Quick hits (part I)

1) Endurance about Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated journey across Antarctica is easily one of my favorite books ever.  Incredible, incredible story.  With that as a background, loved David Grann’s (really long, but worth it) New Yorker article on a modern day Antarctic explorer looking to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps.

2) The case of Red Wolves in eastern NC is really a fascinating story about what it actually means to be a species and what efforts government should undertake to protect a species.

3) How Republicans have reshaped public education in NC.  Short version– not for the better.

4) Garrett Epps on Republicans increasing contempt for the judicial branch (i.e., the rule of law), with special focus on PA and NC.

5) Former Congressional Republican staffer sums it up nicely, “Reagan’s ‘Party of Ideas’ Is Down to Just One: Tax Cuts.”

So what do Republicans have left? The tax cut, the sole important legislation from the Republican Congress, shows that catering to its rich contributors is the party’s only policy. The rest of its agenda is simply tactics and trickery.

As the party has become unmoored from positive belief, it has grown manipulative, demagogic and contemptuous of truth. This was foreshadowed in 2004 when a senior adviser to George W. Bush boastedthat “we create our own reality.” It has culminated in the president’s counselor Kellyanne Conway’s appealing to “alternative facts,” meaning lies, on behalf of her boss, who has made an average of 5.6 false or misleading claims a day since his inauguration.

Today’s Republican Party is incapable of honest and coherent governance, with “right” or “wrong” reduced to a question of whether it helps the party. Its agenda is little more than institutional vandalism and a thumb in the eye.

6) You would think you could put up a “resist white supremacy” sign without too much grief.  Not in Trump’s America.

7) Interesting Op-Ed from retired judge who regrets being way too harsh in her judging days.  Good for her.  That said, sad that only know does she seem to realize 16-year olds are not fully formed and responsible.

8) I think the best response to the Snap boxes is Alexanda Petri’s satire.

9) Love Timothy Egan’s take on the “bad parent caucus”

Let me try another take for you bad parents in office. Pretend you live in a pleasant, well-protected community of like-minded people, and you’re in charge. O.K., you don’t have to pretend. And let’s say there was a natural gas leak every three days in one of the homes in that community, a leak that killed entire families.

Your response would be to pray and do nothing. Or to pray and talk about everything except the gas leak. Or to pray and say you’re powerless to act because the gas company owns you. The response of those suffering would be to take control and kick you out. That’s what we have to do, and will, next November.

10) Got to agree with Aaron Blake, it doesn’t do liberals any good to take offense at everything, i.e., the office of sheriff really is an “Anglo-American” tradition.

11) “Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News” or less intelligent people are more susceptible to believing fake news.

12) Utterly fascinated by this story of how people have long believed that Pope Gregory long ago gave a lenten dispensation for eating fetal rabbits as not meat.  He didn’t.  There goes my Friday dinner.

13) Ben Bishin with a nice piece on why we can’t have decent gun laws despite the popularity of the position.  Short version: an intense minority wins every time.

14) Love how German Lopez totally takes apart Marco Rubio’s moronic logic on gun laws:

In short, Rubio said imposing new restrictions on guns would be ineffective.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out, this is basically an argument against having any laws at all. Just imagine Rubio applying this same logic to other policies: People are going to commit murder anyway, so why bother banning it? People are going to use drugs anyway, so why bother making them illegal?…

Rubio has to understand this logic to some extent, because this is the exact same rationale for a war on drugs that he supports.

Rubio is on the record supporting tougher drug laws, previously writing that “when we consider changing the sentences we impose for drug laws, we must be mindful of the great successes we have had in restoring law and order to America’s cities since the 1980s drug epidemic destroyed lives, families, and entire neighborhoods. I personally believe that legalizing drugs would be a great mistake and that any reductions in sentences for drug crimes should be made with great care.”

The argument for prohibiting certain drugs, from marijuana to heroin, is not that it will stop the use of all drugs. The argument, instead, is that prohibition will make these drugs more expensive — a 2014 study by Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested that prohibition multiplies the price of hard drugs like cocaine by as much as 10 times. It also makes these drugs require the extra work of finding an illicit dealer instead of simply going to your local CVS to buy some heroin. That will not stop everyone from obtaining drugs, but it will deter some people.

It is perplexing that in conservative criminal justice politics, people like Rubio — those who support the war on drugs — don’t apply the same logic to guns that they do to drugs.

15) And Paul Waldman:

As Marco Rubio said on Thursday, the day after 17 of his constituents were slaughtered in Parkland, “I’m trying to be clear and honest here, if someone’s decided to commit this crime, they’ll find a way to get the gun to do it.” His colleague Ted Cruz told Fox & Friends, “We have seen that evil can occur whether at Parkland or at a church in Central Texas, or in schools across the country. There are murderers. Evil is, sadly, always present.” What are you gonna do?

Imagine what the response would be if after a terrorist attack, a senator said, “There’s no point in beefing up security at airports. If someone has decided to commit an act of terrorism, they’ll find a way to do it. Evil is, sadly, always present.”

That’s not how we react to terrorism. We don’t treat it as inevitable, we try to figure out how to stop it. And in fact, our representatives made a choice after 9/11 to take all kinds of measures that infringed on civil liberties and were of questionable practical value in order to forestall future terrorist attacks.

It takes about a month for as many Americans to die from gunfire as perished in the 9/11 attacks, yet we make a choice to do nothing.

16) Nicholas Kristoff with a comprehensive piece on how we should be taking a public health approach to gun violence.

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