(Not) Quick Hits

Sorry.  Really busy this week through Saturday.  But, three quasi-random links to tide you over.

1) Carolina Hurricanes’ Justin Williams just scored a goal with his face.  I can also report that Justin Williams’ second-grade daughter is a great soccer player (especially as a team player) and that her dad is perfectly-behaved on the sideline of games.  Also, I should mention that this is all past tense as great soccer players don’t stick around in rec soccer.

2) Gallup’s Frank Newport, “Americans’ Long-Standing Interest in Taxing the Rich.”

Okay, and two longer ones since you are only getting four today.

3) Terrific review of two new books on race and the transformation of Southern politics.  If you don’t really know the history of this, definitely read this article.

4) I haven’t finished reading this one yet, but my wife really liked this story of hand transplants and other “medical miracles” gone awry.

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U.S.– the best health care in the world!

Kidding!!  I wish.  It’s time for health care policy in my public policy class.  That said, back when I was young and naive and first teaching public policy in the early 2000’s at Texas Tech, most of my students were convinced that America has the best health care in the world.  I sure don’t run into that argument anymore.  Also, when I was young and naive I would throw up charts showing America’s poor relative life expectancy to emphasize that, maybe, our health care is not so great.  Life expectancy is related to the quality of health care, but also, of course, many other individual, social, and cultural factors.

Of course, I long since learned that mortality amenable to health care is a way better measure as it is deaths that could have been avoided by proper health care treatment, but that happened anyway.   So, here’s the chart from this year’s lecture courtesy of the good folks at the Commonwealth Fund who are full of awesome health care charts:

And, just in case that’s not clear to you, way more people die in the U.S than need to than in any of the comparable group of nations.  Yeah, if you need bleeding edge health care technology (which, of course, most of us don’t) the U.S. is the place to be, but otherwise we are needlessly dying at notably higher rates because our health care system needs to do better.

At least the media is focusing on the important stories

Formerly obscure actors fakes attack on himself.  In today’s world, that’s surely up there above all the other stuff going on.  It’s not like we have a criminal with strongly authoritarian tendencies (about the only thing he’s actually strong on) trying to run run the country.  Seriously, raise your hand if you had any idea who Jessie Smollett was before this incident.  Were many a liberal too quick to jump on his fantastical story?  Sure.  But, also, there’s a helluva lot more real hate crimes than made-up ones.

But, mostly, this is an absurd amount of attention to this story.  One of my Media & Politics students today mentioned that maybe, perhaps, we should be hearing more about Trump trying to sell Nuclear technology to the Saudi’s that he shouldn’t.  (Nice summary here).  Of course, if this had been Obama, it would be a huge scandal.  Seriously.  But I think this is clearly a case of scandal fatigue (my take here).  Even I just kind of rolled my eyes when I saw the headlines yesterday.

I wanted to see how Fox was covering Smollett and just… damn.

At least 6 separate stories and a new one featured every time I check back on the website.  Again, for somebody that <1% of Fox news viewers could probably name a month ago.  Also, a search on the misgbegotten nuclear deal at Foxnews.com comes up literally empty.

Alas, even the so-called liberal media does not exactly have their priorities in order.

Oh, yeah, and hell, yeah a totally nutso Coast Guard lieutenant wanting to blow up the country and mostly liberals is a bigger story:

‘I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth’: A self-proclaimed white nationalist planned a mass terrorist attack, the government says

But, hey, let’s obsess over a clearly mentally unstable actor who faked an attack on himself for media attention.

Who speaks for whom?

Really liked this Jesse Singal blog post about what to make of liberals speaking for marginalized groups when what the marginalized groups seem to what is something else.  This is particularly interesting in the case of Northam and Virginia:

But there was a bit of a plot twist last week. According to a Washington Post/Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University poll summarized by WJLA, “Only 37 percent of African Americans [in Virginia] say Northam should resign compared to 58 percent who say he should not. African Americans approve of the job Northam is doing by 58-30 percent and accept his apology by a 58-31 margin.” In polling, a 27-point difference is quite large — in this case it translates to about a 2:1 gap, meaning members of the single group ostensibly most affected by Northam’s donning of blackface believe rather strongly that he should stay in power despite it.

This story ties into one of my qualms about the way progressives talk about race, and marginalized groups in general, these days: It feels increasingly common for progressives to treat the opinions of elite members of marginalized groups as representative of the groups in question — even though rank-and-file members without platforms may feel quite differently.

Some other examples of this: Many progressives, Latino and non-Latino alike, seem to have rather strong linguistic preferences about whether to use the word Hispanic as opposed to Latino (or, more recently, Latinx). But when actual, well, Latinos/Hispanics are polled on this question, their answer tends to be that they identify more with their country of origin or ancestry than with zoomed-out ethnic labels anyway, with only about half of members of these groups even having a preference — meaning it doesn’t make much sense for anyone to suggest one term or the other is “right” while the other is outdated or offensive:

I also really liked this last bit as I recently had an interaction with a student who was very much surprised when I suggested she use Hispanic or Latino instead of Latinx in a document she was writing for a mainstream, bipartisan audience.  The ordinary Latinos/Hispanics are definitely not insisting on Latinx.

Singal also brings in my favorite NFL team:

There’s something similar going on with a controversy that, to me, is a much easier call: the Washington, erm, football team. I’m of the belief that the logo and name are offensive and should absolutely be changed. Which, it turns out, is an opinion held by a mere 9% of actual Native Americans, according to a 2016 Washington Post poll:..

Now, does the fact that a solid majority of black Virginians want Northam to stay mean that he definitely should, and does the fact that an overwhelming majority of Native Americans don’t find the Redskins name offensive* mean that it should? No — I don’t think that should be the end of either story. (* This section of the sentence originally read “overwhelming majority of Native Americans want the Redskins name to stay” — the bolded phrase was a misstatement of the survey result and has been edited.)

But at the same time, if you’re a progressive who is calling for the Washington football team to change its name, or for Ralph Northam to resign, because of the harm that football team name and that governor did to marginalized people, it should feel very weird that the actual groups most affected mostly disagree with you, no? Or if it doesn’t feel weird, why doesn’t it feel weird? What does it mean to say you hold an opinion out of a desire to protect a given group when members of that group say, in polling, they don’t require your protection on that particular issue?

Interesting questions indeed and I don’t claim to know the answers.  But what I would suggest, is that liberals be a little more circumspect and less certain of themselves on these matters.

Not feeling the Bern

I don’t think I’ve really talked about Bernie all that much since 2016, but, as you probably recall, I’m not the biggest fan.  That said, big props to Bernie for undoubtedly shifting the Democratic party to the left via his 2016 run.  Medicare-for-all is totally mainstream among 2020 Democratic contenders as is a $15 minimum wage.  Not so much “free college” but it’s certainly a more popular and mainstream idea than it was four years ago.

One might even say that 2016 Bernie lost the battle but won the war.  In one way, then, that actually makes 2020 Bernie largely superfluous.  Obviously, Bernie still represents the left-most point of Democratic contenders, but there is much less of a gap than there used to me.  And a small enough one, that ideology should not be determinative.

So, I’m going to be a bad political scientist, though, and put polling data, knowledge of the primary process, etc., aside, and make my Bernie prediction based on anecdote.  Short version… there is absolutely no feeling the Bern among my current students.  Four years ago, they were overwhelmingly passionately for him.  Maybe there’a a bunch of mid-twenties Democrats who are still feeling the Bern, but I doubt it.  Some of the older students said they did feel the Bern four years ago, but not so much this time around.  So, yeah, of course there are theoretical paths for Bernie to pull it off.  But going from amazing enthusiasm among college students to very little, says to me good things are not going to happen for Bernie.

Take that, Constitution

Once again, the Onion gets it as well as anybody:

Trump Base Celebrates President For Standing Up To Constitution

WASHINGTON—Enthusiastically praising the commander-in-chief for holding firm in the face of opposition, Donald Trump’s political base cheered on the president Friday for standing up to the U.S. Constitution. “He stayed strong and really showed the Constitution who’s boss,” said 48-year-old Trump supporter Ross Heddens, applauding the president’s bravery and determination in taking on the document that represents the social contract through which all authority vested in the U.S. government is ultimately derived. “No fundamental system of laws is going to get in his way. Trump has shown that he won’t allow mere constitutional articles—not even the ones that explicitly delineate which powers are granted to which branches of government—to stop him from doing what he has pledged to do. That’s how tough he is.” Members of Trump’s base went on to urge the president to continue standing his ground by ignoring any future rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that may seek to prevent him from fulfilling his campaign promises.

In a similar vein, Catherine Rampell writes, “What America really needs to do is abolish Congress.’

The far right wants to eliminate what it considers the vestigial organs of government, including the Education, Commerce and Energy departments. The far left wants to Abolish ICE.

They’re both thinking too small. What America really needs to do — and what might actually receive strong bipartisan support — is to Abolish Congress.

Sure, you might argue that the legislative branch has critical responsibilities, endowed by our sacred Constitution. Congress is an equal branch of government that provides checks and balances on the other branches.

Without Congress, you might ask, wouldn’t the president have completely free rein to act on his worst authoritarian impulses? But then again you might also ask: How would that be different from the situation we have now?

Why, just a few days ago, the legislature proved how little interest it has in exercising one of its most fundamental constitutional powers, the power of the purse.

The Constitution gives Congress the authority to appropriate federal dollars. This is a constitutionally mandated check on the executive branch and at the crux of our founding document’s separation of powers. In practice, it means the president cannot decide unilaterally to spend money for a purpose that Congress has rejected.

And yet that is what happened last week.

Congress has — multiple times now — explicitly denied President Trump’s request for billions of dollars for a border wall that we don’t need and that most Americans don’t want. After months of debate and a pointless shutdown, lawmakers appropriated $1.375 billion for border barriers, and not a penny more. Then Trump announced that he was declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer $8 billion for his pet project anyway.

Federal lawmakers should have been livid at this power grab. Curiously, many were not. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — one of the most powerful people in this supposedly powerful branch of government — declared this a splendid outcome.

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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