Briefly on the birthright citizenship nonsense

Drum (and Frum) makes me think maybe we’ve all been trolled:

By an amazing coincidence, Donald Trump has suddenly decided—seven days before an election—that he can repeal this part of the 14th Amendment with an executive order. David Frum explains:

A week before the election we have an “invasion” of brown people from the south. We have declarations that these brown people are diseased. We have 5,000 troops ordered to the border. We have dark intimations of “closing off” the border completely. And now we have the end of birthright citizenship.

All of this is designed to bring hate and fear to a fever pitch just before Election Day. If that means a few killings in Pittsburgh and Kentucky, well, it’s the media’s fault.

And for once, Trump has a point. All of Trump’s fear-mongering would be for nothing if the media didn’t report so breathlessly about it. Today will be a test. Repealing the 14th Amendment via executive order is a pure publicity stunt. It has no basis in history or reality, and there’s no reason to give it more than just the briefest dose of oxygen. Let’s see what CNN and the others do about it.

Garrett Epps with how absurd this all is.

And my few minutes on the local news.  Not a big fan of the local law professor (quite the conservative) who suggests this is actually pretty unsettled Constitutional law.  It’s not.

Midterm implications for Slovaks

Sorry, slow with blogging and yet so much fascinating stuff going on.  Here’s my email interview with Pravda:

1. If Dems will take over at least the House in the midterm elections, do you think they will try to impeach President Donald Trump, or perhaps both sides will try some conciliatory steps?
As for Impeachment, I think it depends very much on Mueller’s report.  If Mueller’s report is particular damning in ways that resonate with the public (something I consider at less than 50% likelihood, but far greater than 0), Democrats will very much push for impeachment.  If Mueller’s report is seen as not particularly, though, or even if it is, but the public does not seem to have an appetite for impeachment, the Democrats will not push it.  I think there’s a clear lesson from 1998 and Bill Clinton that it is to a political party’s detriment to push impeachment when the public is not really behind it.  Regardless of impeachment, the Mueller report could certainly cripple Trumps presidency by further diminishing his public credibility.
Honestly, though, the most important part of a Democratic House majority would simply be for the Congress to provide an important check on the Presidency.  The Republicans have been entirely unwilling to provide any such check, even with President Trump showing very clear impulses towards authoritarianism.  A Democratic House majority becomes that essential check.  Additionally, Mueller aside, there is very suggestive evidence of financial malfeasance in Trump’s past not to mention serious concerns about his ongoing financial concerns that he has not actually separated from his presidency.  To say that Trump presents a target-rich-environment for Congressional investigations is an understatement.  The Democrats will have to try not to push it too far.  But, evidence says you can actually get away with pushing a lot of things too far (e.g., Benghazi).
2. If Reps will be able to keep the control of Congress, what can we expect from Trump’s presidency?
Trump unleashed.  If Republicans keep Congress Trump will feel vindicated in everything that he has done.  Whatever modest constraints Republicans have placed on him (mostly in the Senate) may go out the window.  Expect even more of a white-ethno-nationalist agenda and harsh immigration policies that play to Trump’s base.  And probably willingness to take on popular social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.  And, undoubtedly, Trump will push the envelope even more with his seeming disdain for basic principles of the rule of law.

What to actually do about the caravan

Send thousands of troops to the border ;-).  Actually, Sonia Nazario, writing in the NYT, has some interesting ideas to help address the problems at the source, in Central America.

That said, I get so tired of the “oh, both sides will complain about this approach” to prove centrist bonafides.  You know what, I’m a liberal, and I think it sounds great pretty much all around:

For anyone who actually wants to work to resolve the immigration issue — not just use it to bludgeon the other side — I have a plan. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will love all of it. But it is relatively humane and fair, it would keep more migrants at home, where most would rather live and, unlike President Trump’s proposal, it would actually adhere to the rule of law.

Oh, and also, I’m comfortable with intellectually bludgeoning those who think we should separate and imprison small children at our border.  Anyway…

President Trump is threatening to cut foreign aid to punish these countries for not, as he sees it, doing enough to stop the caravan. That is among the dumbest things he could do. Foreign aid pays for programs that are actually making headway in reducing the corruption and violence that drive people to migrate.

Anti-corruption programs are already under siege. The Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, an initiative through the Organization of American States, was pursuingan embezzlement case against five members of Congress until legislators passed a law effectively putting it in the hands of an organization they themselves controlled.

Meanwhile, in Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales announced that he would not authorize the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala to even remain in the country. It has had notable success in fighting organized crime and led to the jailing of former president Otto Pérez Molina and his vice president for overseeing a customs-fraud network. One of group’s main focuses now, not surprisingly, is investigating the current president, Mr. Morales, for corruption.

The United States has supported these two organizations, but now, President Trump and his administration are doing virtually nothing to protect them.

People have lost hope that anything will change in these countries. We should not be surprised that they are voting with their feet.

But I get it: 396,579 migrants apprehended at our border in one year is still a lot of migrants. What will slow the flow?

We know that deterrence doesn’t work… [emphases mine]

So here’s my proposal. First, we must address the violence and despair that are pushing migrants out of these three countries.

The good news is we already know how to reduce violence and corruption, and strengthen good government. In Honduras, the United States has been running pilot violence prevention programs since 2014…

In 96 percent of homicides in Honduras in recent years, no one was convicted. Witnesses know: you testify, and the gang kills you immediately. The United States helped fund a nonprofit, the Association for a More Just Society, to investigate all murders in the most violent neighborhoods. It persuades witnesses to testify, anonymously, covered in a black burqa. In Rivera Hernández, murders plummeted by 62 percent in two years. And the number of Honduran children showing up at the United States border was cut almost in half…

I get blowback from liberals when I advocate this kind of meddling in Central America. I understand; I covered the wars in Central America. Yes, the United States has done a lot of bad things there…

But now some of what we are doing is actually working. Shouldn’t we do much more of it?

Yes, this committed liberal thinks we, the United States, needs to do more through direct action in Central America to help the people there so they don’t have to feel like their only hope is as a refugee.  Are there really so many liberals who feel otherwise?  This is not exactly propping up right-wing death squads in El Salvador.

So, yeah, let’s just flat out do this stuff.  And, let’s not pretend that liberals are the hindrance to the smarter policies we need to pursue.


Trump, the caravan, and the Pittsburgh Shooter

I started reading this excellent Adam Serwer piece thinking, “yeah, but blaming Trump for the Pittsburgh shooter still seems a bit much” but this is an amazing look at how right-wing media is covering the caravan:

In the right-wing fever swamps, where the president’s every word is worshipped, commenters began amplifying Trump’s exhortations with new details. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wondered whether George Soros—the wealthy Jewish philanthropist whom Trump and several members of the U.S. Senate blamed for the protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and who was recently targeted with a bomb—was behind the migrant caravan. NRATV, the propaganda organ of the National Rifle Association, linked two Republican obsessions, voter fraud and immigration. Chuck Holton told NRATV’s viewers that Soros was sending the caravan to the United States so the migrants could vote: “It’s telling that a bevy of left-wing groups are partnering with a Hungarian-born billionaire and the Venezuelan government to try to influence the 2018 midterms by sending Honduran migrants north in the thousands.”[emphases mine] On CNN, the conservative commentator Matt Schlapp pointedly asked the anchor Alisyn Camerota, “Who’s paying for the caravan? Alisyn, who’s paying for the caravan?,” before later answering his own question: “Because of the liberal judges and other people that intercede, including George Soros, we have too much chaos at our southern border.” On Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, one guest said, “These individuals are not immigrants—these are people that are invading our country,” as another guest asserted they were seeking “the destruction of American society and culture.”

My oh my.  I knew it was bad, but, wow.  And, yes, shame on the mainstream media, too:

In the meantime, much of the mainstream press abetted Trump’s effort to make the midterm election a referendum on the caravan. Popular news podcasts devoted entire episodes to the caravan. It remained on the front pages of major media websites. It was an overwhelming topic of conversation on cable news, where Trumpists freely spread disinformation about the threat the migrants posed, while news anchors displayed exasperation over their false claims, only to invite them back on the next day’s newscast to do it all over again.

Yeah, but what does this have to do with the shooter.  Actually, something:

Nevertheless, some took the claims of the president and his allies seriously. On Saturday morning, Shabbat morning, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people. The massacre capped off a week of terrorism, in which one man mailed bombs to nearly a dozen Trump critics and another killed two black people in a grocery store after failing to force his way into a black church.

Before committing the Tree of Life massacre, the shooter, who blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and who raged about it on social media, made it clear that he was furious at hias, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees in the United States. He shared posts on Gab, a social-media site popular with the alt-right, expressing alarm at the sight of “massive human caravans of young men from Honduras and El Salvador invading America thru our unsecured southern border.” And then he wrote, “hias likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Obviously, there will always be crazy people out there who can be activated by the most absurd propaganda.  But, only in America do they have such absurdly easy access to guns.  And, a president who aids and abets the worst of what the right-wing fever swamp has to offer.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I still think Honeycrisp are overrated, but I always love learning more about apples.  And, I must admit, I’m pretty excited about the coming Cosmic Crisp.  Also, somehow missed this excellent NPR article about “club apples” from a few years ago.

2) Absolutely an under-covered story this election is Republican voter-supression efforts.  Ari Berman in the NYT:

In Georgia and other states, the question in this election is not just about which candidates voters will support, but whether they’ll be able to cast a ballot in the first place. The fight over voting rights in the midterms is a reminder that elections are not solely about who is running, what their commercials say or how many people are registered to vote. They are about who is allowed to vote and which officials are placing obstacles in the way of would-be voters.

The issue of voter suppression has exploded in recent weeks, most notably in the Georgia governor’s race between Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, and Brian Kemp, a Republican. While running for higher office, Mr. Kemp, as secretary of state, also enforces Georgia’s voting laws. This month, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Kemp’s office had put more than 53,000 voter registration applications in limbo because the information on the forms did not exactly match state databases. Seventy percent of the pending registrations were from African-Americans, leading Ms. Abrams to charge that Mr. Kemp was trying “to tilt the playing field in his favor.” Mr. Kemp claimed a voter registration group tied to Ms. Abrams had “submitted sloppy forms.”

Since the 2010 election, 24 states overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans have put in place new voting restrictions, such as tougher voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and barriers to registration. Republicans say these measures are necessary to combat the threat of widespread voter fraud, even though study after study shows that such fraud is exceedingly rare. Many of these states have hotly contested races in 2018, and a drop in turnout among Democratic constituencies, such as young people and voters of color, could keep Republicans in power.

3) And the Atlantic’s Van Newkirk II:

Democracy in America is only a little over five decades old. That’s difficult to square with the America that exists in the storytelling tradition: a brave experiment in a government run for and by the people. In reality, the country has always been defined as much by whom it’s kept from voting as by who is allowed to participate, and the ideal of democracy has always been limited by institutions designed to disenfranchise. Put another way: The great majority of all elections in American history would have been entirely illegitimate under modern law.

It seems even today’s elections would have difficulty meeting those standards. Claims of voter suppression have multiplied during the 2018 midterm-election cycle. Gerrymanders dilute black and Latino votes. Voter-ID laws in some states disproportionately affect people of color. Polling-place changes, lines, and irregularities still characterize the voting experiences of many communities of color. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor—the state’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp—is facing a lawsuit over allegedly racially biased voter purges. American democracy finds itself at a crossroads, and a future where more suppression is the norm seems like a strong possibility…

Regardless of the outcome, these tactics will make an indelible historical mark on the Georgia election. In that, it’s the vanguard of a new norm rather than an outlier. Since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the Supreme Court defanged federal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has taken an ax to the stump of voter protections that remained.

In June of this year, the Court gave its blessing to aggressive voter purges, even those that all existing data indicate affect minority communities most. The Court has moved toward extending authorization for voter-ID laws, despite data showing the same. Adding to the Court’s finding in Shelby County that past disenfranchisement was no longer a valid factor in developing current protections against disenfranchisement, the Court argued that “good faith of [the] state legislature must be presumed,” when it upheld Texas congressional districts that were challenged as racial gerrymanders.

So far, the results have been undeniable. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 2 million more people than expected have lost their voting status because of purges after Shelby County. Also according to the Brennan Center, 23 states have made their voting laws more restrictive since 2010, including six of the 10 states with the highest proportions of black voters. And that count doesn’t include North Carolina, the state with the seventh-highest population of black voters, where a battle involving voter ID, gerrymandering, and racial discrimination has dominated politics over the past decade. Nor does it include Texas, now a major battleground for voter-ID laws and gerrymandering plans that mostly affect its high population of Latino voters.

4) Getting adolescent boys to talk about their feelings.  Hell, yeah.

“In here, we get to say stuff we wouldn’t normally say in front of other people. And we don’t judge each other,” said a seventh grader with dark curls. “Boys should have a safe space to talk about things that matter to us,” said another seventh grader with a hint of a Canadian accent.

The two were veterans of a weekly lunch time boys’ group at the Sheridan School, a K-8 private school in Northwest Washington, D.C., explaining the group’s purpose to new members.

Hands went up, thumbs and pinkies wagged back and forth in the shaka or “hang loose” hand gesture, which signifies full agreement at Sheridan. The group’s primary adviser, Phyllis Fagell, started an activity she called the “man box.” She called out a feeling or emotion, and the boys were supposed to determine if it belonged inside or outside of this figurative container of masculine stereotypes.

The 11 middle-school boys quickly agreed that none of the following belonged in the “man box”: trust, sadness, tenderness, patience, fear, insecurity, confusion, feeling overwhelmed and joy.

“You just eliminated 80 percent of human emotions from the male experience,” said Ms. Fagell, who is the school counselor. “Does that surprise you?”

5) Does living together before marriage increase the likelihood of divorce?  Maybe, maybe not.  (But it does increase the likelihood of going to hell!  Sorry, couldn’t resist).  Seriously, researchers still cannot come to a consensus.

6) Drum’s Q&A on Trump’s oddly sensible proposal on prescription drug prices is the best thing I’ve read on it:

Q: This is great! Right now I pay about $400 in annual premiums and another $1,800 in deductibles and copays for my prescription drugs through Medicare. This could really make a—

A: Hold on, cowboy. Just settle down. Let’s get one thing straight right off: Trump’s announcement has nothing to do with your prescription drug plan.

Q: Wait. What?

A: You’re thinking of Medicare Part D, which was passed in 2003. It covers prescription drugs for seniors, but Republicans specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices on Part D and there’s nothing Trump can do about that. Democrats tried to pass a bill changing this a few years ago, but Republicans filibustered it and it failed.

Q: So Trump is asking them to take another look?

A: Nope. Democrats proposed yet another bill last year that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but Republicans killed it and Trump just shrugged. He was too busy trying to dismantle Obamacare. Nothing is changing there.

7) It’s so fascinating the way complex ecosystems are connected.  And really disturbing how human actions can throw these all out of balance.  On the California coast, sea urchins are gobbling up all the kelp.

8) Interesting idea– battery swapping as a faster and more efficient way to charge electric vehicles.

9) The case for teaching loneliness prevention in our schools:

The ideal school curriculum for teaching loneliness prevention, Holt-Lunstad says, would target social isolation as well as the cognitive processes that make people feel lonelier—while, of course, teaching students the health risks associated with loneliness. “Recognizing that it’s something that we need to take seriously for our health is a primary and critical step,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad advocates for a sort of “social education”—similar to efforts by schools to provide, say, sex education and physical education—that would be integrated into existing health-education curricula to teach students how to build and maintain friendships and relationships. Learning how to provide the kind of help and support a friend or partner feels a need for is an invaluable social skill that can be taught in the classroom, she adds. For example, when a friend who is broke asks for money but instead receives a lecture on financial management, she isn’t likely to feel she’s been supported in the way she needs.

10) Initiatives in California and Florida could require more humane treatment animals.  Since the legislatures are obviously far more influenced by Big Agriculture, this is one way to get policy more in line with what the public actually thinks:

Most Americans aren’t vegetarians or vegans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the welfare of animals. Nearly everyone consumes animals that are raised and killed on factory farms (over 99 percent of land animals raised for food are, so even “humane”-labeled food is typically factory-farmed). But even most meat-eating Americans are strongly opposed to the abuses that are commonplace in the industry. In a 2017 Ipsos/Sentience Institute poll, 49 percent of Americans supported a ban on factory farming, nearly 90 percent thought “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans,” and nearly 70 percent agreed that “the factory farming of animals is one of the most important social issues in the world today.”

11) Nice video of Donald Trump advocating political violence time and time again.

12) David Brooks embracing the “nationalist” tag in defense of Trump is pretty pathetic and disgusting.  A great example of NYT commenters being far smarter than the writer in pointing out that Brooks is really talking about “patriotism” and saying “nationalism” for Trump’s benefit.

13) Column in Chronicle of Higher Education advocating lowering the stakes of the job interview dinner.  Good God I would never want a job at a place that chose against me because I prefer pizza and Diet Dr Pepper over sushi and beer.  My experience… people on the search committee want a free dinner at a fancy restaurant and really don’t care much about what the job candidate eats.

14) My friend and colleague Mark Nance on why North Carolinians should vote against the 6 misleading Constitutional amendments the Republicans put onto our ballot.

15) How a controversial on-line charter school is having a surprisingly large impact on Ohio politics.

16) Interesting piece in the Atlantic,  “College Sports Are Affirmative Action for Rich White Students: Athletes are often held to a lower standard by admissions officers, and in the Ivy League, 65 percent of players are white.”

17) EJ Dionne on the Republicans’ long con on the deficit:

A truly gifted con artist is someone who pulls off the same scam again and again and keeps getting away with it.

Say what you will about Republicans and conservatives: Their audacity when it comes to deficits and tax cuts is something to behold, and they have been running the same play since the passage of the Reagan tax cuts in 1981.

Republicans shout loudly about how terrible deficits are when Democrats are in power — even in cases when deficits are essential to pulling the nation out of economic catastrophe, as was the case at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term.

But when the GOP takes control, its legions cheerfully embrace Dick Cheney’s law and send deficits soaring. Recall what President George W. Bush’s vice president said in 2002 justifying the 2003 tax cuts: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Deficits don’t matter if they would impede handing out tax benefits to corporations and the affluent. But they put us “on the brink of national bankruptcy” and threaten “a debt crisis,” as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put it in 2011, when Democrats want to finance programs for the middle class or the poor.

And here’s the critical insight:

Republicans know one other thing: Their deception will work as long as neutral arbiters — in the media and think tanks along with those who genuinely care about deficits — fail to call it out…[emphasis mine]

So here is my plea to the honest deficit hawks out there: Please face up to how right-wing policies are doubly damaging to national solvency. They raise deficits by reducing revenues. But they also endanger us by aggravating inequalities that themselves imperil sustainable budgets and a growing economy. This is worse than a swindle. It’s a dangerous mistake.

18) Disturbing new evidence on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming:

Now a new study, years in the making, goes further than any other to demonstrate that resistant bacteria can move from animals to humans via the meat they become. It also provides a model of how new surveillance systems might reduce that bacterial flow at its source on farms.

It’s just one study, but it possesses outsize significance, because it eliminates the uncertainty at the center of that bacterial flow. Outside of experimental conditions, it’s never been possible to prove that this antibiotic given to thatanimal gave rise to this bacterium that ended up in thathuman. But this new work dives so deeply into the genomics of bacterial adaptation in food animals and humans, it proves the link that ag would rather deny.



Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait on GOP and the crazy bomber dude:

The left certainly has illiberal, paranoid modes of thought. The difference is that the left-wing version resides outside the boundaries of two-party politics, because the Democratic Party is fundamentally liberal not radical. Coulter’s examples of “liberal” violence inadvertently bear this out: the Haymarket Square bombers were anarchists, and the Unabomber developed an idiosyncratic hatred of technology that did not connect to other nodes of left-wing politics. The street-fighting cult antifa lies outside of, and is primarily hostile to, Democratic politics. Left-wing violence from the 1960s likewise came out of radical groups who viewed the Democratic Party with contempt.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has followed a course that has made its rhetoric amenable to extremism. Republican radicalism enabled the rise of a conspiratorial authoritarian president, and that president has expanded the bounds of the party’s following farther out to the fringe. It is getting harder and harder to distinguish the “normal” elements of conservatism from the “kook” parts. That some of those kooks would resort to violence is not an accident but a statistical likelihood. Trump’s party is a petri dish for diseased minds.

2) As a candy lover, I loved this cool NYT magazine candy feature.  And I had no idea that Japan loves Kit-Kat’s so much (me, too).

3) Jennifer Finney Boylan on the stupidity of judging as “calling balls and strikes” (something pretty much only conservative judges argue):

There was a lot of talk during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing about the proper role of a judge, comparing his or her ideal approach with that of an umpire. It was Chief Justice John Roberts, in fact, who — during his own hearing in 2005 — most famously used the metaphor. “Umpires don’t make the rules,” he said. “They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

A few years later, during Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she agreed with much of what Chief Justice Roberts had said. But she also noted that the metaphor might suggest to some people that law is a kind of robotic enterprise, that “everything is clear cut, and there’s no judgment in the process. And I do think that that’s not right, and that it’s especially not right at the Supreme Court level, where the hardest cases go.”

Judges, like umpires, have to decide what kind of philosophers they will be: empiricists, realists, pragmatists — or something else entirely.

If you “call them the way you see them,” you’re accepting that your role is to incorporate your own wisdom and research into the making of decisions — because “the way you see them” is influenced by your own experience of being human.

If you believe “they ain’t nothing until I call ’em!” you’re not just a pragmatist — you’re an activist, or so conservative legal scholars would have you believe.

And if you “call them the way they are,” you’re suggesting that the law exists independent of human experience — that the business of judging should be like the job of a robot. The realist’s world is a black-and-white one, with no shades of gray.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the world of grays that often presents the greatest challenge for conservatives; they don’t like it when things fall outside the bright lines originally imagined by our 18th-century founders — men whom, we should note, agreed that African-Americans should count as only three-fifths of a human and that the right to vote should be reserved for white men who owned land.

But the passage of time ensures that a changing world surely contains shades of gray. Most of the cases coming before the Supreme Court call not for the application of black-and-white rules but for an understanding of the complexity of human experience.

4) US Fertility rates are way down in just the past decade.  That’s not good (below the 2.1 replacement level is a problem).  And there’s a variety of theories as to why.

5) I’ve beenn waiting and waiting for Terry Gross to get on the Bojack Horseman train and finally interview it’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.  Finally

6) And the Guardian with a relatively spoiler-free review of the terrific 5th season I just finished watching.

7) Great Jack Shafer column on the need to stop giving attention to everything Trump says:

The rule that everything the president says is newsworthy was established in those days when presidents 1) were less omnipresent that Trump 2) were more circumspect in what they said and 3) in which there was no cable news. [emphases mine] Nobody ever claimed that the president had a right to massive mindshare every time he opened his mouth, but that’s where we’ve landed. When Trump denounced kneeling NFL players—over whom he has no control—the press made a big deal out of it. When he claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners“ have joined the migrant caravans, we elevated it. When he described well-reported news stories as “fake news,” we gave it big play. But why? The press long ago established that Trump lies with such frequency that it might be easier to count the number of true statements he’s made than false ones.

Like winter rain in Seattle, Trump’s lies, his incessant name-calling, and his baseless rabble-rousing have become so common they merit almost no recognition as “news.” I’m not suggesting that the press ignore Trump when he refers to the “Democrat mob” or makes off-the-cuff threats to impose new tariffs. Reporters should still record his remarks for analysis. But they should abandon the default news-sense setting that dictates that any Trumpian riff deserves top-news treatment. As I brainstormed this idea with my editor, I suggested that newspapers could run columns (buried inside the front section) titled “Shit Trump Says” that would list Trump’s arbitrary policy pitches and verbal berserking. My editor said, no, that would only encourage him to fill the column with the sort of vituperation that would make it destination reading.

For once, my editor was right. The threshold for what constitutes news from Trump’s mouth should be reset. Unless his statements are true or his proposals have some chance of advancing, Trump’s loose talk belongs in concise and dismissive stories in the middle pages of the newspaper where we can skim them and move on. The press corps’ new motto should read: “Just because the president said it doesn’t mean it’s news.” Put the president’s boombox on mute.

8) Really interesting Jay Rosen piece on the defensiveness of the NYT.

9) I didn’t know that they made clothes from plastic bottles until last week when I got some new pants with an “I’m made from plastic bottles label.”  And then Vox has something on it the same time.

10) Some good PS research from Gregory Martin and Steven Webster on geographic sorting:

Political preferences in the United States are highly correlated with population density, at national, state, and metropolitan-area scales. Using new data from voter registration records, we assess the extent to which this pattern can be explained by geographic mobility. We find that the revealed preferences of voters who move from one residence to another correlate with partisan affiliation, though voters appear to be sorting on non-political neighborhood attributes that covary with partisan preferences rather than explicitly seeking politically congruent neighbors. But, critically, we demonstrate through a simulation study that the estimated partisan bias in moving choices is on the order of five times too small to sustain the current geographic polarization of preferences. We conclude that location must have some influence on political preference, rather than the other way around, and provide evidence in support of this theory.

11) Not quite sure what to make of this Post piece on Northerners who love the confederate flag.

12) OMG this ad in Arkansas is unreal.  I played in class this week and one kid literally just dropped his jaw and kept his mouth agape in shock for the whole ad.  I then got to show them this jaw-dropping NC ad from 12 years ago that was basically from the same guy.

13) I take probiotics every day because Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG has actually shown some efficacy in real double-blind trials.  But its probably not doing as much as I hope.  The proven benefits of probiotics are pretty limited.  Aaron Carroll:

Given all of this, what are the benefits? The most obvious use of probiotics would be in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, given that they are focused on gut health. There have been many studies in this domain, so many that early this year the journal Nutrition published a systematic review of systematic reviews on the subject.

The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 reviewshowed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.

Those somewhat promising results — for very specific uses of very specific strains of bacteria in very specific instances — are just about all the “positive” results you can find.

Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrheaThree reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.

14) So, this seems so wrong that it can still happen.  NYT: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: Women in strenuous jobs lost their pregnancies after employers denied their requests for light duty, even ignoring doctors’ notes, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

15) I have to confess, I did not read all of the NYT’s big story on Trump’s massive life-long tax fraud.  But this Fresh Air interview with the authors was great and so worth a lesson.  Rather than focusing on the tax fraud, the real story is about just what an incredible con man Trump is and how he has been conning pretty much everybody (notably of late, credulous Republican voters) about his wealth for pretty much his whole adult life.

The Republicans we need

Really enjoyed Nicholas Kristof’s column earlier this week:

Just as deer populations need wolves or cougars to keep them healthy, Democrats benefit from predatory Republicans.

America needs a robust center-right party to hold progressives like me accountable. Cities and states run by a single party slide toward poor governance, and conservatives are essential to push back at flabby thinking on the left — like California’s Proposition 10, a populist rent control proposal that might backfire and magnify homelessness.

Unfortunately, the principled version of the Republican Party in Congress has virtually collapsed, a crisis compounded by the death of Senator John McCain. Republican leaders in Congress actively resist providing congressional oversight and are no more than the president’s poodles.

Sure, there are still many principled individuals within the party, but as a national institution the Republican Party is hollow. It is no longer about an ideology; it’s about shining President Trump’s shoes. And that is the fundamental issue hanging over the midterm elections.

Yes!  I love this metaphor.  As I’ve written many times, I want a healthy, robust, thoughtful Republican party that advances smart, good-faith arguments for more individual rights, less government regulation, and meaningful respect for more traditional values.  I don’t want the Republican version of these things, but I think the more liberal version will end up being better for a thoughtful, good-faith debate.  Alas, the current Republican party is soooo far from this.  Kristof’s column continues on to catalog the many failings.  This is just not good for Republicans, Democrats, or our democracy.

My one objection to Kristof is, “Sure, there are still many principled individuals within the party.”  Ummm, no.  If he means elite NeverTrump pundits, they are hardly “within the party.”  The party is characterized by either authoritarian ethno-nationalists or cowards who refuse to stand up to them for fear of losing their own power.  The latter do not count as “principled” in my book.

Exclude this

Back when I was young, naive, and too easily influenced by TV and Hollywood, I thought the exclusionary rule was just horrible.  Why would you let a clearly guilty person go free just because the cops made a mistake.  Isn’t the solution to just punish the cops?!  Oh, how naive I was.  I have long since learned better.  The genius of the exclusionary rule is that it gives the police a hell of an incentive not to violate Constitutional rights in the collection of evidence.  Because, as we know, in reality, the chance that police will actually be meaningfully disciplined for conducting illegal searches, etc., is pretty damn small.  Thus, yes, we do actually let guilty people go free sometimes.  But all of us  are the beneficiaries because it keeps us from living in a police state.

Adult me who studies criminal justice (or lets be honest, any adult who reads the news without hopeless ideological blinders) can tell you that punishing the police is not going to be the solution.  Alas, people like Antonin Scalia, a supposedly brilliant jurist, still managed to see the world like my 13-year old self.  Radley Balko follows up his great reporting on the totally corrupt and out-of-control Little Rock PD with some very compelling evidence on the importance of the exclusionary rule.  Balko:

As I pointed out in a piece published on Sunday, the reason narcotics officers can get away with it goes back to another Supreme Court case — 2006’s Hudson v. Michigan. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that, while the Fourth Amendment does indeed require police to knock and announce, violations of the knock-and-announce rule would not result in the suppression of any evidence seized in the ensuing raid. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that there were other remedies for violations of the rule, such as civil liability (lawsuits) or internal professional discipline. [emphases mine]

Seriously?!  Oh, the willful naivete.  Continuing:

As David Moran — the attorney who argued for the losing side in Hudson — told me, Scalia’s remedies have proven insufficient to deter these violations. And, in fact, those of us who were concerned about these sorts of raids predicted at the time that the court’s ruling in Hudson would result in, well, exactly what we’re now seeing in Little Rock.

There’s lot of debate about the Exclusionary Rule, which says any incriminating evidence that police obtain during an illegal search can’t be used against a defendant at trial. Conservatives have long argued that the rule only protects the guilty, since innocent people won’t be in possession of incriminating evidence, regardless of the legality of the search. And even some supporters of the rule have argued that it doesn’t have much value as a deterrent.

What is happening in Little Rock would seem to refute both arguments.

Let’s take the first argument, that the rule only protects the guilty. To examine this, let’s assume that (a) the Supreme Court had ruled the other way in Hudson, and (b) the Exclusionary Rule is an effective deterrent against violations of the knock-and-announce rule. Even assuming both of those things, the innocent people wrongly raided by Little Rock police over the last few years would still likely have been visited by the SWAT team. But instead of having their doors blown off their hinges, incurring thousands of dollars of damage to their homes and facing eviction from their apartments, not to mention experiencing a lot of trauma, the SWAT team would have been required to knock on the door, announce themselves, and give these suspects sufficient time to answer to avoid the violence of a “dynamic entry.” (I should note here that even when police do knock and announce, they often do so just as the battering ram hits the door, which basically nullifies the difference between a no-knock and a knock-and-announce warrant. But in this hypothetical, we are assuming the courts are properly enforcing the rules, so those raids would also be violations of the knock-and-announce rule.)

So 97, and possibly 99, of these 105 warrants were in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I think it is safe to say that, contrary to Scalia’s opinion, lawsuits and internal discipline are providing very little deterrence here. And Little Rock residents have very little protection against having their Fourth Amendment rights violated by illegal no-knock raids…

That said, the comparison is pretty compelling. When Little Rock police and judges know a rule will be enforced by suppression of evidence, they complied with that rule at least 76 percent of the time. (It could be more, depending on how many of the 22 exceptions were legitimate.) But when it’s a rule not enforced by suppressing evidence, they at most complied 8 percent of the time.

In Little Rock, at least, the Exclusionary Rule matters.

And, obviously, it’s not just Little Rock.  This is such an obvious cost/benefit.  Meaningful freedom and protection from a police state for all citizens versus the occasional criminal going free due to overzealous policing.  But, hey, tough on crime!!  That’s worked so well for us.

Republicans for socialized medicine!

This from Sarah Kliff is awesome, “White House anti-socialism report inadvertently makes a case for single-payer: The Trump administration says this chart is a case against single-payer. Actually, it’s a case for it.”

Earlier today, the White House released a paper titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism.” Weirdly, it contains a chart that actually makes a pretty decent argument for single-payer health care.

The chart compares wait times for seniors in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. It purports to show that seniors in single-payer countries wait much longer than those here in the United States…

It all looks pretty clear cut: Places like Canada and Norway have long wait times in their single-payer systems, whereas we here in the United States have very short wait times.

Except, here’s the key thing it leaves out: America’s seniors are essentially in a single-payer systemThe vast majority of Americans over 65 get coverage through Medicare, a government-run health care plan. [emphasis mine]

Ezra follows up with a nice twitter thread of the foolishness of judging a health system primarily by wait times (usually a dead give away that somebody just knows talking points and doesn’t really understand health care policy):


The voter fraud fraud, NC Edition

Damn these Republicans will stop at nothing to suppress the vote and make outrageous bad faith claims about voter fraud in doing so.  WRAL’s Laura Leslie on the goings-on from our hard-right Lieutenant Governor:

 Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a video last week with step-by-step instructions for “organized groups” to commit voter impersonation, a felony in North Carolina.

Forest, a Republican, is not up for election this fall – his second term runs through 2020. However, he has been a strong proponent of requiring voters to show a photo identification at the polls, and a proposal that would write voter ID into the state constitution is on the ballot.

The video, titled Voter Fraud 101, was promoted on Facebook and paid for by the NC Republican Council of State Committee, a political action committee chaired by Forest and largely funded by Greg Lindberg, a major political donor currently under federal investigation.

Although Facebook doesn’t release targeting information in its online ad archive, data from ProPublica’s Facebook Political Ad Collector shows that some of those targets included North Carolinians interested in President Donald Trump.

“Committing voter fraud is easy in our state,” Forest says to the camera in the two-minute video. “Just for fun, here’s one way an organized group could commit voter fraud in North Carolina.”

In the slickly produced animated video, Forest goes on to describe an elaborate process by which a group could scrape the names, addresses and voting status of infrequent voters before Election Day, then go to their polling places, claim to be those voters, which is a crime under state law, and cast fraudulent ballots…

North Carolina Republican Party director Dallas Woodhouse defended the video as part of his party’s educational outreach on the need for a voter photo ID amendment.

“This is simply laying out for the public what is already known by those inclined to cheat,” Woodhouse told WRAL News. “Honest voters do not see a PSA explaining exactly how our system has faults and then decide to become a criminal. And the criminals already know this.”

“It’s one reason we are pushing many of our traditional Election Day voters to vote early,” Woodhouse added. “For their protection.”

Of course, when it comes to bad faith political arguments, you could probably have a photo of Woodhouse next to a definition.  Anyway, WRAL does give us the reality that Republican intentionally try and deceive us about:

An audit of the 2016 election conducted last year by the state elections board found only two cases of voter impersonation out of millions of votes cast. In both cases, the voters cast absentee ballots on behalf of a family member. No charges were filed.

The audit found that all the other cases of suspected voter impersonation in 2016 turned out to be the result of clerical errors by elections workers. [emphasis mine]

The only voter fraud going on is the massive fraud being perpetrated by the Republican Party and their media enablers about virtually non-existent voter fraud.

Lions, tigers, and taxes, oh my!

So, thanks to the pro-Democratic year, Democrat Linda Coleman is giving Republican George Holding a tough run in NC’s 2nd district, which includes my media market– so plenty of ads.  A Republican PAC is running ads claiming that Coleman paid her taxes late, plus, she’s going to raise your taxes!  To Holding’s credit, even he claims this late taxes business is just a canard, but, part of me thinks, if all Republicans have against a Democrat is, “she’s going to raise your taxes!” they really don’t have much.  I don’t think there’s a Democrat anywhere in America in the last few decades that hasn’t been accused of favoring ruinous taxes.  And, since I love watching Jeopardy! all I get is campaign ad after campaign ad during the commercial breaks (give me some prescription drug and discount mattress ads, please!)  And, yet. plenty of Democrats elected and here will still stand.

Oh, and speaking of taxes.  Great Catherine Rampell column today:

The Republican tax cut is a big, fat failure.

It has achieved none of the things that Republicans promised it would. It didn’t reduce deficits. It didn’t target the middle class. And it didn’t win goodwill with voters. [emphases mine]

Yet, for some reason, President Trump wants to do it all over again . . . in the next nine days, no less.

Last week the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit swelled by 17 percent, or $113 billion, from fiscal 2017 to 2018. This is noteworthy, and not only because Republicans usually claim to despise deficits (at least, they do when Democrats are in charge).

It also reflects a massive decoupling of the business cycle from the federal budget.

Usually, as the economy improves, deficits shrink. That’s because people earn more money, causing them to pay more in taxes and enroll in fewer federal safety-net programs. This relationship between deficits and the economy has generally held true for the past 70 years, except during times of war.

Unemployment (shown on the right-side axis) has been inverted so that it’s easier to compare the two series. Note that budget balances are shown according to fiscal years, and unemployment data are shown for calendar years. Sources: Congressional Budget Office [via Haver Analytics and Goldman Sachs Economic Research], Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post)

The Treasury numbers should not be surprising, by the way. Literally everyindependent forecaster predicted that the tax cut would increase deficits on net. Yet Republicans were somehow caught flat-footed by the news.

After all, when the White House published its 2018 fiscal plan a year and a half ago, Trump officials predicted that deficits would shrink substantially in 2018, thanks both to his tax cuts and the Miracle-Gro that Trump was supposedly sprinkling across the economy.

Yet in the end, the deficit was almost twice what the White House estimated it would be: $779 billion, compared with the forecast $440 billion.

But what do Republican candidates have to offer us.  Democrats will raise your taxes!  Ugh.

Legal marijuana is coming

It’s truly only a matter of when.  I haven’t seen public opinion trendlines like this since way back in the days of… same-sex marriage.  The latest from Gallup:

Line graph of 1969 through 2018. Sixty-six percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana.

And even a bare majority of Republicans:

Line graph of 2000 through 2018. Support by party -- 53% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats support legalizing marijuana.

Importantly, this is not just generational replacement, people are changing their minds:

Line graph of support for legalizing marijuana by age: 78% of 18- to 34-year-olds, 65% of 35-54 and 59% of 55+ support it.

To me, the evidence is really, really clear that the benefits of legalization far outweigh the costs.  But that doesn’t mean there are no costs.  We should absolutely be smart about it.

So, yes, let’s do this smart.  Of course, it becomes harder to have a sensible conversation when the opposition is old Republican men of the Jeff Sessions “reefer madness!” variety who are still living in a delusional hellscape when it comes to marijuana.

I’m actually somewhat surprised Democrats are not pushing harder on this throughout the country.  Just need a very simple “sensible marijuana policy” or something like that message.  I really don’t think they would lose many votes and it would be just one more issue (i.e., added to climate and LGBT rights) to show young Americans that the old white dude Republicans are hopelessly out of touch.  Of course, as discussed those young Americans actually vote at low rates.  But, convince them more than ever that the Democratic party is the one for them and the dividends will be huge down the road as they age into more participation.

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