Everybody gets a car

Okay, not everybody, just me.  I’ve been driving a 1998 Toyota Corolla for my daily commute since 2002 and from 1994-2002 a Geo Prizm (Corolla by another name) was my primary car, so it’s been a long time in Corolla world.  The car still runs great, but the interior is ever more falling apart (literally, the cloth on the room falls in front of my daughter’s face in the back) in various ways so I decided that after all these years I’d buy another car to last the next 14 or so.

So, you wouldn’t think my minivan would be the key player in this, but it was.  For years I’ve driven the Corolla (120 hp) and a 2000 Maza MPV with a 4-cylinder engine.  Short version: most of my adult life driving underpowered cars.  Then, two summers ago we replaced the MPV with a 2012 Kia Sedona.  We were focused on the great value and not even thinking about power.  But, wow, do we love that 274hp engine.  My thinking was I wanted my daily car to be at least as much fun to drive as my minivan.

I started with the Mazda 3, as Mazdas are known for being sporty and this is a really well-reviewed car.  It was nice, but the 3i, with about 150hp while clearly better than the Corolla, was less peppy than I expected.  So, onto the 3s with a truly amazing engine that gets 184hp (and similar torque) while also averaging 28/39.  Wow.  Great car.  So, why didn’t I buy one?  Honestly, I love technology, but just give me a standard speedometer (that’s a tachometer dominating the instrument display below) rather than a pop-up digital display and so not a fan of what looks like an Ipad stuck on top of the dash.  Also, the better engine in the 3s only comes with all the bells and whistles when I mostly cared about the engine.

2016 Mazda Mazda3: Dashboard

Okay, sure, I could get past this, but thought I’d keep on looking.  Turns out, if you want a compact car with good MPG, and horsepower and torque in the 170-180 range, the only other real option is the Volkswagen Jetta.  It is also great fun to drive and it has a noticeably roomier back seat and trunk than the Mazda.  And here’s the look for the driver:

2016 Volkswagen Jetta: Dashboard

So much better.  And, that unobtrusive touchscreen in the middle perfectly syncs with your Iphone with Apple CarPlay.  Very, very cool.  So, put that all together, and, anyway, more than you wanted to know, but that’s how I ended up here.

Ironically, I ended up getting the SEL which has all the bells and whistles I wasn’t so concerned about, but it comes with the 1.8 turbo engine I love and my first ever sunroof, which I am very excited about.

Also, I tend to get obsessive over major purchases.  One of the reasons I try not to make them too often.  And there’s so much you can read about cars on-line.  Let’s just say dozens of blog posts could have been written in the time I was reading on-line about cars.  So, sorry for your lost posts, but it should be at least another decade before this happens again.

Bonus quick hits!

Read a lot of good stuff this weekend and didn’t want my list to grow too big for next week, so…

1) It’s not easy being in solitary confinement, especially if you are already mentally ill.  The good news is the NC is cutting back on it’s over-use of solitary.

2) The reality of prostate cancer is finally making it through to many men as “active surveillance” has finally (and quite appropriately) caught up with aggressive treatment.

3) Elizabeth Warren knows how to take on Donald Trump.  Indeed.

Observe, then, the felicity with which this sense of purpose allows her to tear into Trump as she did at a gala Tuesday night.

“Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown because it meant he could buy up more property on the cheap,” Warren said, touching on one of the more meaningful Trump opposition sound bites to emerge recently.

“What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their jobs? To root for people to lose their pensions? To root for two little girls in Clark County, Nevada, to end up living out of a van?

“What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind of a man does that: It is a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes a profit off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will never be president of the United States.”

She then lit into him for wanting to eliminate the Dodd–Frank financial reform law,something he has always said he would do but which the political world has only recently seemed to notice: “Donald Trump is worried about helping poor little Wall Street? Let me find the world’s smallest violin to play a sad, sad song.”

4) Addicted to a treatment for addiction?  Sadly, many person seem to develop an addiction for Suboxone.  That said, way better than being addicted to heroin.

5) Normally, after a recession we invest in our infrastructure.  This time– not at all so (and, yes, the GOP Congress is to blame).

6) Tyler Cowen on Donald Trump’s appeal to “brutes.”

The contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males.  The nature of current service jobs, coddled class time and homework-intensive schooling, a feminized culture allergic to most forms of violence, post-feminist gender relations, and egalitarian semi-cosmopolitanism just don’t sit well with many…what shall I call them?  Brutes?

Quite simply, there are many people who don’t like it when the world becomes nicer.  They do less well with nice.  And they respond by in turn behaving less nicely, if only in their voting behavior and perhaps their internet harassment as well…

Trump’s support is overwhelming male, his modes are extremely male, no one talks about the “Bernie sisters,” and male voters also supported the Austrian neo-Nazi party by a clear majority.  Aren’t (some) men the basic problem here?  And if you think, as I do, that the incidence of rape is fairly high, perhaps this shouldn’t surprise you.

The sad news is that making the world nicer yet won’t necessarily solve this problem.  It might even make it worse.

Again, we don’t know this is true.  But it does help explain that men seem to be leading this “populist” charge, and that these bizarre reactions are occurring across a number of countries, not just one or two.  It also avoids the weaknesses of purely economic explanations, because right now the labor market in America just isn’t that terrible.  Nor did the bad economic times of the late 1970s occasion a similar counter-reaction.

One response would be to double down on feminizing the men, as arguably some of the Nordic countries have done.  But America may be too big and diverse for that really to stick.  Another option would be to bring back some of the older, more masculine world in a relatively harmless manner, the proverbial sop to Cerberus.  But how to do that?  That world went away for some good reasons.

If this is indeed the problem, our culture is remarkably ill-suited to talking about it.  It is hard for us to admit that “all good things” can be bad for anyone, including brutes.  It is hard to talk about what we might have to do to accommodate brutes, and that more niceness isn’t always a cure.  And it is hard to admit that history might not be so progressive after all.

7) Why Greek statues of men have small penises.  Actually, quite interesting.

8) Loved this essay on why you have married the wrong person.  I don’t actually think I have, but this strikes me as pretty spot-on:

The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person.

We mustn’t abandon him or her, only the founding Romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.

WE need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

This philosophy of pessimism offers a solution to a lot of distress and agitation around marriage. It might sound odd, but pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

9) Drum’s liberal heresy– campaign finance reform really isn’t suck a big deal.  I think he’s more right than wrong.

10) Nick Kristoff on the liberal blind spot.  After reading some of the comments, I’d have to say (noted Libertarian) Mike Munger’s take is spot-on, “It is remarkable that so many commenters insist of proving Kristoff’s claims to be correct.”

11) China’s aging population represents a huge problem for their future global competitiveness.  In the US, much less so.  Why?  In a word– immigration.

12) Love this story about White House photographer Pete Souza featuring tons of great photos of Obama.

The amazingly low bar

How many times does Donald Trump have to say things that are 100% patently false before Republicans start to abandon him for the embarrassing charlatan and ignoramus that he is?  Presumably, an infinite amount as long as he has an R next to his name and blames all our nation’s problems on everybody except white men.  Ugh.  It’s telling that his breathtaking ignorance on California’s drought is not even front-page news.  This is not just regular politics.  This is a shocking level of ignorance and gullibility (as Ezra Klein and others have persuasively argued).  Anyway, the AP report:

FRESNO, Calif. — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told California voters Friday that he can solve their water crisis, declaring, “There is no drought.”

California is, in fact, in midst of a drought. Last year capped the state’s driest four-year period in its history, with record low rainfall and snow. [emphasis mine]

Speaking at a rally in Fresno, Calif., Trump accused state officials of denying water to Central Valley farmers so they can send it out to sea “to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.”

“We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump said at a rally that drew thousands.

Seriously, Trump talks to a few farmers unhappy with California’s water politics and feels himself sufficiently informed to pronounce “there is no drought.”  Hubris, gullibility, stupidity, you name it.  This guy should be nonwhere near Oval Office.  The fact that somewhere in the low 40’s percent of America thinks he should be is perhaps the most disturbing part.

How conservatives will cure Zika

In the NYT today.  Pure awesomeness.

Quick hits (part II)

1) It’s amazing how low Donald Trump has successfully set the bar for his behavior.  Seriously, just imagine if Hillary Clinton had pledged $1 million of her own money to veterans and never delivered.

2) When, when, when will our foreign policy start treating Saudi Arabia as our enemy, as they actually are, than as an ally?

3) Oh man did I love this Upshot piece on how the problem with TSA (and many government bureaucracies) is that they don’t consider the wasted time of their customers a “cost” of what they do:

The agency accounts for direct monetary costs in great detail. In 2015, it spent $7.55 billion. That comes to about $10 per passenger-trip, of which $2.50 is defrayed by a tax added to airline tickets.

But T.S.A. ledgers don’t capture the cost of wasted time. Suppose, for example, that a passenger budgets an extra hour to make sure she catches her flight. The value of this hour surely exceeds the $2.50 she pays to the T.S.A. in tax. And for nearly anyone, it also exceeds $10. But you won’t find such calculations in the agency’s accounting.

That’s not entirely the T.S.A.’s fault. When Congress cut the agency’s budget last year, it didn’t account for the value of passengers’ time. This omission is a common government failing. A Department of Motor Vehicles budget does not include time spent waiting for a driver’s license, nor does the I.R.S. budget account for the hours we spend filling out tax returns.

This glaring omission creates perverse incentives for government agencies. Cutting staff improves an agency’s bottom line, while wasting citizens’ time has little material consequence for it aside from expressions of annoyance and outrage in tweets and articles (like this one).

4) That whole states with Republican governors thing is really limiting HRC’s possibilities for a running mate.

5) James Hamblin on the problem with emphasizing calories on the new Nutrition Facts labels.

6) A good take on why so many studies fail to replicate.

7) I never felt guilty for sleep training my babies.  And my wife and I definitely do not lack for attachment with our children.

In a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, 43 infants in Australia, 6 to 16 months old, all healthy, but identified by their parents as having sleep problems, were randomized to three different groups. In one group, the parents tried graduated extinction, the technique in which babies are allowed to cry for short, prescribed intervals over the course of several nights. The second group tried a technique called bedtime fading, in which parents delay bedtime in 15-minute increments so the child becomes more and more tired. And the third group, as a control, was just given sleep information.

The researchers measured the babies’ stress by sampling their levels of cortisol, a hormone indicating stress, and also looked at the mothers’ stress; 12 months after the intervention, they evaluated parent-child attachment and looked at whether the children had emotional and behavioral problems.

“What we were interested in is this hypothesis that there are these long-term consequences from doing something like graduated extinction,” said Michael Gradisar, an associate professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide who was the first author on the new study.

Both sleep techniques – graduated extinction and bedtime fading — decreased the time it took children to fall asleep and graduated extinction reduced night wakings, compared to the control group. All the salivary cortisol levels were within the normal range in all three groups, but the afternoon levels in the two sleep training groups declined over time more than the controls. And there was no difference among the groups, 12 months later, in the measures of the children’s emotional and behavioral well-being.

Although critics of graduated extinction believe that strategy disrupts parent-child attachment, Dr. Gradisar said: “We couldn’t find any differences. The more studies we get, the more confident we can feel that this is actually safe to perform.”

8) On the whole, I still strongly believe that Common Core is a good thing.  That, however, does not mean that theren’t aren’t some horribly inappropriate questions I might struggle with, much less a 4th grader.

9) The irony of conservatives being upset about FB censoring conservative news.

10) Dana Milbank on Hillary Clinton’s email issue:

But what’s damning in the new report is her obsessive and counterproductive secrecy…

The stonewalling creates a firm impression, well captured by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this week when he interviewed Clinton’s spokesman, Brian Fallon: “If she didn’t do anything wrong and she had nothing to hide, why didn’t she cooperate with the inspector general?”

There is no good answer to this. And that’s why the IG report was just another of Clinton’s self-inflicted wounds, stretching back a quarter century, caused by her tendency toward secrecy and debilitating caution.

And yet, I’m pretty confident she’d make a better president than both Trump and Bernie Sanders.

11) Can we blame increasing violent crime on Republican budget cuts to government?  Maybe.

12) I love cool traffic technology.  Like this diverging diamonds intersection.

13) Thank God my almost 14-year old mentally-disabled son is able enough to use the public restroom by himself.  But barely.  And I know plenty of parents with disabled children who still need help in the restroom.  And now thanks to NC, we’ve got the bathroom police upon us.

14) Speaking of disability, really interesting take on Hodor and the ethics of disability in Game of Thrones.

Look at Tolkien, for example. If you count up the battles, skirmishes, everything like that [in the Lord of the Rings series], the fact that out of the nine [Fellowship of the Ring members], eight of them survived and only one of them is missing a finger is statistically ludicrous. Martin is playing with the idea that because somebody is a hero or a beloved character they are going to live somehow. I used to call that the kids-at-the-end-of-Jurassic-Park syndrome: They should have been raptor chow, but we can’t have the kids getting killed.

By talking about disability as a very certain set of extreme conditions, we have a tendency of setting up these walls between them and us. But what Martin does is show how very, very fragile the boundaries between wholeness and bodily vulnerability are. Only in a moment you can go from being an “able” person to somebody who is “disabled.”

15) Really, really good piece on the recent history of the NC Supreme Court and how important it is to what’s been going on in NC.  I feel bad I didn’t know all this stuff but am very glad I do now.

16) Heartbreaking story of a hiker who got lost on the Appalachian Trail, eventually starving to death.  Her body and the letters she wrote was just found years later.

17) Interesting new political science research on the values underlying our ideologies:

First, the more importance people attach to transcending self-interest on behalf of others, the stronger their preferences for the liberal label, a generous welfare state, ameliorative racial policies, cultural progressivism, political tolerance, and dovish foreign policy. Second, the more individuals prioritize respect for tradition, deference to convention, and social order, the stronger their preferences for the conservative label, smaller government, racial self-help, culturally conservative policies, political intolerance, military power, and foreign policy unilateralism. Third, the egocentric values of self-enhancement and openness to change play a small role in generating support for or opposition to ideological labels or policy positions…

To conclude, social scientists have long seen basic values as prime candidates for shaping public opinion on key issues. Our paper confirms that basic human values drive opinion formation, but with the critical qualification that not all values are consequential. Self-transcendence and conservation values stand apart from self-enhancement and openness-to-change values as drivers of public opinion. Public opinion in the United States depends on beliefs about the good and just society to a much greater extent than beliefs about the virtue of private gain.

18) Open tab too long– last month’s Atlantic cover story on being broke and middle class.

19) I liked this response to it even better.

To be sure, Gabler is perhaps not as brutally honest with himself as he might be. “I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses,” he says, while recounting his decisions to live in Brooklyn, and then in the Hamptons, while sending his daughters to private school and expensive colleges. This is keeping up with the Joneses, of course. Gabler happens to belong to a social class in which the markers of success are living in the orbit of an expensive coastal city and educating your children at an elite school, not necessarily driving a fancy car or having a second home on some Florida golf course. Yet the former often costs more than the latter would. The majority of the people in the world do not live in the New York metropolitan area, and do not send their kids to Stanford University, and yet they somehow manage to get through their days — even, I dare say, to occasionally live worthy lives and die happy.

I say this not to rake Gabler over the coals particularly; note that I too live in D.C., an expensive city, even though our money would undoubtedly go much further in exurban Virginia, or western Kentucky for that matter. Rather, I say this to suggest that the primary reason people have so much trouble saving is that they can always find a reason to justify not doing so. The details of what they’re spending on may change, but the justifications have a curiously similar sound to them.

20) Your long read.  Really good New Yorker take on the extreme liberalism at Oberlin.  The author of the piece doesn’t do much, mostly just lets Oberlin students’ own words speak to their own absurdity.

21) And Mike Munger says that universities are failing their liberal students.  Not guilty in my department, but I’m sure he has a point.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I have to do the occasional conference call for the NC Advisory Board to the US Civil Rights Commission.  Indeed, it is a horrible way to conduct any kind of meaningful business.

2) I almost never play video games, but I spent January 2015 obsessed with Half-Life 2.  Never played anything else nearly as good.  Sad that there will almost surely never be a Half-Life 3.

3) Drum is right.  We should absolutely have an affirmative Constitutional right to vote.

4) Will the new overtime rules hurt workers?  Maybe.  Will the new overtime rules hurt workers as much as all the business lobbies have been saying?  No way in hell.

5) Not surprisingly Trump’s energy policy and his energy policy speech were both a complete joke.  Why does the media have to keep pretending he has the slightest clue what he’s talking about.  And, as David Roberts points out, it once again shows he’s a horrible judge of people and their positions.  Not a good thing to have in a president.

6) So, this short animated film is charming and creepy.


7) A lot of people did not like the Revenant.  I really did.  Maybe a little too long, but I was never bored.  This review seemed about right to me.

8) Sure, part of the reason women earn less than men is that they choose lower-paying occupations.  But what about the fact that when occupations become dominated by women, they pay less?  That’s a real problem.

Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

Once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

And there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. “It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance,” Ms. England said. “It’s just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.

9) You know another really smart policy much of Europe does that we don’t?  Universal child benefit.

10) On a related note, Jon Cohn takes a look at Clinton’s child-care policy proposal and says yes, it is expensive, but the payoff would be huge.  Of course, there’s no way Republicans would ever agree to something like this.

11) I totally fell for this optical illusion.  I wish I had looked harder before reading what was really going on.

12) What does the rest of a hand model look like.  Of course, hand models always make me think of poor George Constanza’s hand modeling career cut tragically short.

13) Harold Pollack on the future of single-payer and the difficult politics of cost control:

A sensible single-payer program should say no to questionable or overly costly interventions more often than our current system is able to do. Private insurers lack the public legitimacy to reject dicey therapies. Medicare is susceptible to pressure from industry, provider, and patient groups.

It’s especially hard for private insurers to refuse coverage for a particular drug, device, or surgical procedure once Medicare agrees to pay. (I haven’t even mentioned bitter social policy disputes over immigration, abortion coverage and birth control. I’ll get into these later.)

A single-payer system requires tougher mechanisms. The Affordable Care Act established the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Yet IPAB and most other cost-containment efforts encounter fierce bipartisan congressional resistance. The ACA unwisely limits the use of economic tools such as cost-utility analysis in coverage decisions. An effective single-payer system requires real economic analysis to determine who is covered for what service, and at what reimbursement rates.

14) I’m still embarrassed at my teenage years arguing with my mom that, of course, women should never be Catholic priests.  The arguments, even from a theologian in the NY Times, against women being ordained strike me as so weak.

15) What it feels like to have to use the wrong bathroom.

16) This New York City office building post-it war is so cool.

17) A healthy breakfast is no more or less important than any other healthy meal.

18) Peter Beinart on the foolhardiness of Hillary’s email server and what led to such a poor decision:

That’s the key question. What matters about the Clinton email scandal is not the nefarious conduct that she sought to hide by using her own server. There’s no evidence of any such nefarious conduct. What matters is that she made an extremely poor decision: poor because it violated State Department rules, poor because it could have endangered cyber-security, and poor because it now constitutes a serious self-inflicted political wound. Why did such a smart, seasoned public servant exercise such bad judgment? For the same reason she has in the past: Because she walls herself off from alternative points of view.

19) Very interesting take on Austria and what “National Socialism” is really all about.

20) Michael Gerson on all the conspiracy-loving support for Trump.

21) I found this theory about how the conditions for the beginning of life on earth to be truly fascinating.

22) Dahlia Lithwick on how the Supreme Court’s decision about racism in jury selection was no great victory:

This ruling is obviously the right one, but it’s important to understand how limited an opinion it really is. Most prosecutors don’t use green highlighters and the letter B to perform publicly the extent of their racial intentions. This is a strange outlier case, made stranger by a state’s open records laws and the completely implausible arguments proffered to explain the prosecution’s conduct. There is nothing in Monday’s opinion that would really limit the use of peremptory challenges that come wrapped in plausible-sounding explanations, even when the underlying intent is to strike black jurors.

Race taints everything about our capital punishment system just as it taints our elections. It simply simmers under the surface, and there it will stay. Despite the fact that it infects every single part of jury selection in some places, as Rob Smith recently noted in Slate, racism in our system of capital punishment won’t be addressed soon, it seems. Study after study reflects the fact that black jurors are struck far more frequently than white ones. Foster gave us a way to talk about it but not a way to fix it.

Right!  Must racially-motivated prosecutors are not dumb enough to highlight all the Black jurors on a list.  And what is also really appalling is that the Georgia courts did not even admit that this was racism!  And you should also follow the link to the Rob Smith piece.

23) Neanderthals build mysterious cave structures.

24) Open tab for too long– too many elite American men are obsessed with work:

Even before men and women enter the workforce, researchers see this values gap and its role in the pay gap. A new study of several hundred NYU undergrads (elite students, not average 20-year-olds) found that young men and women with similar SAT scores express starkly diverging visions of their ideal job. Young female students, on average, say they prefer jobs with more stability and flexibility—“lower risk of job loss, lower hours, and part-time option availability”—while male students, on average, say they prefer more earnings growth, according to researchers Matthew Wiswall, at Arizona State University, and Basit Zafar, of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…

Rich American men, by comparison, are the workaholics of the world. They put in significantly longer hours than both fully employed middle-class Americans and rich men in other countries. Between 1985 and 2010, the weekly leisure time of college-educated men fell by 2.5 hours, more than any other demographic…

But something else is clear: There is a workaholic mania among educated wealth-seeking American men, who seem uniquely devoted to working any number of hours to get rich. Remember the lesson of the Stanford study: Sometimes, the winners of a tournament are the ones who choose not to enter it.

No thanks.  I’ll take my leisure time and time with my family over lots of money any day.

25) Speaking of family time.  Happy anniversary to me.  And my wife.  22 years today.

The dangers of Trump

Adam Gopnik makes a case that Trump is far from an ordinary presidential candidate and it would be a danger to treat him as one.  Alas, this whole tribalism thing is really strong, and the vast majority of Republicans are far more interested in the fact that Trump is a Republican than the fact that he potentially represents a genuine danger to our Republic.  Gopnik:

One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can…

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

Good stuff.  Likely that Trump destroys the US Constitutional order as we know it?  No.  Far more of an actual risk than under any US presidential candidate ever?  Surely.

Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week:

A group of Indian Runner ducks march past farm buildings at the Vergenoegd wine estate near Cape Town, South Africa, on May 11, 2016. Each day, a quack squad of killer ducks are released for the first of two sorties at South Africa’s Vergenoegd wine farm in Stellenbosch. Their mission – seek and destroy thousands of pests out to ruin the season’s harvest. Fanning out across the vineyards, some 1,000 Indian Runner ducks hone in on their hidden targets with uncanny precision, locating the tiny white dune snails feasting on budding vines.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

All political conservatives are racist (if you are a Sociologist)

So, I recently came across this piece in the Christian Science Monitor with the title, “The surprising relationship between intelligence and racism.”  Of course, I was intrigued.  So, it’s actually a fairly simple analysis of General Social Survey data by some Sociologists.  Here’s the deal:

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they’re no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs…

Overall, those who scored better on the test had more favorable opinions of blacks and were less likely to blame them for their disadvantages than did their lower-performing respondents. 

But when it came to government policy – affirmative action, or busing, for example – smarter respondents were no different than their less-intelligent peers…

And while the overwhelming majority of the smarter group supported integrated schools (95 percent), only a fraction supported school-busing programs (22 percent).

The conclusion that Wodtke draws is that both the high and low scorers on the tests may have racist attitudes, but the high scorers “are simply more sophisticated racists.”[emphases mine]

Got that?  If you don’t support school busing or affirmative action that means you are simply a “more sophisticated racist.”  You want to know why Sociologists have a reputation for being hopelessly, ideologically, liberal?  This.  Now, are these policy attitudes masking actual racism in some intelligent whites?  I have no doubt that’s the case.  But to entirely ignore political context and simply claim that not supporting affirmative action or busing is inherently a “racist” attitude?!  I guess that’s what comes from spending all your time in an ideological bubble as potent as getting all your information from Fox News and Rush.  Ugh.  I think Sociology is inherently a fascinating discipline that we can learn a lot from, but I also think pervasive far-left liberalism significantly diminishes it’s intellectual rigor.

Photo of the day

Loved this article about what it takes to be a great sports photographer (lots and lots of hard work) and really loved this image:

ELMONT, NY – JUNE 02: (EDITORS NOTE: An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider train at sunrise on the main track at Belmont Park on June2, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Just Mercy and Mass incarceration

Just did “book club” with my class yesterday using Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.  It went great.  You should strongly consider reading it.  Not only is Stevenson an indefatigable advocate for justice, he is a great writer and compelling storyteller.  At least read this great take on his work in the NY Review of Books.  Or watch his excellent TED talk and be inspired.  I love this conclusion from David Cole’s review of the book (as well as another on Mass Incarceration):

If mass incarceration is to end, it won’t be because courts declare it unconstitutional. It will instead require the public to come to understand, as the National Academies report found, that our policies are inefficient, wasteful, and counterproductive. And it will require us to admit, as Bryan Stevenson’s stories eloquently attest, that our approach to criminal law is cruel and inhumane. Mass incarceration is one of the most harmful practices we as a society have ever adopted, but as Stevenson would say, we are all better than the worst thing we have ever done.

Absolutely.  Let’s make it happen, America.

Trump vs. Clinton or R vs. D

Benjamin Wallace-Wells on the (crazy) fact that Trump and Clinton, two decidedly non-generic candidates may not even matter.  At least if the latest polls are accurate.  We seem to have reached the age of partisanship über alles:

In a way, this election can be seen as an ultimate test of how powerful political polarization is. If Trump can receive the same support as Mitt Romney, and if Clinton—who eight years ago ran to the right of Barack Obama, in a Party that since has moved substantially to the left—can receive the same baseline support as the President, then the populist anger that has moved through both primaries this year may matter less than we thought it would. For all the bold talk about how Donald Trump could pick up Bernie Sanders’s voters, or how Hillary Clinton would inherit Jeb Bush’s, that does not appear to be happening. Populism has been an earthquake, but its tremors have not altered the map of electoral politics. There is not much more than an echo of the culture wars of the early aughts in the contest between the casino mogul and the former Secretary of State who attended his wedding, both of them of New York. And yet the basic tribal division of that era persists, red states versus blue states, strong as ever.

It really is amazing, if not actually surprising, the degree to which Republicans are willing to overlook what a fantastically dangerous and inappropriate presidential candidate Donald Trump is.  And I’ll not pretend Hillary Clinton is perfect, but her flaws are A or AA compared to Trump’s major league.

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