Both sides!

Interesting piece from Erik Wemple with Jeffrey Toobin apologizing for his part in the false equivalnce of Trump and HRC scandals.  So much of modern political journalism’s pathologies is captured in this “but, both sides!” without any larger context or sense of proportion.  Wemple:

So long as President Trump continues disgracing the Oval Office, thoughtful people will probe their own role in helping him get there.

Such appeared to be the motivation behind a mea culpa issued by CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on comedian Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast. In a discussion of presidential politics, Wilmore argued that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, was the victim of a “coordinated attack” coming from Republicans. “Benghazi was … the expression of that attack. In fact, what’s his name, was it [former Rep. Jason] Chaffetz who actually kind of agreed that that’s what they were doing, was weakening her as a candidate.” (Wilmore may have been referring to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who said in 2015, ““Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”)

“And I hold myself somewhat responsible for that,” continued Toobin, a steady presence on CNN since 2002. “I think there was a lot of false equivalence in the 2016 campaign. That every time we said something, pointed out something about Donald Trump — whether it was his business interests, or grab ’em by the p–––y, we felt like, ‘Oh, we gotta, like, talk about — we gotta say something bad about Hillary.’ And I think it led to a sense of false equivalence that was misleading, and I regret my role in doing that.”

Those comments drive at one of the great media brain-busters of all time. On the one hand, media organizations in the run-up to November 2016 exposed and covered the hard-to-count scandals and outrages that Trump had generated over decades as a self-absorbed real-estate mogul: the thousands of lawsuits, the mistreatment of women, the ambient lies, the racism, the stiffing of contractors, Trump University, the false promises of charity and much, much more. On the other hand, those same media organizations pounded away at Hillary Clinton’s email story. And many of them — CNN prominently included — gave Trump generous helpings of airtime for the rallies early in his campaign.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that in the campaign’s final months, the media’s aggregate coverage performed pretty much as Toobin described to Wilmore. “When journalists can’t, or won’t, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there’s something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans,” wrote Thomas Patterson in the Shorenstein study. [emphasis mine]

To some degree, I think this is a result of Republicans effectively “working the refs” all these years.  Given all the accusations of “liberal media bias!” a simple way for reporters to prove to themselves otherwise is to always have a “but, both sides” take.  I still remember back in the 2000 campaign when GWB would lie/distort things by orders of magnitude and Al Gore is off by a few millions dollars in some giant budget item and it was all about “both sides” lying to the public about the policy.  Of course, reporting that actually does a service to the public lets the public know when one side is lying shamelessly, while the other is engaged in fairly typical political spin by putting the best face on things.  Alas, it’s also easier to simply report “both sides” than know an issue well enough to render a reasoned judgment.  This does happen (and increasingly with Trump, due to the shamelessness and extent of his lies), but not damn well near enough.

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Where the players come from

Loved this Upshot feature from the end of the year graphically showing where players in all sorts of sports leagues come f rom.  Here’s the Premier League and NBA.  The NFL is basically impervious to foreign players.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Criminal Justice twitter was alight the other day about how it is so wrong for any judge to ever advocate sexual assault against prisoners (as happened in the Nassar case).  Nice post in Deadspin.

2) Taking advantage of the fact that military families move around all the time, researchers have more evidence that your neighbors’ weight impacts your own.

3) Nice article in Wired about all the really cool film-making video essays now available on Youtube.  I’m really going to start digging into these.

4) This joint interview with long-time friends Steven Pinker and Bill Gates was terrific.  Both super-smart, super-thoughtful thinkers.  And I had not realized I should be reading Gates‘ book reviews.

PG The motto of the foundation is: “Every life has equal value.” And in your new book, Steven, there’s the idea that we can’t want something good for ourselves without wanting it for everyone. But in truth, I want better things for my husband and my kids than for you. Is that evil, or human?

BG That’s natural. It’s even predicted by evolutionary logic. What makes Papua New Guinea — where there’s no police and revenge after revenge — different from Western society is that when we give ourselves over to the law, we want it to be executed impartially. We gain stability. But if you could get your son off, of course you’ll try.

SP You left off a crucial piece in framing the proposition, Philip — which comes from Spinoza. He said those under the influence of reason desire nothing for themselves that they do not desire for all humankind. But reason is not a powerful part of human nature. Innately, we favor family over strangers, our tribe over other tribes. It’s only when we’re called upon to justify our beliefs — not consult our gut feelings, but convince others of the right way to act — that we conclude that all lives have equal value.

5) Scientists are starting to get a better idea of what happens in your body when you exercise.  Short version– it’s really complicated.  Additional short version– exercise is really, really good for you.

The study helps to clarify some of the body-wide health effects of working out and also underscores just how physiologically complex exercise is.

For some time, scientists have suspected that the body’s internal organs are as gossipy and socially entangled as any 8th-grade classroom. It is thought that, under the right conditions, fat cells chat with muscle cells, and muscle cells whisper to brain cells and everybody seems to want to be buddies with the liver.

These interactions are especially abundant during exercise, when continued movement demands intricate coordination of many different systems within the body, including those that create cellular energy.

6) This Politico story asks, “By any measure, she was one of the most successful Fed chairs in history. Why didn’t Trump keep her around?”  Ummmm, that’s pretty easy.  Because Obama appointed her and Trump is a moronic sexist pig.

7) Eric Levitz, “Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die.”

8) Love thisAccumulated Winter Season Severity Index” to see how bad your winter is.  Pretty bad in Raleigh.

9) This is pretty infuriating, “How an Arizona couple’s innocent bath-time photos of their kids set off a 10-year legal saga.”  All I can say is– what is wrong with people??!!

10) Ross Douthat and Frum discuss Frum’s Trumpocracy.  

Frum: Instead, they concluded: “What if we shaped the electorate to be a little more friendly to us? Might our formerly unpopular ideas prevail then?” The G.O.P. is complicit with Trump because he delivered a success that finer leaders and better methods could not deliver. Trumpocracy is the fusion of Trump’s authoritarian instincts with the G.O.P.’s plutocratic instincts in the context of a country trending in very different directions.

11) Wonkblog, “Why can’t conservatives just admit they were wrong about inflation?”  Because they cannot seem to admit they’ve been wrong about practically everything on the economy in recent years.  Of course, nobody is good at admitting they are wrong, but conservatives have been wrong about the economy a lot in recent decades.

12) Lee Drutman on how nationalism undermines income redistribution:

The more nationalistic the country, the worse the poor are doing relative to the rich

Shayo’s theory is that if lower-income individuals think of themselves as lower class, they will want more redistribution. If class consciousness prevails, the lower classes will strongly support redistribution and vote accordingly.

But if national identity is more salient than class identity, poorer individuals might instead identify with the nation more broadly, and less with their class.

Basically, humans are not selfish. We are group-ish. We want what’s best for people like us. But “people like us” is a highly subjective category. If “people like us” is “American patriots,” we’ll want what benefits “American patriots.” If we take on a nationalist identity, we can bask in the reflected glow of American greatness, even if our own finances are precarious. Thus, Shayo argues, “a national identity means less weight on class issues and less support for redistribution.”

13) Love this idea from David Plotz and Hanna Rosin— married couples all have one ur-fight that the keep returning to in different guises.  I can’t think of anything like this for my wife and I, but she may well see it differently.

14) In a surprise to no one who cares about good public policy, Trump’s tariffs on solar cells are horrible public policy:

But while the tariffs may help domestic manufacturers, they are expected to ripple throughout the industry in ways that may ultimately hurt American companies and their workers. Energy experts say it is unlikely that the tariffs will create more than a small number of American solar manufacturing jobs, since low-wage countries will continue to have a competitive edge.

Solar manufacturing now represents just a fraction of the overall jobs that have developed around the solar industry. More than 260,000 Americans are employed in the sector, but fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are manufacturing solar cells and modules, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Far more workers are employed in areas that underpin the use of solar technology, such as making steel racks that angle the panels toward the sun. And the bulk of workers in the solar industry install and maintain the projects, a process that is labor-intensive and hard to automate…

But by raising the cost of one all-important ingredient, the tariffs could make solar power less competitive with other sources of energy, like gas and wind, resulting in the construction of fewer solar projects. On Tuesday, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that the president’s action would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments.

At the Wakefield solar farm, the five-megawatt project on the Vinson family’s land, the cells that collect solar energy are imported — they were manufactured by JA Solar, a Chinese company, which makes cells and panels in China and Malaysia.

But the steel frames that the panels rest on are American made, manufactured by RBI Solar, which is based in Cincinnati. The steel that RBI Solar used to make these racks is also American, bought from Worthington Industries in Ohio and Attala Steel in Mississippi.

15) Just came across this essay from November, it’s really good: “Racism May Have Gotten Us Into This Mess, But Identity Politics Can’t Get Us Out.”

One particularly revealing study, by the political scientists Edward Carmines and Geoffrey Layman, suggests that, regardless of their racial attitudes, Republican voters are unlikely to support government programs. But while Democrats in general view such programs more favorably, those who express antagonistic attitudes toward blacks are much less likely to support government programs if they are framed in racial terms.

In other words, racial signaling isn’t likely to have much of an effect on the Republican base — they are already ideologically predisposed to reject government help for the problems of minorities. But it doeshave an effect on those voters who would support progressive policies if not for their racial animus. It’s the “progressive deplorables” in our midst who are the real problem — at least from an electoral perspective…

And yet the tacit prescription offered by some Democrats to remedy the ills of white identity politics is, inexplicably, to double down on identity-based messaging. Some Democrats even take this so far as to argue that the party should not reach out to Trump voters at all because they are racist —- advocating by implication that we cede those voters completely to the right. This is where identity politics, despite its benefits, has the potential to be most dangerous…

And as depressed voter turnout among African-Americans and Latinx voting trends suggest, all Americans, regardless of color, need a principle to vote for, not just an enemy to resist. For those living on the margins, incremental change is a life sentence to inhumane conditions, and Democratic candidates whose biggest selling point is being not as-racist-as-the-next-guy are unlikely to secure the voter investment Democrats need in 2018 and 2020. Simply put, relying on identity alone is a bad bet.

16) Really, really good piece from David Roberts about what it means to be an environmentalist versus a climate hawk.  Not sure I consider myself a climate hawk, more so a pragmatic environmentalist.  Regardless, good stuff:

First, it’s fine if an individual or group chooses to prioritize rivers in Quebec or the safety risks of existing nuclear power plants over the threat of climate change. Sincerely: it’s fine. I don’t personally agree with that ranking, but people are entitled to their own values and priorities.

But an individual or group should not do so while also proclaiming climate change an existential threat. By doing so they are deceiving themselves, their members, or both. There are tradeoffs among priorities, and eschewing 9.45 TWh of carbon-free energy is a big-ass tradeoff. To make that tradeoff is to prioritize being an environmentalist over being a climate hawk. It should be done with open eyes…

One example: environmentalists often cite studies showing that high penetrations of renewables are possible in the US. But those studies all show that achieving high penetrations requires a country-spanning network of new transmission lines. If there’s a study showing how to fully decarbonize without tons of new transmission, I haven’t seen it. So yes, transmission lines connecting zero-carbon power sources and loads might disrupt some people and ecosystems, but systematically opposing them simply isn’t commensurate with being a climate hawk.

Another example: full decarbonization would require, among other things, an enormousindustrial shift. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs in polluting industries would be wiped out and workers displaced. There would be new jobs in clean energy, but the US has not typically handled such workforce transitions well. Being a climate hawk means accepting serious social and economic disruption.

Decarbonization will also involve a mind-boggling amount of manufacturing, building, and retrofitting. Multiple solar and wind gigafactories would be built every year. Renewables would cover every open surface. Every city would be as dense and transit-served as possible. Being a climate hawk means accepting that some natural areas will be turned over to energy production and that “the character of the neighborhood” is going to be disrupted by infill and multi-modal transportation systems.

Donald Trump: God’s chosen one

Why, yes, if you are among a breed of particularly delusional Evangelical Christians.  Pretty interesting look at this from Amy Sullivan in Politico:

The unspoken assumption for each of the religious figures Strang references—from Franklin Graham to Robert Jeffress to Kenneth Copeland—is that God would only want a Republican president and so if Trump captured the GOP nomination, then ipso facto he must be God’s choice. And the more unlikely the selection, the better proof it is of divine intent.

“Millions of Americans,” declared Jeffress at a July 2017 event his First Baptist Church of Dallas sponsored in Washington, D.C., “believe the election of President Trump represented God giving us another chance—perhaps our last chance to truly make America great again.”  …

At a certain point in “God and Donald Trump,” the recent theological gymnastics on display from Tony Perkins and Jerry Falwell, Jr., among others, to explain ongoing conservative Christian support for a president who (allegedly) paid off a porn star weeks before Election Day so she would keep quiet about their (alleged) affair become clear. There will be no point at which Trump’s most loyal evangelical and charismatic supporters declare they have had enough. Because to do so would be to admit that they were wrong, that God wasn’t behind Trump’s election, and that their Holy Spirit radar might be on the fritz. That it was, after all, about something as temporal and banal as hating his Democratic rival. [bold is mine]

 

Photo of the day

Student sent me a photo of this mural on the side of a bar in Raleigh.  Turns out there’s even an N&O article about it.  Pretty cool.

 

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Farhad Manjoo on the legal marijuana economy:

That growth is driven, start-ups in the industry say, by a simple idea: The humble hand-rolled joint was holding marijuana back.

By breaking marijuana free from smoking and its paraphernalia, new delivery methods — especially portable vapes — are transforming the image and utility of cannabis, and helping it grab a mainstream audience. In the booming new market, the drug of lazy stoners is being rebranded by start-ups as the “wellness” drug of tomorrow. It’s a cure-all for an anxious, tech-addled society — a salve for every ailment, a balm for every mood, ibuprofen meets a glass of red wine cut with Prozac and a hint of Deepak Chopra, all delivered to your door.

2) Really interesting article about how little we still understand about colic.  Other than that it’s hell for new parents.  (Those were the days, 18 years ago).

3) Robots that use algorithms to shake cherry trees and the future of robots in agriculture.

4) I find the Mormon debate on whether the religion actually forbids all caffeinated drinks or just coffee and tea really fascinating.  I first learned about this from a Diet-Coke-loving LDS friend back in graduate school.

4) Tyler Cowen on how police unions work to undermine the rule of law.  Really pretty disgusting stuff:

Earlier I wrote about how police unions around the country give to every officer dozens of “get out of jail” cards to give to friends, family, politicians, lawyers, judges and other connected people. The cards let police on the street know that the subject is to be given “professional courtesy” and they can be used to get out of speeding tickets and other infractions. Today, drawing on the Police Union Contracting Project, I discuss how union contracts and Law Officer “Bill of Rights” give police legal privileges that regular people don’t get.

In 50 cities and 13 states, for example, union contracts “restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.” In Virginia police officers have a right to at least a five-day delay before being interrogated. In Louisiana police officers have up to 30 days during which no questioning is allowed and they cannot be questioned for sustained periods of time or without breaks. In some cities, police officers can only be interrogated during work hours. Regular people do not get these privileges.

The key to a good interrogation is that the suspect doesn’t know what the interrogator knows so the suspect can be caught in a lie which unravels their story. Thus, the Florida Police Bill of Rights is stunning in what it allows police officers:

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer.

By knowing what the interrogators know, the suspect can craft a story that fits the known facts–and the time privilege gives them the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, how do you think complainants feel knowing that the police officer they are complaining about “must be informed of the names of all complainants.” I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous. Would you come forward?

How effective would criminal interrogations be if the following rules held for ordinary citizens?

5) CRISPR is definitely an awesome technology, but getting it to the point where it can cure genetic diseases in humans is no simple task.

6) Loved this two-minute Pew video on how random sampling works.  This will definitely be shown in future Intro classes.

7) Yglesias on how Trump isn’t really the president (or, as he admits on twitter, a very, very weak one):

The two big Republican policy pushes of 2018 — the failed drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the successful push to enact a large corporate tax cut — were led primarily by Congress rather than by the executive branch. That’s natural given Trump’s hazy level of interest in policy detail and the intense interest of the GOP caucus in these matters.

What’s become clear over the past few weeks as immigration has taken center stage, however, is that even in a process that is very much driven by the executive branch, it’s notdriven by Donald Trump. Trump has stronger feelings about immigration and a stronger political profile on it than either Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. But he simply lacks the disposition and intellectual capacity to do the job of president of the United States as it’s conventionally defined. He doesn’t have a handle on the contours of the NAFTA negotiations, the state of the economy, or even “his own” immigration policy.

He seems unaware of both the origins of the current standoff and the main subjects of disagreement between the parties. He’s the one who installed the team of anti-immigration hardliners — Chief of Staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and senior adviser Stephen Miller — who appear to be actually driving the process, so he’s responsible for what’s going on. But he’s not actually doing the work and, indeed, seems to have much less familiarity with his own policies and negotiating stances than a typical journalist or member of Congress.

8) Nice interview with Bill Kristol (or “woke Bill Kristol” as liberal twitter likes to refer to him).

9) No fixing gerrymandering is hardly a panacea that would solve our political ills, but it is still very much worth doing.  Harry Enten pretty much admits as much while making the strong case that gerrymandering is as much a symptom than a cause.  This chart is really something else:

10) Interesting take on how McGahn’s refusal to fire Trump is the Republican establishment striking back:

Imagine trying to return to Jones Day—or some equivalent firm—after firing Robert Mueller. In the words of Norm Eisen, President Obama’s former ethics czar, who has tussled with McGahn for many years, “He didn’t want that personal baggage. What’s he going to do for a living, go live in a frat house with Steve Bannon and Dr. Price and Sean Spicer and people that can’t get a job?”

McGahn may have genuinely believed firing Mueller was wrong. But people don’t always do the right thing because a small, still voice tells them to. Sometimes it’s the loud, collective voice of their community threatening them with excommunication.

It’s worth remembering that Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who both resigned rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, were both deeply ensconced in the Washington establishments of their day. Richardson had already served as secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and under secretary of Defense. Ruckelshaus had been the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Both men’s careers in government preceded the Nixon administration. By contrast, the third in command in Nixon’s Justice Department, Robert Bork, was more of an outsider. He had spent his career outside Washington, in academia, and reportedly fired Cox, in significant measure, because of his deep belief in the constitutionality of executive power.

It’s become commonplace to note that many establishment Republican politicians privately consider Trump unfit to be president but won’t challenge him publicly because he enjoys the support of their constituents. For McGahn, the calculation is different: The members of the Washington Republican establishment are his constituents. And they’ll be around long after Donald Trump is gone.

11) Why we forget most of what we read.  So true!!  I also find it interesting how much more I forget about what my son David and I read together, than he forgets.  That said, he’s horrible at remembering author’s names.

The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.

Sana says that often when we read, there’s a false “feeling of fluency.” The information is flowing in, we’re understanding it, it seems like it is smoothly collating itself into a binder to be slotted onto the shelves of our brains. “But it actually doesn’t stick unless you put effort into it and concentrate and engage in certain strategies that will help you remember.”

12) Of course North Carolina’s inexperienced, 34-year old, new Superintendent of Public Instruction who earns $127,000/year thinks $35,000 is a great starting salary for NC teachers.

13) Unfortunately, nobody wants your used clothes anymore.  Or, at least the market for them in developing countries has largely collapsed.

14) Alas, it’s basically impossible to create a test for intoxication due to marijuana:

You see, different people handle marijuana differently. It depends on your genetics, for one. And how often you consume cannabis, because if you take it enough, you can develop a tolerance to it. A dose of cannabis that may knock amateurs on their butts could have zero effect on seasoned users—patients who use marijuana consistently to treat pain, for instance.

The issue is that THC—what’s thought to be the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana—interacts with the human body in a fundamentally different way than alcohol. “Alcohol is a water-loving, hydrophilic compound,” says Huestis. “Whereas THC is a very fat-loving compound. It’s a hydrophobic compound. It goes and stays in the tissues.” The molecule can linger for up to a month, while alcohol clears out right quick.

 But while THC may hang around in tissues, it starts diminishing in the blood quickly—really quickly. “It’s 74 percent in the first 30 minutes, and 90 percent by 1.4 hours,” says Huestis. “And the reason that’s important is because in the US, the average time to get blood drawn [after arrest] is between 1.4 and 4 hours.” By the time you get to the station to get your blood taken, there may not be much THC left to find. (THC tends to linger longer in the brain because it’s fatty in there. That’s why the effects of marijuana can last longer than THC is detectable in breath or blood.)
15) Finally got around to reading Daniel Engber’s classic contrarian Slate take on the evidence for the backfire effect– the idea that exposure to information contrary to your beliefs makes those beliefs stronger.  Turns out, maybe not so much.  Good stuff.  And props to Brendan Nyhan for following the data instead of digging his heels in, like so many social scientists.

16) He links this pretty cool research, which I had not seen yet:

The conservative asymmetry of elite polarization represents a significant puzzle. We argue that politicians can maintain systematic misperceptions of constituency opinion that may contribute to breakdowns in dyadic representation. We demonstrate this argument with original surveys of 3,765 politicians’ perceptions of constituency opinion on nine issues. In 2012 and 2014, state legislative politicians from both parties dramatically overestimated their constituents’ support for conservative policies on these issues, a pattern consistent across methods, districts, and states. Republicans drive much of this overestimation. [emphasis mine] Exploiting responses from politicians in the same district, we confirm these partisan differences within individual districts. Further evidence suggests that this overestimation may arise due to biases in who contacts politicians, as in recent years Republican citizens have been especially likely to contact legislators, especially fellow Republicans. Our findings suggest a novel force can operate in elections and in legislatures: politicians can systematically misperceive what their constituents want.

17) So, I read about the “Butter chicken lady” in the New Yorker.  And my wife ordered her Instant Pot cookbook.  Damn, was that fortuitous.  Great butter chicken and so easy for Indian food.

18) I think both of my regular JP readers will enjoy this story on how craft beer is a great American economic success story.

19) Seth Masket on efforts to reshape the Democratic primary process:

Superdelegates are people who become national convention delegates not through primaries or caucuses but rather by virtue of their current role within the party. They are generally Democratic governors, members of Congress, and elected DNC members. Unlike those delegates picked through state primaries and caucuses, their votes are not automatically pledged; they can vote for whomever they want. The role of superdelegate was created in 1984 as a way for the party’s leaders to re-assert some control over the nomination process at a time when rank-and-file party voters were seen as too powerful.

Under the new reforms, elected DNC members would still get to be convention delegates, but their vote would be pledged to whichever candidate won their state’s primary or caucus. This would have the effect of reducing the number of unpledged votes by roughly 60 percent. (Superdelegates made up about 16 percent of delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.)…

Now, who benefits from these changes? From what I’ve been able to gather, these proposals are a compromise position for Commission members—Sanders people wanted a good deal more to change, while the Clinton folks were fairly content with the way things had previously been run. But these changes undoubtedly tilt party nomination procedures away from insider-favored candidates like Clinton and more toward outsider-favored candidates like Sanders. That is, they erode some of the advantages that Clinton had going into 2016 (the backing of superdelegates, big advantages among registered party voters, etc.) and make it easier for someone without a lot of support within the formal party to win a lot of delegates.

We shouldn’t overstate this impact, of course. The biggest advantage Clinton had—the enthusiastic backing of the vast majority of party leaders, donors, organizers, etc., long before any voting occurred, scaring off many strong Democratic opponents—would not have been affected by these reforms. An insider-favored candidate could still draw on such advantages in future races.

Nonetheless, the Democratic Party is conceding that its “establishment” has had too much power in recent elections. The next Democratic presidential nominee will not necessarily be Bernie Sanders, but whoever it is will have had to navigate a system that Sanders and his supporters, to a large extent, designed. And it will probably be someone whose campaign bears a stronger resemblance to Sanders’ than to Clinton’s.

As many political scientists pointed out discussing this on Facebook, the lesson from President Trump is not that parties should make it easier for outsiders to capture the nomination.

20) On the pretty heinous efforts of NC Republicans to remake the NC court system because those pesky judges don’t see everything their way.

21) Apparently now that you can learn anything about anybody on the internet, the on-line dating world lives largely in the world of first-name only.  Really like somebody?  Then it’s last name time.  Damn am I glad I just met my wife in our college dorm.

22) So, technology allows you to put one person’s face pretty effectively on somebody else’s body in a fake porn movie (or fake anything), but, disturbingly, this is a very grey area of the law where you don’t have much protection.

23) Totally loved this Atlantic story on the rise of German board games.  Think I’ll celebrate it by playing Ticket to Ride this weekend.

 

Does Mueller even really matter?

Okay, sure he does.  Heck two posts in a row on it from me.  But, honestly, I’ve paid far less attention to his investigation than many and the reason is pretty simple– Mueller only matters if Democrats win the House in 2018.  At this point, that’s really the whole ball game in important ways.

Republicans have repeatedly and demonstrably shown that they will choose party over country; authoritarianism over the rule of law, in defense of Trump.  Thus, no matter what Mueller finds/reports, we can be quite confident Republicans won’t do a damn thing about it.  If Mueller is going to matter at all.  And if Trump is going to be accountable at all for his gross malfeasance, Democrats have to win the House.

Here’s Chait on Republicans’ embrace of Trump on the matter:

Whatever the Russia investigation finds, and whatever Trump does to quash it, or protect himself and his family, or pervert the FBI to rough up his political opponents, the dynamic that has protected him will remain in place. Trump will be popular among the Republican base. Republicans will need their base in order to hold Congress and protect their agenda. The alternative to Trump will always be a party that is left of center. Republicans may genuinely hope Trump does not fire Mueller. They may even wish that he would resign in favor of Mike Pence. But whatever he does, as long as he occupies the presidency, he will be their man.

So, you want Trump accountable?  Do what you can to get Democrats elected in 2018.

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