Quick hits (part II)

1) John Cassidy on the emergency:

Trump’s description of the situation at the border is almost entirely fictitious, of course, but in one sense it is real. It’s a central element of the political narrative he has constructed for his white-nationalist base over the past three and a half years, and, as he helpfully sought to explain, it’s one he can’t easily back away from at this stage. “I ran on a very simple slogan: ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” he said. “If you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border, if you’re going to have human traffickers pouring across the border in areas where we have no protection, in areas where we don’t have a barrier, then it’s very hard to make America great again.”

In this carefully concocted narrative, the wall isn’t a mere stretch of concrete or steel fencing stretching along the border; it’s a symbol of national sovereignty and regeneration. But, if it’s so important, why didn’t Trump get it built during his first two years in office, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress? Trump’s failure to get his own party to support what was arguably his signature campaign pledge demonstrates that he is fundamentally a weak and isolated President.

2) In our most recent trip through economically depressed western NC for a couple of hours, Kim and I counted dollar stores.  There were lots.  This is no accident and it’s not good for the local residents:

These stores have gained attention as success stories in the country’s most economically distressed places — largely rural counties with few retail options. Two main chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which owns Family Dollar), operate more than 30,000 stores nationally and plan to open thousands more, vastly outnumbering Walmarts and other retailers.

3) The welfare for “those unwilling to work” in the Green New Deal kinda sounds nuts.  But, as Christine Emba explains, it’s just universal basic income (which does sound much better).

4) Trump’s America: where speaking Spanish in Montana gets you detained by Border Patrol.

5) Excellent Linda Greenhouse piece on abortion, the challenges facing the Supreme Court, and conservative Circuit Court judges making phenomenally intellectually dishonest opinions on the issue.

The Fifth Circuit’s 2-to-1 decision overturning that ruling is a breathtaking piece of work. “We are of course bound by Whole Woman’s Health’s holdings, announced in a case with a substantially similar statute but greatly dissimilar facts and geography,” Judge Jerry Smith wrote for himself and Judge Edith Clement. What can that sentence — indeed, that premise — possibly mean? That Whole Woman’s Health concerned Texas while this case was about Louisiana? That’s like saying that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, applied only to male couples and not to lesbians because it was a male couple who brought the case. (It’s worth noting that in the immediate aftermath of Whole Woman’s Health, the Alabama attorney general dropped the state’s appeal of its admitting privileges law, which had been struck down in Federal District Court. “While I disagree with the high court’s decision, there is no good faith argument that Alabama’s law remains constitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling,” was the state’s lawyer’s honest appraisal of the situation.)

The Fifth Circuit’s contorted explanation for why the Supreme Court’s “close fact-bound balancing analysis” in Whole Woman’s Health wasn’t relevant to Louisiana succeeded only in showing that Louisiana women would in fact be worse off than the women in Texas, where most major cities still have at least one abortion clinic (many Texas clinics did not reopen after the Supreme Court’s ruling). The two judges who formed the Fifth Circuit majority also tried to show that the doctors could have obtained admitting privileges if only they had tried harder, a conclusion flatly refuted by the findings at trial but embraced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his opinion last week, dissenting from the Supreme Court’s vote to grant a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Justice Kavanaugh said the doctors should keep trying.

6) Oh man did I love this McSweeney’s for Valentine’s Day, “Romantic tips to help spice things up for couples with four children and two full-time jobs.”

7) How the changing airline industry doomed the gigantic Airbus 380:

That’s because the A380 was designed for a hub-and-spoke network, in which it would move huge numbers of passengers between major airports. And that’s not what we have now, says Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group. The global aviation system is growing 5 percent year over year, allowing for more point-to-point travel. You don’t need to move 600 people from LA to London, then have them take shorter flights from there. You can send 200 to Lisbon, 200 to Florence, 200 to Prague. “It was a very backward-looking concept,” Aboulafia says. “It was 10 years too late.”

8) Katha Politt makes the case that liberals need to strongly champion government-supported child care.

9) It made me cringe as much as anything I’ve watched in a while, but, I really, really like “Eighth Grade.”

10) Surprised to come across research that suggests “good genes” actually have relatively little to do with life expectancy.

11) Thanks to Nicole (who’s got plenty of first-hand knowledge) for sharing this article on sleep disorders.

12) You know what I have to say about a septuagenarian running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days?  Find some other way to prove your worth to yourself and take what had to be the vast amounts of money spent on this endeavor and use it on almost anything else more productive for society.

13) Gotta love French Fry power rankings.

14) Loved this climate change frame from Farhad Manjoo:

I’m joking, sure; and I’ll admit I had a lot of fun playing out the scenes here. I’m picturing Logan Paul, elevated from YouTube star into commander of the U.S. Space Force, briefing President Trump on a plan to turn coal-power plants into peace museums as a way to fight the aliens. The president is on board, but he has one question: “Can we save America without saving the earth?”

But I am not spinning out this yarn merely as a dumb joke about a blinkered president. Even for people who do believe in global warming, pretending that aliens are attacking the earth accomplishes a neat mental trick. It helps to frame the scope of the threat — civilizational, planet-encompassing — while also suggesting how we might respond: immediately, collectively and for as long as it takes.

Before I understood the horrors that await us, I had thought of climate change as one of a grab-bag of important issues on the lefty to-do list: Give people health care, help them pay for college, fix the climate.

The scale of potential devastation renders such visions laughable. Mitigating climate change and attending to its fallout isn’t going to be a policy plan passed by the next progressive administration. Instead, like the internet and nuclear weapons, the climate is going to be a permanent new feature of our politics. This will be a long-term existential battle that will require remaking every part of society, that might consume other worthy parts of a progressive agenda, that may involve costly and politically unpopular changes to our way of life for years to come, and will necessarily make some people worse off than if we did nothing. But that will be justified, because we understand the stakes: we are fighting murderous aliens.

15) Based in large parts on Benjamin Wallace-Wells efforts to paint a realistic worst-case scenario of climate change.

16) Yes, indeed, sometimes parenting is boring.  Which is why I make no apologies for using my phone when I’m with my kids.

17) Love this metaphor as the agitated teen brain as a shaken-up snow globe.  Shared this with my often-agitated early adolescent.

Sitting right there was an elegant model of the neurology of the distressed teenager. Early in adolescence, the brain gets remodeled to become more powerful and efficient, with this upgrade retracing the order of the original in utero development. The primitive regions, which are just above the back of the neck and house the emotion centers, are upgraded first — starting as early as age 10. The more sophisticated regions, located behind the forehead and giving us our ability to reason and maintain perspective, are redone last and may not reach full maturity until age 25.

While this process is underway, young people are put in a rather delicate position. Though they tend to be highly rational when calm, if they become upset, their new, high-octane emotional structures can overpower their yet-to-be upgraded reasoning capacities, crashing the entire system until it has a chance to reset.

I have enthusiastically recommended glitter jars to several parents and colleagues knowing that some teenagers will instantly benefit from having a concrete model of emotional distress. That said, I have come to appreciate that a glitter jar’s main utility is in the instructions it provides to those who are caring for the overwrought: Be patient and communicate your confidence that emotions almost always rise, swirl and settle all by themselves.

18) I wanted to do a full post on Jacob Hacker’s really thoughtful plan (Hacker totally gets both the policy and the politics) for gradually getting to single payer, but it was too hard to summarize and find a key quote.  Just read it.

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