Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s photos of the week:

Hadrian's Wall rises out of the clouds on the northern most frontier of the Roman Empire in Northumberland as the sun broke through a blanket of mist at sunrise

Hadrian’s Wall rises out of the clouds on the northern most frontier of the Roman Empire in Northumberland as the sun breaks through a blanket of mist at sunrisePicture: Paul Kingston/North News


Video of the day

Love this Vox video of the evidence of evolution in your own body.

Merrick Garland and the party asymmetry

Yet another great piece from Ezra:

This week, it became clear that the Democratic Party will nominate Hillary Clinton — a politician about as mainstream in her beliefs and methods as you will find in American politics. It also became clear that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly likely to nominate Donald Trump — a man who is, by any measure, “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of [his] political opposition.”

To put it differently, the Democratic Party, for better or worse, is practicing politics as usual. The Republican Party is embracing what David Brooks calls “antipolitics”: leaders with “no political skills or experience” who are “willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.”

If this were just about Trump, it could be dismissed as an aberration. But it’s not just about Trump.

 This week, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Garland leans left, but he’s a clear compromise choice: older, more moderate, and with a long history of support from Republican senators…

In practice, what this means is they are hoping to hold the Supreme Court vacancy so it can be filled by … President Donald Trump. They are refusing to do their institutional duty so that the decision can be made instead by a committed anti-institutionalist.

There is a deep pull in political punditry toward asserting symmetry between the two political parties — whatever sins one party is guilty of, surely the other party is no better. But this was a week in which the pretense of symmetry between the modern Democratic and Republican parties fell away…

The Republican Party, however, is moving in a different and worrying direction: It is nominating an inexperienced demagogue whose appeal is precisely that he has no institutional ties, and it is refusing to even consider compromise with the sitting president.

In their 2012 column, Ornstein and Mann wrote, “When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

Yep.  This is not normal.  It is not both sides.  And it is not good for American democracy.

The real cause of Flint

I was about to put this into quick hits, but it’s too good to be with 20 other links.  Political Scientists Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker on how Flint is the result of poisoned politics:

It is tempting to search for a single villain in the Flint crisis: the austerity measures of state Republicans and especially Governor Rick Snyder, the weakness of local protections, the missteps of the EPA. But the reality is that these threats to public health and social well-being are at work across the United States, and they have much deeper roots. Figuring out where responsiveness broke down, punishing those responsible, and fixing systems of accountability are all imperative. But that won’t solve the deeper problem—America’s retreat from an effective mixed economy.

Begin with the plummeting investment in the physical underpinnings of communities, the roads, bridges, water systems, and other public goods that make the places where people live and work safe, livable, and productive. American infrastructure once used to be the envy of the world and a major source of Americans’ improved living standards. But in an era of government-bashing, it has been allowed to crumble, risking health, safety, and economic success. A similar process has played out with federal investment in R&D, so vital to technological progress as well as economic growth, as well as in the kinds of basic health research that promoted lead-abatement, reductions in tobacco use, new drugs and treatments, and other measures that have made lives longer and healthier.

Meanwhile, federal health and safety rules have eroded. Regulations are ever more outdated, the agencies that enforce them ever more under-manned and cross-pressured by the blandishments of corporate lobbies, with their enticing revolving door. In retrospect, the dying gasp of America’s long, successful tradition of bipartisan problem-solving was the 1990 update of the Clean Air Act—legislation that has, since its inception in the 1970s, added an estimated one to two years to American life expectancy. Yet rather then recognizing these extraordinary achievements of a mixed economy, our conversations typically celebrate markets and denigrate government. Today, conservative politicians relentlessly attack government as a parasitical threat to liberty, while many on the left deride it as corrupt or fail to make a positive case for it at all.

The tragedy of all this is that America needs an effective mixed economy at least as much as it ever has. The threat of climate change and challenges of a complex, interdependent knowledge economy make an effective public sector vital—not just for future economic growth but for the future of our planet. Tearing down the mixed economy may be good for particular businesses (just as failing to regulate lead was good for the gas, auto, and construction industries). But it is bad for the economy overall. It is always hard to get corporations to recognize the need for broad, growth-promoting policies that may not immediately or directly help them. When those corporations and their political allies are denigrating what remains of government’s capacities, the challenge is even harder…

The lead in Flint’s water—and in the bloodstreams of its children— is not a reason to distrust and dismantle government. It’s a reason to rebuild a government that has the capacity and independence needed to safeguard the health and well-being of American citizens.

Face it: the GOP is screwed for the 2016 election

Option #1: Trump is the nominee.  Now, Trump has already surprised us once.  But that doesn’t change the fact that based on what we know now, Trump is a historically bad general election candidate.  Yes, he could surprise us.  But again, he is almost surely a worse general election candidate than any other Republican who has been in serious contention (i.e., not you Ben Carson).  And that’s just based on favorability ratings and such.  You think non-white voters loved Obama.  They are really going to love not Donald Trump.  Especially Hispanics, who will be a larger portion of the electorate than ever before.

Option #2: Not Trump is the nominee.  The Republican Party is still screwed.  Can you imagine the anger and division in which Trump comes out of a contested convention the loser after going in with the most delegates (almost sure to have a plurality if he does not win a majority)?  Not pretty.  Silver writes:

Overall, however, the degree of party unity during the primaries is one of thebetter historical predictors of the November outcome. That could be a problem for Republicans whether they nominate Trump or turn around and nominate Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz or John Kasich; significant numbers of GOP voters are likely to be angry either way.

Option #3: There is no option #3.

Does this mean Hillary is the sure winner in November?  Not at all.  Stuff happens.  Does this mean Hillary is far likelier to be the winner in November than if Donald Trump did not have a commanding lead over the Republican field right now?  Absolutely.

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