(Super late) Quick hits

Sorry to be late.  I spent Friday and Saturday in (mostly) Wilmington, NC area learning about leadership and disaster response with NCSU Park Scholars.  It was good stuff.   And, then I had a horrible headache much of Sunday.   Anyway, here you go:

1) Let’s start with a slightly older, but really good one.  Nicholas Stephanopolous nicely explains the legal case against gerrymandering.

2) Ezekiel Emmanuel knows his health care policy, “Bernie Sanders Thinks He Can Vanquish Health Insurers. He’s Wrong.: His “Medicare for all” plan is the best known—and the most politically impractical.”

The real obstacle to Sanders’s plan is the public’s expectations. As much as Americans hate insurance companies in general, they want the right to have a love-hate relationship with their own insurer. During the battle over the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama promised, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” When a handful of Americans lost their plans, the backlash was tremendous—even when the cancellations had nothing to do with the new law. The polling data today are clear: When Americans are told they might have to give up their current insurer, fewer than 40 percent support Medicare for all. That’s nowhere near enough to override the entrenched interests in health care.

More important, Sanders’s Medicare for all would put almost all private insurance companies out of business—or diminish them to runts. These companies manage more than $1 trillion in revenue per year and cover more than 175 million Americans. For Sanders and his supporters, the prospect of putting nearly all those companies out of business is a major attraction of Medicare for all. But no trillion-dollar industry has ever just rolled over and died. Insurers have experience fighting far less ambitious health reforms—and winning…

Emmanuel continues with his favored Medicare for America approach:

By allowing businesses to continue to offer private insurance and allowing insurers to compete in Medicare Part C, these proposals expand coverage—and the government’s role in health insurance—without threatening private insurance companies with extinction. In fact, a number of insurers might see an opportunity under Medicare Advantage for all to enroll new customers.

There are also good policy rationales to preserve a role for private insurers. While progressives often claim these companies do nothing for the health-care system but add paperwork and extract profits, this view is anything but universal. Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurers currently enroll about a third of seniors and are the fastest-growing part of Medicare. The evidence—only 2 percent switch back to regular Medicare— suggests that seniors like these plans and, by implication, the private insurers that offer them. In addition, having multiple payers adds competition, which can improve performance and prevent the government’s health plan from ossifying. The health systems of the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland all include multiple competing private insurers and sickness funds.

3) Rethink laptops in the classroom yet again?  Maybe.  Interesting evidence, but for now I am going to continue to disallow them.

4) Local news is dying and that is genuinely horrible for American democracy:

The newspaper industry has been in a tailspin since internet companies ate the $5 billion in classified advertising they’d been raking in, and social media became an alternative entry point to the day’s news. Worse, the solution that saved the The New York Timeshigh-margin digital subscriptions—has not yet proved itself for smaller papers. Just 14 percent of Pew’s survey respondents said they had paid for local news in some way in the past year. Forty-nine percent of the people who didn’t pay cited the “widespread availability of free content” as their reason why, according to Pew…

Local television has proved a more resilient business. Despite viewership declines and the loss of deeper forms of reporting, the industry has only been very, very mildly contracting.

But newspaper reporters used to be the backbone of every local journalism ecosystem. Medium- and large-sized cities sometimes had hundreds of them, and their publications’ formats allowed for the day-to-day coverage and investigative explorations that make civic journalism valuable to communities.

5) Pete Buttigieg with some pretty damn smart observations on democracy and capitalism:

Pete Buttigieg

I think the word “socialism” has largely lost its meaning in American politics because it has been used by the right to describe pretty much anything they disagree with. To the extent there’s a conversation around democratic socialism — even that seems to be a little squishy in terms of what it actually means.

I think of myself as progressive. But I also believe in capitalism, but it has to be democratic capitalism.

Part of the problem here is that you have one generation that grew up associating socialism with communism like they’re the same thing, and therefore also assuming that capitalism and democracy were inseparable. I’ve grown up in a time when you can pretty much tell that there’s tension between capitalism and democracy, and negotiating that tension is probably the biggest challenge for America right now.

You don’t have to look that hard to find examples of capitalism without democracy — Russia leaps to mind. And when you have capitalism without democracy, you get crony capitalism and eventually oligarchy. So a healthy capitalist system, working within the rule of law, is the stuff of American growth and can be the stuff of equitable growth. But we don’t have that right now.

Zack Beauchamp

Talk to me more about that tension and how you see the concept of “rule of law” playing into it.

Pete Buttigieg

The big issue we have right now is regulatory capture.

When you’re in a system where money can equate to power, even more than it has historically, through the ability to purchase influence in politics, what starts to happen is the bigger you are and the more resources you command, the more you can bend the system to your advantage.

I think that structure helps to explain why our society has become more and more unequal. And all sorts of horrible side effects happen when you have that inequality, in addition to it just being morally upsetting. Look at the way that a lot of powerful businesses get their way in Washington. In statehouses it’s even more pronounced, because there’s less scrutiny.

It also leads to much greater concentration and consolidation in our economy. People are usually talking about that right now in the context of the tech sector, but it’s just as big a problem or bigger in the agricultural sector. This is a nation-wide illness that winds up threatening both democracy and capitalism.

6) These efforts on the gender pay gap would help move things in the right direction, but there really is only so much you can do with this kind of policy.  Either women need to stop having babies or society needs to change (to be clear, I recommend the latter):

But her bill doesn’t get at another important root cause of the gender pay gap: the economic impacts of motherhood. As Vox’s Sarah Kliff wrote, Princeton University economist Henrik Kleven found that mothers in Denmark (a country with a robust social safety net) saw their earnings take a significant hit after they had a child. Kleven compared the salaries of mothers to childless women and to men and found that “childbearing accounts for 80 percent of the gender wage gap in Denmark.”

And, of course, it’s not so different in America.

7) This was really, really good.  Using evolutionary principles to better treat cancer.

8) Is it time for us to eschew “statistical significance” as traditionally used?  Probably.  Good summary in Vox.

9) Frank Bruni with a nice profile of Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate cheated out of the NC-9 election.  Honestly, I didn’t realize he was such an impressive guy.

10) Thomas Edsall sums up a lot of really good recent Political Science analyses with an eye towards 2020.  And… Trump will lose.   Umm, no, not that simple.  Lots of stuff does look really good for Democrats.  But presidents usually get re-elected, especially with a strong economy.

11) The under-appreciated superfood?  Fiber.  I’m in a very small minority of actually getting my recommended daily allowance every day.  I eat plenty of unhealthy food and y’all know how much pizza I eat.  But I get my fiber, damnit.

12) Drum on how the divorce rate is down mostly because the marriage rate is down:

If marriage rates are down, you’d naturally expect fewer divorces. So let’s take a look at the divorce rate as a percentage of the marriage rate:

Divorce as a percentage of marriage has fallen a bit in recent years, but the bigger picture shows that it’s been roughly flat since 1975. There’s something to see here, but not quite as much as it appears at first glance.

13) This animation of the 10 biggest cities in the world over time is amazing.  Watch it.

14) This is really good.  “A brutal attack almost killed her husband. It transformed Abby Maslin into a different person.”

Just another day in Trump world

So, I fully elaborated by cat-piss-infested house theory of Trump to my current class yesterday in a way I had not before.  Had fun with that and extended the metaphor.  I decided at this point, the cat may be crapping in your shoes and people will just so, “oh well, I’ve got other shoes.”  Maybe when the cat starts scratching your eyes out you’ll notice somethings wrong.  Maybe.

The indefatigable David Farenthold with yet another story of big-time Trump financial malfeasance, and, presumably just a collective sigh.  Loved this summary from Brian Beutler’s newsletter:

President Trump inflated the height of Trump Tower, the size of his winery, and the number of home lots for sale on his golf courses, in order to secure financing from lenders. This is what most lawyers would call mortgage fraud, what Bill Barr might call failure to establish that Trump committed robbery, and what Trump would call COMPLETE AND TOTAL EXONERATION.

And, which will honestly probably just get one more collective shrug.  Just the cat crapping in your shoes.  Nothing to see here.

More of this

Oh, damn, do I love this from Kamala Harris.  Smart politics and smart policy wrapped in one.  Plus, an example that shows just how out-of-step Republican politicians are.  Jennifer Rubin:

Likewise, Trump and his Republican cohorts want to enact big cuts to the Education Department so that the massive deficit created by tax cuts for the rich doesn’t look so bad. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) quite cleverly proposes to do the opposite. Bloomberg reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is proposing a $315 billion boost in federal spending to give the average public school teacher a $13,500 raise. The plan would be funded by higher estate taxes, according to an aide. …

The plan is easy to understand: “The plan has three components. First, the federal government would provide 10 percent of the funds required to bring teacher pay in line with wages for other similarly qualified professionals. Second, it would create a federal match of $3 for every $1 a state spends to raise pay until that gap is eliminated. Third, it would require states to maintain this level and adjust for wage inflation as a condition to continue receiving federal funds.”

Instead of cutting education to disguise the fiscal imprudence of lavishing tax breaks on heirs of the super-rich, Harris wants to claw back some of the breaks to pay teachers more. One could hardly imagine a more helpful distillation for Democrats of the two parties’ philosophies. [emphasis mine]

The 2020 ads write themselves: Tax breaks for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, or better pay for teachers? Cut Medicare and eliminate Obamacare, or protect tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions, young adults who want to stay on parents’ plans and those who cannot afford to buy health care even as they work multiple jobs?

Spending more on teachers is good.  Increasing the estate tax is good.  But, damn, do I love the political genius (okay, it’s not actually rocket science) of combining the two to make the inherent and often hidden trade-offs of our politics (that Republicans would like to keep hidden) completely obvious.

Do Republicans want you to get sick and die?

Maybe?  If you are too poor (clearly your own fault) to afford good health insurance?  Krugman on the latest attempts to undermine the ACA:

Then health care became the top issue in the 2018 midterms, and voters who considered it the most important issue went Democratic by a three to one margin.

So you might have expected Republicans to cut their losses. Maybe Trump could have done what he did with NAFTA: keep Obamacare basically intact, but make a few minor changes, give it a new name – the Yuge Maga Care Awesomeness, or something – and claim that it was totally different and better.

But no. Most Republican-controlled states are still refusing to expand Medicaid, even though Washington would bear the vast majority of the costs. Utah held a direct referendum on Medicaid expansion, which passed easily – so the will of the voters was clear, even in a very conservative state. Yet GOP legislators are blocking the expansionanyway.

And now the Trump administration, having failed to repeal the ACA when Republicans controlled Congress, is suing to have the whole thing declared unconstitutional in court – because what could be a better way to start off the 2020 campaign than taking insurance away from 20 million Americans? …

The point is that it’s no longer possible to see any of this as part of a clever political strategy, even a nefariously cynical one. It has entered the realm of pathology instead. It’s now clear that Republicans just have a deep, unreasoning hatred of the idea that government policy may help some people get health care.

Why? The truth is that I don’t fully get it. Maybe it’s anger at the thought of anyone getting something they didn’t earn themselves, unless it’s an inheritance from daddy. Maybe it’s a sense that a lot of gratuitous suffering is or should be part of the human condition, or God’s plan, or something. I try to understand how others think, but in this case I really do find it hard.

Whatever the reason, however, the fact is that whatever they may claim, today’s Republicans hate the idea of poor and working-class Americans getting the health care they need. [emphasis mine]

 

Short and late Mueller thoughts

I know Mueller report this week and I’ve been unusually busy plus laid up with a stomach bug.  Damn do I hate the Norovirus.  Once Alex was the initial vector, his poor vomiting aim probably pretty much ensured the rest of us all were eventually doomed.  Though, on a scientific level, really interesting the difference in incubation times and the severity of symptoms.  Okay, TMI.  Moving on…

A few thoughts miscellaneous thoughts…

Damn did Trump/Barr totally play the media on this.  Absence of evidence to the level required to prosecute a criminal conspiracy sure as hell is not the same as absence of evidence wrong-doing and bad-acting.  Among my favorite takes is Will Saletan (which if you should totally read in full) who goes hard after Barr and I think this is the most relevant point:

“Absence of such evidence.” One reason to be suspicious of Barr’s conclusions is that in the course of the letter, he tweaks Mueller’s opinion to look more like his own. Mueller’s report, as excerpted by Barr, says “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” Barr quotes that line and then, in the same sentence, concludes that “the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” But the excerpt from Mueller’s report doesn’t refer to an absence of evidence. It refers to a presence of evidence, and it says this evidence isn’t enough to prove a crime. Throughout the investigation, this has been a standard Republican maneuver: misrepresenting an absence of proof as an absence of evidence. Barr’s use of this maneuver in his letter is a red flag that he’s writing partisan spin.

And, OMG, the way the media is letting Trump– and his Republican enablers!— get away with all the “total exoneration” “vindication” stuff despite all the stuff that we know.  Andrew Prokop:

But in charging documents and court filings over the past year and a half, the special counsel has made a great many factual findings and allegations about Russian interference and Trump associates. Here are those findings.

  • The Russian government did try to interfere in the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and benefit Trump.
  • It did so through a social media propaganda operation, and by hacking and leakingleading Democrats’ emails.
  • Some Trump associates seem to have had some advance knowledge of the email leaks — but Mueller did not find that they conspired with Russian government officials about the leaks.
  • The Trump Organization was secretly in talks for a potentially very lucrative Moscow real estate deal during the campaign, and Russian government officials were involved. Trump and members of his family were briefed several times on the project.
  • Before the 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort organized an extensive unregistered lobbying and PR operation to benefit Ukraine’s government, involving a top US law firm and two major lobbying firms. He also laundered tens of millions of dollars from Ukrainian interests into the US, and didn’t pay taxes on it. Then, once he joined Trump’s campaign, Manafort allegedly handed over Trump polling data to a Russian intelligence-tied associate.
  • Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about when he’d heard that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails.
  • Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding sanctions.
  • Trump lawyer Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the timing of the Trump Tower Moscow talks.
  • Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone allegedly lied to Congress about his efforts to get in touch with WikiLeaks to try to obtain hacked Democratic emails.
  • Several actions from President Trump raised obstruction of justice concerns, and Mueller’s team laid out evidence about them but declined to say whether they were criminal.

That’s just damning, anyway you look at it.

And, heck, of all the good stuff written, why not go with George Conway, “Trump is guilty — of being unfit for office.”

Let’s start with question of “collusion.” It was never precisely clear what that nonlegal concept meant. If it means what Mueller reasonably took it to mean — an “agreement,” “tacit or express,” with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, or, in effect, a conspiracy with the Russians — then it was always virtually unimaginable that collusion, so defined, would ever be found. Russian agents didn’t need Americans to help them do what they were doing — hacking and posting disinformation. If anything, involving Americans, including some apparently blockish ones, could only have fouled up their plans. “Collusion” — or, rather, “no collusion” — was bound to become a straw man for President Trump and his supporters to knock down with glee.

Yet that hardly means that the investigation (which, thanks to Paul Manafort’s largesse, actually turned a neat profit) was either a “witch hunt” or a waste of time. After all, it was a counterintelligence investigation as well as a criminal probe. A core objective — the overarching one, really — was to find out exactly what the Russians were doing. Another was to find out whether there were “links” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s activities. As matters turned out, and quite surprisingly, we now know from public sources that there were links aplenty. So who knows what we might learn on these subjects from Mueller’s still-unreleased report? As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday, “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing.” He added that he would “welcome” the special counsel’s contributions toward understanding them…

On the facts, obstruction turns on what’s in a defendant’s mind — often a difficult thing to determine, and especially difficult with a mind as twisted as Trump’s. And complicating things even more, paradoxically, is the fact that some of Trump’s arguably obstructionist conduct took place in full public view — something that, with a normal person with normal moral inhibitions, would have indicated a lack of criminal intent. But in the head of Donald J. Trump, who knows?

So it should have come as no surprise that the obstruction case was difficult, and inconclusive. But Barr’s letter revealed something unexpected about the obstruction issue: that Mueller said his “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime” but that “it also does not exonerate him.” The report does not exonerate the president? That’s a stunning thing for a prosecutor to say. Mueller didn’t have to say that. Indeed, making that very point, the president’s outside counsel, Rudolph W. Giuliani, called the statement a “cheap shot.”…

But whether the Mueller report ever sees the light of day, there is one charge that can be resolved now. Americans should expect far more from a president than merely that he not be provably a criminal. They should expect a president to comport himself in accordance with the high duties of his office. As all presidents must, Trump swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to faithfully execute his office and the laws in accordance with the Constitution. That oath requires putting the national interests above his personal interests.

Okay, not that I’m going, I’ve also got to include Dahlia Lithwick:

Robert Mueller was never going to save us from Donald Trump. He was certainly never going to indict a sitting president of the United States. Indeed, given the narrow scope of Mueller’s charge—to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and any “matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”—uncovering evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of an underlying crime was always a long shot. It was extraordinarily unlikely that he would find that Trump or high-ranking members of his presidential campaign “colluded”—or, to use the better and more precise legal term, conspired—with the Russian government to fix the 2016 election.

The improbability of success on “collusion,” narrowly construed, had nothing to do with the inherent morality of Trump and his handlers. After all, Trump chose as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a man so sleazy that even before his recent convictions had been cast out of American politics to practice his black arts on behalf of thugs and tyrants in the developing world and aspiring autocrats on the fringes of the former Soviet empire. Apart from thoroughly corrupt newcomers like Manafort and lightweight wannabe grifters like Rick Gates, Trump’s campaign was a family affair. Which meant that a chip off the old block like Donald Jr. was empowered to gleefully accept meetings with obviously dodgy Russian intermediaries offering obviously stolen dirt on candidate Hillary Clinton…

The first problem with proving that Trump conspired in the legal sense with the Russians is identifying the criminal objective of the conspiracy. The second and equally daunting obstacle is proving an agreement to commit the object crime.

What we know of Russian activities in 2016 establishes that they did two basic things to help Trump and hurt Clinton—they certainly conducted a social media disinformation campaign that favored Trump and they almost certainly hacked Clinton campaign emails and fed them to the media through WikiLeaks.

As to the first, one might construe the millions of rubles expended on the Russian social media effort as an illegal foreign campaign contribution, but I am aware of no evidence suggesting that the Trump campaign had any more advance knowledge of the Russian efforts on this score than anyone else. Indeed, there is no reason to think the Russians would have said anything to Trump’s people about their work in this realm. They didn’t need Trump’s help to do what they were doing, and telling Trump—that famously indiscreet man—would have risked disclosure that would have nullified the whole point of the exercise…

n any case, I strongly suspect that when the details of Mueller’s investigation finally emerge, they will reveal no evidence of prior communication between Trump’s people and the Russians about the Clinton email hack or the feeding of the material to WikiLeaks. An expression of interest in the emails by Donald Jr. at the Trump Tower meeting, yes. Loud public encouragement of the release from Trump, yes. Some advance word given to Roger Stone by Julian Assange (not the Russians) of the impending release of the material by WikiLeaks, perhaps. But no Trump-Russian cooperation in either obtaining or disseminating the material.

It was therefore always vanishingly improbable that the Russians would connect themselves directly and provably to the campaign of a weak, imprudent huckster, thus exposing Russia to the wrath of what the Russians surely assumed to be the incoming Clinton administration. Without such connections, there can have been no criminal conspiracy…

For me, the most important question about the Mueller report is the issues it will leave unaddressed. For example, I have long thought that the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia during the election were a mere secondary issue. The real question about Russia is why Trump has become a reliable, even obsequious, apologist for Vladimir Putin and has—so far as he has been able, against the resistance of Congress and the intelligence and defense establishments—regularly aligned himself with Russian interests. That requires explanation, and I strongly suspect Mueller did not read his charge as extending to an inquiry that would demand a deep historical analysis of Trump’s personal and business history running many years into the past. If the mystery of Trump’s open affinity for Putin is to be solved, congressional Democrats will have to solve it…

Second, the very narrowness of the Mueller inquiry should remind us that the problem with Donald Trump has never been one misdeed or misjudgment, or even one extended disgraceful episode. Nor is it the things we do not know about him (unless he really is compromised by Russia). The already-obvious challenge he presents to American democracy is his endless, staggering, mind-numbing array of completely public assaults on communal decency, competent governance, and bedrock constitutional norms. We don’t need Bob Mueller to tell us what the problem is. And almost nothing Mueller was ever likely to discover would have added very much to our understanding of that problem.

Bob Mueller’s legal investigation was never going to solve our national political crisis. And by not trying to solve it, by simply doing the job the Constitution and the laws asked him to do, he has paid the American system of government and his fellow citizens the great compliment of trusting us to solve it for ourselves.

Photo of the day

The flooding in the Midwest is pretty amazing (in a horrible way).  Flooding always does make for some pretty compelling images, as in this Atlantic gallery.

People view the rising waters from the Platte and Missouri rivers that flooded areas of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, on March 17, 2019.

Nati Harnik / AP

Quick hits (part II)

1) Janet Napolitano with Karen Breslau, “Americans Are Seeing Threats in the Wrong Places
Security means teaching the public which dangers are real and which are not. Trump’s rhetoric isn’t helping.”

In the four years I led the Department of Homeland Security, I learned from the inside that the greatest threats to our safety play out differently from how political speeches and news reports might have us believe. True security means educating the public about which dangers are real and likely and which are not. Hours after a man killed more than four dozen people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, President Donald Trump downplayed the threat of violence by white-supremacist groups—and went on to contend that the United States is under “invasion” from the south. In fact, mass shootings are genuine security problems. Natural disasters and cyberattacks are genuine security problems. Undocumented immigrants supposedly running over an open border by the millions and attacking Americans on the streets are not.

In a huge and open nation, there will never be enough money, gates, guns, or guards to run down every potential threat. Homeland security works when we adhere to proven principles of law enforcement, national security, and disaster management, and when we integrate those principles with the best data science and other technological innovations available and update them constantly. We get into trouble when political ideology is thrown into the mix. A stubborn or willful misreading of the threat environment leads to poor management of resources and results in failure. And in this regard, I regret to say, we are backsliding terribly.

2) Liked this from a recent Crooked newsletter:

But in cracking open the door to endorsing filibuster abolition down the line, Booker joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), and others who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, have accepted that filibuster reform may be necessary if Democrats hope to enact the varied, bold policies the candidates are running on.

This recognition is critical because it shows that Democratic politicians increasingly grasp that Republican leaders, if not Republican voters themselves, remain committed to not negotiating with Democrats in good faith, and are poised to revive the strategy they adopted during the Obama administration of opposing and filibustering Democratic priorities in lockstep.

It’s also important because it comes as the Democratic Party has oriented itself toward defending democracy from conservative forces at all levels—from opposing voter suppression to ending partisan gerrymandering to curbing the influence of money in politics to reforming the electoral college. That project isn’t compatible with a rule that allows a minority of senators, representing an even smaller minority of the population a silent veto over policies that command overwhelming popular support.

3) This is interesting, “Purdue blocking Netflix, Hulu, gaming sites in all classrooms after spring break.”

4) And this, via the Upshot, is pretty wild, “Women With a Twin Brother Are More Likely to Face Penalties at School and Work: Research shows they might act more like boys when they’re young, struggling in school, but then face sexism when they’re grown.”

Women with a twin brother do worse in school and make less money than those with a twin sister, a large new study has found. In their 30s, the women wound up earning 9 percent less. They were also less likely to graduate from school, marry and have children.

The researchers said the effects were because the women were naturally exposed to their brothers’ testosterone in the womb. The study, which was published Monday, included all births in Norway for 11 years.

The findings might also help explain a paradox — over all, girls are doing better than boys in school, but men are doing better than women in the work force. There are other potential explanations involving cultural expectations. Girls seem to be encouraged to be competent, while boys are encouraged to be confident, research shows, and school today requires a lot of self-control, which most boys develop later. Once people start working, women face sexism and a host of other inequalities (many related to motherhood).

Testosterone, which all females are exposed to in utero, might be another contributor. The hormone is associated with certain behaviors— including aggression, competition and risk taking — that might contribute to boys’ underperformance in school, but that are often rewarded in the workplace. Females exposed to an elevated level oftestosterone might act more like boys when they’re young, but then face sexism at work when they’re older. Women are penalized, research shows, when they show many of the same behaviors that benefit men in the workplace.

5) Meanwhile, I find it depressing that our oppressive standards of women’s appearance means that an increasing number of preteen girls feel the need to resort to professional hair removal.

6) Trump’s America: “How a flight attendant from Texas ended up in an ICE detention center for six weeks.”  Also, she’s “from Texas” but a DACA beneficiary.

7) Really like this “defense of eco-hypocrisy.”

Contrary to popular belief, fossil fuel companies are actually all too happy to talk about the environment. They just want to keep the conversation around individual responsibility, not systemic change or corporate culpability.

Sadly, these efforts at distraction have been wildly effective.

Ask your average citizen what they can do to stop global warming, and they will say “go vegetarian”, or “turn off the lights”, long before they talk about lobbying their elected officials. And this framing has been used as an extremely effective cudgel against those speaking out.

Perhaps nobody embodies this more than former Vice President Al Gore, whose Inconvenient Truth documentary catapulted the climate crisis back into the US political discourse. Rather than grapple with the complex, often terrifying facts presented in the film, critics were quick to change the subject.

A report — released simultaneously with the documentary, and authored by a “free market” think tank — claimed that Mr. Gore’s house used 20 times more energy than the average American home. And while Gore’s spokespeople responded with statistics about his energy efficient retrofits, the damage was already done:

“Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth: a $30,000 Energy Bill”cried one particularly snarky headline,from Jake Tapper for ABC News.

More recently, Green New Deal advocate and freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has faced similar attacks, based on her apparent shocking use of cars. This time, however, there are promising signs that the lessons of past battles have been learned. Rather than defend herself with receipts for carbon offsets, AOC rightly and forcefully steered the conversation back to the only scale that truly matters…

Still, the purity tests persist. And while some come from our opponents, many of them are actually coming from inside the movement too.

George Monbiot, a British environmentalist and journalist, has written beautifully about climate change for years. While much of his focus has been on the structural underpinnings of the problem, Monbiot is also not above directing his fire at the environmentally aware. Society’s addiction to cheap flights is a regular target for his ire:

“If we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop traveling at the kind of speeds that planes permit. This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behavior. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. […] The moral dissonance is deafening.”

For those of us who believe that personal lifestyle change has largely been used as a distraction, it’s tempting to argue that Monbiot’s dinner party conversations are not just awkward or ineffective — they are actively counterproductive. If we’re going to grow a movement that can challenge our fossil fuel dependent economic order, we’re going to need as many people as possible on board—pushing folks away because they participate in that economic order is going to leave us with a pretty small pool of recruits.

8) John Cassidy asks, How did the FAA allow the 737 Max to fly?”  I don’t think it is actually so crazy to have aircraft manufacturers play a major role in deciding whether their products are safe.  They have so much to lose, if they are not, that it seems the financial incentives actually are to have your aircraft as safe as possible.  That said, this seems to have gone wrong in the case of the 737 Max.

9) On what we actually need to do about college:

No change in whom the most selective colleges admit would have a fraction of the good effect on the country that increasing the proportion of college graduates would have.

What’s the barrier to this? It isn’t that we don’t have a big enough higher-education system. These days, about ninety per cent of young people have some interaction with college. The problem is that not enough of them graduate, and so they cannot reap the copious benefits that a degree provides. A commission of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which I was a member, reported that only about sixty per cent of students at four-year colleges graduate within six years. Only thirty per cent of community-college students, who are supposed to get their degrees in two years, graduate within six. There are a number of reasons for this, including students being underprepared, higher education’s long-running undervaluation of the intense personal attention that makes all the difference for students who are struggling, and years of funding cuts by state legislatures. That should not give rise to fatalism, though: a few places have shown that dedicated effort can raise graduation rates dramatically. In the majority-minority, majority-poor Georgia State University system, the graduation rate has increased by twenty percentage points in fifteen years, thanks to the advent of a new system of customized advising and tutoring.

Busting the admissions cheaters is the right thing to do, in addition to being emotionally satisfying. But it won’t change America much for the better. Anyone who wants to do that through higher education, and who focusses on élite schools, is looking in the wrong place. The right place to look is the great majority of colleges where getting in isn’t a problem. The right cause to take up is raising graduation rates. Who wins the glittering prizes gets our attention; how well the system works for most people matters a great deal more.

10) The electoral college is almost entirely unjustified.  Jamelle Bouie is on the case:

In February, I wrote about the Electoral College, its origins and its problems. Whatever its potential merits, it is a plainly undemocratic institution. It undermines the principle of “one person, one vote,” affirmed in 1964 by the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims — a key part of the civil and voting rights revolution of that decade. It produces recurring political crises. And it threatens to delegitimize the entire political system by creating larger and larger splits between who wins the public and who wins the states.

Many readers disagreed, making arguments similar to those used by the president and his allies. But those claims — that the Electoral College ensures rural representation, that its counter-majoritarian outcomes reflect the intentions of the framers and that it keeps large states from dominating small ones — don’t follow from the facts and are rooted more in folk civics than in how the system plays out in reality.

Take rural representation. If you conceive of rural America as a set of states, the Electoral College does give voters in Iowa or Montana or Wyoming a sizable say in the selection of the president. If you conceive of it as a population of voters, on the other hand, the picture is different. Roughly 60 million Americans live in rural counties, and they aren’t all concentrated in “rural” states. Millions live in large and midsize states like California, New York, Illinois, Alabama and South Carolina.

With a national popular vote for president, you could imagine a Republican campaign that links rural voters in California — where five million people live in rural counties — to those in New York, where roughly 1.4 million people live in rural counties. In other words, rural interests would be represented from coast to coast, as opposed to a system that only weights those who live in swing states.

11) How not to be a snowplow parent:

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

From the moment they are born, our kids study our faces for signs that the world is safe or scary. When they learn to walk, teetering and tumbling to the ground, the first thing they do is look up at us. If we gasp or panic, they do, too. If we react with a mix of empathy and encouragement, they keep going.

Our children never stop scanning our faces for direction on how upset to get, whether they’re bringing home a bad grade or facing a college rejection. That’s why I coach parents to ask themselves a single question when they are faced with an upset child and feel anxiety begin to tighten its grip: How would I parent if I were not afraid? That is, if you knew that despite whatever was happening with your children, they would turn out just fine, what would you say and do differently in this moment?

The question lets us pull back from the catastrophic thinking that often makes us say and do things we later regret, and makes room for openness and optimism. Once we are calm, we can stay in the moment with our children instead of being hijacked by our own fear.

12) Krugman on the reality of rural America:

Rural lives matter — we’re all Americans, and deserve to share in the nation’s wealth. Rural votes matter even more; like it or not, our political system gives hugely disproportionate weight to less populous states, which are also generally states with relatively rural populations.

But it’s also important to get real. There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces.

Put it this way: Many of the problems facing America have easy technical solutions; all we lack is the political will. Every other advanced country provides universal health care. Affordable child careis within easy reach. Rebuilding our fraying infrastructure would be expensive, but we can afford it — and it might well pay for itself.

But reviving declining regions is really hard. Many countries have tried, but it’s difficult to find any convincing success stories.

Southern Italy remains backward after generations of effort. Despite vast sums spent on reconstruction, the former East Germany is still depressed three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Maybe we could do better, but history is not on our side.

What’s the matter with rural America? Major urban centers have always been magnets for economic growth. They offer large markets, ready availability of specialized suppliers, large pools of workers with specialized skills, and the invisible exchange of information that comes from face-to-face contact. As the Victorian economist Alfred Marshall put it, “The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air.”

But the gravitational pull of big cities used to be counteracted by the need to locate farming where the good land was. In 1950 U.S. agriculture directly employed more than six million people; these farmers supported a network of small towns providing local services, and some of these small towns served as seeds around which various specialized industries grew.

Nor was farming the only activity giving people a reason to live far from major metropolitan areas. There were, for example, almost half a million coal miners.

13) What they are trying to do with the restored felon voting rights in Florida is just unconscionable.  An a poll tax.

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