Quick hits (part I)

1) Seth Masket on the intentional cruelty of zero-tolerance on immigration:

But on immigration he’s been entirely consistent. If there was one defining issue of Trump’s 2016 campaign, it was his insistence on building a wall along the United States’ southern border with Mexico. He’s promised since early in his campaign to stem immigration by Mexicans and Muslims, to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, to bolster the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The idea of an immigration crackdown has always been central to his policymaking.

Even the most vapid politician tends to have some key conviction on some set of issues. That’s often what draws them a set of backers in the first place. And this conviction is not necessarily something that polls well. The party factions that back a candidate often want some set of policy changes that are actually unpopular, or ideally issues that the public mostly doesn’t pay attention to. And they’re looking for a candidate who will push for those issues even if the political tides change.

This was not a miscalculation. This is Trump doing the job he was selected to do.

2) I’m going to keep using straws, because I am generally, quite good about plastic, and its not really about the straw.

Several environmental organizations have made straw bans a priority lately — raising awareness, nudging celebrities to come out in favor of them, lobbying cities and states to enact them. But some advocates told me their deeper motivation is to build support and awareness for the need to ban other plastic products that are more significant sources of plastic solution than straws.

“Our straw campaign is not really about straws,” said Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, the organization that led the straw ban movement in Seattle. “It’s about pointing out how prevalent single-use plastics are in our lives. Putting up a mirror to hold us accountable. We’ve all been asleep at the wheel.”

3) Brian Beutler on Trump’s lessons for Democrats:

The lessons of Obama’s immigration legacy—and of his legislative legacy in general—were clear to many liberals at the time, but have come into greater focus in the Trump era. And one of the principal lessons is this: It is a mistake to cause harm as a dangle for bipartisan support. Democrats today, and in any future majority, would do better to accept the nature of the opposition, and try to help as many people as possible, as much as possible, in any particular political moment…

This same lesson applies elsewhere in the realm of domestic policy. Democrats wasted most of a year in 2009 trying to entice Republicans to support health-care reform. They conceded substantive ideas they liked, and adopted Republican ideas, without realizing Republicans were stringing them along, and when the process was over, zero Republicans voted for the health care bill they had helped to weaken, and they called it “socialism” anyhow. One of the consequences of this error was higher premiums and deductibles, which harmed actual people, some of whom surely punished Democrats in 2016 by staying home, or voting for Trump, who turned around and sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats can upend this vicious cycle. It’s important for people who care about the truth to rebut these lies, but Democrats can’t count on people who don’t care about truth to be deterred by fact-checking. All they can do is refuse to reward liars—accept what they’re up against, and do as much good as they have the power to do whenever they can.

4) Jay Rosen, “It’s time for the press to suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency.”

5) As you know, I’m pretty hesitant on four-letter words, but John McWhorter (via Conor Friedersdorf) makes a good case for change here:

He sees taboos against the familiar four-letter words, like damnshit, and fuck, as antiquated vestiges of bygone times when religious taboos, or taboos against sex and excretion, were utterly different than they are today—they make little sense, he argues, in a society where it’s perfectly acceptable to be an open atheist and where many people revel in body positivity and sex positivity. The taboo words make no sense given the dearth of substantive taboos around that to which they refer. For that reason, he refuses to teach his young daughter that it is wrong to say “shit” but okay to say “poop,” or that it is wrong to say “fuck,” though he explains that she should understand the lingering sensitivities of others to those words and take care when and where to use them.

In contrast, he argued, today’s truly profane words—and rightly so—are the n-word and the c-word, words where he is glad to see locutions like the ones I just used because he can make a strong logical and moral case for using them. “That is not something you want The New York Times to have on top of the page. I wouldn’t want my children to ask me what it is. I can’t be flippant about it,” he explained. “I’m telling my children that those words are profane. Why can’t you use them? Because they’re evil … The reason we don’t say those words is that we don’t slur against groups of people … You work against tribalism.”

6) With all the news this week, the Supreme Court finding for AmEx and ever-greater corporate power was pretty much completely ignored.  But it is a great example of the essentially pro-business (not pro-market) ideology that motivates so many conservatives.  Tim Wu:

There is no reason to expect credit card companies to offer their services free. But the credit card tax paid by American retailers and consumers is the highest in the world. Credit card “swipe” fees account for an estimated $42 billion every year in the United States. The Europeans pay less, because they see this as an obvious market failure and limit the commission to 0.3 percent, meaning that you would pay 60 cents instead of $7 in fees for that $200 purchase. We rely on the “American way” — competition instead of regulation to keep prices lower — but that works only if we prevent companies from thwarting competition.

Unfortunately, credit card companies like American Express have managed to stymie fee competition with those gag orders on merchants who contract with them. Merchants are prevented from steering consumers to cheaper options, for example by saying to a customer: “Paying for this microwave with American Express will cost us an extra $5.60. Might you consider using another card if you have one?”

If merchants could tell us which option was cheapest, and steer us in that direction, we would all save money. Even just the threat of steering us in that direction could help keep fees down.

The trial court in this case, after a full trial, found direct evidence that American Express’s gag orders were anticompetitive and thus an illegal restraint on trade. This included evidence that the gag order allowed American Express to raise its fees 20 times in five years.

Nonetheless, the five more conservative justices on the Supreme Court managed to find a way to win this case for American Express. They did so not by contesting the fact that the gag order stymies competition — for that was impossible to disprove. Instead the court put theory ahead of practice in an absurd way: Even though, in practice, American Express hurt competition and inflicted harm on consumers, the court concluded, the company was not, in theory, powerful enough to do so.

The logic is ridiculous: You could just as easily say that robbing banks is economically irrational, given the risks involved, and therefore it does not happen.

7) Love how Emily Yoffe is always willing to take on shibboleths about sexual misconduct.  Of course, sexual misconduct is also about sex, and not just power, yet you’d hardly know it by the statements coming from some quarters.  Really good piece on Weinstein, et al.

8) Thomas Edsall on how immigration opponents really hate being told they are racist.  Problem is, plenty of social science evidence indicates that much of immigration opposition is, in fact, driven by racial animus.

9) Lily Mason turned her nice tweetstorm on asymmetry and incivility into a Monkey Cage post.

10) Jennifer Rubin, on Trump’s losing battle on immigration:

While Democrats have become more enthusiastic about legal immigration, so have Republicans, albeit to a smaller extent. “The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say legal immigration into the U.S. should be increased has doubled since 2006, from 20% to 40%. . . . The share of Republicans and Republican leaners who say legal immigration should be decreased has fallen 10 percentage points since 2006, from 43% to 33%.” However, 33 percent of Republicans vs. 16 percent of Democrats favor reducing legal immigration.

Despite Trump’s persistent lying, most Americans “know documented immigrants living in the U.S. are not more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes (65% say this) and that undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs citizens don’t want (71% say this).” That’s somewhat reassuring after two years of nonstop anti-immigrant harangues…

One area in which nervous politicians and pundits sympathetic to immigration have given ground to opponents is on the use of English. Well, ordinary Americans just don’t like hearing all that Spanish. Perhaps pro-immigrant voices should reassess their eagerness to indulge xenophobes. “Most Americans say they often (47%) or sometimes (27%) come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English. Among those who say this, just 26% say it bothers them, while 73% say it does not. The share saying they are bothered by immigrants speaking little or no English has declined by 12 percentage points since 2006 (from 38% to 26%) and 19 points since 1993 (from 45%).”

Let me offer some informed speculation as to why the outlook of most Americans so strongly differs from Trump’s and Trump’s base and why Americans as a whole are becoming more sympathetic toward immigrants. Many of Trump’s red-state supporters, as I have observed, come from states with a minuscule number of illegal immigrants. They’ve decided that these people are dangerous and are out to steal their jobs, based on very little firsthand experience. In 2016, Pew found that in states such as Kansas and South Carolina, the number of illegal immigrants was quite small and shrinking (95,o00 in 2009 to 75,000 in 2009 in Kansas, out of a population of nearly 3 million; 100,000 to 85,0000 in South Carolina, out of a population of more than 4.8 million.) In Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s home state of Alabama, the number went from 80,000 to 65,000 — out of more than 4 million people. In short, much but not all of the staunch opposition to both legal and illegal immigration comes from less-populated, rural states with few immigrants.

By contrast, in states with huge illegal-immigrant populations, which have become part of the fabric of society (California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois), the attitude toward immigrants is positive, and becoming more so as more Americans interact, work and live with immigrants — and intermarry as well. Even in Texas, where Republican politicians remain obsessed with deportation, “Three-fifths of the registered voters surveyed in the poll said they would continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Just 30 percent said the program should end.” (You may recall that Republicans along the border disfavored the wall.)

In sum, the country’s overall view of immigrants and even illegal immigrants is improving since a high percentage of Americans live in heavily populated states with large numbers of immigrants (both legal and illegal). As a percentage of the population (and thereby reflected in the polls). more people are having experience with more and more immigrants; it has changed their view of these Americans.

Trump’s base and the GOP is disproportionately rural and therefore comes in contact far less frequently with actual immigrants. They’re content to blame immigrants — or are riled up to do so by Trump — for social and economic woes that may have in reality virtually nothing to do with immigrants. The population in these states is declining, and with that the number of rabid anti-immigrant voters, although their intensity is soaring.

11) The rise of college grade forgiveness in the Atlantic.  I remember several years ago NC State made it absurdly easy to just remove a single bad grade or two from your transcript (the earlier, far more sensible policy, required a re-take of a bad grade you earned as a freshman).  Now we just let you drop two bad grades, because…?

12) Nice interview with no-longer-Republican, Steve Schmidt.

13) “Abolish ICE” has hit a critical point.  It is definitely no longer a fringe position (and deservedly so).  Brian Beutler:

“Abolish ICE” is catching on because of a widespread and accurate belief that it’s a cruel, rogue agency. And even if the goal of actually abolishing the agency goes unmet, a party unified in hostility to a government agency can have a huge impact on its functioning. Republicans have channeled their antipathy towards the IRS into starving the agency of funds, which has had a huge impact on the agency’s ability to enforce tax law. A tamed ICE that wasn’t engaged in mass raids and deportations would be an improvement over what we’ve got now.

14) Just this week, my son and I were talking about how athletic performance declines with age.  I thought peak was mid-20’s, it’s actually early 20’s.  Though baseball-specific, this is a fascinating look at the issue.  And how experience counter-acts physical decline, to a degree.

15) Recently read Theory of Bastards and really enjoyed.  Nothing like near-future bonobo fiction.

16) Pretty unsurprisingly, both Democrats and Republicans are pretty awful at estimating the actual demographics of the other party (and, I suspect, innumeracy is a huge part of this).  For what it’s worth, I was within a couple percent in my estimates of all of these.

17) This article argues that you really cannot trust negative on-line reviews.  Actually, I think they can be really helpful.  If the only negative reviews, for example, are from people who clearly have not even figured out how to properly use the product, than you are onto something.  On a related note, really enjoyed this Planet Money about fake positive reviews.  Been having a lot of fun with reviewmeta since.

18) Of course Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow is egregiously lying to the American public about deficits.

19) How our brains fall for false expertise.  And how to stop it.

20) Paul Waldman, “No, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory isn’t bad for the Democratic Party.”

21) Who are you pulling for in the World Cup?  My favorites are Belgium and Mexico.

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Real support for our military

Finally got around to reading Phil Klay’s terrific article about America’s misguided relationship with our military in last month’s Atlantic.  So good.  Read it!  And, I can’t mention Klay without again highly recommending probably my favorite story collection ever, his Redployment.

So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.

What would such a thing look like? It would probably look like rescinding the open-ended Authorization for the Use of Military Force and making the president regularly go before Congress to explain where and why he was putting troops in harm’s way, what resources the mission required, and what the terms of success were. It would look like every member of Congress carrying out his or her constitutionally mandated duty to provide oversight of our military adventures by debating and then voting on that plan. It would look like average Americans taking part in that debate, and scorning anyone who tried to tell them they couldn’t. It would look like average Americans rolling their eyes in disgust when our leaders tell us we’re not at war while American troops are risking their lives overseas, or claim that Americans must support the wars their country engages in if they want to support the troops, or when a press secretary argues that anyone who questions the success of a military raid in which a service member died “owes an apology” to that fallen soldier. It would look like our politicians letting the fallen rest in peace, rather than propping up their corpses for political cover. And when service members die overseas in unexpected places, such as the four killed in Niger last year, it would look like us eschewing the easy symbolic debates about whether our president is disrespecting our troops by inartfully offering condolences or whether liberals are disrespecting our troops by seizing upon those inartful condolences for political gain. It would look like us instead having a longer and harder conversation about the mission we are asking soldiers to perform, and whether we are doing them the honor of making sure it’s achievable.

In short, it would look like Americans as a whole doling out a lot fewer cheap, sentimental displays of love for our troops, and doubling down on something closer to Gunny Maxwell’s “tough love”—a love that means zeroing in on our country’s faults and failures.

Photo of the day

Atlantic with a nice “fans of the World Cup” gallery.  Pretty tough for Germany fans on Wednesday.

Germany fans react as they watch the South Korea versus Germany Group F World Cup match at a public viewing area at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on June 27, 2018. South Korea won the match 2-0. 

Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

Zero-sum white supremacy

So, I was just going to do a short post linking to this chart from a recent Pew survey and highlighting utter delusion of Republicans when it comes to the reality of life in America:

I suppose you could make the case that “everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed” but not using definitions of”everyone” “equal” “opportunity” or “succeed” that I’m familiar with.  And if you think the rights of all people are equally respected, you presumably get all your news from Fox.

Anyway, I think this dovetails very nicely with a Salon article by Chauncey Devega my wife pointed out to me which analyzes Republican racial attitudes in a zero sum perspective:

Against all facts and evidence, matters have become so absurd in the age of Donald Trump that almost half of white Americans actually believe that they are more likely to be victims of racism than are black and brown people.  Moreover, Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s voters are so drunk on white victimology that they think that it is white people and not nonwhites who are the “real victims” of racial discrimination in America.

All of these delusions revolve around a basic contradiction: Many white Americans have convinced themselves that black and brown people exaggerate, are too sensitive, and outright lie about their experiences as victims of racism and white privilege. Yet, this racism — which according to the white gaze does not really exist except in extreme forms such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis — somehow does exist but manifests itself in the form of so-called “reverse racism” against white people… [emphases mine]

In the United States, black Americans and other people of color have only wanted full and equal rights with white Americans. For example, from the Civil War to the great experiment in democracy that was the Reconstruction, black Americans worked very hard to expand opportunities for all people, including poor and working class whites. This dynamic continues into the present where public opinion polls show that black and brown Americans consistently support policies which would expand the social safety net, civil rights and economic justice and opportunity for the average American — on both sides of the color line. Black and brown people are also on the frontlines of saving American democracy from the fascism and authoritarianism of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Black (and brown) Americans, as a group, have never sought to retaliate against white Americans — even when such an act and desire would have been perfectly reasonable, just and yes, moral. But there are millions of white Americans in Trump’s camp, and also outside of it, who are terrified that with increasing racial and ethnic diversity they will be victims of racially-motivated revenge and violence. This makes these millions of white voters easily manipulated by racist demagogues who use political sadism to stab at the worst parts of human nature. In response, it will require a united front of black and brown and white folks to save the United States from Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s fascist and authoritarian campaign against democracy. Unfortunately, too many white Americans would rather live under an authoritarian regime that supposedly empowers white people like them than a real democracy which provides equal opportunities for all people.

Now, of course this is not all Republicans and Trump supporters.  But, the evidence is clear that a distressingly high number of them are truly animated by racial animus and literally delusional racial thinking.  And our country is so much the worse for it.  And for those other Republicans, they should suck it up and vote for Democrats until their party actually abandons authoritarianism and white ethnocentrism.

Craziness from not quite Republican state legislator

No, not crazy Republican state legislator, but this guy did manage to get the nomination in NC 48, which appears to be a safe Democratic seat.  Pretty, pretty amazing:

A website tied to a candidate for the North Carolina General Assembly says God is a racist white supremacist and that Jews are descended from Satan.

Russell Walker is a Republican candidate running for state House District 48 which includes Scotland and Hoke counties.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Republican Party withdrew its support for Walker…

Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

“What is wrong with being a white supremacist? God is a racist and a white supremacist,” the website connected to Walker says.

“Someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world … someone or something has to be inferior … In all history in sub-Saharan Africa, no two-story building or a waterproof boat was ever made.”

Walker has authored multiple essays and other articles on the site and has said it belongs to him.

The reporter I talked to today said if you did around the website, it’s even worse.  Yes, credit to Republicans for disavowing him, but that’s a pretty low bar.  Does this guy successfully run and win a nomination pre-Trump?  Maybe, but I think far less likely.  Here’s the news story where you get 5 seconds of me and my office.  (And look, I put a tie on (just for 5 minutes) during the summer.

 

You didn’t post this!

Hey i haven’t posted this yet but if you feel like it put this on your blog.

-Your Son Evan

[My 12-year old son has become somewhat obsessed with writing in my blog editor window when I leave it open on my laptop.  I think he’ll be very happy to see that I actually did post this.  Now, I’m going to have to get him to write something with more content.]

Republicans are great for the economy!

Kidding!  A break from Anthony Kennedy and the Supreme Court for this helpful reminder.

Drum:

For the past 40 years, the Republican playbook has been straightforward: they take office, cut taxes on the rich, and run up the national debt. Each time, Democrats have dutifully cleaned up their messes, only to watch them retake power and use the newly cleaned-up budget as yet another excuse to cut taxes on the rich and run up the national debt. Now Donald Trump has done it:

Needless to say, each time this happens Republicans start issuing dire warnings about the evils of a rising national debt as soon as the tax cut has passed. You’d think people would start cottoning to this eventually, but so far the con just keeps working. I wonder how much longer they can pull it off?

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