Quick hits (part I)

1) Jon Cohn on what a serious gun policy would look like.

2) When the Supreme Court doesn’t care about facts.  This public union case is just embarrassingly partisan on the part of the R Justices.

3) Just the daily litany of Republican awfulness, Drum, “Scott Pruitt Kills Agency That Studies Chemicals Harmful to Children.”  And, no, that’s not hyperbole, just the reality of Republicans saving us from “unnecessary regulations.”

4) So, Michigan State’s outgoing president (i.e., that whole Larry Nasser thing) has landed an extremely prestigious professorship at MSU that she is entirely unqualified for.  Golden parachutes not just for the corporate world.

5) I’ll be honest, I very much look down on the intellectual rigor of business schools (and Academically Adrift makes a good empirical case for why that’s deserved).  They get rather thoroughly ripped apart in this essay from a History professor:

Unable to truly create a profession of business, business schools more often function as finishing schools for the new junior executive. The finishing-school role that business schools have always played can be summarized this way: Donald J. Trump went to Wharton.

Depending on your point of view you are either nodding your head in affirmation or crying out “cheap shot!” So let me hasten to say that it is entirely unfair to blame Wharton for Trump’s pathological narcissism or his gargantuan vulgarity. After all, Newt Gingrich received a Ph.D. in history, and I don’t want the historical profession to be blamed for him.

And yet Trump exemplifies exactly the kind of man for whom business school was invented. Deeply and transparently insecure, Trump has reminded his supporters over and over that he went to Wharton and that that means he’s really, bigly smart. Trump sees his Wharton education as giving him social status and intellectual credibility. At the turn of the 20th century, one function of the new business schools was to give the sons of the new industrial titans a respectable patina, to launder the wealth they had received from their fathers by scrubbing it with a college degree. And so it is for Trump.

It is hard to shake the conclusion that business schools have largely failed — even on their own terms, much less on other, broader social ones. For all their bold talk about training tomorrow’s business leaders, as institutions they have largely been followers. “In reviewing the course of American business education over the past fifty years,” wrote one observer, “one is struck by its almost fad-like quality.” That was in 1957. Despite their repeated emphasis on innovation and “outside the box thinking” business schools exhibit a remarkable conformity and sameness. Don’t take my word for it. That Porter and McKibbin study from 1988 found “a distressing tendency for schools to avoid the risk of being different … A ‘cookie cutter mentality’ does not seem to be too strong a term to describe the situation we encountered in a number of schools.” Finally, while honest people can disagree over whether American business is better off for having business schools, they have provided scant evidence that they have done much to transform business into something more noble than mere money-making. Indeed, by the late 20th century, they stopped pretending they could.

6) The efforts to identify the risk-factors from early childhood that suggest you are looking at a future violent and dangerous man (and, yes, it is almost always men).

7) Among the massively under-reported stories on Trump is just how fabulously corrupt his administration is on the most basic level of personally profiting from public service.  It’s so quotidian and so pervasive that I think it gets largely lost in the shuffle of wanting new news.  But, you know what?  All voters hate it when politicians personally benefit from their public service.  I think Yglesias is exactly right in arguing that Democrats should be focusing much more on this.  Forget about what Russia “collusion” says about the election, but focus on how Russia is just one part of a shady  and unseemly web of Trump enriching himself off of being president– his ultimate con.

8) OMG cross country skiiers have to eat so much food.  And it’s hard work.

9) Obviously, I don’t follow China all that closely, but it’s damn concerning what’s going on with Xi Jinping.  Evan Osnos:

China is reëntering a period in which the fortunes of a fifth of humanity hinge, to an extraordinary degree, on the visions, impulses, and insecurities of a solitary figure. The end of Presidential term limits risks closing a period in Chinese history, from 2004 to today, when the orderly, institutionalized transfer of power set it apart from other authoritarian states…

Even before China removed this constraint on the Presidency, the space for political dissent had withered to its lowest point in decades. Under Xi, who has no appetite for loyal opposition, China has detained thousands of activists and lawyers. In the latest example, human-rights groups reported the sudden death, on Monday, of Li Baiguang, a Christian human-rights lawyer who once met with President George W. Bush in the White House. In recent years, Li had been repeatedly detained for his activism. A military hospital in Nanjing said that he died of liver failure, but allies abroad said that his death was sudden andsuspicious. I met Li in 2008, and, despite frequent arrests, he believed that China was marching steadily toward greater rule of law. “I found that, wherever we sued the government, the local police were no longer arresting Christians,” he told me. “It seemed our administrative reviews and litigation were educating local government officials to learn to respect citizens’ liberty and freedom.”

For China, the long-term risks of political backsliding are profound. When political scientists assess a country’s future, one measure is resilience. How well does it handle shocks, such as when a top leader goes crazy or starts to enrich his family and his cronies? How able are its courts and its press to expose and punish wrongdoing? How robust and creative are the ranks of its rising politicians? Do they have the independence and the protection to challenge their elders and to introduce bold new ideas? For the past generation, China has tacked toward some of those attributes and away from others, but, by any measure, establishing Xi in the Presidency for years to come does not contribute to political resilience.

10) Nice piece from Dan Ariely on how, when it comes to prices, we basically prefer to be lied to.

11) Brian Beutler on Russia’s accomplices– Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell:

Thanks to Schiff, we can fairly surmise that McConnell and Ryan knew much of what the intelligence community knew—that Russian operatives were sabotaging Clinton with the knowledge and complicity of the Trump campaign, and the connivance of specific Trump aides. And yet when the Obama administration, in the weeks before the election, asked the leaders of both parties to join a united front against Russian efforts to tip the scales of a U.S. election, “at least two GOP lawmakers [were] reluctant to accede to the White House requests.” according to the Washington Post.

McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Everyone who’s watched Republicans in Congress wield their oversight powers to bolster Trump-inspired, conspiratorial fictions—like that Obama wiretapped him, or that Susan Rice abused “unmasking” authority, or that the FBI engaged in a conspiracy to hurt his campaign—now understand what McConnell was implicitly threatening to do.

We can’t know for certain whether Ryan was one of the other GOP lawmakers who joined McConnell in extorting the Obama administration this way. But we know he didn’t take a stand against McConnell; and we know he understood full well that Russia was engaged in an influence operation on Trump’s behalf long before the election.

12) Oh, yeah, and of the NRA has been working with the Russians.

13) Tom Carsey was an awesome political scientist and a great guy who died much too young.  I still can’t believe that in the last few months of his life he took the time out to give Laurel and I some unsolicited great advice on our most recent parenthood research because we were on the same conference panel.  Nobody ever does that.

14) You are probably bending over wrong.

15) Of course Trump’s Trade War is stupid, stupid, stupid economic policy.

16) And Paul Waldman on his this is one of his very few actual core values:

For as long as he has been a public figure, long before he became a politician, Trump has complained about America’s trade policies and those of the rest of the world. There have always been two core ideas underlying his beliefs on trade. The first is that trade is a zero-sum contest in which the only goal is exporting goods. If we import something from another country, even if comparative advantage makes it perfectly reasonable for us to do so, then the other country has “won” and the United States has “lost.”

Trump’s second idea about trade is that it represents a kind of contest of pride, even manhood. When he talks about trade he nearly always says that other countries, particularly China, are “laughing at us.” When we, say, buy cheap consumer goods from abroad, it means we’re the sucker, the sap, the patsy.

Yet oddly enough, despite his long objection to American trade policies he shows not the least understanding of how trade even works, beyond the idea that we should impose lots of tariffs.

17) And, of course wants a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” racist on a federal sentencing commission.

18) The Trump administration is really one giant scam on the American public.  Krugman:

So you go out for dinner with a wealthy acquaintance. “I’ll take care of everything,” he says, and orders you a hamburger. Then he orders himself an expensive steak and a bottle of wine, which he doesn’t share. And when the waiter comes with the check, he points at you and says, “Charge it to his credit card.”

Now you understand the essence of the Trump tax cut, signed into law a little over two months ago.

The key thing you need to know is that right now the U.S. government has no business cutting taxes. We need more revenue, not less.

Why? The federal government, as an old line says, is a giant insurance company with an army. Most of its costs come from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and all three programs are becoming more expensive as ever more baby boomers reach retirement age. This means that unless we cut back sharply on benefits that middle-class Americans count on, we will need to raise more revenue than in the past.

Yet even before the tax cut, federal tax receipts were looking weak for an economy with low unemployment and a rising stock market — for example, far lower as a percentage of G.D.P. than the tax take during the Clinton boom of the 1990s, and even a bit lower than they were at the end of the Bush-era expansion. The tax cut will push them lower still. Something will have to give.

And we already know what will give, if Republicans get their way: programs that benefit working Americans. In fact, the usual suspects like Paul Ryan were talking about the need for “entitlement reform” — meaning cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — to reduce deficits even as they were passing a huge tax cut that will make those deficits much worse.

19) What it takes to buy a gun in 15 different countries.  All of which actually let you buy a gun, but have dramatically more sensible policies and dramatically lower homicide rates.

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