The real incumbency advantage– elevators

If you are not from NC, you might be surprised to learn that our NC Labor Commissioner, Cherie Berrie, is the 4th best-known political office-holder in the state.  If you are from NC, you are well aware that she has been abusing her position for years by taking an increasingly prominent role in our elevators.  The results from the latest Elon Poll via the N&O:

More North Carolinians can identify the state’s “elevator queen” than the legislators setting the agenda on statewide issues.

According to an Elon University Poll, 49 percent of registered voters could match Cherie Berry – whose face is plastered in elevators across the state because of her role in regulating them – with her role as North Carolina commissioner of labor. But a majority of those respondents didn’t identify her by her official title. Rather, they said she was the “Elevator Lady” or the “Elevator Queen.” Voters in urban areas were more likely to recognize Berry than those in rural areas.

“I think it’s pretty good evidence that Cherie Berry’s elevator advertisements work,” said Jason Husser, an assistant professor of political science at Elon University and director of the poll. “If we had gone through other names of people with similar levels of authority at the state, we wouldn’t have seen that level of name recognition.”

When I first moved here back in 2002, I’m pretty sure it was just the signature.  But now it’s a photo, too, and I’m pretty sure it’s become more prominent.  And, yes, she keeps winning statewide even in years when most other Republicans lose.

A couple of political scientists have found, yes, there is a real incumbency advantage here and wrote up their results in the Monkey Cage a couple years ago:

2012 results. These results aren’t as ambiguous. Once again, Berry brought up her total of the vote in counties with a higher concentration of elevators. But this time, Berry performs better than other Republicans running for statewide offices in counties with a higher concentration of elevators per 1,000 people…

What should we take away from this study?

As political scientists have long thought, political advertisements can affect elections — even in the most unorthodox forms. With this kind of advertising, incumbents don’t have to spend campaign funds — but they still come out of the election at a higher floor than when they began.

If they do learn from Berry’s elevator pictures, they may realize that such advertising can help when they try to rise to higher political office. In a May 2013 poll, Berry performed strongest of all Republicans tested against then-Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for the U.S. Senate seat Hagan was vacating in 2014. While Berry didn’t run for Senate, her picture in North Carolina elevators continue to bring up her political prospects as she seeks a fifth term as labor commissioner in 2016.

And, yes, of course she won in 2016.

And, yes, she’s a good Republican who has used her position to entirely fair the working people of this state.

The most important political identity

Gun ownership.  Okay, really, it’s partisanship.  But damn has gun ownership become an amazing potent political identity.  Great summary of the matter from Vox’s Dylan Matthews:

If only gun owners had voted in the 2016 election, then Donald Trump would have won every single state save Vermont. If only people who don’t own guns had voted, then Hillary Clinton would have won every state, save West Virginia and maybe Wyoming.

SurveyMonkey, which conducted the poll reaching these conclusions, found that the voting divide between gun owners and non-owners was starker than divides between white and nonwhite Americans, between working-class whites and the rest of the nation, and between rural and urban voters. “No other demographic characteristic created such a consistent geographic split,” the New York Times’s Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy write.

That doesn’t mean that gun ownership is more important in explaining American political behavior than race or class or gender. But it does mean that gun ownership has an extremely strong correlation with conservative, pro-Republican voting. [emphases mine]

Not owning a gun isn’t a particularly powerful identity. But gun ownership is, enough so to drive the gap seen in the map above.

This hasn’t always been the case; gun ownership has not always had such a clear partisan tilt. Indeed, gun control was once embraced by right-wing racists as a tool to disempower black Americans…

Over the course of the past four decades, though, gun ownership has firmly sorted along party lines. In a recent paper, University of Kansas political scientists Mark Joslyn, Don Haider-Markel, Michael Baggs, and Andrew Bilbo found that the impact of owning a gun on presidential vote choice increased markedly from 1972 to 2012.

Gun owner and non-owner voting

But Joslyn and company find that even after you control for gender, race, education, age, rural/urban status, and even party affiliation, gun ownership still correlates strongly with presidential vote choice. Indeed, they find that in their regressions, it “exerts a greater influence on likelihood of voting Republican than gender, education, or rural residence, and rivals age.”

These regressions can’t prove causality — that is, they can’t prove that gun ownership causes people to vote Republican. But they do show that the phenomenon we’re seeing isn’t just an effect of which racial groups or genders are likely to own guns.

Gun ownership on its own appears to matter. Democrats who own guns are likelier to vote for Republican presidential candidates than Democrats who don’t; black Americans who own guns are likelier to vote Republican than black Americans who don’t; women who own guns are likelier to vote Republican than women who don’t, and on and on and on…

The conservative themes that Lacombe alludes to in the gun debate — an individualist spirit, paired with a respect for traditional family values — can be broken down in a couple of ways.

First, there is a divide between an individualist attitude, which places a premium on individual autonomy, and a communitarian attitude, in which the community or nation is in this together and sometimes needs to make individual sacrifices for the greater good.

Second, there’s a divide between a hierarchical worldview, where traditional practices and distinctions between genders, ages, social groups, etc. are viewed as important and justified, and an egalitarian worldview that views such distinctions as fundamentally arbitrary.

Donald Braman, a professor at George Washington University law school who holds a PhD in anthropology, has, with his Yale colleague Dan Kahan, examined the gun debate through these cultural divisions, using an approach known as the “cultural theory of risk.” Pioneered by the late anthropologist Mary Douglas, the theory holds that people’s cultural environments, particularly the groups of which they’re members, help determine what people view as significant risks: Is the more significant threat “insufficient control of concealed weapons, leaving citizens vulnerable to deliberate or accidental shootings”? Or is it “excessive control, leaving citizens unable to defend themselves from attackers”?

This perception, in turn, colors how people interpret empirical evidence and form conclusions about policy.

Gun ownership is a particularly powerful identity, even starting as early as childhood. “We found that growing up in a household where firearms were present and having a firearm in the home was a strong determinant of how dangerous people thought firearms were,” with people growing up with guns perceiving them to be less dangerous, says Braman. Childhood exposure to guns is also a strong determinant of whether people keep firearms to this day…

People with more hierarchical but simultaneously individualistic worldviews are less likely to support gun control, and people of a communitarian, egalitarian bent are more likely. “With the exception of gender, no other characteristic comes close to the explanatory power of cultural orientations,” they write. “Cultural orientations have an impact on gun control attitudes that is over three times larger than being Catholic, over two times larger than fear of crime, and nearly four times larger than residing in the West.”..

What no one seems to know is how to make the debate less about identity and more about evidence — or if such a move is even possible. It might be that the most we can hope for is an ever-escalating clash of identities that somehow results, against all odds, in sensible policy.

What this means as much as anything is that you really difficult to argue policy with gun owners.  Strong identities mean identity protective cognition which means preserving the value of group identity over the value of actually being accurate and comprehending the reality of the situation.  It doesn’t matter how much data and research you show a gun lover about the inefficacy of our current policies for keeping Americans safe, the need to protect the “more guns = better” identity will outweigh the need to have rational discussion of policy.  Of course, the more non-gun-owner become identity, the even harder it will be to actually have rational, empirically-oriented debate and policy.

Also, somehow I missed a terrific Upshot feature largely around this in October as well.  Check that out, too.

And, lastly, I really want to do some political science with “gun owner” and a social identity scale.

Everyday misleading journalism

So, in what is ostensibly a fairly negative article about Trump— his latest lashing out at Jeff Sessions– there’s still an incredibly-frustrating he said/she said bias that is so corrosive and so pervasive in modern political journalism.  To wit:

The two sides in recent weeks issued dueling memos on the topic. [emphases mine]

The first, from Republicans, said the FBI used information that was ultimately funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee to obtain the warrant on Page. It said that finding and others amounted to “a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process,” a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The FBI disputed the accuracy of the Republicans’ statements, and Democrats fired back on Saturday with their own memo saying the bureau had been unfairly maligned.

Page has acknowledged that an FBI wiretap detected suspected Russian spies discussing their attempts to recruit him in 2013, and told congressional investigators that he was interviewed by the FBI and cooperated as they investigated the men, who were ultimately charged with acting as unregistered foreign agents. By the Democrats’ telling, the bureau told the court specific details of where its new information on Page came from.

No, not “by the Democrats’ telling” by actual reality!!  Damn this is such irresponsible journalism.  We’re left with some stupid “Democrats and Republicans disagree” take that leaves the average reader no better informed instead of the far more accurate, “here’s what’s real, and here’s who’s telling you the truth about it.”  There’s your damn media bias in action.

Shocker: Republican tax cuts proving huge benefit to rich people; ordinary people, not so much

Paul Waldman:

When Republicans put together their tax bill last year, it was not much of a surprise to see that its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.

No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.

Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks. [emphases mine]

And of course, most of the news media treated this argument in the standard he said/she said manner: Republicans say this, Democrats say that, and the truth lies in some secret location we may never actually reach.

Well, it has been only two months since President Trump signed the bill into law, and we’re already learning what anyone with any sense knew at the time: Everything Democrats predicted is turning out to be right. Let’s look at this report in the New York Times, which describes how stock buybacks are reaching record levels…

While the Times does note that some businesses are raising salaries, the piece concludes that “much” of the savings from the tax cuts is going to these buybacks, with this big-picture effect:

Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies’ stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price.

But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.

This is exactly what Democrats warned would happen. How could Democrats have been so clairvoyant? Do they own a time machine?

Well, no. They applied logic, looked at data and understood history. Republicans, on the other hand, were spinning out a ludicrous fantasy with no basis whatsoever.

I swear, hard to argue against the proposition that today’s GOP is just one giant con job.  But, hey, Paul Ryan is kicking poor people out of their hammock thereby making their lives better.

Photo of the day

Yellow Cardinal!

Jeremy Black.  Via Wild Birds Unlimited Facebook.

Chart of the day

A point I’ve made a number of times in a number of ways, but thanks to Wash Park Prophet for sharing this in comments.  Just a great visualization on what we get so wrong in America:


The NRA outlier

Was talking with a friend at lunch yesterday about the NRA (you know who you are TB) and based on the conversation I thought I had already blogged this chart.  But then I realized I hadn’t it.  Pew shows how even among gun owners, NRA members are uniquely conservative on gun issues:

Not all these gaps are huge, but point being, in many key ways, the NRA is not mainstreamWayne LaPierre speech.  That’s why I’m so happy to see these corporations cutting ties with the NRA.  Will it make any immediate meaningful change?  No.  But it does show that bland, play-it-safe-corporate America now (quite appropriately!) sees the NRA as outside the mainstream just like corporate America now largely sees anti-gay discrimination as unacceptably outside the mainstream.  And if you have any doubts about the NRA being outside the mainstream, just listen to pretty much any ever.    This is not going to turn things around immediately and, no, we cannot count on corporate America to save us, but the more the NRA is stigmatized, the less politically powerful they become.

Women and the future of gun policy

Given my recent heightened interest in gun policy and my longstanding interest in gender and public opinion I thought I should see what’s out there political science-wise on the matter.  It’s basically well-established that women are more liberal than men on gun control (and pretty much all use-of-force issues) so not all that much of recent vintage.  That said, came across this nice article from Tiffany Barnes and Erin Cassese that examines gender differences within parties.  I.e., of course with women being more liberal/Democratic overall they are more liberal on guns, so how much of this is about just partisanship and how much gender.  Short version– it’s a lot about gender.  Here’s the abstract:

Research on the gender gap in American politics has focused on average differences between male and female voters. This has led to an underdeveloped understanding of sources of heterogeneity among women and, in particular, a poor understanding of the political preferences of Republican women. We argue that although theories of ideological sorting suggest gender gaps should exist primarily between political parties, gender socialization theories contend that critical differences lie at the intersection of gender and party such that gender differences likely persist within political parties. Using survey data from the 2012 American National Election Study, we evaluate how party and gender intersect to shape policy attitudes. We find that gender differences in policy attitudes are more pronounced in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party, with Republican women reporting significantly more moderate views than their male counterparts. Mediation analysis reveals that the gender gaps within the Republican Party are largely attributable to gender differences in beliefs about the appropriate scope of government and attitudes toward gender-based inequality. These results afford new insight into the joint influence of gender and partisanship on policy preferences and raise important questions about the quality of representation Republican women receive from their own party.

Interestingly, it fails to make any mention of guns in there.  Yet, guns were actually the biggest intra-party difference they found:

With respect to issues linked to violence and the use of force, Republican women (M = .20) are far more likely than Republican men (M = .54) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 41.10, p < .001. This is the largest within-party gender difference (gender gap = .34) in our analysis…

Whereas Republican men and women hold significantly different positions on a number of issues, Democratic men and women have similar views for all but three issue areas. Women (M = −.46) are far more likely than men (M = −.17) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 35.82, p < .001. As with Republicans, the gender gap on gun control is the largest within-party gender difference among Democrats.

Hmmm.  Interesting.  Among other things it very much suggests that any hope for saner (check that, less insane) gun policies in the future rest largely on getting more women in office.  And 2018 looks to be a good start for that.


My ancestry by the numbers

So, my son Evan and I got DNA kits for Christmas.  I just got my results yesterday:

So, it’s well known that my dad came from Eastern European Jews.  Ukraine, I’m pretty sure, but the DNA is no help there.  Thus the 41% is clear, though its got me wondering about the, presumably, remaining 9% on my dad’s side (though, there’s a fair amount of potential error in these numbers, they do provide fairly broad ranges when you click on them).  Meanwhile, both my mom’s parents immigrated from Germany, her dad from Baden-Württemberg and her mom from Bavaria.  Kind of curious how that all mixed together in the various European sources.  Especially that 14% Iberian thrown-in.

So, this morning Evan’s came in.  Good news– he’s mine.  The big shock was his plurality 26% Scandinavian (and 2% Finland– Mika!).  My wife thought she was pretty much 100% Scotch-Irish.  Apparently not.

Anyway, pretty cool.  And not bad for the $50 Christmas sale.

Photo of the day

Pretty amazing photo essay from a Vietnam photographer still haunted by his images of Tet:

A U.S. Marine hurls a grenade seconds before being shot through the left hand. (Don McCullin/Contact Press Images)

More guns; more dead humans

Josh Marshall on the evolution of the “more guns; less crime” GOP talking point that has come to dominate the “gun rights crowd.”  Of course, not only is it based on John Lott’s debunked and dubious scholarship, Marshall spins out the fundamental illogic of the claims in actual human society.  Good, good stuff:

But it goes back further still, more than a decade to a largely discredited and significantly disgraced “gun rights” economist named John Lott. Lott wrote some foundation studies that didn’t withstand serious scrutiny. He also got in trouble for creating fake online identities to praise his work. But that was beside the point, as the debate developed. This idea became gospel in the world of “gun rights” politics.

What Lott did was apply a kind of crude game theory to the gun question – call it Mutually Assured Massacre. The logic goes something like this. If most people are unarmed, the guy who’s carrying has tremendous power and can kill more or less with impunity, at least in the immediate aftermath of a shooting. No one can shoot back. But if everyone is armed or any given person might be armed, you’re going to be a lot more cautious about going for your firearm and shooting someone. Because they might be armed too. They might shoot back. Or the person next to them might be armed. If everyone is armed, everyone will be on their best behavior. Because they’re all equal in terms of lethal violence. Shootings will go down, not up.

In the abstract, where no humans actually exist, there’s actually a compelling logic to this. If I know you’re armed, I’ll be on my best behavior. You will too because you know I’m armed. Of course, in practice, almost everything is wrong with this logic. It relies on an extremely crude version of economic rational action and an even cruder form of game theory. This is particularly the case when you realize that the fraught, angry situations where people impulsively kill other people are by definition not rational. [emphases mine] This doesn’t even get into situations like school shootings where the assailant usually intends to die in the massacre. It also doesn’t get into accidents, misunderstandings. It’s completely nuts.

Marshall makes a really interesting comparison so pro-slavery rhetoric:

But the policy arguments from gun rights advocates mostly come back to John Lott: more guns in private hands means more safety. Same with open carry and a bunch of other parts of the “gun rights” agenda. It’s pervasive. It’s gospel.

I think we can only understand this development by looking back to an earlier period of American history, particularly the last two decades before the Civil War. In the first decades of American history, there were many slaves and many slaveholders. But there were very few defenders of slavery per se…

This was the spur for the so-called “positive good” theory of pro-slavery politics.

Quite simply, far from being a necessary evil or a flawed and unjust institution slaveholders’ ancestors had saddled them with, slavery was not only a good thing but the only foundation of a just society. It was right that Africans should be slaves and that whites should be their masters. Full stop. This explicit abandonment of the concept of equality led many Southern intellectuals in the 1850s to rework their entire theories of politics and government – sometimes with startling outcomes that went far beyond slavery…

In retrospect, this evolution seems inevitable. People can’t go to literal or figurative war with an ambivalent commitment. The need for a positive defense of slavery was critical.

In retrospect, I believe Lott’s work and those who built upon it played a similar role in the post-Columbine evolution of the firearms debate. (And to be clear, I’m not equating them substantively. I’m talking about the need for a ‘positive good’ version of pro-gun advocacy.)…

All available evidence suggests the obvious: more guns, more gun deaths. Lott’s whole thesis is almost comically flawed for anyone who understands the interaction of human nature and game theory. The empirical studies all seem flawed. Even apart from this, a big chunk of the population, probably the majority, simply doesn’t want to live in a high-fear, maximally armed society. But these are all the consequences of the NRA’s ‘positive good’ theory of guns. That’s where Trump got this inane idea. It’s not strange at all. We should expect it.

And, just to make clear that this is empirical fact, not just liberal rhetoric, the necessary chart:

Quick hits (part II)

Late and gun-heavy edition.

1) The unwillingness of so many prosecutors to admit that they are human and make mistakes (or worse, cover up their misconduct) and thereby make innocent people suffer is really infuriating.

2) Nate Silver’s take on how much Russia ultimately influenced the election.  TLDR– hard to say.

3) I don’t know how many fathers there are on the U.S. Olympics team, but I do think it is pretty telling about gender and social roles that there is literally only one mom on the U.S. Olympic team.  On the bright side, she won gold in incredibly dramatic fashion.  Just watch this.  Seriously.

4) Yglesias makes a pretty strong case for Trump being guilty of something nefarious on Russia:

Emerging conventional wisdom in Washington, however, remains that there’s little reason to believe that Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation will end up proving much of interest. Politico magazine editor-in-chief Blake Hounshell this weekend wrote one of the buzziest pieces advocating a skeptical approach to Mueller’s ongoing inquiry, titled “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,” throwing cold water on the notion of high-level cooperation between Trumpworld and the Russians.

But to believe this, frankly, requires a much greater suspension of disbelief than to posit that the president colluded with Russia. You have to believe that after a decade of paying Manafort millions for his expertise to help pro-Russian candidates win elections in Ukraine, no one from Moscow thought to consult with him about how to help a pro-Russia candidate win an election in the United States.

And we have to believe that even though we know Trump’s son was both in touch with WikiLeaks and openly enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating with Russia on obtaining and disseminating anti-Hillary Clinton dirt, when he met with Russians on this very topic, they didn’t talk about it. And, of course, we have to believe that Trump’s specific — and quite public — call for Putin to hack more Clinton emails was completely random.

Trump–Russia skeptics, legion in the political press, brush all this aside in a gesture of faux sophistication, positing a bizarre series of coincidences complete with a massive cover-up all — for no particular reason.

5) In reference to some commentary discussion on my recent weight loss post, looks like there is some good evidence for the power of chewing gum in helping with weight loss.

6) Really like Perry Bacon Jr’s 538 piece on how he and the media got John Kelly wrong:

The media narrative around Kelly’s appointment had two central ideas, one outward- and one inward-facing: He would calm and professionalize the White House, and he would provide a more measured leadership style than his boss. Kelly’s views on policy were largely downplayed — he would simply be implementing Trump’s agenda and was “non-ideological” and “apolitical” anyway.

But the media got it wrong, myself included. Kelly seems to have deeply held views, particularly on immigration, that he has asserted — and they are not those of the McCain-like GOP establishment. Unlike past chiefs of staff, he hasn’t been careful to avoid bombastic comments. There was the attack on Wilson. But more recently, Kelly suggested that undocumented immigrants who had not yet signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were “lazy.” He has also praised Confederate general Robert E. Lee. You might even call Kelly’s rhetoric Trumpian.

7) Lee Drutman on why Parkland could be a gun control turning point:

And so for a long time, the lore in Washington was this: Nobody ever lost reelection for being too supportive of gun rights. So why take the chance? If there were a sizable number of gun owners in your state or district, why pick a fight you were sure to lose? Especially since it seemed likely everybody in Congress was making the same risk-averse calculation, and as a result, no gun control legislation seemed likely to pass anyway. Why be courageous for a lost cause?

Baked into this calculus was the assumption that not only were there single-issue gun rights voters but Democrats could win these voters by being pro-gun, and Republicans could losethese voters by being anti-gun.

But as partisanship has taken over just about everything in political life, the power of the single-issue voter (on any issue) has diminished. Spend some time reading and soaking in the NRA’s powerful propaganda, and it’s harder and harder to distinguish its own advocacy from core Republican identity politics of nostalgic American greatness. The NRA is now part of the Republican Party. Ninety-nine percent of its money goes to Republican candidates. As a result, it has lost the leverage it once had over swing-state Democrats.

In the short term, this made the NRA stronger, because its gamble paid off. Republican control of the House, Senate, and presidency makes meaningful gun control legislation unlikely. In the long run, however, this makes the NRA weaker, because its power is tied to Republicans being in power. [emphasis mine]

8) Michael Ian Black on the obviously gendered problem of mass shooters.

9) Get really tired of hearing people say variations of “in only we knew what to do.”  We do and we’re just not doing it.

10) Will Wilkinson on the ethno-nationalism behind opposition to the Dream Act:

The fact that there’s any question about affording legal status to a class of rooted young immigrants who grew up American among Americans is shameful. It’s a reflection of the disgraceful fact that so many of us are doggedly ignorant of the country we claim to revere, and deny the plain historical truth that America has always been multicultural, that Spanish colonial mestizo culture is a foundational American culture, and that many Mexican Americans have deeper roots in American soil than those of us whose European ancestors arrived rather late in the day at Ellis Island.

It makes no more sense, culturally or ethnically, to call into question the Americanness of a young woman whose mom brought her from Hermosillo to Tucson at the age of 6 than it does to doubt that a white guy raised in Syracuse but born in Toronto can ever really belong there.

Threatening to hang DREAMers out to dry — to arrest them, to uproot them, to jail them, to rip them from their families, to sever their bonds of loyalty and love, and to cast them into exile — threatens the equality and security of tens of millions of American citizens who are ethnically and culturally identical to them.

And a threat to any subset of Americans is a threat to America — to us. Trump’s unilateral act of political hostage-taking was, from the beginning, an act of violent division, an assault on the integrity of the actual, existing, real-world American people.

The ethnically purified fantasy of the populist imagination is a seditious force that obscures our higher loyalties, shatters the peace of liberal equality, and splits Americans into warring tribes ready to abuse people whom patriotic decency would otherwise compel us to defend.

11) Any time I come across a good article on how stupid tipping is, count on me to share it.  The sub-headline, “The data is overwhelming: Tipping encourages racism, sexism, harassment, and exploitation.”

12) Former Republican member of NC Supreme Court is pretty fed-up with his party:

Having found a political party willing to be the vehicle for its pro-gun agenda, the NRA has become a political force that Republican candidates and office holders are simply unwilling to renounce. You’d have a better chance of Republicans condemning the FBI, passing trillion-dollar budget deficits and siding with Putin and the Russians long before they’d ever condemn any agenda advocated for by the NRA. Oh, seems that’s already happened.

13) Pew with the demographics of gun ownership:

14) Of course the Schiff memo totally eviscerates the Nunes memo.  And, Nunes wins, because coverage of the just-released Schiff memo is a total after-thought.  It was A6 in my N&O today.  The Nunes memo was, of course, the lead story.  Once again, the liars win.

15) Pretty sure I’ve linked to some opioid myth-debunking before, but this is important to get right:

I have also watched a false narrative about this crisis blossom into conventional wisdom: The myth that the epidemic is driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids, or painkillers like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). One oft-quoted physician refers to opioid medication as “heroin pills.” This myth is now a media staple and a plank in nationwide litigation against drugmakers. It has also prompted legislation, introduced last spring by Senators John McCain and Kirsten Gillibrand—the Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, which would impose prescriber limits because, as a news release stated, “Opioid addiction and abuse is commonly happening to those being treated for acute pain, such as a broken bone or wisdom tooth extraction.”

But this narrative misconstrues the facts. The number of prescription opioids in circulation in the United States did increase markedly from the mid-1990s to 2011, and some people became addicted through those prescriptions. But I have studied multiple surveys and reviews of the data, which show that only a minority of people who are prescribed opioids for pain become addicted to them, and those who do become addicted and who die from painkiller overdoses tend to obtain these medications from sources other than their own physicians. Within the past several years, overdose deaths are overwhelmingly attributable not to prescription opioids but to illicit fentanyl and heroin. These “street opioids” have become the engine of the opioid crisis in its current, most lethal form. [emphases mine]

If we are to devise sound solutions to this overdose epidemic, we must understand and acknowledge this truth about its nature.

For starters, among people who are prescribed opioids by doctors, the rate of addiction is low. According to a 2016 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 87.1 million U.S. adults used a prescription opioid—whether prescribed directly by a physician or obtained illegally—sometime during the previous year. Only 1.6 million of them, or about 2 percent, developed a “pain reliever use disorder,”

16) Among the ridiculous tropes is the idea that it should be relatively easy to predict and thereby stop mass shooters.  So not so.  Thought experiment– what if we had a machine that could predict mass shooters with 99% accuracy and ran it on 100,000 people:

What? I thought this thing was 99 percent accurate! What junk!

Well, it is 99 percent accurate. But that means it will falsely label one out of every 100 people a mass shooter.

In a group of 100,000 people, we’d be left with 1,001 potential mass shooters: 1,000 false positives and one correct guess.

17) This x1000– the media should stop making school shooters famous!!  And enough with the stupid stories looking for “motive” of the mass shooters.  They wanted to kill a lot of people!  There’s no sane way to explain this.

18) Molly Worthen on the misguided drive for colleges to measure learning outcomes.  Speaking from the trenches (my departmental assessment I am working on is due this week)… Amen!  As one of my colleagues put it, we devise beans to be counted.

19) German Lopez on the real harm of the stupid, stupid, stupid arming teachers discussion:

In any other country in the world, the idea of arming teachers with guns in classrooms to protect children would be seen as the policy equivalent to random screaming. Yet in the United States, it’s an idea that now has support from President Donald Trump — who recently said that he’s willing to pay teachers “a little bit of a bonus” if necessary to arm and train them…

As we all concentrate on this, we leave aside other issues that the NRA would rather not talk about — from universal background checks to gun bans to confiscation schemes like Australia’s. So the ridiculous discussion sucks up the oxygen during the few weeks in which there’s a window to do something about guns, nothing happens, and the current situation remains.

20) Why nobody wants to host the Olympics anymore.  Here’s a hint, Pyeongchang will be demolishing it’s $109 million stadium after four uses.

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