The choice

Tom Friedman frames the 2018 midterm elections:

With the primary season winding down and the midterms soon upon us, it’s time to point out that this election is not about what you may think it’s about. It is not a choice between the particular basket of policies offered by the candidates for House or Senate in your district or state — policies like gun control, right to choose, free trade or fiscal discipline. No, what this election is about is your first chance since 2016 to vote against Donald Trump.

As far as I am concerned, that’s the only choice on the ballot. It’s a choice between letting Trump retain control of all the key levers of political power for two more years, or not.

If I were writing the choice on a ballot, it would read: “Are you in favor of electing a majority of Democrats in the House and/or Senate to put a check on Trump’s power — when his own party demonstrably will not? Or are you in favor of shaking the dice for another two years of unfettered control of the House, the Senate and the White House by a man who wants to ignore Russia’s interference in our election; a man whose first thought every morning is, ‘What’s good for me, and can I get away with it?’; a man who shows no compunction about smearing any person or government institution that stands in his way; and a man who is backed by a party where the only members who’ll call him out are those retiring or dying?”

If your answer is the former, then it can only happen by voting for the Democrat in your local House or Senate race.

I do wonder how many Republicans who actually deplore Trump for all the right reasons will just find it too hard to vote for Democrats for Congress.  But if recognize the need to check Trump that is, clearly, literally, the only choice.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Sarah Kliff had some great pieces on the insanity of ER bills a couple weeks ago.  You can make sure you actually go to an in-network ER when having an emergency only to be billed for out-of-network physicians in your in-network ER.  Only in America.  Her follow-up is called, “There are actually some great policy ideas to prevent surprise ER bills.”  But, of course, there are.  I don’t think policy to prevent this is actually all that complicated.  It’s political will, damnit.

2) Caitlyn Flanagan on Title IX and “mutually non-consensual sex.”

3) The famous marshmallow test of delayed gratification is not all it’s cracked up to be.  And, like so much in life, it’s really all about socio-economic background.

Watts and his colleagues were skeptical of that finding. The original results were based on studies that included fewer than 90 children—all enrolled in a preschool on Stanford’s campus. In restaging the experiment, Watts and his colleagues thus adjusted the experimental design in important ways: The researchers used a sample that was much larger—more than 900 children—and also more representative of the general population in terms of race, ethnicity, and parents’ education. The researchers also, when analyzing their test’s results, controlled for certain factors—such as the income of a child’s household—that might explain children’s ability to delay gratification and their long-term success.

Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success…

This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages.

4) Paul Waldman on the pardons:

On Thursday, President Trump announced that he is pardoning conservative pundit and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pled guilty in 2014 to violating campaign-finance laws. Unlike other presidents who used their pardon power to correct injustices, Trump has used it almost exclusively to dole out favors to the right wing.

That Trump decided to pardon D’Souza, one of the most despicable and poisonous figures in American public life, is further proof that this president spends a good deal of his time acting like a right-wing Internet troll whose greatest pleasure in life comes from finding ways to Trigger the Libs.

I suspect a lot of the coverage of this decision will be framed as “Trump Pardons Conservative Author,” which will inevitably soft-pedal the rancid bile D’Souza regularly spews into American debate. So we have to be clear about just who D’Souza is. He isn’t just a conservative or a provocateur. He’s a bigot, a liar, a criminal, and a peddler of insane and hateful conspiracy theories.

First, let’s put this in context. Trump’s previous pardons were granted to the authoritarian racist Joe Arpaio; Kristian Saucier, a sailor convicted in a case in which he photographed classified spaces on a submarine, who became a cause celebre on the right when conservatives tried to use him as an argument for why Hillary Clinton should be punished for having a private email server; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who revealed the name of a covert CIA operative in order to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration; and the boxer Jack Johnson, whose case was championed by Sylvester Stallone.

In other words, with the exception of Johnson’s pardon — which Trump gave solely because a celebrity asked him to — all of his pardons were meant as favors to the right wing…

In other words, D’Souza is a conservative for the Trump era: bigoted, hateful, happy to spread lies, and consumed with bizarre theories about Democrats’ secret plans to destroy the country. In fairness, we should acknowledge that many conservatives find D’Souza an embarrassment, someone they wish would go away and not sully their ideological cause with his loathsome ideas.

5) Chait, “The Constitutional Crisis Is Already Underway.”

6) Alexis Madrigal on how Americans still watch a ton of TV:

Americans still watch an absolutely astounding amount of traditional television. In fact, television viewing didn’t peak until 2009-2010, when the average American household watched 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day. And the ’00s saw the greatest growth in TV viewing time of any decade since Nielsen began keeping track in 1949-1950: Americans watched 1 hour and 23 minutes more television at the end of the decade than at the beginning. Run the numbers and you’ll find that 32 percent of the increase in viewing time from the birth of television to its peak occurred in the first years of the 21st century.

Over the last 8 years, all the new, non-TV things—Facebook, phones, YouTube, Netflix—have only cut about an hour per day from the dizzying amount of TV that the average household watches. Americans are still watching more than 7 hours and 50 minutes per household per day.

7) When abortion is illegal but still common (which it would be in America) there are a host of new problems, as we can see in Latin America.

8) One of the most frustrating things about our criminal justice system is the utter lack of respect and concern for real science.  The idea that somebody would be put away for life based on dubious “blood splatter” analysis is so appalling.  Great summary of this problematic issue in an NYT editorial:

That unreliability is not unique to bloodstain-pattern analysis. As DNA testing has revolutionized forensic science and helped to exonerate hundreds of wrongfully convicted people, it has also shined a light on the inadequacy of earlier methods. The National Academy of Sciences report found significant problems with the analysis of bite marks, tire treads, arson and hair samples. In 2015, the F.B.I. released an initial review of hundreds of convictions it had won and found that over two decades, the bureau’s “elite” forensic hair-sample analysts testified wrongly in favor of the prosecution 96 percent of the time. Thirty-two of the defendants in those cases were sentenced to death, and 14 of those were executed or died in prison.

The scientific analysis of forensic evidence can be essential to solving crimes, but as long as the process is controlled by the police and prosecutors, and not scientists, there will never be adequate oversight. Changing this was the goal of a national commission established in the wake of the 2009 report. Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long sided with prosecutors and rejected efforts to look more critically at forensic sciences, let the commission expire last year.

 

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