Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on how Trump’s domestic policy agenda is really GWB part II.

Bush rode into office on the strength of white working-class voters who were drawn to his heartland cultural politics, alienated by Al Gore’s aloof demeanor, and appeased by Bush’s repudiation of the hard-right orthodoxy of the congressional GOP of the era. Bush scolded congressional Republicans for seeking to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and promised to deliver a much-needed prescription drug benefit to America’s senior citizens.

“George Bush is a different kind of right-winger,” wrote the Economist’s US politics columnin April 2001, “a card-carrying conservative who nevertheless believes in active government.”

Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard called him a “big government conservative.”

None of this entailed a retreat from the Republican Party’s basic commitment to an agenda of tax cuts for high-income households and favorable regulatory treatment of businesses. It was, instead, a political strategy to make plutocracy workable. And while Bush-era deficits probably contributed to some long-term problems, the interest rate environment of the time was certainly conducive to “irresponsible” budgeting.

And, indeed, it’s very difficult to imagine Bush securing reelection in 2004 if his trillion-dollar tax cut had been paid for with cutbacks to public services. In reality, however, Bush expanded public services by lavishing new subsidies on American agriculture, introducing new health benefits on American seniors, and increasing federal K-12 education spending in exchange for the accountability reforms of the No Child Left Behind law.

When, eventually, Bush’s administration collapsed into ignominy, conservatives quickly pinpointed these big-spending ways as the reason. Even Bush’s brother Jeb found himself saying that “in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money.”

But by the time Jeb was out on the campaign trail distancing himself from his brother’s big-spending ways, Trump was kicking his butt precisely by distancing himself from the tight-fisted fiscal policies of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

2) Trump takes credit for a $1 billion investment in the US.  Drum points out that this happens about once per day, on average.

3) Wired on Apple’s need to move past the Iphone, on its 10-year anniversary.

4) And David Pogue’s take on the original Iphone from 10-years ago.  Nice reminder of how revolutionary it was.

5) Jeff Sessions should not be our next Attorney General.

6) Neurotracker has convinced professional teams and athletes that it can improve their performance by improving the mental tracking so key in many sports.  Alas, there’s no real evidence it actually does.  It’s honestly a pretty easy experiment to do (randomly assign a college or HS football, soccer, etc. team with experimental and control for a couple weeks, then test), so the fact that there’s not any such evidence makes me very skeptical.  I find the following critique compelling:

Williams, at the University of Utah, challenged the notion that tracking bouncing objects in a simulation could train or quantify anything other than a person’s ability to track bouncing objects in a simulation.

“I’ve never seen a soccer player chasing multicolor balloons around on the field,” Williams said. “It’s just not what soccer players do.”

What soccer players do, he said, is read patterns of play, anticipate what might happen next based on movements of teammates and opponents, and identify familiar sequences as they unfold. This “inside” knowledge, built up over time, promotes the effectiveness and efficiency that Ericsson argues are the hallmarks of expertise.

7) My 10-year old Evan received a mini-drone for Christmas.  A friend said, “so what do you do with it?”  My response, “crash it.”  Managed to actually get it down from 30 feet up in a tree where I stranded it within the first 5 minutes.  Loved this NYT article on Christmas drone horror stories.  We still have our and it still works and we’ve only broken to propellers.  We’ll try again when all our snow and ice melts.

8) This essay by Karl Marlantes on how Vietnam permanently disrupted Americans’ faith in their government is a must read.  (Also makes me think I need to move his novel, Matterhorn, further up my queue).

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

9) Gotta love that the guns rights folks (and DJT Jr) are arguing that we need to make it way easier to buy silencers/suppressors, through legislation titled The Hearing Protection Act.

10) Love that a Dairy Queen owner who unleashed racist rants on his customers had his franchise pulled from him by DQ corporate.  That’s the power of social media for good.

11) The insanity of trying to get even a low-level Senate confirmation from today’s dysfunctional Congress.  Though, that will change.

12) Greg Sargent on Trump’s (lying, of course) response to Meryl Streep:

It’s often argued that we should perhaps give less attention to Trump’s tweets. But Monday’s barrage gets at something important. Yes, all politicians lie. But with only days to go until Trump assumes vast power, Monday’s tweetstorm is a reminder that we may be witnessing something new and different in the nature and degree of the dishonesty at issue. Here again we’re seeing Trump’s willingness to keep piling the lies on top of one another long after the original foundational lies have been widely debunked, and to keep on attacking the press for not playing along with his version of reality, as if the very possibility of shared reality can be stamped out by Trumpian edict, or Trumpian Tweedict.

13) Among the dumbest things we do in American democracy: abysmally poor compensation for state legislators.  Because, you know, it’s not like what state governments do is important or anything.  NPR:

While a few big states have full-time legislatures with higher pay (California pays lawmakers $100,113 a year and Pennsylvania pays $85,339) but in most states, legislators are paid like it’s a part-time job.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states pay $30,000 a year or less to legislators. New Mexico doesn’t pay lawmakers at all, while those in New Hampshire make just $200 per two-year term…

Median household income in the United States was $55,775 in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

“Not paying legislators is like a very penny-wise, pound foolish thing,” given the size of state budgets and complexity of issues that legislatures tackle every year, said Stanford University political scientist Neil Malhotra.

That low level of pay also keeps many people from entering politics, said Malhotra. “There’s very, very few working class people in legislatures. This might have something to do with why a lot of legislation does not seem very friendly towards working class people.”

14) I don’t doubt that there really is something to “attachment theory” that proper bonding in very-early childhood can be key for personality throughout life, but this article is absolutely preposterous in not addressing the role of genetics in this issue.  Any parent of more than one child can sure as hell tell you that.

15) How video game designers need to engineer in just the right amount of luck.

16) The difficulty in enforcing ethics laws under Trump.

17) Yglesias reminds of what we do know about Trump and Russia:

18) The Amherst College new mascot– Hamsters.  Kind of love it.  Kind of think it’s silly to change a mascot based on the now-odious, but mainstream enough in the 18th century views, of Lord Amherst.

19) Interesting idea from Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse— many Republican politicians actually want to fight climate change but the fossil fuel industry they are beholden to will not let them.  I’m not convinced.  If true, just more profiles in cowardice.

20) Even if you have good health insurance through your employer, an ACA repeal can really hurt you, too.

21) Hooray for San Diego for not being a hostage to the NFL and refusing to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars to further enrich a billionaire.  And, on the not-so-great economics of having an NFL team in your city.

22) Some interesting research suggests conservative politicians in several countries are more attractive than liberal politicians.

23) This long, thoughtful, post from an Ohio teacher on our way over-reliance on standardized testing is really, really good:

The most critical solution to this is to untie student, teacher, and school accountability measures from testing outcomes, or to combine these scores with a variety of other measures of success. In addition, we need to dramatically reduce the time spent on testing by requiring tests in fewer grades, or not administering tests every year. No high-performing nation in the world tests all students annually…

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

24) Best explanation I’ve yet read for why recent rules changes have led to college football being so high scoring (it’s all about the blocking on the run-pass option).

25) Pippa Norris responds to the many issues raised on the whole “is North Carolina a democracy” flap.

 

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Jon K says:

    8) “Matterhorn” is very very good. However a graphic narrative of a field surgery involving a leech, a soldier’s penis, and a knife still makes me shudder and wince to this day. Listening to the audiobook probably just intensified my sympathetic agony. That said I highly recommend the book. The tensions between a young naive liberal white junior officer and a radical black power enlisted soldier are excellent.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #25 – wrong link.

  3. Jon K says:

    24) In order to read the story – because of the pay wall block – I had to go to Google, type run pass option into the search box, and then click news as the search type. It comes up as the first story. Apparently stories accessed via Google news search are not limited to the first paragraph.

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