Mid-week Quick hits

I’m going to be on a retreat and totally without electronics but my phone, so not a lot of blogging.  The least I can do is post the delinquent quick hits part II

1) NYT on the nonsense of the “wellness-industrial complex.”

2) Great Daily Show segment on Trump voters and Space Force.

3) Great Ezra Klein piece on “white threat in a browning America.”  Consider this a must-read.  Seriously– this means you.

I spent months talking with politicians, social psychologists, and political scientists about what happens in moments like this one, moments when a majority feels its dominance beginning to fail. The answer, attested to in mountains of studies and visible everywhere in our politics, is this: Change of this magnitude acts on us psychologically, not just electorally. It is the crucial context uniting the core political conflicts of this era — Obama and Trump’s presidencies, the rise of reactionary new social movements and thinkers, the wars over political correctness on campuses and representation in Hollywood, the power of #MeToo and BlackLivesMatter, the fights over immigration.

Demographic change, and the fears and hopes it evokes, is one of the tectonic forces shaping this era in American life, joining income inequality and political polarization in transforming every aspect of our politics and culture. But to understand what it is doing to us as a country, we need to begin by understanding what it does to us as individuals.

4) Fentanyl has made German Lopez reconsider his take on drug legalization.  Sensible, but we still sure need decriminalization, if not full legalization.

5) Paul Waldman on what Democrats have learned from Republicans:

But what distinguishes this moment from the past few decades is that policy caution has become unacceptable to Democratic voters, and Democratic politicians are responding. Past Democratic candidates would say, “Of course we’d all like X, but the policy and political challenges make it impossible, so Y is the best we can achieve.” Democratic candidates in 2018 (and 2020) are saying, “We should do X, and don’t tell me it’s impossible.”

By now you may have heard of the Overton Window, which was articulated by a think-tank scholar named Joseph Overton in the 1990s as a way of explaining to potential donors why they should fund the advocacy of ideas that didn’t seem to have a lot of popular support. The idea predated Overton by some time, but for whatever reason, his metaphor stuck. The theory is that at any particular moment, certain ideas are considered worthy of debate and others are considered too radical to even talk about, but if you can shift the window of debate, you may be able to make a radical idea sound mainstream and eventually turn it into policy.

It’s important to understand that the Overton Window isn’t some kind of magic key anyone can use to transform politics; plenty of activists try to shift the debate and fail. But there are times when we see the process in action. Right now, Democrats have taken an idea — single-payer health insurance — that used to be considered unworthy of consideration and forced it into the center of the national debate.

6) National Geographic, “Early Native Americans Imported Exotic Parrots, DNA Reveals: The discovery suggests that scarlet macaws were being bred for trade centuries earlier than previously thought.” (Thanks, EMG)

7) Rick Gates’ public lesson on money laundering.

8) Not so sure of the validity of suing a nicotine delivery product for getting you addicted to nicotine.

9) Sit better and fix your back pain.  I keep trying to remember to do this.  When I do, it does feel good.

10) David Frum takes it to Dinesh D’Souza:

The desire to wipe the smirk off the condescending face of some resented critics—to expose them, diminish them, hurt them—is that not the mainspring for so much of the pro-Trump political movement? Shortly before the 2016 election, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal seethed at those who believe that “not only is Donald Trump coarse and boorish, anyone who supports the man is as revolting as he is.” The conservative columnist David Limbaugh lamented in the summer of 2017 the “snobbish condemnation” he suffered on social media from Never Trump conservatives. Tucker Carlson Tonight is a nightly eruption of rage against elite “preening.” “Don’t for a second let them take the moral high ground,” Carlson warned in June of this year. Certainly in D’Souza’s case, Obama’s success came to seem more and more of an affront to the proper order of things.

11) Sure, definitely fair to claim, “‘Unite the Right’ flops while the left triumphs,” but we’re talking about the morons in the Washington Post all over the news media.  You know how much news coverage a march of 40 people deserves?  Zero.  Any coverage for these morons is a victory for them.  Just ignore them!

12) Forget “Medicare for all,” how about dramatically expanding Medicaid?

13) It is great that the public school Lebron James is helping is just an ordinary public school.

14) The chicken we eat in America is riddled with Salmonella.  What’s frustrating as hell is that it just doesn’t have to be this way:

Gremillion notes that other countries have taken steps that protect consumers to a much greater degree. Whereas the US regulatory system focuses on salmonella in the slaughterhouse, and the “preferred solution is dousing the chicken with antimicrobial sprays,” regulators in some European countries “make sure that the breeder stock for the poultry are not infected and passing down salmonella, that the feed is not contaminated, that the birds have the vaccinations they need, that the workers follow biosecurity protocols.” As a result, he says, Sweden and Denmark “have practically eliminated salmonella from poultry products.” [emphasis mine]

If knowing that US supermarket chicken quite often carries salmonella isn’t chilling enough, consider this: In a recent analysis of Food and Drug Administration data, the Environmental Working Group found that “over the last five years of available data, on average, 1 in 5 strains of salmonella found on grocery store chicken were resistant to amoxicillin, a type of penicillin.” In short, it’s getting harder for doctors to treat infections from this common pathogen.

We are so damn stupid in this country.  Yes, I’m sure chicken costs a bit more in Europe, but ask people how much money they’d be willing to pay to avoid the risk of Salmonella.

15) Jason Alexander as Colonel Sanders.

16) Just in case you missed the amazing Stephen Miller takedown written by his uncle.

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Photo of the day

This Wired gallery of photos from thrill seekers is really, really cool.

Surfer Bobby Okvist airs off the back of a wave in Newport Beach, CA. Photo by Benjamin Ginsberg.

0 for 3 on health care

The N&O ran an article on what “influencers” in NC think about health care policy.  Among those that struck me was Art Pope’s response (Pope is basically NC’s very own Koch brother):

“Citizens are not entitled to ‘universal’ or ‘free’ health care, which means health care provided by a government monopoly and paid for by others,” wrote survey respondent Art Pope, the former budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. “Just as importantly, even good faith attempts to provide ‘universal health care,’ result in government run health care that is rationed, of poorer quality and more costly. [emphasis mine]

Pope– perhaps the most influential Republican in the whole state is simply wrong, wrong, and wrong.

First, of all, health care everywhere is rationed.  It’s not an unlimited resource.  What is different about America is that it is rationed by your income level and basic ability to pay in a way that it is not in other modern democracies.  Secondly, it is decidedly not of poorer quality in countries with universal care.  In fact, in terms of mortality amenable to health care, the U.S. does quite poorly.  Thirdly, and costly?  What the hell‽  We pay more for health care than anybody.  And we cover fewer people and do it less well.

Of course, Pope is not alone in being amazingly, appallingly wrong on all this.  This is mainstream GOP talking points.  It’s unclear though whether educated partisans like Pope are simply hugely self-delusional or hugely mendacious.  Neither choice is great.  Either way, it would be awesome of Republicans stopped lying about health care.

Photo of the day

Osprey nest in front of my sister’s aforementioned house on the Potomac (technically, Mattox Creek, which feeds into the Potomac).

Photos by me.  Taken from a kayak.

Quick hits (part I)

Well, it was get quick hits done in time for you to read it over the weekend or fully enjoy my time at my sister’s house on the Potomac River.  Obviously, I chose the latter.  Good stuff here, though.

1) John Oliver takes on prosecutors!  (About time this part of our criminal justice system got the John Oliver treatment).

2) Yes, having a state-run monopoly on selling liquor is absurd public policy, but whether this will end in North Carolina will not depend on whose policy arguments make the most sense, but which interest groups end up having the most sway with legislators.

3) Of course Republicans want to make it easier for payday lenders to defraud military servicemen.

4) Noah Smith is right, “Domino’s Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign: Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.”

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.

5) Had an interesting conversation earlier this week about my very religious little sister versus her not particularly religious older sister (both my half-sisters).  In looking to explain the difference, I suggested it was likely genetics as much as anything.  SAR went right to the google and found this:

Social scientific research assumes that religious involvement is primarily, if not exclusively, the product of social‐environmental influences There is growing evidence, however, that genetic or other biological factors also play a role Analyzing twin sibling data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), this study addresses this issue by showing that individual‐level variation on four different aspects of religious life—organizational involvement, personal religiosity and spirituality, conservative ideologies, and transformations and commitments—is indeed the product of both genetic and environmental influences Specifically, genetic factors explain 19–65 percent of the variation, while environmental influences account for the remaining 35–81 percent depending upon the aspect of religion under investigation [emphasis mine] Research of this type enhances contemporary social science by providing a new perspective that nicely supplements existing ones, but it also highlights potential implications, including explanatory power deficiencies and potentially bias.

6) Speaking of religion, I saw the Book of Mormon and loved it.  Just super-entertaining.  And, part of the enjoyment was seeing the conventions of musical theater used in utterly profane and taboo ways.  And I did find David Brooks‘ take on the show to be thought-provoking.

7) Great interactive piece from Nate Cohn on the Trump coalition.  Check it out.

8) This was really fascinating from Ed Yong, “An Ancient Genetic Quirk Could Doom Whales Today: After losing an unnecessary gene millions of years ago, marine mammals are now uniquely vulnerable to pesticides that have only existed for a century.”

9) Loved this NYT interactive essay on why all the popular songs of recent years sound the same.  (Max Martin).  Actually, very cool visuals with this one.

10) In a different week, I would have written a nice post on the Trump administration’s appalling proposal on legal immigration.  This week, I’ll just tell you to make sure you read Catherine Rampell:

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health…

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is  everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are U.S. citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their U.S.-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of U.S.-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent…

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish. We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers.

But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

11) Hmmm, lots of great NYT stuff this week.  Here’s a really cool interactive Upshot feature on the “age gap” for new mothers:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

People with a higher socioeconomic status “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career,” said Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies fertility. “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”

12) Whatever the politics of “Medicare for All” even a conservative thinktank admits it saves money (though, they kind of hid that).  Drum doesn’t:

Here’s some good news. The libertarians at the Mercatus Center did a cost breakdown of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and concluded that it would save $2 trillion during its first ten years:

Now, as you might guess, this was not the spin the Mercatus folks put on their study. Their headline is “M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget.” This isn’t really true, of course, since M4A would absorb all the costs of our current health care system but would also absorb all the payments we make to support it. That includes current taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare), premiums paid by employers, premiums paid by individuals, and out-of-pocket costs from individuals. Instead of going straight to doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, it would go instead to the federal government, which would then pay everyone else. It’s a lot of money, but it’s no particular “strain” on anything.

And overall we’d save at least $2 trillion over ten years.

13) Science ways in on “boxers vs briefs” and the answer is “boxers.”  At least if you want to reproduce.

 

What is America anyway?

Basically, American is Christian white people if you ask the Fox News types (i.e., today’s Republican Party).  Laura Ingraham basically makes the subtext, text.

Lots of good takes.  Great one from Conor Friedersdorf:

What I love about America is its animating idea: “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What Ingraham loved about America was apparently its former demographic profile. Now that Hispanic and Asian immigrants have triggered “massive demographic changes,” the America she loves “doesn’t exist anymore.” Sad!

I expect my love of country, or patriotism, will remain strong in coming years, grounded as it is in the timeless ideals of America’s founding document.

Whereas Ingraham’s love of country was significantly grounded in its demographic makeup. And the changes she observes will only continue—the country will become less and less white with every passing year, with the changes affecting more and more of the nation’s communities. It seems as though Ingraham’s love of country will keep withering.

Should she stay here rather than immigrating to a country with a whiter population that more closely approximates her preferred demographic profile, one might think her waning patriotism would jeopardize her job at a flag-waving network like Fox. But in Ingraham’s telling, a lot of her audience also feels like changes in the racial and ethnic composition of the country is causing the America that they loved to cease to exist, so perhaps she can survive by holding onto the growing cohort of former patriots. Ratings are king.

Lest anyone worry that America won’t have enough patriots left, Ingraham is thankfully wrong when she implies that “most of us” feel as she does:

The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5 through 12 among 2,002 adults, finds that 38% say legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level, while 32% say it should be increased and 24% say it should be decreased. Since 2001, the share of Americans who favor increased legal immigration into the U.S. has risen 22 percentage points (from 10% to 32%), while the share who support a decrease has declined 29 points (from 53% to 24%).

God bless America.

Amen!  At it’s best, America is a set of ideas and values (one of these founding values being that we are actually a nation of immigrants).  America is not white people.  Go to hell Laura Ingraham and your xenophobic, bigoted, ignorant fellow travelers.

Republicans still love Trump as much as ever. Except women.

Really, really cool report from Pew’s American Trends panel study looking at evolving views of Trump among Trump voters.

About a third of Trump’s November 2016 voters (35%) had cold or neutral feelings toward him earlier that year. By September 2016, a 57% majority of these voters had warmed to him, including 24% who felt very warmly. And shortly after the election, three-quarters of these once cold or neutral voters (74%) felt warmly toward him, including 43% who rated him very warmly.

Among the 65% majority of Trump voters who felt warmly toward him in April 2016, there was much less change in opinions about him. Of this group, 90% or more maintained warm feelings toward him in September and November 2016.

And among both of these groups of verified voters who cast ballots for Trump in November – those who felt warmly toward Trump in April 2016 and those who did not – opinions about Trump changed little between November 2016 and March 2018…

Comparing Trump voters’ feelings about him in April 2016 with their views in March 2018 divides them into four groups: Enthusiasts, who had warm feelings for Trump at both points; Converts, who were initially cold or neutral but warmed over time; Skeptics, who were cold toward Trump in April 2016 and cold again in March 2018; and Disillusioned Trump voterswho were initially warm toward him but were cold or neutral in March 2018.

Enthusiasts make up the largest share of Trump voters (59% of verified voters who reported voting for Trump); they gave Trump warm ratings on the feeling thermometer in both April 2016 and March 2018. Their loyalty to Trump was evident in the primary campaign: In April 2016, six-in-ten Enthusiasts (60%) said they wanted to see Trump receive the nomination compared with just 14% of the other groups of Trump general election voters.

Converts make up the next largest share of Trump voters (23%). These voters were cold or neutral toward Trump prior to his receiving the Republican nomination. In April 2016, nearly half of Converts (44%) favored Ted Cruz for the GOP presidential nomination. But in September 2016, during the general election campaign, 73% of this group had warm feelings for Trump, including 31% who gave Trump a very warm rating. By March 2018, 71% gave him a very warm rating.

Skeptics, like Converts, had cold or neutral feelings for Trump in April 2016. Unlike Converts, however, Skeptics did not have warm feelings toward Trump nearly two years later, after he became president. Skeptics, who constitute 12% of Trump voters, reported voting for him, and their feelings for the president became somewhat warmer in the wake of the election. But their views of him grew more negative after he became president.

Hooray for the skeptics.  Apparently they have actually kept their eyes open and don’t believe everything Fox News tells them.  Alas, quite the minority.  And, ugh, the enthusiasts.  If only it were “begrudging accepters because at least he’s a Republican president.”  But, no, PID is a helluva a drug.

I particularly liked this table with the demographic breakdown.  Pretty much every group likes Trump as much as ever (that is, comparing just after election till this year).  Except women.  Hooray for women.  Who will, hopefully, save our democracy.

Gender, age and educational differences in views of Trump among his voters

 

 

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