Republicans love Trump– but not all the same

Really enjoyed this Gallup feature looking at percent approval for Trump across all sorts of subgroups.  Two of these charts stood out for me.  First, Independents who lean Democratic are just as anti-Trump as avowed Democrats.  Whereas, the Republican leaners are noticeably less supportive of Trump:

And “pure” independents (who tend to follow politics least of any of these groups) are, interestingly, quite anti-Trump.

I was, though, especially intrigued by the clearly lower support among young Republicans– only 67% among the youngest cohort (compared to 88% among their grandparents).  Certainly jibes with my perception that Trump is toxic to young people.  And, I do believe augurs bad news for Republicans going into the future.  Trump (and his docile enablers) have ruined a generation of young people on the Republican Party.

Also, not at all surprising, but fun to point out, the most religious among Republicans are the most supportive of this transparently depraved, morally corrupt, unrepentant, con-man.  Yes, it is all partisanship, of course, but just shows how much Evangelical Christianity has been disgustingly corrupted by right-wing politics in America.


Democrats won. Seriously

I independently came to pretty much the exact same conclusion as Krugman, and that works for me.

Yes!!  Where are we as compared to a week ago.  Democrats have 1) health care funding for kids and, 2) a legislative promise for a fair consideration of DACA (of course, McConnell can renege, but that looks hugely bad for Republicans), 3) and open government (not nothing– and Democrats actually care about a functioning government).  In exchange, Democrats gave up… 3 weeks of open government.  Sounds pretty damn good to me.

Also encouraged that Nate Cohn

And Matthew Miller see it this way.


Drum is a little more circumspect in claiming nobody won, but I do like his summary:

So who did win? Beats me. On the one hand, Democrats caved by agreeing to yet another continuing resolution that doesn’t restore DACA. On the other hand, Democrats got CHIP funding out of the deal, as well as a promise from Mitch McConnell—admittedly a bit nebulous—to allow a vote on DACA restoration in the Senate. Is that a win? On the one hand, Democrats got CHIP. On the other hand, they would’ve gotten CHIP eventually anyway. On the third hand, getting CHIP now means that kids won’t start losing health care as the current funding slowly disappears state by state…

To summarize, then, I have no idea who won. But I do know this: the fact that we’re so obsessed with this is just a bit of fresh evidence that H. sapiens as a species is little more than a modestly souped up version of P. troglodytes. For chimps, knowing precisely who won and who surrendered in every encounter—and therefore who outranks you—is vitally important and has been bred into the species by millions of years of evolution. A few hundred thousands generations later, it still controls human society. The only difference between chimps and humans is that they do it with screeching and feces flinging, while we do it with Twitter and cable news. I think their way is probably more dignified.

And Ezra is pretty disheartened for what this means for democracy (he’s got a good point), but likewise agrees Democrats didn’t really cave:

3) We also don’t know what the implicit Democratic position is here. If Democrats get a fair vote in the House and Senate on an immigration deal and it doesn’t pass, will they shut down the government again in three weeks? Put differently, is this a deal about a fair process or about a particular outcome? If Democrats don’t get a deal and they shut the government back down in three weeks, it’s hard to see what was lost here…

5) Politically, Trump’s entire brand is anti-immigration politics, and if there is round-the-clock news coverage of a shutdown over immigration, he’ll think it’s good for his base. Personally, Trump’s goal in life is to be seen as a winner, and to double down when attacked or under pressure, and so it’s hard to see how a high-stakes battle over a shutdown — which would make a deal on immigration look like a cave to reopen the government by Trump — helps…

8)And if Democrats do need to shut down the government in three weeks, they’ll do so with the Children’s Health Insurance Program funded for six years, rather than seeing it weaponized against them. That’s a big deal, both substantively and politically. [emphasis mine]

I get that a lot of activists are upset, but we really don’t need a Tea Party of the left.  Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.  If we get a DACA fix it’s going to be because enough Republicans agree that it’s a good idea, or at least horse-trading over, not because Democrats play really, really hardball.

What Trump hath wrought

Loved this take on a year of Trump’s presidency from NeverTrumper Tom Nichols:

Were President Trump’s critics, then, overwrought in their predictions of doom? PJ Media’s Roger Simon has declared that Never Trumpers (like me) should apologize for their apostasy and get into the trenches to fight the advancing leftist hordes. New York Times columnist David Brooks, although still reluctant in his defense of Trump, suggests that were it not for the president’s bizarre tweets, “we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals.”

This is nonsense. Trump’s presidency has done daily damage not only to the Republican Party and the conservative movement but, more important, to our constitutional system of government. The president is eroding the unwritten norms that serve as the civic girders beneath our political and legal infrastructure. And his foreign policy, insofar as he has one, is diminishing our global standing and jeopardizing our security [emphases mine]

The superficial appearance of normalcy in the rest of the government is not a sign of a robust democracy, but of confusion and a lack of direction. Because Trump does not have any kind of vision or even a basic set of policy preferences, and because he has no tolerance for the boring details of governing (including staffing important political appointments), the bureaucracy has remained mostly on auto­pilot in the past year. This situation will not last, and it should be no consolation to realize that potentially awful outcomes have been averted not by statecraft and prudent administration, but by inertia and incompetence…

Meanwhile, Trump has made good on the prediction that he would lead the conservative movement to disgrace, and he has gravely — perhaps even mortally — wounded the Republican Party. His endorsement of an accused child molester in Alabama’s Senate race coaxed a final humiliation of evangelical and “family values” conservatives that was a long time coming — and for many of us who are more moderate conservatives, our only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. Yet the Trump effect has rippled further, attaching a repulsive hypocrisy to anything involving the word “conservative.” People who once insisted on religious beliefs and a sterling character as paramount in their evaluation of a president now wave away alleged payoffs to porn stars; fiscal conservatives now blithely applaud the addition of $1 trillion in debt; foreign policy hawks now mumble quietly as the president draws moral equivalences between the United States and Russia…

Even more troubling than the effect on any one party, however, is the damage Trump is doing to our civic life. Here, I do not mean the president’s constant vulgarity, although it is shocking how accustomed we have allowed ourselves to become to behavior that would have appalled any decent American even a decade or so ago. No, the more significant concern is that Trump has convinced millions of Americans that governing the United States is not a serious business that needs to be undertaken by serious men and women

Trump, however, has turned the presidency into a spectacle. Important matters of public policy disappear the moment he drops a curse word at a meeting, like a naughty child at a birthday party, or gets ahold of a cellphone and tweets something outrageous, like a vandal on the loose with a can of spray paint…

He is everything, in fact, except our chief magistrate and the head of the executive branch of our government. Rather than feeling bound by the Constitution “to take care that the laws are faithfully executed,” Trump sits atop a structure of laws and norms he attacks daily. Courts? How dare they impede his executive ukazes. The Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA? Disasters. All part of the “deep state.” And the First Amendment? An annoyance that needs to be cleared up by rewriting libel laws to protect those in power from a free press…

And yet, this is a paradox: If Trump is so unserious, so inconsequential, how can his damage be so lasting?

The answer is simple. Wrecking things is easier than repairing them. Spending capital is easier than accumulating it. Chaos is easy; order is hard. It takes architects years to learn how to build a house, while ignorant scavengers can strip it bare and destroy it in hours.

Well, that’s depressing.  And true.  In many ways, the future stability and promise of our democracy depends critically on what happens after Trump.  So, what happens next?  We’ll see.  But so far, this sure ain’t good.

Yes, Trump is incompetent, but his real vulnerability is his policies

Yglesias makes a strong argument that the key to Democratic success in 2018 and 2020 is not runnning against the fact that trump is (obviously) a horrible and immoral human being, but rather that Trump supports deeply unpopular policies:

Being a racist (or totally uninformed about policy issues) may be in some sense a graver sin than favoring tax policy tilted in favor of the very rich. But in political terms, most Americans are white but few Americans are very rich, so a focus on the idea that Trump is excessively cruel to nonwhites moves fewer votes than the idea that Trump is excessively focused on the whims of plutocrats.

The overall character issue, meanwhile, could probably bury Trump in a moment of national crisis, but the basic reality is that the economy is humming nicely and objective reality is giving people who backed him 18 months ago no particular reason to reassess his competence.

To students of nativist demagogues abroad, like Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, this is no surprise. In the wake of Trump’s win, the Italian-born economist Luigi Zingales reflected on the lessons of the two Italian politicians who’d managed to beat Berlusconi, observing, “Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character.”

Trump’s opponents would be wise to do the same — Trump’s brand of white identity politics has real consequences, but the overall Trump Show is basically a con that masks an agenda that’s bad for almost everyone… [emphases mine]

Indeed, in a country where most white people now say they face racial discrimination, increasing the salience of racial conflict in politics is likely to benefit the party identified with the interests of white people.

By contrast, fewer than 20 percent of voters favored last summer’s GOP health plan, and a January 11 Quinnipiac poll showed that most whites (and, of course, most nonwhites) disapproved of the GOP tax plan. None of which means Democrats shouldn’t talk about immigration — they have no choice when Trump is taking drastic and ill-advised moves on immigration policy — but they do need to keep the focus on the interests of actual voters, who are mostly white and who, by definition, are US citizens.

The good news is that lots of white Americans who may be happily tolerant of racist public officials nonetheless aren’t the kind of deeply committed ideological racists who are excited to forgo tangible economic and public safety benefits just for the psychological thrills of excluding DREAMers from public life or a punter’s chance at altering the long-term demographic trajectory of the country…

But I also don’t kid myself that crossover voters in West Virginia, Montana, Indiana, Missouri, and other states with hotly contested 2018 Senate matchups are lying awake at night worried about whether the federal government is being sufficiently attentive to the interests of nonwhite people or whether they have personally benefited from centuries of racial exploitation.

If you want to help the people most severely victimized by Trumpism, you need to beat Trumpism at the polls…

And that’s the reality of Trumpism. His immigration policies are contrary to the tangible interests of most Americans, and all the rest of his policies are too. Here are a few policy stories from January alone:

It’s a fallacy to think that Trump’s various antics are a deliberate effort to distract attention from these policy issues. A president who was capable of planning and executing a political master plan wouldn’t be looking at a 39 percent approval rating amid good economic conditions.

It is true, however, that discussing Trump primarily as a personality, a media phenomenon, and a locus of culture war politics puts a kind of floor under his support. By contrast, there’s basically no constituency at all for Trump’s anti-Medicaid agenda, with only 22 percent ofRepublicans saying they want to see cuts to the program

As a president, Trump clearly continues to be extreme where he campaigned as extreme, and there are diminishing marginal returns to endlessly reiterating that point. But his hard-right economic agenda has been genuinely surprising in some ways, and does stem at least in part from his personal sloth, ignorance, and corruption. But there are many facets to this side of Trump that the public barely knows about, simply because the endless din of controversy is overwhelming. His opponents would do well to do what they can to lower the temperature of the discourse and focus more attention on what the president does than on what he says.

I am concerned about how much these arguments can get through to people inclined towards Trump in this highly-polarized age, but, that said, to a considerable degree the electorate seems inured to Trump’s odious personal behavior.  I don’t think, however, that the electorate is inured to Trump supporting deeply unpopular policies.  I think Yglesias is very much onto something here.

Trump’s America

Apparently even having white skin and European origin (and a successful practicing physician!) cannot save you from Trump-empowered ICE.  Just ugh.

 Even as the issue of immigration has been central to the government shutdown in Washington, a respected doctor at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital who has been living in America for nearly 40 years finds himself in jail after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him from his home in handcuffs.

Lukasz Niec is an internal medicine doctor putting in long hours as a hospitalist for Bronson. His co-workers describe him as the model of what a physician should be.

And now, he is sitting in a jail cell in Calhoun County with no idea of when — or if — he will be free to return to his patients and his family.

“In 1979, my parents were both doctors left Poland and took two suitcases and two small children, my brother was five and I was six and they came here for a better life for their kids,” said Iwona Niec-Villaire Saturday as she sat next to her sister-in-law.

Now, the siblings are in their mid-40s, she is an attorney, he is a doctor — they have been in America for four decades on a permanent green card.

“He doesn’t even speak Polish,” Niec-Villaire said.

On Tuesday, as Niec was enjoying a day off with his tween girls at his home on the lake in this exclusive neighborhood near Kalamazoo, three ICE officers came to his home, told him he was being taken into custody and took him to jail.

“The question I get asked all the time is ‘Why do you think this happened?’ I just really don’t know,” said Niec-Villaire.

ICE will not comment on the case and has held no hearings. A bond hearing may not come until February, and it is unlikely it will be granted, according to immigration law experts.

“Until this gets heard, which could be up to six months, he could be stuck in a prison cell and not helping and being with his family,” said Niec-Villaire.

The only spot on Niec’s record is two misdemeanor convictions when he was 17, one for destruction of property less than $100 and receiving and concealing stolen goods.

He pleaded to these charges more than 25 years ago under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act that allows young first offenders to avoid a criminal record if they never offend again.

But ICE — a federal agency — does not honor that state plea agreement, something Niec did not know when he took the plea, according to family.

There’s been so many breathtakingly stupid deportation cases under Trump, but this one about takes the cake from what I’ve seen.  Among other things, his family was escaping genuine 1970’s Soviet communism when it came here.  And ICE wants to throw him out for plea-bargained misdemeanors as a teenager?!  The stupid!  But this, presumably, is the America that Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Stephen Miller, and yes, Trump himself, want.  Stupid America.  Again, it’s one thing to be amazingly heartless– as this clearly is– but from a policy perspective, deporting a stable, married, practicing physician because of teenage misdemeanors is about as negative on the cost/benefit as you can be.  So stupid.  So mean.  So Trump.

Immigration, Trump, and the shutdown

Great take from Yglesias:

Trump set the current crisis in motion last September when he revoked Barack Obama’s executive order that protected DREAMERs — young unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children — from deportation, but he offered no guidance about what he wanted to happen next, other than for Congress to do … something.

The lack of clarity emboldened immigration hardliners in the GOP caucus while simultaneously raising hopes for a deal among immigration reformers. But Trump’s intervening behavior wound up salting the earth by leaving everyone feeling that he might screw them over at any moment. Consequently, nobody is quite sure exactly who is shutting down the government or what it is the White House is trying to achieve by rejecting a bipartisan proposal that would avert a shutdown.

The country has mostly coped with Trump’s inability to do his job by outsourcing governance to congressional GOP leadership. But congressional Republicans are less unified on immigration than on most issues, and Trump is more invested in immigration than on most issues. Consequently, his actual personal leadership as president of the United States is critical to moving the system forward.

But the mere fact that the circumstances require Trump to act like a real president doesn’t change the fact that he’s a lazy, ill-informed conspiracy theorist prone to tweeting cryptic pronouncements about delicate policy issues based on Fox & Friends segments… [emphasis mine]

Trump has deeply hawkish instincts on immigration, seemingly driven by his personal and ideological racism, but he’s ill-informed on pretty much all subjects, including immigration.

And the basic problem with a DREAMers-for-wall swap is that the wall is a dumb idea that wouldn’t actually accomplish anything to reduce immigration to the United States. And if legislative protections for DREAMers ended up creating a path to citizenship, it might actually end up increasing immigration, since the new citizens could sponsor visas for relatives.

Consequently, better-informed immigration hawks like White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) began working with Chief of Staff John Kelly to avoid the kind of deal that Trump had repeatedly suggested — and even at times explicitly agreed to in general terms.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Jordan Weisman on an intriguing theory for why it is so hard for Americans to get a decent raise– monopsonies.

2) Really, really interest take from a physician on how we got this point in the opioid crisis:

On another front, the campaign to assess pain as the fifth vital sign in the hospital took off in the late 1990s, with the Joint Commission, the hospital accreditation body, publicizing this concept in 2001. The idea was to assess the level of pain as frequently as the patient’s blood pressure. If the patient didn’t speak English, she could point to a picture of a person grimacing in pain. It has been reported that the Joint Commission even distributed a pamphlet produced by Purdue that played down the risk of addiction. The Commission hasn’t addressed that specific charge, but they released a statement last year denying that their standards contributed to the opioid epidemic.

The problem is that unlike the other four vital signs—blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate—pain is not something that the nurse or doctor can measure. It is a subjective judgment, based on the patient’s self-report and so-called “pain behavior.” I don’t feel your pain: I can’t. Patients who want narcotics become excellent actors. During one of my earliest years in practice, an agent from the Drug Enforcement Admin-istration called to warn me that a man who had come to me with a biopsy report of kidney cancer, saying he had to change doctors because he was now on Medicaid (a common problem), had forged the report, was faking his pain, and had already been to several doctors in the area. At the other extreme, a patient with a ruptured appendix and a rigid abdomen assured me that he didn’t need treatment—because, it turned out, he was undocumented and feared hospitalization…

Lembke outlines what steps we can take to cope with addiction in our practices, but she also admits, “There is an unspoken tension underlying the hidden forces driving the epidemic: doctors are increasingly asked to care for people with complex biopsychosocial problems (nature, nurture and neighborhood) without also being given the tools, time or resources to accomplish this task.” Medical students complain that primary care has devolved into social work, but is it social work to search for root causes rather than simply prescribe or cut? Dr. Francis W. Peabody, a prominent physician in the early twentieth century, wrote, “One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”

3a) Just so we’re clear– work requirements for Medicaid are an absolutely horrible idea and abysmally stupid public policy.

The problem with the latest twist in Republicans’ effort to pare the social safety net is that removing the poor’s health insurance may not just make their life more difficult.

It might kill them.

It is well known by now that health insurance saves lives. A review of recent research in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that the odds of dying for non-elderly adults are between 3 and 41 percent higher for the uninsured than for the insured.

Work by Katherine Baicker, now at the University of Chicago, with Benjamin Sommers and Arnold Epstein at Harvard found that Medicaid expansions in the past significantly reduced mortality. Their research, they concluded, “suggests that 176 additional adults would need to be covered by Medicaid in order to prevent one death per year.”

It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to figure out what might happen if 100,000 people were to lose their coverage.

3b) And the simple truth is, the more paperwork and bureaucracy you require, the harder you make it for deserving, qualified recipients.  Of course, to those who hate the working poor, that’s a feature, not a bug.  The Upshot:

But a large body of social science suggests that the mere requirement of documenting work hours is likely to cause many eligible people to lose coverage, too.

“Without being tremendously well organized, it can be easy to fail,” said Donald Moynihan, a professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is writing a book on the effects of administrative burdens. Researchers have studied the ways complexity can reduce sign-ups for workplace pension plans, participation in food stamps and turnout in elections, he noted. “These sorts of little barriers are ways in which humans get tripped up all the time when they’re trying to do something that might benefit them.”

Anyone who has ever forgotten to pay a bill on time, or struggled to assemble all the necessary forms of identification before heading to the D.M.V., is likely to sympathize with how administrative hurdles can stymie someone. But these may be especially daunting for the poor, who tend to have less stable work schedules and less access to resources that can simplify compliance: reliable transportation, a bank account, internet access. There is also a lot of research about the Medicaid program, specifically, that shows that sign-ups fall when states make their program more complicated.

4) Why 12-step programs work for some people, but not others.  One thing is clear– foreclosing the option of medical treatment with those with narcotic addictions (as so many uninformed people in the system insist upon) is just plain stupid.

5) The bright future of solar power may not be all that close.

6) Great excerpt from Frum’s new Trumpocracy book in The Atlantic:

Election 2016 looked on paper like the most sweeping Republican victory since the Jazz Age. Yet there was a hollowness to the Trump Republicans’ seeming ascendancy over the federal government and in so many of the states. The Republicans of the 1920s had drawn their strength from the country’s most economically and culturally dynamic places. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge won almost 56 percent of the vote in cosmopolitan New York State, 65 percent in mighty industrial Pennsylvania, 75 percent in Michigan, the hub of the new automotive economy.

Not so in 2016. Where technologies were invented and where styles were set, where diseases cured and innovations launched, where songs were composed and patents registered—there the GOP was weakest. Donald Trump won vast swathes of the nation’s landmass. Hillary Clinton won the counties that produced 64 percent of the nation’s wealth. Even in Trump states, Clinton won the knowledge centers, places like the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

The Trump presidency only accelerated the divorce of political power from cultural power. Business leaders quit Trump’s advisory boards lest his racist outbursts sully their brands. Companies like Facebook and Microsoft denounced his immigration policies. Popular singers refused invitations to his White House; great athletes boycotted his events. By the summer of 2017, Trump’s approval among those under thirty had dipped to 20 percent.

And this was before Trump’s corruption and collusion scandals begin to bite.

Whatever Trump’s personal fate, his Republican Party seems headed for electoral trouble—or worse. Yet it will require much more than Republican congressional defeats in 2018 to halt Trumpocracy. Indeed, such defeats may well perversely strengthen President Trump. Congressional defeats will weaken alternative power centers within the Republican Party. If they lose the House or the Senate or many governorships—or some combination of those defeats—then Republicans may feel all the more compelled to defend their president. The party faithful may interpret any internal criticism of Trump as a treasonable surrender to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. As the next presidential race nears, it will become ever more imperative to rally around Trump. The more isolated Trump becomes within the American political system as a whole, the more he will dominate whatever remains of the conservative portion of that system. He will devour his party from within.

7) Oh, man, I loved this story on how airport runways are numbered and how the numbers have to change as the magnetic pole of the earth shifts.

8) Chait with a good take on Trump’s fear of sharks:

It is perfectly characteristic of Trump’s mind that he would be manipulated by television this way. Sharks are not, in fact, a significant source of danger. Sharks kill about one American per year.

But sharks do look very scary, and the right combination of dramatic video and ominous music could persuade a gullible television viewer to fear and even hate them. Like, say, the kind of person who spends hours watching Fox News and is manipulated into hating and fearing immigrants or Muslims or the New Black Panther Party.

9) Emily Willingham on the non-binary brain, “Misogynists are fascinated by the idea that human brains are biologically male or female. But they’ve got the science wrong.”  In the end, though, it seems pretty obvious that male and female brains are essentially overlapping curves.

10) Greg Sargent on the intensity gap:

There’s something else vital to understand: Not only does Trump have high disapproval, but the intensity of his disapproval is unusually high, as well. For all the time news organizations spend writing “In Trump Country, Trump Supporters Support Trump” stories, intense dislike of Trump may be the most powerful force in the U.S. electorate right now. Consider these figures (I’ve added in some other recent polls):

  • Pew: 27 percent strongly approve of Trump’s performance, 47 percent strongly disapprove
  • NBC: 26 percent strongly approve, 51 percent strongly disapprove
  • Quinnipiac: 29 percent strongly approve, 49 percent strongly disapprove
  • Marist: 23 percent strongly approve, 39 percent strongly disapprove
  • LA Times: 15 percent strongly approve, 42 percent strongly disapprove…

Now let’s think about how this picture of energized, angry Democratic voters and Republican voters who still support Trump but aren’t so enthusiastic about it could play out in November. Despite the fact that the president is on everyone’s mind, the calculation is different for voters of the two parties. A Democrat can deliver Trump a crushing blow with their vote, because if their party takes back one or both houses of Congress, the effect will be seismic. Not only would the GOP legislative agenda be immediately dead, but with their newfound subpoena power, Democrats could start investigating this administration from tip to tail.

But if you’re a Republican voter who’s only marginally motivated by protecting Trump, what would drive a burning desire to turn out and vote GOP in November? On the party’s big issues, many of the questions have been settled.

11) Pew on the lives of dads:

I’d put myself in the “about right” category.  Of course, after weeks like this one with a holiday and three snow days, it was the “too much” :-).

12) Can the rest of the state Democratic parties learn from the success of the Alaska Democratic party?  Probably.  But Alaska is also pretty unique.  Very interesting story in Politico.

Quick hits (part I)

Now coming to you at 6:00am sharp, by special request of DJC…

1) I still love my Diet Coke (and so does JP, if he’s reading this), but not so much the rest of America.  And, of course, Diet Dr Pepper is the greatest drink known to humans.

2) Of course Trump has an unqualified 24-year old running the Office of National Drug Control Policy during our opioid crisis.

3) I’m feeling safer already.

4) Fake news!

All those media-trust studies have a tendency toward the rote. Yes, we already knew that the public had little trust in the country’s journalistic organs. Yes, we knew that finding credible sources could be a harrowing pursuit for the public. Yes, we knew that an increasing portion of the U.S. public felt that the news was biased.

Yet this nugget from a new Gallup-Knight Foundation survey just about knocked the Erik Wemple Blog out of a decade-long media-research torpor:

Four in 10 [or 42 percent of] Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.” [The corresponding figure for Democrats is 17 percent.]

5) Jennifer Rubin on those who demean themselves for Trump:

For the sake of argument, let’s say she doesn’t personally recall the president’s statements. By now, she is aware that both Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) know what was said. She now has to consider — not from a legal sense, but from an ethical one — whether she wants to serve a president who plainly prefers white Europeans to black and brown people, and is prepared to lie to the public about his statements and views. Public service is honorable, but not when you are enabling elected officials to lie and to pursue racist ends.

In a nutshell, this is why you cannot serve a president who is racist, dishonest or personally corrupt. You inevitably wind up enabling racism, dishonesty and corruption. If you thought you could remain untainted, you were wrong. And now, you need to either quit or face the legal and personal consequences.

6) We keep talking about the importance of investing in pre-school, but meanwhile, we don’t seem to be willing to invest in preschool teachers.

7) I learned about the developmental milestone of your kids lying to you way back when I first read Nurtureshock.  So, yes, you should be happy when your kids start lying to you.  And it’s also worth noting that teenagers lie to their parents all the time and it’s perfectly normal (you almost surely did it way more than you would admit to your kids).  That said, I may be related to a certain teenager who could at least limit his lying to parents about non-school-related topics.

8) Amy Davidson Sorkin on Trump’s willing liars:

Among others present, John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, has not commented; Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security Secretary, said on Fox News on Sunday that she didn’t “recall him saying that exact phrase.” (On Tuesday, in sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she said that she didn’t “hear” the word, but acknowledged that the President had used “tough language.”) They all need to speak more clearly, about shitholes or shithouses, if nothing else so that the public has a good gauge of who is willing to lie, and how blatantly, for the President.

Trump seems to be curious about that question, too. According to the Post, members of his Administration at first thought that the controversy could be settled in the shady realm of “do not recall,” since the President had, again, reportedly talked to others about using derogatory language. They were caught by surprise when he started tweeting about how the accounts of his language were outright false. Indeed, he has said that they were proof that “Dicky Durbin” and other Democrats didn’t care about a deal on Dreamers, and were willing to blow up the negotiations by lying about him. Why the change? It is hard to know what is in the President’s mind. Perhaps he was struck by the vehemence of the backlash. But perhaps he also listened to what the other Republicans were saying, and had an insight that they would, indeed, back him up. It was a bully’s triple play: first, he got to slur whole nations. Then he got his guys to gang up on anyone who called him out for it, which produced the final prize: the acknowledgement that the Republican lawmakers were his guys, subordinate and willing to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

What is notable is that, at first, Cotton and Perdue had tried, in a joint statement, to hedge by saying that they did “not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” But, as his lies escalated, so did theirs, to the point where they were backing up the idea that the media was involved in a fake-news conspiracy. They didn’t need to do so—after their Sunday appearances, Lindsey Graham said, according to the Post and Courier, “My memory hasn’t evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said”—yet they chose that route. But it is, apparently, hard to lie halfway for Trump; he won’t let you. Maybe it’s time for the Republicans to stop lying to themselves about that, too.

9) This is from 2014 (friend recently shared on-line), but this article about the human factor in airline crashes is so good.  Reminds me of one of my favorite podcasts ever (listen, David Greene!), 99% Invisible on the Automation Paradox.

10) Thought this on disappearing hotel “do not disturb” signs and what’s driving it was pretty interesting.

11) Every 1990’s TV commercial ever.  Pretty much.

12) Ezra Klein’s 12 thoughts on the “shithole shutdown.”

2.  Republicans have a natural advantage in a shutdown because they care less how well the federal government works, and the parts of government they care most about — like the military and immigration enforcement — are exempted….

12. Taken in its entirety, the “shithole shutdown” is the perfect encapsulation of governance in the Trump era: dysfunction and chaos driven by anger and fear toward America’s changing demographics, and the congressional GOP’s cowardly acquiescence to Trump’s ever-shifting demands.

13) Naturally, Trump’s appointee to oversee government service programs is an absolutely atrocious human being.

14) Alas, also naturally, prosecutors in New Orleans repeatedly kept on prosecuting people even when it was clear they had the wrong guy.

15) Michael Tomasky on Trump’s shithole enablers.

16) It’s the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive.  Julian Zelizer on how it undermined faith in government. Coincidentally, I r-watched Platoon this week (streaming on HBO Go, for you fellow subscribers) for the first time since 1986 (I think).  Thought it held up pretty well.  David certainly liked it and led to some great discussion about the Vietnam War.

Besides the damage that Tet imposed on Johnson, the surprise attack and the revelation that the administration had vastly oversold the prospects for success were a severe blow to public confidence in American government leaders to tell the truth and to do the right thing.

The right also took its own lessons from Tet and other parts of the increasingly critical wartime coverage, namely that the media could not be trusted. As reporters focused on Tet as evidence of failure, hawkish Democrats and Republicans were quick to note, rightly so, that the U.S. counter-offensive had been successful. Johnson felt this way and tried to hammer away on the point that the media was misrepresenting what happened. For decades, coverage of Tet would remain to conservatives a symbol of why the “liberal establishment” could not be trusted to give the public a realistic assessment of national security issues.

17) Loved this Edutopia piece about how making an extra effort to really get to know students in a Nevada school district is paying dividends.

18) Army National Guard officer analyzes the repeated tactical failures of the Resistance in the Star Wars movies.

19) Sam “I’ll eat a bug” Wang and Brian Remlinger with a great explainer on gerrymanders.

20) How are we not talking at all about the fact that a presidential campaign paid hush money to a porn star during the campaign??!!  This, more than about anything, is a testament to how Trump continuous and shocking bad behavior has inured us to his awfulness.  Michelle Goldberg:

In any other administration, evidence that the president paid hush money to the star of “Good Will Humping” during the election would be a scandal. In this one it has, so far, elicited a collective shrug.

Liberals, in general, can’t work up much outrage, because the encounter between Trump and Daniels was by all accounts consensual. And few social conservatives are interested in criticizing the president, since they’ve talked themselves into a posture of hardheaded moral realism in order to justify their support for him. In 2016, for example, Bennett himself condemned “Never Trump” conservatives for their “terrible case of moral superiority.”

If there’s a significant scandal, it will lie in the origins of the $130,000, or in other encounters Trump has covered up. There’s a sentence in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It comes toward the end, when Steve Bannon is praising Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz: “Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.”

If it turns out there were payoffs to hide non-consensual behavior, there may be an uproar. But sleeping with a porn star while your wife has a new baby, then paying the porn star to be quiet? That’s what everyone expects of this president. [emphasis mine]


The mainstream media failed me; Drum didn’t

I’ll admit to not reading in detail every last article on the looming government shutdown, but nowhere did I come across any explanation for why the 60 votes were needed in the Senate.  I couldn’t remember this in the past, but, this type of parliamentary procedure in Congress stuff is where my attention from politics flags at times.  Anyway, nice simple explanation from Drum today that seems like I should have come across in all the articles I read in the Post and the Times:

Probably never. But it’s worth pointing out why it’s happening now. It’s because budgets are normally handled via reconciliation, which allows the majority party to pass a budget with only 51 votes. This year, however, Republicans decided to use the 2017 reconciliation bill for repealing Obamacare and the 2018 reconciliation bill for passing their tax bill. So there’s nothing left, and that means they need 60 votes in the Senate.

Lots of people will suffer if the government shuts down because Trump is insisting on a huge increase in the military budget and a wholesale change to immigration laws. But it will mostly be the poor who suffer, and the rich already have their tax cut. So I guess it’s all good.

Russia hacking and the weakness in American democracy

This piece from political scientist Henry Farrell is really, really good:

It is not surprising that Russia is trying to use social media against the United States. The real puzzle is why these operations are succeeding so well.

As soon as Russian leaders figured out a decade ago how to counteract online agitating and organizing in their own country by, to quote the New Yorker’s Adrian Chen, “seeding doubt and paranoia, and destroying the possibility of using the Internet as a democratic space,” they began to weaponize these techniques for use against populations abroad, spreading confusion in Ukraine, the Baltic republics, the Nordic democracies, France, Germany, and, eventually, the United States. The evidence suggests, however, that Russia’s operations have always been poorly organized and opportunistic. Sometimes, they are laughably inept. Fake posts developed for use in the United States, for instance, are often written in bad English. Russia’s reported spendingon Facebook advertising was a pitiful trickle compared to the torrents of cash spent by both the Trump and Clinton campaigns to influence voters.

Russian online influence operations nonetheless seem to be working better against the United States than other countries. Research suggests that Russia’s “MacronLeaks” operation was far more successful in attracting the attention of English-speaking alt-right activists than French voters. Germany, too, seems to have been better able than the United States to shrug off efforts to shape its political conversation.

Russia’s relative success in the United States is not thanks to the unique strategic insight of Putin. It is because Russian operatives have chanced upon real weaknesses in U.S. democracy, and American elites are unintentionally giving them a helping hand. While France and Germany have their own social divisions, they do not face the specific problems that America faces.

In America, more than in most other Western countries, there is a basic failure of democratic knowledge. In a well-functioning democracy, citizens agree broadly on facts and have some trust in the democratic system, allowing democracy to harness different perspectives and put them to good use. In America, in contrast, distrust and profound disagreements over facts have led to a kind of crisis of democratic knowledge that leaves democracy open to outside manipulation.

Over the last two decades, the common knowledge of American democracy has been undermined. As Alexis de Tocqueville warned could happen, the structures of shared knowledge are being weakened by democratic politics itself. Politicians — especially on the right — have cast doubt on sources of authority such as science and government, telling their supporters that they shouldn’t trust experts… [emphasis mine]

Yet when people with different perspectives stop sharing a common basis of knowledge, democracy is liable to pull itself apart. Parties become enemies rather than competitors. When people stop trusting any institutions, they are likely instead to start thinking that the democratic process is rigged, and to pin their hopes instead on cranks and conspiracy mongers.

And, of course, social media makes this all so much worse.  Very thought-provoking read.


On Aziz and consent

Insofar as, among other things, there seems to be a real generation gap on responses to the whole Aziz Ansari imbroglio, you’ll not be surprised to find that I’m more sympathetic to the arguments of Aziz’s older female defenders, like Caitlin Flanagan.  I actually found out about Flanagan’s take as she was a trending topic on twitter from all the Millennial feminist pushback, arguing that Flanagan was a defender of sexual assault.  Now, I think it is pretty clear that Azari did not act in the way you would want someone to in a sexual encounter, but that certainly doesn’t make it sexual assault. Anyway, I did like this part of Flanagan’s post:

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Now, that probably goes too far in defending Ansari who seems to have not simply failed to provide affection and kindness, but also seems to have acted some level of inappropriate in the whole matter.  But, I don’t think acting like a jerk should result in this kind of public shaming (and I’d agree with Jon Ronson that we way over-use public shaming).

Also liked this take from NYT’s Bari Weiss:

If you are wondering what about this evening constituted the “worst night” of this woman’s life, or why it is being framed as a #MeToo story by a feminist website, you probably feel as confused as Mr. Ansari did the next day. “It was fun meeting you last night,” he texted.

“Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me,” she responded. “You ignored clear nonverbal cues; you kept going with advances. You had to have noticed I was uncomfortable.” He replied with an apology.

Read her text message again.

Put in other words: I am angry that you weren’t able to read my mind.

It is worth carefully studying this story. Encoded in it are new yet deeply retrograde ideas about what constitutes consent — and what constitutes sexual violence.

We are told by the reporter that the woman “says she used verbal and nonverbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.” She adds that “whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say.” We are told that “he wouldn’t let hermove away from him,” in the encounter…

I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading the article:

If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you…

Aziz Ansari sounds as if he were aggressive and selfish and obnoxious that night. Isn’t it heartbreaking and depressing that men — especially ones who present themselves publicly as feminists — so often act this way in private? Shouldn’t we try to change our broken sexual culture? And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes.

But the solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their “nonverbal cues.” It is for women to be more verbal. It’s to say, “This is what turns me on.” It’s to say, “I don’t want to do that.” And, yes, sometimes it means saying goodbye.

The single most distressing thing to me about this story is that the only person with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. The woman is merely acted upon…

The article in Babe was met with digital hosannas by young feminists who insisted that consent is consent only if it is affirmative, active, continuous and — and this is the word most used — enthusiastic. [emphasis mine] Consent isn’t the only thing they are radically redefining. A recent survey by The Economist/YouGov found that approximately 25 percent of millennial-age American men think asking someone for a drink is harassment. More than a third of millennial men and women say that if a man compliments a woman’s looks it is harassment.

To judge from social media reaction, they also see a flagrant abuse of power in this sexual encounter. Yes, Mr. Ansari is a wealthy celebrity with a Netflix show. But he had no actual power over the woman — professionally or otherwise. And lumping him in with the same movement that brought down men who ran movie studios and forced themselves on actresses, or the factory-floor supervisors who demanded sex from female workers, trivializes what #MeToo first stood for.

I think it is this whole idea of what is consent that is really bothering me.  Is “enthusiastic consent” ideal for a sexual encounter?  Sure.  We should aim for that as a society– especially in the ambiguous and fraught situations in today’s hook-up culture.  But humans consent to things all the time unenthusiastically, begrudgingly, or tacitly, among other adjectives.  Those types are not ideal for a sexual encounter, but they are still consent.  So, as a cultural matter, sure we should aim for the ideal that sexual consent should be clear and enthusiastic.  On a totally realistic level, though, human behavior is complicated and people will consent to sex without enthusiasm or clear verbal assent for a variety of reasons.  And to argue that those encounters constitute sexual assault is to diminish genuine, non-consensual, sexual assault.

The right way to do Voter ID?

A lot to like in this proposal by voter turnout expert, Michael McDonald.  And, as with so many things, the rest of the modern world has already pretty much figured out how to make this work:

I propose a national identification card to be issued by the government to all citizens of the United States when they turn 16. This identification would serve not only as required voter identification when someone reaches voting age, it would also serve as their voter registration. There are many benefits to this proposal, including one that should appeal to Trump: reinforcing a virtual wall to better track who is and is not an American citizen.

Many democracies around the world have national identity cards, while experiencing no ill tendencies towards authoritarianism. Indeed, my proposal echoes one made by former president Jimmy Carter. Following the 2000 election, the Carter-Baker commission issued a number of recommendations, including voter identification if — and this is an important condition — all persons are given identification.

Having the government take responsibility for voter registration is actually a very old idea. It is how elections were run during America’s first century as a country. Local governments created lists of the people who owned property or paid taxes, which defined the eligible voters.

Making the government responsible for registering voters again would solve many election administration problems. True universal registration would obliterate the burden on individuals to register, and to re-register whenever they move. Numerous studies find reducing voter registration costs increases voter turnout. Democracy works best when its citizenry is engaged.

As much as anything, national ID cards tend to freak out privacy advocates.  But, unsurprisingly, I’m very much in agreement with McDonald on this:

With many competing entrenched interests, introducing a national identification card is a controversial proposition. And yet in our modern technological world of big data and connectivity, the government and corporations already have a detailed profile of you unless you live in a hut and grow your own food. A national identification card would not impinge on people’s privacy and it could do a lot of good — by reducing election costs, increasing voter turnout and improving the integrity of our elections. [emphasis mine]

Not perfect, and yes there would be some downsides, but arguably far better than what we’re currently doing.  If those voter ID types were really about something other than voter suppression, they would get on board with a proposal like this.  I’m not holding my breath.

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