting half an hour’s extra sleep tonight will not cure your impending Alzheimer’s.

And maybe most importantly: the world didn’t change because we’ve discovered a new correlation between two unpleasant conditions. Relax. Have a beer. Watch television. You’re fine.