Photo of the day

This is just the photo from Douthat’s column in the NYT today, but I love how most of the photo is in darkness but the tops of skyscrapers are still catching the sun.

New York City, March 23, 2017. CreditGary Hershorn/Getty Images

Quick hits (part II)

1) This David Roberts piece on Trump and tribalism in modern politics is so good its worth at least 3 blog posts.  Instead, it’s only part of a quick hits.  So just trust me and read it.

2) Pretty soon, you might be able to do your own sperm counts on your smartphone!  Weird and cool all at once.

3) Meanwhile, as Zack Beauchamp put it, “The FBI probe into Trump and Russia is huge news. Our political system isn’t ready for it.”  I think he’s right.  I also think we keep running out of news oxygen under Trump.

4) As tempting as it may be to have your child be your confidant, it’s not really fair to them.

5) A recent Gallup poll on personal financial well-being.  Damn, partisanship is everything:

More Republicans, Fewer Democrats Feel Good About Their Money

6) Really like this Kristof column about Trump and Russia for calling out Nixon:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

7) Some encouraging evidence from an NCSU study that teaching critical thinking can reduce beliefs in pseudoscience.

8) Does the Premier League emphasis on entertaining soccer hurt them in more boring Champions League competitions?  Maybe.  Personally, I’ll sure take the trade as a viewer.

9) Never been a big fan of Jim Harbaugh.  Now I am.

10) Excellent Ezra take on the health care debate we should be having.  But, of course, are not.  (Not sure if I’ve already linked that one or not this week, with all the health care stuff going on.  Short version: if you haven’t read it, do).

11) Jamelle Bouie:

Indeed, it’s hard to overstate the scope of this disaster. Social policy of this scale is a massive undertaking. It requires broad consensus, policy expertise, clear White House direction, and strong congressional leadership. And even then, failure is always on the horizon. It took Democrats more than a year—and countless crises and complications—to craft and pass the ACA. What we’ve seen, over the past month, is that none of these ingredients exist among the present batch of Republican leaders in Washington. The Republican Party has no vision for health policy reform, no mutually agreed set of goals or principles. Instead, it has seven years of anti-Obamacare demagoguery. At the same time, President Trump’s ignorance—and overall disinterest in the business of policy—means his White House has little to negotiate or bring to the table. Paul Ryan’s inexperience as a congressional leader means he can’t corral members for difficult votes. And beyond problems of leadership, the fact that Trump and Ryan would essentially play games with 18 percent of the economy makes it clear that the Republican Party is unprepared for the responsibility of governance.

12) A day in the life of Fox News.  Short version: it’s disgusting.  E.g.,

One notable way Fox News stood apart from its competition, as it has been known to do for years, was in the stories it chose to highlight and the tone — in some of its opinion shows, unapologetically supportive of Mr. Trump and his agenda — with which it covered them.

There was extensive coverage of the health care vote, for example, but there was also considerable time given to topics, like a rape case in Maryland, that viewers would not have heard about if they had turned to CNN or MSNBC. The rape case, which involved an undocumented immigrant and went virtually uncovered on most networks, received almost hourly updates on Fox, and at times was used as proof that Mr. Trump’s calls for tighter borders and a crackdown on immigration were justified…

And while other networks were devoting time to the apology made by Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House committee investigating Russian interference in the election, for not sharing information about intelligence with the committee’s top Democrat before giving it to Mr. Trump, Fox was touting a report about “potential” evidence that Mr. Trump’s team may indeed have been surveilled by the Obama administration. It was presented as vindication of Mr. Trump’s earlier assertions that his phones had been wiretapped.

 13) I agree– it’s ridiculous to judge the quality of a college basketball conference by two weeks in March.

14) Not at all surprisingly, before popping pills for GERD, people should exercise and eat a healthy diet.

15) Krugman accurately predicted the failure of “replace” back in January due to the inexorable logic of the three-legged stool of Obamacare:

Here’s how I put it exactly 7 years ago:

Start with the proposition that we don’t want our fellow citizens denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — which is a very popular position, so much so that even conservatives generally share it, or at least pretend to.

So why not just impose community rating — no discrimination based on medical history?

Well, the answer, backed up by lots of real-world experience, is that this leads to an adverse-selection death spiral: healthy people choose to go uninsured until they get sick, leading to a poor risk pool, leading to high premiums, leading even more healthy people dropping out.

So you have to back community rating up with an individual mandate: people must be required to purchase insurance even if they don’t currently think they need it.

But what if they can’t afford insurance? Well, you have to have subsidies that cover part of premiums for lower-income Americans.

In short, you end up with the health care bill that’s about to get enacted. There’s hardly anything arbitrary about the structure: once the decision was made to rely on private insurers rather than a single-payer system — and look, single-payer wasn’t going to happen — it had to be more or less what we’re getting. It wasn’t about ideology, or greediness, it was about making the thing work.

It’s actually amazing how thoroughly the right turned a blind eye to this logic, and some — maybe even a majority — are still in denial.

16) Tax cuts (not reform, cuts) are going to be much harder now.  See Chait’s point #3.

17) Will Oremus on how the media is finally figuring out how to cover Trump’s lying:

It isn’t that Time, the Wall Street Journal, and others haven’t confronted Trump on specific claims. They have, of course. But they’ve failed until now to recognize that his untruths amount to something much more than a series of claims to be evaluated and debunked just as the claims of any politician must be. Trump’s reliance on dishonesty is not incidental to his character, or his appeal, or his approach to politics. It is his defining feature, shaping everything from how he talks, to the views he holds, to the way he conducts business and politics. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just go read the Time interview again and chase it with the Washington Post’s fact-check.

Trump’s lies are, and have long deserved to be, a top story in their own right. That the mainstream media have largely failed to treat them as such reveals the depth of its entrenched conventions around journalistic balance and respect for the presidency. Too many reporters and editors allow those conventions to constrain what should always be their core mission, which is to tell the public what they know to be true, no matter whom it offends or embarrasses.

The focus on Trump’s credibility may be late in coming, but it’s welcome nonetheless.

18) Of course we shouldn’t expect kids to sit still in class.  So dumb that we do.  Apparently, there’s some very cool programs to insert short movement breaks into the school day.  I think I’m going to email this to my kids’ elementary school principal.

19) Harold Pollack’s take on the Republican health care mess is another must-read:

As the conservative health-care analyst Philip Klein notes, the contrast with Obamacare couldn’t have been greater. Well before the Obama presidency, Democratic congressional leaders, interest groups and policy experts prepared the groundwork for the ACA, hammering out messy compromises, aligning House committees, working with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, all of whom proposed plans similar to what became the ACA. Then in 2009 and 2010, the House and Senate held dozens of hearings over the course of months, not days, and accepted more than 150 Republican amendments along the way. Learning the lessons of President Bill Clinton’s prior failed health reform effort, President Obama let Pelosi and her Senate counterpart Harry Reid take the lead, but he knew the intricacies of the legislation inside and out. Ryan and Trump threw in the towel after just 18 days.

So why did Republicans fail? In a word: insincerity. Republicans had seven years to do their own hard work, to coalesce around a credible conservative alternative to the ACA. They might have used this time to work with Republican governors, to explore which conservative policy ideas seem to stick, which aspects of ACA needed to be retained. They might have crafted a more moderate bill along the lines of the Cassidy-Collins bill, which would have given liberal states and Republican governors who adopted Medicaid expansion much greater leeway. Or they might have refined another conservative model, such as Avik Roy’s modifications to ACA exchanges, to turn ACA’s exchanges in a more conservative direction. They might have prepared the American public for whatever plan they chose…

There was a conspicuous smallness to this AHCA effort, a puzzling shoddiness given the human and political stakes. Many in the GOP, above all President Trump, seemed strangely uninterested in the policy details. To the extent Republicans did have an animating passion, it was to puncture President Obama’s legacy—and to avoid looking foolish by failing to honor their “repeal and replace” rhetoric.

Only they had no viable replacement. For all their endless warnings about how Obama’s signature health law was hurting American families, driving up costs and putting us on the path toward socialism, it turns out they didn’t care enough to put in the work.

20) Is increasing secularization making political conflict worse?  Peter Beinart makes the case.

21) Meanwhile, Sarah Posner on how Trump hijacked the religious right.

22) Super disturbing first-part of NYT series on over-militarization of the police (in form of no-knock SWAT raids).

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