The Trump scam

I liked Brian Beutler’s succinct and spot-on take on Trump’s twitter attack on the Koch brothers today:

Here’s the Republican Party in a nutshell. President Trump and the Kochs pretend to feud, while simultaneously teaming up to loot the country, and install as many Republicans as possible in all branches of government. The Koch network will make just enough low-decibel noise about Trump’s unpopular immigration and trade policies to give Trump cover to pretend he’s bucking “globalists.” Trump plays a similar game with pharmaceutical companies, who have benefited enormously from Trump’s corporate tax cuts, and can thus brush off Trump’s disingenuous complaints about drug prices as part of the cost of doing business. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump described it as a “culture-wars-for-the-poor, tax-cuts-for-the-rich approach to politics.” Let them eat tweets, I guess.

And here’s some from Bump’s extended take:

But Trump’s pitch is twofold: I have conservative judicial picks, and I cut their taxes and made them richer. How on earth could the Kochs take issue with Trump when he made them richer? It defies understanding.

Thanks to a combination of hyperpartisanship, Trump’s willingness to say things that others wouldn’t and a stronger economy, Trump’s tenure as president has been an explicit manifestation of what once was a tricky balance. For years, many Republicans have worked to effect sweeping cuts and benefits for the wealthiest Americans while maintaining a non-wealthy voting base by engaging in robust cultural fights.

Trump has nearly perfected it.

He will argue, of course, that his economic policies have been an unalloyed good for the American worker. He did so in that tweet disparaging the Koch brothers. But his track record doesn’t quite match that rhetoric…

The president’s core policy priorities are centered on the sort of fearmongering that past Republicans often considered only more obliquely. Illegal immigration, criminal gangs, crime in general: These are the core problems Trump points to in his appeals to voters. [emphases mine] Crime is at near-historic lows nationally, a fact that Trump has sidestepped since the campaign. The racial undertones of Trump’s focal points are barely submerged and occasionally peek through into the light, as when Trump disparaged “s—hole” countries such as Haiti and African nations. Is kneeling at NFL games something worth the president’s attention? No, but Trump recognizes that combining racial tension with disingenuous arguments about patriotism — and even sprinkling some class warfare on top — can be a winner.

Why? Because Trump is willing to not only engage in cultural wars, but to embrace and embody them. Trump has made needling the left a central part of his administration, to his base’s delight. This whole theme of “owning the libs”? Might as well be Trump’s reelection slogan.

And, let’s be crystal clear here– this would not be such an effective strategy for Trump if a huge portion of the Republican electorate were not politically animated by xenophobia and racial animus.

We have criminalized 1970’s and 80’s parenting

This NYT Op-Ed “Motherhood in the Age of Fear” from Kim Brooks, based on her new book, is so good.  I’ve certainly complained here before about just how incredibly stupid we are about modern parenting, but this really brings a lot of different strands together in a particularly compelling and disturbing way.  You really ought to read the whole thing:

We now live in a country where it is seen as abnormal, or even criminal, to allow children to be away from direct adult supervision, even for a second.

We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression. Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked. But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point. We have decided to do whatever we have to do to feel safe from such horrors, no matter how rare they might be.

And so now children do not walk to school or play in a park on their own. They do not wait in cars. They do not take long walks through the woods or ride bikes along paths or build secret forts while we are inside working or cooking or leading our lives…

I was beginning to understand that it didn’t matter if what I’d done was dangerous; it only mattered if other parents felt it was dangerous. When it comes to kids’ safety, feelings are facts.

As one mother put it to me, “I don’t know if I’m afraid for my kids, or if I’m afraid other people will be afraid and will judge me for my lack of fear.” In other words, risk assessment and moral judgment are intertwined…

That same year, an Arizona woman named Shanesha Taylor was chargedwith two counts of felony child abuse and sentenced to 18 years of supervised probation, all because she had no child care and had to leave her two younger children in the car while she went on a job interview.

In a country that provides no subsidized child care and no mandatory family leave, no assurance of flexibility in the workplace for parents, no universal preschool and minimal safety nets for vulnerable families, making it a crime to offer children independence in effect makes it a crime to be poor.

I spent plenty of time alone in the car when I was a kid.  I wandered all over my neighborhood learning independence.  It was great.  And the point is not anecdote, but as a society we have completely given into irrational fears about child safety. That’s not okay.  And our public policy with regards to parenting sure as hell should not be reflecting that.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Though I’m not much of a Bernie fan, I am a pretty big fan of Elizabeth Warren.  Enjoyed this Rebecca Traister profile of her as the vanguard of Trump opposition.

2) Emily Yoffe on how “zero tolerance” is almost always a bad idea.  Amen!

3) The plastic straw ban gains momentum.  And yet:

The Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 Coastal Cleanup Report compiled beach cleanups around the world and found that the most common trash item found on beaches is cigarettes, followed by plastic bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, and bags. Straws and stirrers placed seventh on the list, at about 3 percent of the total trash. Bloomberg News estimates that on a global scale, straws would probably only account for 0.03 percent of total plastic waste by mass. Another study found that an estimated 46 percentof the debris in the ocean is abandoned fishing equipment.

Seriously, though.  My family uses re-usable water bottles all the time.  We bring our bags to the grocery store, we bring plastic home from fast-food restaurants to recycle.  Some, I’m not going to be lectured to because I still like drinking with plastic straws.

4) Chart from Axios.  Forget drugs– it’s all about hospital and physician prices!

5) Fortunately, I almost never have occasion to go to the trendy restaurants of today.  They are, indeed, too damn loud!

6) Anne Applebaum on the Russian threat:

This matters because Butina is at most the tip of the iceberg, one of the sillier, more junior players in a broader game. Far more important are Russian oligarchs bearing bribes or Russian hackers probing vulnerabilities in our political system as well as our electrical grid. To push back against them, as well as their equivalents from the rest of the autocratic world, we will need not only to catch the odd agent but also to make our political funding systems more transparent, to write new laws banning shell companies and money laundering, and to end the manipulation of social media. It took more than a generation for Americans to reject the temptations of communist authoritarianism; it will take more than a generation before we have defeated kleptocratic authoritarianism too — if we still can.

7) Bill Browder (the man responsible for the Magnistky Act) on Trump.

8) Civil War re-enactment is a dying world.  In part, because it is increasingly difficult to ignore the social-historical context of the War and focus just on the military specifics.

9) Forget batteries, we already have an affordable and efficient way to store energy on an industrial scale.  Use it to pump water uphill.  Seriously.  They are no considering a major project at Hoover Dam.  Also, a good Planet Money on this approach, recently.

10) Though I think we sometimes go too far in truly ambiguous cases (often, involving alcohol) about sexual assault policies, as far as what we teach our children and encourage in society, I really liked this take that “consent” is too low a bar.”


Quick hits (part I)

1) Really interesting feature on the difficulty of making life after hate for former hardcore white supremacists:

Confronting white supremacists online and in the streets may feel personally gratifying and politically urgent. Yet as liberals and the anti-Trump “resistance” fawn over Life After Hate, deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind. As Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University in California, puts it, “You probably don’t ever fully move on from violent extremism.” The uncomfortable truth is that the best way to reform racist thugs may be to offer them precisely what they aren’t willing to offer others, and precisely what many people in this polarized political moment feel they least deserve: empathy.

2) Goop (Gwynneth Paltrow’s monetized pseudo science) the magazine is not happening with Conde Nast (publisher of New Yorker, among others) because quality magazines insist on fact-checking.

3) The reality is that Paul Ryan is an horrible person who has protected Trump at every opportunity:

That’s important defensive work on behalf of Trump, and Ryan has been deeply engaged in it

Far more numerous, however, are Ryan’s sins of omissions: things he could have done to strengthen the Mueller investigation, protect it from interference, and subject the Trump administration to real scrutiny.

Ryan could condemn House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte for holding farcical hearings on FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok meant to cast the whole effort to investigate Trump’s Russia conduct as a witch hunt.

He could threaten to strip Gowdy and Goodlatte of their chairmanships unless they commit to launch investigations into Trump’s fraudulent charity, into his potentially corrupt real estate deals abroad, and into the possibility that Trump actively collaborated with Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks, or both. He could urge them to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and search them for irregularities. He has not done any of that.

Ryan could bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect Mueller against arbitrary firing, to the House floor for a vote, or force House Goodlatte to consider it in committee. He has not; he hasn’t even endorsed the bill.

Ryan could force a floor vote on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a bill with 200 co-sponsors (two of whom are Republicans) to create a National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election to investigate what exactly happened with Russia’s interference. He hasn’t endorsed the bill, let alone brought it up for a vote.

Ryan could also force a floor vote on a version of the Senate’s Secure Elections Act, which would get rid of paperless electronic voting machines that are hackable and push states to engage in routine audits to verify election results are legitimate. Mainstream Republicans like Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) are on board. Ryan is not.

A recent report by Politico Playbook suggested that congressional Republicans think all the criticism they’re receiving for carrying water for Trump is unfair. The message, Playbook reported, boiled down to, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT US TO DO?” They claim they’ve held sufficient hearings and slapped enough sanctions on Russia.

The litany above is what I want them to do, and the person who could make them do it is Paul Ryan. He could remove Devin Nunes with the stroke of a pen. He could bring floor votes on the above legislation whenever he wants. He could whip votes for the legislation too, and push Mitch McConnell to move it in the Senate.

That he doesn’t do any of that, and in fact actively enables the cover-up, is telling. Ryan genuinely believes that the cause of slashing corporate taxes and tax rates for rich Americans is worth collaborating with a reckless administration in an elaborate attempt to cover up wrongdoing. He makes that choice every day, and it should blacken his historical legacy.

4) I do find the controversy about Mesut Özil, the meaning of nationality in Germany, and the German soccer team pretty fascinating.

5) Why don’t more men take their wife’s last name?

And so it is that, even after generations of feminist progress, the expectation, at least for straight couples, has remained: Women take the man’s last name. Seventy-two percent of adults polled in a 2011 study said they believe a woman should give up her maiden name when she gets married, and half of those who responded said they believe that it should be a legal requirement, not a choice. In some states, married women could not legally vote under their maiden name until the mid-1970s.

The opposite—a man taking his wife’s name—remains incredibly rare: In a recent study of 877 heterosexual married men, less than 3 percent took their wife’s name when they got married. When her fiancé, Avery, announced that he wanted to take her last name, Becca Lamb, a 23-year-old administrative assistant living in Washington, D.C., told me that, at first, she said no: “It shocked me. I had always expected to take my husband’s last name someday. I didn’t want to do anything too out of the norm.”

6) I had no idea who James Gunn was but I think Disney was totally wrong in firing him.  And I also think we should not be aiding conservatives in weaponizing old tweets.

7) Sea-level rise is wreaking havoc on NC beaches.  But our Republican legislature requires we pretend otherwise.

8) Is there anything more pathetic than all the racist white people who insist that it is minorities and the anti-racists who are the problem when it comes to race?  David Roberts: on the reaction to his twitter “white people” poll:

Substantively (if you can call it that), there were two basic reactions. One is to say that I’m a racist, or liberals are the real racists, because they keep calling attention to race and dividing people up by race, while conservatives are just trying to be individuals and judge people by the content of their character. It’s the “No puppet! You’re the puppet!” of racism.

(I’m not going to pluck out individual tweets and embed them here because I don’t want to drag individuals on Twitter into a public dispute like this; you can read the thread to see if I’m characterizing it accurately.)

These are mutually contradictory points, of course. “You’re the real racist, and white people rule.” But they are both very familiar in conservative rhetoric and both delivered behind the same aesthetic, using the same keywords, in the same jumbled tone of fury and contempt.

9) I quite loved Billy Joel back in the day (pretty much never listen any more, though still have a soft spot for “Matter of Trust”).  Loved this NYT interview on what he’s up to and why he stopped recording new songs.

10) Speaking of music, had a great time seeing Weezer (for the third time) this past week.  Though, I realized it seems like rock and roll (i.e., guitar-driven rock) really is dead these days.  Given my negativity towards jazz, this little bit in a “rock and roll really is dead” piece really set me back:

Top 40 radio, which has always been for teenagers, is mostly devoted to post-rock pop and hip-hop. In 2016, rock is not teenage music.

Rock is now where jazz was in the early 1980s. Its form is mostly fixed.

Well, damn, nothing I love like catchy, guitar-driven music.

11) A victory for the Impossible Burger.  I remain a techno-optimist on widespread, affordable, and tasty plant-based meat in our future.  Good for our environment and good for humane treatment of animals.

World’s largest Mosque?

I’m finding the new Sacha Baron Cohen show a bit hit and miss (I guess he’s always been), but damn is this segment a hit.  Enjoy.

Coolest map ever

If you haven’t yet checked out this NYT interactive map with precinct-level data, set aside and do so.  So much fun.  Could hardly even stop getting my 12-year from exploring it with me tonight so he would go to bed.  (We especially loved the random voter island feature).  I also loved looking up everywhere I’ve ever lived (reddest = Southwestern Lubbock, Texas). The accompanying article on the highlights of the map is terrific too.  So many cool patterns.  Here’s the pattern in the South.  it’s almost as if race matters in America.

If you are out of NYT articles for the month, find a way– just too cool.  I’m definitely going to be having fun with this in many future political science classes.

And, because my son Evan was shocked to realize just how geographically concentrated the Democratic population is (and you should hear him rant against all the racist white people), here is a map that I showed him of counties which comprise half the population of the US (grew up in one, went to grad school in one, live in one):

Map of US 50 percent

How to cover Trump’s tweets

Ignore them.

Of course, there’s a case to be made that what the President says in inherently newsworthy.  That said a lot of “the president X ….” doesn’t really apply to Trump in the same way.  Hard to ignore the President’s bellicose bluster with Iran, but I think there is a very good case for completely ignoring the president’s inane and 100% false popping off about other matters, like this:

Nobody’s been tougher on Russia!!  Riiight.  And we have Eastasia always been at war with .

Anyway, if you are going to cover it, I like the approach the Post seems to be taking of late:

Without evidence [emphasis mine], Trump claims Russia ‘will be pushing very hard for the Democrats’ in 2018 midterms”

Of course, that could almost be the default for covering Trump, “Without evidence, Trump claims…” or “In a series of falsehoods, Trump claims…” or “in direct contravention of reality, Trump claims…”  etc.

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