Republicans against expertise

Okay, if all the Democratic politicians were saying the same thing, Democrats would believe it, so I don’t fault Republicans in this Gallup poll too much, but I do find it fascinating and disturbing that a scant 9% of Republicans actually approve of the Iran Nuclear deal despite the fact that there is so much expert agreement in favor of it.  Gallup:

Americans' Views on the Iran Nuclear Deal, February 2016

Now, I’m no nuclear or international security expert.  What I do know, is that it makes far more sense to listen to actual experts on these matters than to listen to Krauthammer, O’Reilly, Trump, Cruz, etc.


Early March is looking good for Hillary

The latest from PPP:

New Public Policy Polling surveys of the 12 states that will hold Democratic primaries for President between March 1st and 8th, conducted on behalf of American Family Voices, find Hillary Clinton leading the way in 10 of 12, with double digit leads in 9 of them. Bernie Sanders has an overwhelming lead in his home state of Vermont and also leads in Massachusetts. The race is close in Oklahoma where Clinton is ahead by just 2 points, but she has double digit leads in the other 9 states that will have primaries that week:

Actual polling results at the link.

Who knows what will happen in the bizarrely under-polled Nevada Caucus.  That said, given it’s lack of attention so far; the fact that it occurs on the news hole of a Saturday, and the fact that it traditionally gathers modest media attention would blunt all but a truly decisive Sanders victory.

Sure, this could all change, but don’t be surprised if Hillary isn’t looking a lot stronger on March 9.

Feminism in the real world

Good stuff at Vox.  Makes a lot of sense I think:

But from our vantage point as women in our 30s, it’s not so surprising that very young women don’t feel the same excitement about a competitive, hyperqualified female candidate for the presidency that their mothers, aunts, and older sisters do. For them, the world may seem like a much more equal place than it actually is…

But it turned out they were — we just didn’t know it yet. The progress made by previous generations of feminists means that women have by and large achieved equality in education and early career prospects. And the social change that accompanied this progress has seen more and more women delay starting families in order to take advantages of these opportunities. But there’s a reason that recent interventions focused onbarriers to women’s ascent into the leadership ranks in politics and business and struggles with the work-life balance have been so widely read and talked about.

Because once women enter the professional world, the rosy picture of progress begins to dull. Only 15 percent of law firms’ equity partners are female. Women make up only 3 percent of hedge fund managers and 1.5 percent of CEOs of large corporations. And women only account for 37.5 percent of tenured faculty in American universities. This absence of women leaders and experts is so notable that it’s become something of an in-joke, with a dedicated Tumblr declaring, “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” and a crowdsourced database of women political scientists called Women Also Know Stuff, aimed at journalists who only quote men. Women who do ascend the ranks of predominantly male professions face other obstacles — misattribution of their successes to male colleagues,widespread sexual harassmentthe threat of violence, and more.

Definitely jibes with what I experience talking to my students vs. talking to 30 and 40-something women raising families who have been out in the working world.


Photo of the day

This cool vapor cone has nothing to do with breaking the sound barrier.  Interesting stuff.  Via Atlas Obscura:


An F/A-18 Hornet over the Pacific Ocean, in July 1999. (Photo: Ensign John Gay/US Navy)

Want less dead people? Do this

Maintenance therapy for opioid addiction.  Nice summary of all the current (and some very promising future) therapies.  Love this nugget:

This week, another idea whose time has come: trying to kick opioid addiction without medicines is as smart as relying on willpower to overcome diabetes or asthma. Medicines greatly increase the chance of success and reduce the risk of death.   [emphases mine]

Here’s what’s out there now.

Here’s what’s out there now.

The standbys: methadone and Suboxone
These work. (See here, here and here, just some of many studies). They reduce illicit drug use and keep people in treatment, compared with recovery programs that don’t include medicine. These medicines also cut the risk of fatal overdose by half. I’ll repeat: People on these medicines were half as likely to die of overdose as those getting psychological or social interventions alone —  in large part because the patient is getting some opioid and therefore has some tolerance.

Of course, if you are more interested in punishing and stigmatizing drug users go right ahead.  So long as you are comfortable with the fact that you are also leading to many more dead people.

The big myth of money and politics

It doesn’t matter as much as most people think.  Oh money does matter, of course, but fair to say its direct effects are definitely overblown.  Dylan Matthews with a very nice Vox article summarizing the key political science:

“When people are giving campaign contributions, what they’re really buying is disinterest,“[emphases mine] Steven Teles, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins and fellow at New America, says, citing research by Richard Hall and Frank Wayman. “They’re paying people to think, ‘Eh, there are a million things I could pay attention to, why pay attention to that?'”

But Teles notes that Lobbying and Policy Changea major study of how lobbying works from Frank Baumgartner, Jeffrey Berry, Marie Hojnacki, David Kimball, and Beth Leech on lobbying — suggests that this dynamic breaks down in times of “policy punctuation”: when the normal slow pace of Congress is broken and the whole body’s attention, and that of the public, is turned to a very high-profile issue. Think of the few months when Congress was monomaniacally focused on health care reform in late 2009 and 2010, or on immigration in 2013.

“Money only buys you disinterest when the thing’s not on the agenda,” Teles says. “A few thousand-dollar campaign contributions are enough to get you not to pay attention to something when nobody else is paying attention to it. But when voters are paying attention and you think there’s some probability an opponent can run a campaign ad against you about this, preventing that is of way more value than a few thousand-dollar contributions.”

Thomas Stratmann, an economist at George Mason who studies campaign finance, agrees. “In my view, political money is unlikely to have much impact on well publicized issues, such as gun control or single-payer issues,” he writes in an email. “Money is more likely to be important for issues that are not on the radar screen of TV, newspapers, and social media, perhaps something like subsidies for sugar farmers.” ,,,

I see where Peoples is coming from, but research on lobbying suggests that lobbyists are not the omnipotent power brokers that voters sometimes imagine them to be. Further, it suggests that insofar as they matter, they matter for reasons that are hard to regulate away.

The relationship between lobbying and policy outcomes is complex and not reducible to “people with more cash win.” One of the big lessons of Lobbying and Policy Change, the lobbying study from Baumgartner, Berry, Hojnacki, Kimball, and Leech, is that while lobbying coalitions tend to win more often in cases where resources are hugely asymmetrical — where one side has tons of cash and institutional support and the other has very little — in cases where the sides are each well-resourced, it’s hard to find much of an effect from additional money…

But Baumgartner et al. also find that lobbyists don’t get their power merely from cash. They gain influence by offering specialized information that legislators need but don’t have, by gaining allies in the executive branch and among members of Congress, and by leveraging large grassroots organizations. And most of those levers of influence can’t be regulated away.

Consider the case of gun control. Universal background checks aren’t hard to pass because gun manufacturers can outspend gun control advocates. They’re hard to pass because the National Rifle Association is much, much better organized and better able to mobilize members than any group favoring action on guns.

So, what can we do?

That would do a lot of good by reducing legislators’ reliance on information provided by lobbyists. It would lead to more informed, less industry-captured policy. But even if the Drutman/Teles reform were to pass, defense contractors would be able to make alliances with members of Congress with big bases in their districts. Banks would still fund lawsuits challenging new regulations. Health insurers will still run Harry and Louise–style ads to build public opinion against health reform. Reformers can plug some holes, but money will find a way to influence the policy process regardless.

Short version– there’s some worthwhile reforms we can and should do.  But, even if we went full-on Bernie Sanders, all the impediments to passing progressive legislation are going to be far from disappearing.

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