Photo of the day

Alright, another from my recent beach trip.  Always love getting the Piping Plovers in flight.  Got some good ones this year because my photo assistant (Evan) circled around and flushed them towards me.

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Overwhelmed

The truth is Trump is just so awful that we literally cannot keep up with the awfulness.  (Again, I direct you back to my cat piss theory of Trump).  American Prospect’s Adele Stan points out some recent awfulness that hardly got any attention because it was so drowned out by other awfulness:

On Tuesday evening, at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, President Donald Trump treated his audience to a bit of snuff porn involving high-school age girls and some bad hombres.

After painting all the people currently under deportation orders as drug-importing gang members, the president described their purported crimes. “So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15—and others—and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before any die,” Trump said. “And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long.”

A more perfect encapsulation of the proclivities of the president’s poisonous psyche could not be imagined by even the likes of Quentin Tarantino. It’s all there, the racism, the dehumanization of immigrants, and a sexualized violence involving bleeding women—or, in this case, girls…

THE WORST PART of all of this is how terribly normal it has all become. None of the three must-read publications in Washington—The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Politico—even reported the president’s slasher-movie remarks about “beautiful” 15-year-old girls from Tuesday’s speech in Youngstown, focusing rather on the fact that the speech was in the style of Trump’s campaign. Yet, even during the campaign, such a claim as Trump’s slice-and-dice quip would have been deemed shocking.

Yep.  And I can’t even blame the media to much for this.  They kept plenty busy with other Trump awfulness last week.  Alas, this is where we are as a country now.  And this is where will stay until more Republicans can overcome their un-thinking, totally reflexive partisanship (it can be done– look how much I’ve quoted The National Review of late) and admit that President Trump is a grossly unqualified threat to our democracy.

The worst people

Scaramucci, obviously, speaks for itself, but the sad truth is we are just going to get more and more incompetent and unqualified people serving Trump.  Seriously, what kind of competent, thoughtful, skilled person would want to sully themselves to serve Trump.  We’re going to be going from 3rd rate to 4th rate people.  I think there are few genuinely qualified people (e.g., McMaster) who are actually making a personal sacrifice in serving this moronic petty tyrant because they know we need some adults in the room for the good of the country, but the more it is revealed what an incredibly horrible person Trump is to serve, the harder and harder it will be to get even marginally qualified people.

On the bright side, this limits Trump’s ability to do damage because they will be incompetent at doing damaging things.  On the down side, it would be nice to actually have key government posts staffed by qualified people.

National Review’s Michael Doughtery absolutely lets loose on Trump as horrible boss:

But the really dangerous effect of Trump’s mismanagement is that it further degrades his administration’s already compromised efforts at hiring staff for senior and sub-cabinet positions. It is literally preventing his administration from taking full possession of the executive branch of government Trump is supposed to lead.

Why would you go to work for him unless you were hard-up for work or needing to take a high-risk gamble with your career? No one in his right mind would respond to a Help Wanted ad that advertised the boss’s propensity to be angered by the trivial and the everyday, leading him to tweet angrily at colleagues or to say damaging things about his employees to the newspaper of record. No one would respond to that ad if it also mentioned that the boss would redirect all the blame below and spread most of the credit to himself and his family members. But this is the Help Wanted ad the executive branch of the United States has now…

And so the Trump White House lacks the “best people” and the best minds working on the problems of government. It lacks expertise while it undertakes a job that desperately needs expertise. That means more mistakes, from simple diplomatic goofs to major strategic and governing decisions…

Trump is a third-rate boss, and he’s increasingly running a third-rate administration. How long until it changes the United States itself into a third-rate power?

Quick hits (part II)

1) German Lopez with a nice post on the Justine Damond shooting and race in America.

2) The hazards of meritocracy— new study find that believing life is fair can lead disadvantaged kids to worse behavior.  Presumably, because life is not fair.

3) NYT article on dogs at the beach.  I love that dogs are allowed at Topsail Island where we go every summer.  This year we spent the whole week without a single bit of evidence of irresponsible dog owners failing to clean up.

4) Love Jane Brody’s take on the fallacy of “better safe than sorry” when it comes to cancer screening.  Largely, because the “better safe than sorry” so often leads people astray:

Few may realize that ill-advised screening tests come at a price, and not just a monetary one that adds many billions to the nation’s health care bill. Every screening test has a rate of false positive results – misleading indications of a possible cancer that requires additional, usually invasive, testing with its own rate of complications…

A primary reason: The widespread belief that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Why take a chance that a potentially lethal cancer will go undetected until it’s too late for a cure? Doing something is often more appealing than doing nothing. Many who think this way consider only the beneficial “what if’s” and not the possible downsides of cancer screening tests.

5) These photoshops of old-school teen book covers are hilarious and definitely NFSW.

6) Sarah Binder with the lessons of the ACA repeal failure.

7) Keith Gaddie in praise of McCain on FB:

Every game theory instructor in the US is delighted with McCain’s maneuver. It conveys timing, information, mover advantage, and shows the iterative nature of true politics — that these are not single play, one-shot events.

And, to the frustration of those who complain about not giving Sens. Murkowski and Collins their due, a gaming approach must contend with crediting McCain. He did vote to advance the bill, but to a point where it could be dealt a fatal blow. He eased leadership concerns. They were banking on a 50-50 whip count with Pence to tie-break.

Then, with every other vote cast, he stuck a political shiv in the ribs of Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and the majority. He held his vote until it had the most power. The leadership would have held the bill if a third Republican woman was a nay, or if McCain was accounted for in the whip count as a nay.

McCain was freaking Russell Case, with one last good rocket, and he punched it where it did the most damage at just the right moment.

8) Rich people are, on average, worse human beings.  Seriously, the evidence is clear.  Our society used to recognize this fact but doesn’t really any more.

9) Nice to see that plenty of police departments recognize just how wrong Trump is on issues of police brutality even if the morons behind him cheering don’t.

10) Nice Julia Azari on partisanship in elections versus governing.

11) Yes, I’m with Sessions and Trump’s DOJ on this.  As much as people may wish that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protected employment based on sexual orientation there’s just no fair reading of the law to make that case.   Words have meaning.  Do I think sexual orientation should be protected?  Hell, yeah, so let’s work to pass a law to do that.  Not pretend that one written in 1964 to protect women (Title VII) part does so.

12) Eight positive thinking skills which social science says will improve your life:

■ Recognize a positive event each day.

■ Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.

■ Start a daily gratitude journal.

■ List a personal strength and note how you used it.

■ Set an attainable goal and note your progress.

■ Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.

■ Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.

■ Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

13) Steven Pearlstein says this is the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency.

14) Paul Waldman on how Republicans treat their voters like morons (because it works so well).

What’s truly remarkable isn’t that a bunch of cynical politicians thought they could ride their base voters’ anger into control of Congress by lying to them about what they could actually accomplish; it’s that their voters actually believed it. And then those voters got even angrier when it turned out that the president had the ability to veto bills passed by a Congress controlled by the other party. Who knew! So instead of looking for a presidential candidate who would treat them like adults, they elected Donald Trump, a man who would pander to their gullibility even more.

15) Steve Benen on how Eric Cantor— now that he’s out of office– admits to how Republican politicians lie to their voters.

16) Jim Newell argues that most Republican politicians didn’t even really want the repeal and replace:

Did any Republicans in Congress actually want to “repeal Obamacare” on the policy merits? Certainly not the moderates, even though they too had villianized the law. The rank and file are just sheep, willing to vote for whichever bill the leadership tells them to. Obamacare repeal was never an animating spiritual force. It was mostly a bloc of conservatives in both chambers—the Freedom Caucus in the House, and Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz in the Senate—who wanted to do away with the policy architecture that Obamacare installed, instead of just reaping the political benefits of opposing it. And that’s just not enough people.

Despite the aura around it, Obamacare, in its individual market reforms, is essentially just the idea that sick people should be able to purchase quality insurance at roughly the same price as healthy people. All of the law’s regulations, carrots, and sticks—guaranteed issue, community rating, essential health benefits, the individual mandate, subsidies, single risk pools, etc.—were put in place to make such a market feasible. To “repeal Obamacare” is to segregate sick people from healthy people, so that the healthy are not subsidizing the sick.

It turns out, most people don’t really want to do this. Which is why, in each chamber, when the conservative bloc would put forth a version of an amendment that would truly “repeal Obamacare,” it was met with a revolt from the rest of the party.

 

Photo of the day

Very cool Wired gallery of mountains shot in infrared.

Torres, Patagonia Chile.  Andy Lee.  

Quick hits (part I)

1) Marshall Report on how fake cops got millions of dollars worth in real weapons.

2) From out of nowhere, Yasha Mounk has become indispensable reading this year.  He argues that we’re heading for a constitutional crisis:

n short, just how bitter things will get now depends, as it has for the past months, on two simple questions: Will an overwhelming majority of Americans finally turn against Trump? And will Republican senators and congressmen finally start to put country above party? The answer to both is far from clear.

If moderate Republicans finally move to indict Trump, it may, in retrospect, come to seem inevitable that they would eventually find the courage of their convictions. But if they continue to give the president cover by expressing moderate hesitation while aiding and abetting his assault on the American Constitution, that too would, with the benefit of hindsight, come to seem inevitable.

3) Really love this idea that diets are actually a placebo.  That said, if you find a system of eating that gets you to consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.

4) Vox with the best article I’ve yet read on this year’s solar eclipse.  Easily the best explanation of exactly what’s going on and why it’s so rare.  My plan is to hope for a clear day and simply hop on I-95 South until I get into the zone of totality about 2:30 from here in South Carolina.

5) Mexico City as a case study for how limiting parking space regulations can be key for the health of a city.  Seriously.

6) As you know, I’m all for legalized marijuana.  That said, I don’t think that should make us oblivious to what might be some real downsides (though not even close to the downsides of the war on drugs approach).  Very interesting study in the Netherlands found a real negative impact on college student performance.

7) I was on a panel with Steven Rogers discussing his research on state legislatures at the MPSA conference this past spring.   Rogers basically finds that state legislators are virtually unaccountable for unpopular votes.  Ain’t democracy great?!

8) James Poniewozik argues for skipping the beginning of TV series that took a while to get going.  Probably really good advice when it comes to Parks and Rec.  I loved Bojack Horseman from the beginning.

9) Here’s an interesting idea, “Accepting your darkest emotions is the key to psychological health.”

According to their analyses, the magic of acceptance is in its blunting effect on emotional reactions to stressful events. It’s that mechanism that can, over time, lead to positive psychological health, including higher levels of life satisfaction. In other words, accepting dark emotions like anxiety or rage, won’t bring you down or amplify the emotional experience. Nor will it make you “happy”—at least not directly.

“You always interpret null effects very cautiously,” Ford says, “but to us, it appears that acceptance uniquely affects negative emotions, and isn’t interfering with positive emotions.”

What’s more, acceptance seems to be linked to better mental health when it’s used in response to negative emotions, not positive ones, she adds, so this is not about living in the world with a “broadly detached attitude.” No need to play it too cool.

This totally makes sense to me.  I’m a very happy person.  But, I also really like to complain, whine about stupid drivers in traffic, etc.  When people comment about all my whining I’ve said that I feel better because I just get it out.  Turns out, I was basically right.

10) NPR on Trump’s Boy Scout speech:

This wasn’t the first time he has talked about politics in a setting where that could be seen as inappropriate. Remember that speech in front of the CIA memorial wallin which he asserted that most of the people in the room probably voted for him?

It won’t be the last time, either.

This president couldn’t care less about political and societal norms. But let’s be very clear — none of this is normal. Trump has been publicly shaming his attorney general, mocking special counsel and congressional investigations, and confirming the existence of what was previously a covert CIA program — and that was all just Tuesday, and he did it on Twitter.

Trump has no filter. It’s giving Americans a window into his mind, but there is a thin line between openness and recklessness.

11) Excellent Ross Douthat column on just how awful Trump is on wanting to fire Sessions and how he literally should not be president.

12) Found this Atlantic piece on the nature of the burqini and society to be really fascinating:

As The Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada recently noted in an article quoting Samuel Huntington, the fundamental question facing Western democracies today isn’t “which side are you on,” but rather “who are we?” The burqini and what it represents—Muslims expressing religiously conservative preferences—challenges certain Western conceptions of national identity, particularly in staunchly secular contexts like, say, France, where wearing the headscarf in public schools is prohibited by a law passed in 2004. I find this to be a flagrant violation of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but a majority of French voters, as expressed through their representatives, disagree with me. France, unlike the United States, has an ideological orientation based around an aggressive, even radical, secularism. Is it not the right of French citizens, collectively as well as individually, to express that national identity, however much I (or any other American) disagrees with it?

13) Really good NYT Magazine piece on how Hollywood is trying to turn every existing intellectual property into movies– yes, even Fruit Ninja— rather than coming up with original scripts.

 

14) Loved this Atlas Obscura piece on how to use nature find your way– especially the one about the crescent moon.

15) Just to be really, really clear– you should not force quit apps on your IOS device unless they have crashed.

16) Lee Drutman on the divisions among Democrats:

But I did find one area of notable discord between Clinton and Sanders supporters — their degree of disaffection with political institutions. Support for the political system correlated with positive feelings toward Mrs. Clinton, while voters who felt negatively toward the political system tended to feel positively toward Mr. Sanders.

Most members of the Democratic Party establishment are pragmatists who made it where they are by working within the system that exists, not the one they wish existed. They often have frustration bordering on contempt for those who lack their hardheaded realism.

Yep.  Proudly pragmatic and Clinton supporter.

17) Really wanted to write more about the stupid, stupid transgender ban.  Did very much enjoy Saideman’s take looking at this as a Principal-Agent problem.

18) Loved this Post “this is not okay” editorial.  Damn straight it’s not:

WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a tweet Tuesday for not aggressively investigating Hillary Clinton, most attention focused, understandably, on the implications for Mr. Sessions. Yet even more alarming than the president’s assault on his own attorney general is Mr. Trump’s return to the “lock her up” theme of his 2016 campaign. We need to recall, once again, what it means to live under the rule of law. Since his inauguration six months ago, so many comparisons have been made to “banana republics” that it is almost unfair to bananas. But there is a serious point to be made about the difference between the United States of America and a state ruled by personal whim.

In a rule-of-law state, government’s awesome powers to police, prosecute and imprison are wielded impartially, with restraint and according to clearly defined rules. These rules apply equally to rich and poor, powerful and weak, ruling party and opposition. In such states, individuals advance on the basis of their talent and initiative, not whom they know. Companies invest where they think the returns will be highest, not to please those in power. The result is that, over time, rule-of-law states prosper. Banana republics do not…

To list those basic expectations is to understand how low Mr. Trump is bringing his office. Just in the past few days, he urged Navy men and women to call Congress on behalf of his political goals and turned the National Scout Jamboree into an unseemly political rally, calling the nation’s politics a “cesspool” and a “sewer” and disparaging his predecessor and the media. Routinely he trades in untruths, even after they have been exposed and disproved. He has launched an unprecedented rhetorical assault on the independence of the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office — and now he is again threatening his defeated 2016 opponent.

19) Or, as EJ Dionne puts it, “The norms of government are collapsing before our eyes.”  Of course, you can thank spineless Republicans, as well as Trump, for that.

20) Political Scientists ask, “Did Evangelicals Hold Their Noses and Vote for Trump?”  The answer is a decided, no, they did it as willingly as anybody else.  Once again proving their love for Jesus does not seem to extend to anything Jesus actually preached.

21) I’m undecided on whether I’ll read Alexandra Fuller’s new novel about Native Americans.  It sounds really good, though.  Mostly, I just find it sad that half the review needs to be about whether the book is “cultural appropriation.” Damn do I hate that.  Might as well not have female authors try to imagine the interior lives of male characters and vice versa.  Ugh.

22) Paul Waldman unloads, “This is what you get when you elect Republicans”

This has been quite a week in Washington, a week full of terror, intrigue, suspense, backstabbing and outright chaos. While we might not have been able to predict the particular contours of the catastrophe that complete GOP rule has been, we should have known it would turn out something like this.

Guess what, America: This is what you get when you elect Republicans.

It goes much further than their repugnant and disastrous effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but all the contemporary GOP’s pathologies could be seen there: their outright malice toward ordinary people, their indifference to the suffering of their fellow citizens, their blazing incompetence, their contempt for democratic norms, their shameless hypocrisy, their gleeful ignorance about policy, their utter dishonesty and bad faith, their pure cynicism, and their complete inability to perform anything that resembles governing. It was the perfect Republican spectacle…

The devolution from that Republican Party to the one we see today took a couple of decades and had many sources, but its fullest expression was reached with the lifting up of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, this contemptible buffoon who may have been literally the single worst prominent American they could have chosen to be their standard-bearer. I mean that seriously. Can you think of a single person who might have run for president who is more ignorant, more impulsive, more vindictive and more generally dangerous than Donald Trump? And yet they rallied around him with near-unanimity, a worried shake of the head to his endless stream of atrocious statements and actions the strongest dissent most of them could muster.

23) Love this Wired story, your brain is your memories.

24) Really  enjoyed this blog post on how different news organizations decided to cover Scaramucci’s profanity.  Was totally surprised the NYT just went with the direct quotes.

25) I can’t believe Apple has discontinued making Ipods.  Is there not a place left for a portable music player that’s much smaller and convenient for exercise than a phone?  I swear by my tiny Ipod Nano 6th generation which goes on every workout with me (I’m on my 3rd or 4th).

Miscellaneous health care thoughts

Been doing so much reading, I haven’t really take the time to write anything.  And, I need to get working on quick hits, so just doing to share some semi-random thoughts on the matter.

1) Hooray!  I honestly still doubt there was 50 votes in the Senate for anything that might come back from the House, but I’m not at all interested in taking that chance.

2) Of course, I’m still not convinced this is entirely dead, but you’ve really got to think the odds are very much against passing anything that makes more than the most cosmetic changes to ACA at this point.

3) As you know, I’m so tired of hearing about “moderate” Republicans.  There’s literally two– Murkowski and Collins.  McCain is no moderate– he’s an occasional maverick, who, I think really and truly was disgusted by the whole process.  Same policy out of a fair process, and I think he goes along.  *Still, of course, good for him for not last night).  As for Portman, Capito, Heller, etc… oh please.

4) It is astoundingly pathetic and appalling what we got 49 Republican votes for last night.  Ezra (written before the vote):

I honestly don’t know how to convey how appalling this process or legislation is. There is no analogue in modern politics.

At about 9:30 pm, Senate Republicans released text of the health care bill they intend to pass tomorrow morning. The bill would detonate individual insurance markets, sending premiums skyrocketing, and push 16 million people into the ranks of the uninsured.

Senate Republicans know all this, and their answer is that they don’t want the bill they pass to actually become law. For many of them, the price of passage is a guarantee from House Republicans that they will not pass the Senate’s bill into law but will instead negotiate a new bill with the Senate that both chambers will then pass.

This raises an obvious question: If Senate Republicans want to ensure the bill they released tonight never becomes law and is replaced by a better bill instead, why don’t they kill the bill they released tonight and write and pass a better one instead?

There is no sensible answer to this question. Nothing that is happening tonight makes the slightest bit of sense. All of it violates every procedural principle and policy promise Republicans put forth in the aftermath of Obamacare’s passage…

We are watching indefensible policy being pushed forward in an indefensible process in the hopes that it will eventually be signed into law and implemented by an indefensible administration. And what’s stranger is everyone involved knows it. [italics is Ezra; bold is mine]

5) A little too much of the gloating tone in some stuff I read today along the lines of “it’s just too hard to take entitlements away” etc.  It is hard.  But with a more competent president and a few changes here and there, I think Republicans were really not far at all from taking health care away from millions.  They really, really want to.

6) I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of good stuff that’s flitted though my head and some point.  Oh well.

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