Photo of the day

I’ve taken plenty of grief for this on FB, but this Duke grad and NC State employee/fan, could not resist the opportunity to pose with UNC mascot Ramses at a NCSU-UNC soccer game last night.  More than anything, as my social media feed will attest, I am a sucker for mascots.

Photo credit: David Greene

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Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m loving all the Wirecutter stories in my FB feed these days.  I’m especially intrigued by the idea of a carry-on carry-on bag.

2) Frum (back in February) makes a case for what effective anti-Trump protest should look like:

It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era.

The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.

You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.

Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day. Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner––like these protesters at LAX, in video posted by The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf. Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.

3) Stan Greenberg’s take on why Clinton lost.

4) Garrett Epps‘, “America’s Red and Blue Judges: Justice Neil Gorsuch exemplifies how the Supreme Court has become fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics.”

5) Chait on how Trump bungled the politics of the NFL:

These comments had two swift effects, each disastrous for the president. First, it turned the question away from the style of the protest to the right to conduct it. The national anthem is a potent symbol of patriotism, but so is the First Amendment to the Constitution. “No, I don’t agree with [Trump], said University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh Saturday, “That’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Even pro-Trump coaches and owners began to issue statements attacking the president. “I’m pissed off,” said Rex Ryan. “I supported Donald Trump. [These comments] are appalling to me … I never signed up for that.”

Second, it turned the pregame drama into an anti-Trump protest. The pregame kneel has now become a spectacle of resistance, with dramatic gestures of white players joining black ones to oppose the crude attacks from the great orange bigot. Fans who might have complained before about politics being inserted into football — as if the bloated displays of military might attached to the NFL were not a form of politics — could no longer miss that Trump was now more likely than anybody else to politicize the game.

6) Eric Reid’s NYT Op-Ed on why he kneels is awesome and eloquent.  Puts the haters to shame.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

7) John Pavlovitz, “White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee.”

8) Literally the one non-dessert food all the Greene’s will eat?  Pancakes.  The science behind what makes them so good.

9) Not at all surprising to learn, “Obesity surgery may work by remaking your gut microbiome.”

10) Every single cognitive bias in one infographic.

11) Didn’t realize that so many website started pushing video as a way to increase ad revenue.  That said, I’m surprised that this CJR story did not mention that for your typical informative story, video is just a way, way less efficient way to consume information.

12) The saddest part on so many Republicans and their racial resentment is how oblivious they are to it.  This is the Republican candidate for mayor of Raleigh.  Looks like he changed the settings on the original post, but here’s the screenshot:

13) Tom Price is just an amazing sleazeball.  Good riddance!  Nice NYT editorial on what he represents in Trump’s view of public service.

14) James Hamblin of ongoing Republican efforts to sabotage ACA.

15) Jay Bilas on the NCAA after the FBI investigation:

In the movie “Jurassic Park,” actor Jeff Goldblum’s character had a memorable line — “Life finds a way.” In my view, the same goes for money. In college sports, money will find a way. Money will always find a way, because the NCAA and its member institutions are addicted to money and will continue to chase it. That seems beyond reasonable dispute…

The NCAA could act as The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club if it wished. The Masters does not allow commercialization of its product beyond its comfort level and has rules for its media partners. Augusta National could make far more money off that property if it wished, but it finds other things more important. Not the NCAA. If your decisions reveal your priorities, the NCAA’s first priority is money.

16) A remarkably candid admission from a Freedom Caucus stalwart that deficits only matter when Democrats are president.

17) The latest research finds that “broken windows” policing may actually lead to more crime.

18) Drum makes the case for bringing pork barrel spending back to Congress:

It’s not hard to guess why. Party leaders are the ones responsible for wrangling enough votes to pass big, complicated bills. To do that, they need to be willing to pressure members for votes any way they can. Offering a wavering member a freeway on-ramp or a senior center in her district may not be the most important bit of leverage they have, but sometimes it’s enough to get the final few votes they need to cross the finish line. Is this unseemly? Maybe, but former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle thinks the earmark system was a net positive anyway: “It wasn’t pretty,” he admitted in 2014, “but it worked.”

Here’s another dirty secret: Earmarks don’t actually cost anything. Overall spending levels are set by Congress in appropriations bills, and bureau­cratic formulas decide how much money goes to each state. Earmarks merely redirect some of that spending; they don’t add to it.

19) Latest thorough research suggests that campaigning of all sorts has virtually no impact in persuading voters of whom to vote for.  That said, there still is evidence for its effects on turnout.

20) Why yes, we should “get the keg out of the frat house.”

Alcohol is the wellspring of most fraternity vice, and evidence shows that reducing drinking at chapters makes them safer — and not just for fraternity brothers. According to the National Institute of Justice, women who frequent frat parties are more likely to become victims of “incapacitated sexual assault.” Many fraternity brothers and alumni maintain that fraternities shouldn’t be blamed for excessive drinking — that it is just a part of college life — but the numbers tell a different story.

Study after study has shown that fraternity men are the heaviest drinkers on campus. According to Harvard public-health research, considered the most definitive, 86 percent of men living in chapter houses binge on alcohol, twice the level of those who live elsewhere. A University of Maine survey found that three-quarters of fraternity members report they’ve been hazed, including being forced to drink into unconsciousness.

(That said, let’s not ignore selection bias in these statistics).

21) Peter Beinart on how Republicans are not apparently totally okay with Roy Moore’s blatant anti-Muslim prejudice.

22) And Chait on the GOP surrender:

Moore has openly defied legal authority in service of his belief that his theology overrides the authority of the United States government. This ought to disqualify Moore for service in public office, the most minimal qualification for which is a profession of respect for the rule of law. And yet, rather than declaring Moore unfit to serve, Republicans have endorsed his candidacy. Their stated qualms are limited to the concern that he might fail to vote for their tax-cut plan.

“He’s going to be for tax reform, I think,” Ohio senator Rob Portman of Ohio tells Politico. “Who won? I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes,” adds Nevada senator Dean Heller. If America slides into authoritarianism, the history of the Republican Party’s complicity could be titled, “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes.” [emphasis mine]

23) Interesting feature on how Darrell Hammond lost his SNL Trump impression to Alec Baldwin.

24) Lee Drutman on our era of super-competitive national elections and non-competitive state elections is great.  Here’s a key chart:

In a better world

Dahlia Lithwick shared this on FB.  Love it.

Empathy. Listening. Changing one’s mind. Humility. Personal Relationships. Rinse Repeat.

Aug 14, 2016- Colin Kaepernick sits for the national anthem…..and no one noticed.
Aug 20th, 2016- Colin again sits, and again, no one noticed.
Aug 26th, 2016- Colin sits and this time he is met with a level of vitriol unseen against an athlete. Even the future President of the United States took shots at him while on the campaign trail. Colin went on to explain his protest had NOTHING to with the military, but he felt it hard to stand for a flag that didn’t treat people of color fairly.
Then on on Aug 30th, 2016 Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret turned NFL long snapper, penned an open letter to Colin in the Army Times. In it he expressed how Colin’s sitting affected him.
Then a strange thing happened. Colin was able to do what most Americans to date have not…
He listened.
In his letter Mr. Boyer writes:
“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.
Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it.”
Mr. Boyer goes on to write “There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything. So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind.
I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you.”
Empathy and understanding was shown by Mr. Boyer………and Mr. Kaepernick reciprocated.
Colin invited Nate to San Diego where the two had a 90 minute discussion and Nate proposed Colin kneel instead of sit.
But why kneel? In a military funeral, after the flag is taken off the casket of the fallen military member, it is smartly folded 13 times and then presented to the parents, spouse or child of the fallen member by a fellow service member while KNEELING.
The two decided that kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Colin to peacefully protest the injustices he saw.
Empathy, not zealotry under the guise of patriotism, is the only way meaningful discussion can be had. Mr. Kaepernick listened to all of you that say he disrespects the military and extended an olive branch to find peace.

Thanks @Claire Kaplan.

Surprise: tax “reform” = tax cuts for rich people

The NYT Editorial sums it up nicely:

This much is clear: The tax “framework” published by Republican leaderson Wednesday would greatly increase the federal deficit, would not turbocharge economic growth and could leave many middle-class families worse off by ending deductions they rely on. It would do little or nothing to improve the lot of the working class, a group President Trump says he is fighting for. It would instead provide a windfall to hedge fund managers, corporate executives, real estate developers and other members of the 1 percent. And can it be just a happy coincidence that Mr. Trump and his family would benefit “bigly” from this plan? …

Under the guise of helping small businesses thrive and thereby creating jobs, the Republicans propose to lower the tax rates paid by people who earn money through private equity firms, partnerships, limited liability companies and other businesses — the very entities that Mr. Trump earns much of his income from. The framework would tax such so-called pass-through income at 25 percent, rather than at ordinary income tax rates. But here’s a depressing truth: The administration’s claims to the contrary, the plan would not help most small businesses, since they already pay less than 25 percent because their incomes put them in lower tax brackets. It would help millionaires, with the 400 richest households saving an average of $5.5 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

It’s hard to predict the economic impact of these skeletal proposals. But most experts agree that they could raise the federal budget deficit by trillions of dollars. As they have so many times in the past, Republicans will surely argue that the cuts would spur growth, and, in some measure, pay for themselves. This is the old supply-side hooey. In fact, over time the increased borrowing for unproductive tax cuts could depress growth by driving up interest rates.

It should also be noted that none of this is real reform.  This is just tax cuts for rich people with a few tweaks.  We could use real reform, bu this sure as hell ain’t it.

Meanwhile, a NYT news article actually pretty boldly points out that Republicans only care about deficits when Democrats are in charge

Whites always dislike civil rights protest

Love this column from Steve Chapman.  Why do whites oppose the NFL protests?  Because whites always oppose civil rights protests.  Yes, even MLK:

In a poll, whites were asked whether the NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem are helping or hurting the cause of racial justice. No fewer than 85 percent said they are hurting it.

Clearly, this offense to the anthem and the American flag is the worst possible way to change minds. Blacks need to find a less divisive means to register their discontent.

Oh, wait. I’ve got that wrong. Those figures don’t come from a new poll. They come from a survey taken in 1966 asking whites whether “the demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights have helped more or hurt more in the advancement of Negro rights.”

Only 15 percent of whites surveyed thought those peaceful protests would advance the cause of integration and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. and his nonviolent methods are honored even by conservatives today, but in 1967, half of whites said he was harming blacks, with only 36 percent disagreeing… [emphases mine]

That the display evokes so much fury and disgust among whites, from the president on down, confirms what was evident 50 years ago. The problem is not how blacks raise their complaints about American society; it’s that they raise them.

When LeBron James and other NBA players wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” to protest police killings of unarmed black men, Commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disapproval, and Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera slammed James. When several St. Louis Rams came out for a game with their hands raised to protest the killing of Michael Brown, the local police union demanded they be punished.

Every time unrest erupts in black communities in response to some perceived injustice, finger-wagging whites wonder why blacks can’t express their dissent in an orderly, law-abiding way. But every time African-Americans protest peacefully, the same whites object to the message, the tactics, the purpose or the slogans…

Detractors demand to know how such highly paid athletes have the nerve to question a country that has rewarded them so richly. They could ask the same question about Donald Trump — who owes his wealth to a nation that his inaugural address depicted in nightmarish terms…

Are there better ways for them to make their point? Maybe so. But it wouldn’t make much difference. To many whites, the only good black protest is no black protest.

Yep.  No matter what so many of the critics say (disrespecting the anthem, the military, etc.,; there should be other forms of more appropriate protest; how dare rich Black athletes protest), when you get down to it, sadly, for many white people it is a matter of how dare Blacks protest for their rights.  Ugh.

Tyranny of the minority

Never been all that much of a fan of Michelle Goldberg, but I certainly did appreciate her debut NYT column on the absurd over-representation of land in the United States system of government.  What was definitely necessary and not horribly unreasonable in 1789, is just a gross perversion of democratic principles today.  To wit:

Our Constitution has always had a small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. “Given contemporary demography, a little bit less than 50 percent of the country lives in 40 of the 50 states,” Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas, told me. “Roughly half the country gets 80 percent of the votes in the Senate, and the other half of the country gets 20 percent.” … [emphasis mine]

The distortion carries over to the Electoral College, where each state’s number of electors is determined by the size of its congressional delegation. This would matter less if the United States weren’t so geographically polarized. But America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt. One is urban, diverse and outward-looking. This is the America that’s growing. The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist. This is the America that’s in charge…

Before Trump, there was enough overlap between popular will and electoral outcome to make the issue largely semantic. Now it’s existential. Certainly, we need checks on the tyranny of the majority. But what we have now is the tyranny of the minority.

There are ways out.

Not that there’s much hope for them in the short-medium future, but I appreciate Goldberg advocating the National Popular Vote plan from Fairvote.  At some point, a body where 20% of the citizens have 80% of the representation brings the very legitimacy of that body into question.  And, there is no more important body when it comes to policy in the US than the Senate.  Just ask yourself what you would think of an institution like that in another democracy.  You’d probably wonder if it were really a democracy.  Yeah, it is extra frustrating that this dramatically benefits the Republican party.  But, historically speaking, I’m pretty sure land has always been more conservative than humans (because city dwellers are always more liberal than rural dwellers). So, time to stop having so much of what happens in this country determined by acreage.

Those uppity NFL players

Lots of good stuff being written.  My favorite so far is Jelani Cobb.  Really, really good:

Yet the belief endures, from Armstrong’s time and before, that visible, affluent African-Americans entertainers are obliged to adopt a pose of ceaseless gratitude—appreciation for the waiver that spared them the low status of so many others of their kind. Stevie Wonder began a performance in Central Park last night by taking a knee, prompting Congressman Joe Walsh to tweet that Wonder was “another ungrateful black multi-millionaire.” Ungrateful is the new uppity. Trump’s supporters, by a twenty-four-point margin, agree with the idea that most Americans have not got as much as they deserve—though they overwhelmingly withhold the right to that sentiment from African-Americans. Thus, the wonder is not the unhinged behavior of this weekend but rather that it took Trump so long to exploit a target as rich in potential racial resentment as wealthy black athletes who have the temerity to believe in the First Amendment.

It’s impossible not to be struck by Trump’s selective patriotism. It drives him to curse at black football players but leaves him struggling to create false equivalence between Nazis and anti-Fascists in Charlottesville. It inspires a barely containable contempt for Muslims and immigrants but leaves him mute in the face of Russian election intervention. He cannot tolerate the dissent against literal flag-waving but screams indignation at the thought of removing monuments to the Confederacy, which attempted to revoke the authority symbolized by that same flag. He is the vector of the racial id of the class of Americans who sent death threats to Louis Armstrong, the people who necessitated the presence of a newly federalized National Guard to defend black students seeking to integrate a public school. He contains multitudes—all of them dangerously ignorant.

Damn that’s good.  Read all of it.

Also, a few of my favorite tweets on the misappropriation of the national anthem, etc.  It does not represent our “military and first responders.”  It represents the American people.  And the American people are failing on issues of racial justice (exhibit A: we elected Donald Trump).

 

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