Quick hits (part II)

Better late than never edition.

1) Jennifer Rubin on the cowardly, underminer of the rule of law, Mitch McConnell:

Let’s cut through all this: Republicans are petrified of provoking Trump (“the bear”), whom they treat as their supervisor and not as an equal branch of government. The notion that Congress should not take out an insurance policy to head off a potential constitutional crisis when the president has repeatedly considered firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defies logic. By speaking up in such fashion, McConnell is effectively tempting Trump to fire one or both of them. That will set off a firestorm and bring calls for the president’s impeachment.

“There is evidently no limit on the complicity [McConnell] is willing to shoulder,” argued Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics counsel during the Obama administration. “Even as bipartisan support for the legislation is emerging in both houses of Congress — or perhaps because it is emerging — he stands in the way.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the rule of law for McConnell to take this position when the president has reportedly tried twice to fire Mueller, and discussed it frequently, and is now agitated over the Michael Cohen developments. McConnell will be fully as responsible as Trump if the special counsel is fired.”

2) Good for NC taxpayers that 600 people who don’t actually qualify are no longer getting taxpayer subsidized NC Employee health insurance.  What the article totally fails to address, though, is the costs involved– not at all inconsiderable based on my experiences– of auditing every single policy.

3) Someone sharing this “Chick-Fil-A invades NYC with it’s blatant Christianity” take referred to this– tongue half in cheek, I think– as “why Trump won.”  Not all that far off.  I eat at Chick-Fil-A all the time.  Great fast food and the best service by far in fast food.  And Jesus never comes up at all.

4) How can you not love a story of escaped baboons.

5) Amazingly this headline is not an exaggeration, “Homework assignment asks students to list positive aspects of slavery.”  Un-amazingly, it’s in Texas.

6) NYT re-emphasizing the point that conservative political parties the whole world over except climate change.  Except our very own Republican Party.

7) How Trump lied to get in the Forbes 400.

8) Yglesias with an interesting case for Comey:

The greatest safeguard we have against the dangers of Trump’s highly personalized style of leadership and frequently expressed desire to reshape all institutions to serve his personal goal is that officials and bureaucrats have the power to say no. Comey, whatever else he did, said no to his boss and was fired for his trouble. America needs more government officials who are willing to take that stand. In many ways, Comey is not the hero the United States deserves. But in a critical moment, he may be the hero we need. [emphasis mine]

9) Trey Gowdy is a dishonest partisan hack who is pretty good at convincing journalists he’s not.  The truth will out, though.  To wit, the GOP statement on the Comey memos.

10) And Brian Beutler on Comey:

NPR’s Carrie Johnson pressed Comey on this point, asking “[W]as that your job? Was it your job to worry about those things?”

“I think so,” Comey responded. “As the director of the FBI I think my job is to worry about how—despite what your mother told you about not caring what other people think—as the director of the FBI, the public trust is all you have in that institution. And so yes, worrying about that had to be part of the job description of the Department of Justice—I mean, of the leader of the FBI.”

This would be a powerful argument in a political climate where both major ideological factions felt equally committed to a kind of factual politics. That Comey describes the conspiracy theories Republicans propounded about the email investigation as “politics [as] there always have been,” suggests he suffers from a continued blindness to asymmetries in American political life that allowed him to be bamboozled.

Comey reveals here, as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent noted, that he left the institutions of justice vulnerable to bad faith actors angling to manipulate him. Like many journalists, Comey succumbed to a false assumption of balance—that all politics is just politics. He couldn’t and can’t grapple with the idea that one party is less beholden to empiricism and truth than the other, and uses that leeway to undermine neutral institutions unless those institutions do the bidding of the GOP. [emphasis mine]

Honestly, I’m increasingly seeing the bad faith of the Republican Party as the key defining political feature of our time.  And while Democrats have their own occasional foibles, this is so not a “both sides!” issue.

11) Oh man you’ve gotta love NC social conservatives:

The N.C. Values Coalition is urging North Carolina parents to keep their children home on Monday to protest what it calls “graphic, gender-bending, promiscuity-promoting sex education” being taught in public schools.

Conservative activists are upset about what’s taught both in sex education and in programs meant to build acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender students. They want parents to respond by keeping children home from school as part of Monday’s nationwide “Sex Ed Sit Out” campaign and to vote for candidates who support their views.

In North Carolina, the N.C. Values Coalition wants parents to both keep their children home Monday and to write a letter to their principal explaining their decision.

“This is a national movement to encourage schools to stop using taxpayer dollars to teach programs which are intended to encourage early sexualization of children, causing them to question their own gender and to normalize sexual behaviors that most parents don’t agree with,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition.

Suffice it to say my kids will be in school tomorrow ;-).

12) Teaching a big Intro to American Government class is a very different experience than teaching my upper-level classes.  But I really do value doing it.  Nice piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on the value of having high-quality, tenure-track professor teaching intro courses:

To a student who has never encountered a discipline before, the professor teaching the introductory course is the discipline, Chambliss said. “If the physics professor is cool, then physics is cool.” If the professor is dull, the student will think the same of the discipline. If the professor is so dull that the student never takes another physics course, well, that impression could hold for the rest of her life.

That’s one reason Chambliss advocates that colleges put their very best professors in front of as many students as possible, as early as possible. That doesn’t mean every senior professor needs to teach introductory courses, he said — it’s a matter of departments moving a few people around, and rewarding them for their efforts.

Professors and administrators often see a major as a coherent whole, he said. But to students, what matters is the particular course they’re taking this term. If they have a bad first experience, they’re unlikely to stick around for a second one.

13) There’s been a huge row about race and IQ of late involving Ezra Klein and Sam Harris.  That said, easily the best thing I’ve read to come out of this has been Yglesias‘ terrific piece about how Charles Murray (author of the infamous The Bell Curve, and the genesis of the current contretemps) is really all about very conservative public policy, not science at all:

The actual conclusion of The Bell Curve is that America should stop trying to improve poor kids’ material living standards because doing so encourages poor, low-IQ women to have more children — you read that correctly. It also concludes that the United States should substantially curtail immigration from Latin America and Africa. These are controversial policy recommendations, not banal observations about psychometrics…

These claims about the baleful impact of social assistance spending are not uncontroversial claims about science. Indeed, they are not claims about science at all. And since they constitute what Murray himself views as the upshot of his book, and because Murray is a policy writer rather than a scientist, it is correct and proper for fair-minded people to read the book for what it actually is: a tract proposing the comprehensive revision of the American welfare state along eugenicist lines.

 

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