Photo of the day

Okay, this gallery is photo catnip to me– Atlas Obscura with trees against starry skies:



The wasteland of TV news

I turned on the TV at 6:30 tonight with the hope of catching a Seinfeld rerun (alas, Family Guy– if there’s a rhyme or reason to which TBS plays on a given night, somebody please tell me), but since there was none I gave ABC news a try for a few minutes.  It was a “Breaking News” story about what Trump had to say about “complicated” health care today.  The report was horrible.  It simply laid out what Trump said and what McConnell and Ryan had to say on the matter.  It was barely more than stenography posing as journalism.  There was no suggestion at all of the impossibility of Trump’s promises.  No attempt to add any context to Ryan’s proposal or explain that replacing direct subsidies with tax credits would have a huge negative financial impact on millions.

Nothing the report said was untrue.  No lies.  But virtually no effort to add the context to help the average viewer of this newscast understand how what Trump and Ryan said would actually effect them.  You know what?  It’s hard to do in the short amount of time a TV story gets.  But not impossible.  NPR typically does policy stories with exactly the kind of important context lacking here.  In absolutely can be done.

Cable TV news takes a lot of criticism for pretty poor journalism (rightly), but it sure as hell is not restricted to just cable.  In general, TV journalism, is lazy, shoddy journalism.  Forget any kind of ideological bias.  That’s your problem right there.  And why I will be more vociferous than ever in telling my students to get their news from newspaper organizations and not TV news ones.

“nobody knew that health care could be so complicated”

Trump said that today.  Honestly, I literally laughed out loud when I first came across that on twitter.  Yes, sadly, the American president is truly, laughably stupid and ignorant.  Of course, if you care about American health care (and a bunch of other stuff), that’s no laughing matter.

Is ACA repeal/replace dead?  No, but maybe ICU.  Chait’s short-take:

Last week, though, Chait wrote a terrific piece thoroughly outlining the incredibly politically difficult situation Republicans have left themselves in on health care.  You should read it.  But here’s the highlights:

A second, much deeper problem is that the beliefs Republican members of Congress do agree on are not shared by their voters at all. The Kaiser Family Foundation extensively interviewed Trump voters who have Obamacare to ask what features they would like changed about the law. Most of the voters like Medicaid, and dislike the fact that exchange plans have high deductibles. A KFF poll finds that 84 percent of Americans, and 69 percent of Republicans, want to keep the law’s Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, the House Republican plan would slash funding for Medicaid and massively increase insurance deductibles. A belief in higher deductibles is the conservative movement’s central health-care policy conviction. Conservatives believe that forcing consumers to have “skin in the game” — giving them a financial incentive to use their bargaining power to hold down the costs of their own care — is the singular feature the health-care system most needs. [emphases mine]

Republicans were able to paper over this yawning chasm between what their base demands and what their elites are offering for the last eight years only because they have been able to avoid a specific alternative. Republicans attacked Obamacare for its high deductibles, and Trump promised a replacement that would give everybody better coverage for less money. But their proposals would do the opposite.Multiplesourcesreport that the House Republican replacement plan was supposed to come out this week, but was delayed after an initial analysis by the Congressional Budget Office yielded a horrific score. Their plan would cut the average subsidy level for a person buying insurance on the exchanges from $6,314 to $3,643, according to a preliminary calculation by the liberal Center for American Progress…

Obamacare did create some losers: The very rich pay much higher taxes, and young, healthy people have to pay higher premiums on the individual market. (The latter could one day become winners under Obamacare should they grow unhealthy or un-young.) They made a lot of noise — remember the media freak-out over the tiny number of people who lost their plans in the individual market? — but they were vastly outnumbered by the winners: millions of people who could now have access to insurance who once could not afford it.

The Republican plan, based on its skeletal outlines, has just the opposite effect. It would create very few winners and an enormous number of losers. One percenters would enjoy lower taxes, and healthy people could turn their Health Savings Accounts into lucrative tax shelters that don’t force them to cross-subsidize sicker people. On the flip side, though, millions of people who get insurance through work would be taxed to finance the GOP plan. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceutical makers would all lose business because millions of their customers would suddenly be unable to afford medications and treatments, having been forced onto skimpy, catastrophic plans.

Republicans may not have even realized until recently how deeply their ability to make political hay on Obamacare depended on not having power. They could posture against every inconvenient aspect of an industry nobody has ever liked, and promise all things to all people, with no responsibility to fulfill their grandiose promises. Now the dynamic has reversed

If Republicans somehow muster the partisan discipline to tear down Obamacare, as opposed to settling for minor changes, they will have to be willing to endure searing political pain.

And this is all happening before Republicans have published a detailed plan. That is the most amazing aspect of all. Obamacare repeal faces dire peril, and the most painful steps have yet to come.

Yep.  Complicated indeed.  Of course, there’s ways through these, but they all involve liberal policy solutions of more, not less, government involvement.  So, given their ideological commitments, Republicans are in a very complicated position indeed right now.

The Democrats have ruined everything!

Or not.

Unlike some people I know (who, just maybe are reading this), I did not follow the DNC Chair election all that closely.  Mostly, because I don’t think who the person ultimately is matters all that much.  Not many people attributing Trump’s win to former RNC Chair Reince Priebus.  That said, I followed closely enough to find the reaction of the far-left Bernie lovers (mind you, not suggesting that all Bernie lovers are far-left) seriously annoying and off-putting.  Not surprisingly, I’m not alone in this as fellow pragmatic liberals Drum and Waldman have good takes on this.  Drum:

The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:

What do you call it when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results? Oh yeah: the Democratic Party.

Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the “Bernie guy” and Perez was the “Obama/Hillary guy,” but it’s nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn’t a policy position anyway. It’s a fundraising and managerial position. I didn’t really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser…

Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It’s every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone’s time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.

And Waldman really lets loose:

As soon as Tom Perez beat out Keith Ellison to become the next chair of the Democratic Party, the grumbling began, in press releases and Facebook posts and tweets. Instead of a real progressive whose heart beats to the thumping rhythm of grassroots organizers marching purposefully down the street to win over their fellow citizens, Democrats chose another establishment stooge, just showing how out of touch these captives of big business are! This party doesn’t deserve the support of true progressives!

Give me a break.

That the race between Perez and Ellison turned in some quarters into a depressing rerun of the 2016 primary campaign was perhaps inevitable, even if neither Perez nor Ellison saw it that way. But there are some people for whom taking affront is their preferred mode of political engagement, who wouldn’t know who they were if they weren’t shaking their fists at a corrupt establishment. To those people, I say: You might want to do some thinking about what the Democratic Party is, and isn’t.

But the idea that Tom Perez is an establishment stooge is laughable. He rebuilt the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division after the horror of the Bush years, turning it into an aggressive advocate for the rights of all Americans. He was one of the most pro-worker labor secretaries we’ve ever had. And people who have worked with him positively gush over his skills as a manager and leader.

Not only that, Perez, Ellison, and pretty much everyone else agree on what Democrats need to do right now. They need to rebuild the party at the state and local level, spreading their message everywhere and becoming competitive in districts they’ve been ignoring. They need to be unbending in their opposition to what Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are trying to do. They need to focus on registering voters and fighting voter suppression efforts. In short, they need to construct the foundation on which future electoral victories will be built.

Nevertheless, there are some people who appear angry that the Democratic Party is not the ferry boat that will carry us across the poisonous River of Accommodation to the socialist utopia that awaits on the other side. Which is true. It’s a liberal party, not a radical leftist one. But it has also moved significantly to the left in the last few years, on a whole range of issues.

Then again, maybe I’m just an establishment stooge.

Photo of the day

This image of the Oscars audience at the moment of the all-time epic screw-up is pretty priceless.  Especially Matt Damon and the Rock:

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that "Moonlight" and not the previously announced "La La Land" had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The stunned Oscars ceremony audience after learning that “Moonlight” and not the previously announced “La La Land” had won the best picture award. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Why I know so few smokers

It’s always fun talking to my kids about “back in my day.”  Like when people smoked in restaurants.  Or, improbably and horribly given the recycled air, on airplanes.  Anyway, I was telling David about the significant and ongoing decline in smoking and found this nice collection of charts.  I think this one of smoking by education level is most interesting:

Given that most everybody I know has an undergrad or grad degree (or, is at least well on their way to the first), not surprising that– thankfully— I know hardly any smokers.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I think there are some bad dudes in the border patrol and they’re out of control under Trump.

2) Betsy DeVos on how college faculty are indoctrinating:

“The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community,” read the remarks. “But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

3) On efforts to build a better battery.  Hopefully, one of these approaches will work, because the slow pace of battery development is holding us back.

4) Men who exercise a ton have worse sex lives.  Too obsessed with exercise?

5) I love playing with fire and would happily teach my kids to do so, but they’re too afraid.

6) Jedidiah Purdy on North Carolina’s lessons for the anti-Trump resistance.

7) Politico story on how Trump’s staff has to make sure he seems plenty of praise in the media.  We have a toddler for a president.

8) Love the operation to fill the CPAC convention with Russian “Trump” flags.

9) Not that we’ll actually do this, but, yeah, it probably would be a great idea to teach school kids about the realities of death.

10) Raise your hand if you want to be treated by a doctor that’s been awake for more than a day.  Well, we may be going back to it:

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education — the professional body charged with overseeing the nation’s physician training programs is poised to eliminate the 16-hour limit on work shifts for first-year resident physicians (referred to as interns) that it implemented in 2011. It proposes allowing interns to return to working extreme shifts of 28 hours — twice each week…

Despite these flaws, those within the medical community opposing work-hour limits have latched onto this study and have pressured the ACGME to again allow the 28-hour shifts. They argue that handoffs of care between doctors at change of shift are unsafe and that shortening shifts — which results in more handoffs — could counterbalance any benefit of reducing fatigue. However, studies lookingdirectly at this issue have found the 16-hour shift system to be much safer overall. While botched handoffs are an important source of medical error, the solution to poor handoffs is not to avoid them, but to improve them.

11) Meanwhile, bad hospital design makes us sicker.  Naturally, Europeans do this better.

12) Liberals amok?  Bestsy DeVos has a lot she wants to do as Secretary of Education.  I don’t agree with it, but that’s a reality.  Does the New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead expect her to resign a week into her term over the issue of transgender kids in school bathrooms?

13) This is fun– totally unbiased survey on the failing mainstream media.

14) My colleague and friend, Richard Clerkin, on the foolishness of repealing that Johnson amendment that prevents non-profits from making political endorsements.

15) I thought I had blogged about Yglesias‘ excellent take on Achen and Bartels’ Democracy for Realists back when Yglesias wrote, “This is the best book to help you understand the wild 2016 campaign” back in October.  But, maybe I forgot to.  Or maybe DJC forgot that I did, because he just sent me an email with a link to it.  Either way… big oversight if I didn’t share before, and if I did, it’s worth recommending again, because it’s really, really good.

16) And, while we’re at it, DJC also strongly recommends “How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next.”  Two less quick hits for him to read on Sunday.

The declining authority of statistics – and the experts who analyse them – is at the heart of the crisis that has become known as “post-truth” politics. And in this uncertain new world, attitudes towards quantitative expertise have become increasingly divided. From one perspective, grounding politics in statistics is elitist, undemocratic and oblivious to people’s emotional investments in their community and nation. It is just one more way that privileged people in London, Washington DC or Brussels seek to impose their worldview on everybody else. From the opposite perspective, statistics are quite the opposite of elitist. They enable journalists, citizens and politicians to discuss society as a whole, not on the basis of anecdote, sentiment or prejudice, but in ways that can be validated. The alternative to quantitative expertise is less likely to be democracy than an unleashing of tabloid editors and demagogues to provide their own “truth” of what is going on across society.

You know me, give me data, or give me death.

17) Rob Christensen on how NC Republicans have so ruined the NC brand (and been so much dumber than Republicans in neighboring states):

But neighboring Republican governors, while more circumspect in their language, have run as fast as they can away from job-killing legislation similar to HB2.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last year vetoed a bill that critics said would have curtailed the rights of Georgia’s LGBT community. “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been part of for all of our lives,” Deal said.

Nikki Haley, then South Carolina’s governor and now U.N. ambassador, last year said a bathroom bill was not needed.

“I don’t believe it’s necessary,” Haley said. “There’s not one instance that I’m aware of. When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that are being violated in terms of freedom. Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam helped defeat legislation last year that would bar transgender students in public schools from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their birth certificate.

“Personally, I am not hearing about problems out in the districts,” Haslam said. “I’m hearing that our school boards have figured out to how to adjust to each situation that arises, and to date, I’m not hearing parents say we have a problem in our schools today.”

In most of these Southern states it was the political clout of the business community and the sports world – the political mainstream – that defeated efforts of conservative evangelicals, talk radio/social media and others aligned with the political right who have used scare tactics to paint false pictures of hulking men invading women’s bathrooms and lockers.

Yep.  It’s not like the business community doesn’t have clout in NC.  I still don’t quite get how they were dumb enough to get totally rolled by the hayseed social conservatives.

18) Ezra Klein on how Trump is especially dangerous when he’s losing.

19) Good David Brooks column on the anti-immigration stupidity of the GOP.

20) When it comes to immigration enforcement, I’m increasingly of the opinion that there’s a lot of power-trip types who have self-selected into these agencies and who know feel totally emboldened thanks to Trump.  A couple examples.

21) Motivated reasoning is so strong.  Fun and depressing take at what happens when you confront conservative activists with the fact that Trump is spending way more on travel than Obama did.

22) Ted Lowi was a hell of a political scientist.  And super charming and personable when I got to hang out with him at a reception about 10 years ago.

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