Quick hits (part I)

1) Jennifer Rubin has been terrific all week.  This is good, “Seven important and awful signs for Trump”

Indeed, it is the muted reaction of Senate Republicans that leads the list of disastrous signs for the president. The assumption that there could never be a vote to remove him or that it would never get Republican votes needs to be rethought…

Fourth, when Trump’s remarks threatening a whistleblower immediately leaked one could see not only a new basis for impeachment but a willingness of all sorts of people to rat him out. There is virtually no meeting or document that will be shielded from view given the number of people involved and the incentive some may have to step forward and be seen as cooperating with Congress, not as conspirators acting in furtherance of crimes.

2) Honestly, this ended up getting way too scientifically complex for me, but I really enjoyed it before it did.  “Cosmologists Clash Over the Beginning of the Universe: What happened before the Big Bang? And what happened before that? Stephen Hawking’s answer—there was no beginning—is now the subject of intense debate.”

3) Drum is right, “We Should Integrate Schools Based on Class, Not Race:

Even after controlling for economic status, attendance at a school with a big racial attendance gap (i.e., heavily black or heavily white) leads to big differences in black-white achievement scores (0.610). However, once you control for differences in school poverty, the effect goes away (0.013).

What’s left is a big effect in exposure to poor schoolmates (0.924). In other words, this confirms what we’ve known for a long time about the effect of concentrated poverty. If a black student goes go to a school that’s heavily black but middle class, it’s no big deal. But if a black student goes to a school that’s heavily poor, he’s doomed.

If you want to take away any good news from this, here’s a glimmer of hope: If the problem really is class more than race, then we can make a case for desegregating our schools based on class. According to Reardon, this would actually be more effective, and it’s probably slightly less incendiary than desegregation plans based on race.

This is, to be clear, only the slightest glimmer of hope. Parents of middle-class kids will probably resist integration with poor kids just as much as parents of white kids resist integration with poor kids. But you never know. Anything that turns down the dial a bit could be helpful.

4) Political scientist David Hopkins on how the battle for the suburbs is complicated:

While city dwellers still serve as stereotypes of Democratic voters, they do not constitute an outright majority of the party. That distinction actually belongs to suburbanites. Indeed, the share of Democratic votes cast by residents of suburban counties — defined as counties within federal metropolitan areas in which a majority of residents live

But Democrats have hit a wall in one critical respect: They have not extended this success to the suburban communities surrounding smaller cities, which remain predominantly — even increasingly — Republican. The suburbs surrounding Jacksonville, Fla., Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., for example, provide Republican candidates with more than enough votes to compete in, and often win, statewide elections.

To achieve a durable national majority, Democratic candidates will need to expand their appeal to the less diverse and more culturally conservative electorates of the small-metro suburbs, which remain aligned with the Republican Party even in the era of Donald Trump.

outside the principal city or cities — climbed to 53 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 1988.

Over the past 25 years, many suburban areas near the country’s biggest cities have gone from dependable Republican strongholds to competitive battlegrounds or even safe Democratic territory. Recent Democratic gains in suburban Houston and Dallas are threatening to turn Texas purple. Outside Los Angeles, the seven districts of Orange County, once the geographic epicenter of the modern conservative movement, were swept blue in the 2018 midterms.

Rising electoral support in the suburbs of the nation’s largest population centers has allowed the Democratic Party to remain nationally competitive in an era of suburban population growth and increasing Republican dominance of rural America.

5) Very good discussion of the evidence for (and problems with that evidence) of the role of processed foods and obesity.  And, yet, pretty sure… eat food, mostly plants, not too much… still does the trick.

6) The creator of the Labradoodle regrets it.  As with everything wrong with dogs, though, it’s all about unscrupulous and thoughtless humans.  Yes, the evil breeders, but damn if people would stop buying dogs from pet stores and puppy mills!!

7) It’s funny the Ukraine stuff got so bad so fast, we’re already quickly past false equivalence and ridiculous “but Joe Biden” stories from the mainstream media.  But, at the beginning of the week it was actually starting out that way.  James Fallows:

If you’ve paid any attention to press retrospectives on the 2016 election, you’ve seen the term false equivalence. It refers to the mismatch between a long-standing procedural instinct of the press and the current realities of the Era of Trump.

Under normal circumstances, the press’s strong preference is for procedural balance. The program’s supporters say this, its critics say that, so we’ll quote both sides and leave it to you, the public, to decide who is right.

This approach has the obvious virtue of seeming fair, as a judge is fair in letting the prosecution and defense each make its case. It has a less obvious but very important advantage for news organizations, that of sparing reporters the burden of having to say, “Actually, we think this particular side is right.” By definition, most reporters most of the time are covering subjects in which we’re not expert. Is the latest prime-rate move by the Fed a good idea? Or a bad one? I personally couldn’t tell you. So if I am covering the story, especially on a deadline, I’ll want to give you quotes from people “on both sides,” and leave it there.

For as long as the press has existed, people have pointed out the limits and loopholes of “let’s hear from both sides” thinking…

But there is a very specific application of these principles to the era of Donald Trump. The problem with Trump is that he is not like anyone else who has ever held the office. He lies with abandon; he uses public office for private gain on a scale never before witnessed; and he seems to have no respect for, or even interest in, the institutions of self-government to which all of his predecessors have at least paid lip service.

Thus any of the “normal” procedural rules, applied to such an abnormal figure, can lead to destructive results. To be “fair” in covering him is to be unfair—to the truth, to history, to the readers, to the national interest, to any concept of journalistic purpose. The stuffy way to put this problem is “false equivalence.” The casual way to put it is “But what about her emails?” [emphasis mine]

8) Adam Serwer:

But behind this unfailing submission to Trump also lie more troubling influences. As the parties have become more racially polarized, and the Republican Party has become more exclusively white and Christian, Republicans have begun to think of themselves as the only genuinely legitimate actors in the polity. This is why Republicans draw districts that hand them more offices even when they fail to win a majority of the votes; it is why Republican legislatures strip Democratic executives of their powers when the electorate foils their efforts to rig elections in their favor; it is why the Trump administration attempted a fraudulent scheme to use the census to diminish the influence of minority voters relative to white voters; it is why Republicans seek to pass laws intended to suppress minority votes; it is why every night on Fox News, viewers hear one host after another outline deranged conspiracies about how Democrats want to steal America from its rightful white owners through demographic change.

Attempts to strip minorities of their rightful place in the polity are a bipartisan American tradition. They emerge whenever one party becomes beholden to an ethnically diverse constituency, and the other answers almost exclusively to white Christians. The contest between the universalist principles espoused by the Founders and their sectarian application in practice has been the principal conflict of American democracy since the beginning.

The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to democracy, but many Republicans have concluded that it is not possible for that to occur legitimately. Without such transitions, democracy is a dead letter. But if your political enemies are inherently illegitimate, then depriving them of power by any means necessary is not effacing democracy; it is defending it. The southern Democrats who stripped black Americans of the franchise at the end of Reconstruction using a battery of literacy tests, property requirements, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses saw themselves not as crippling democracy but as strengthening it, by limiting the ballot to those who were worthy of participating.

The Republican belief that their opposition is inherently illegitimate is one reason it does not matter to many Republicans that Trump’s allegations that Biden sought to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to prevent his son from being investigated are baseless. As CNN’s Daniel Dale has documented, there is no public evidence that Hunter Biden was ever himself under investigation; the prosecutor whose firing Biden called for as vice president was widely considered corrupt; the investigation Biden supposedly shut down was “dormant” at the time Biden expressed the view of the Obama administration that the prosecutor should be fired; and the reason world leaders, including Barack Obama, were demanding his firing in the first place was that he was failing to investigate corruption in Ukraine, not that he was being prevented from doing so. As my colleague David Graham writes, “Biden’s pressure to install a tougher prosecutor probably made it more likely, not less, that Burisma would be in the cross hairs.”

9) Ezra on board with impeachment now and makes a strong case:

Impeachment was meant to be a political remedy for political offenses. But over time, it has mutated into something quite different: a partisan remedy for political offenses. And partisan remedies are subject to partisan considerations. If Trump falls before an impeachment trial, the Republican Party will be left in wreckage. The GOP’s leaders can’t permit the destruction of their own party. They will protect Trump at all costs.

I think we have seen the total collapse of this very basic obligation of Congress under the weight of partisan polarization — particularly on the right — and it is dramatic,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “Trump has exposed it rather than triggered it.”

There have been only three serious presidential impeachment efforts in American history. Every single one of them came when Congress was controlled by the opposition party. “Impeachment has essentially never been effective, except maybe as a deterrent,” says Matt Glassman, who is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

But deterrents matter. Rather than focusing on what impeachment cannot do, it’s worth looking at what it can. The impeachment process, as it stands now, is broken. It almost certainly will not lead to Trump’s removal, no matter how damning the investigation’s findings. But that doesn’t make it useless. It can act as a sanction to Trump and his successors, unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect Trump, and provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics.

That is not sufficient, but it will have to be enough.

10) This “when to trust your gut” from Spencer Greenberg is good.  Though, I’d still prefer it in a 2-minutes-to-read article instead of an 11 minutes Ted Talk.

11) More good stuff from Jennifer Rubin:

The reason Trump makes idiotic arguments (such as “Look, there’s nothing in the transcript!”) is that he knows there are people intellectually and politically corrupt enough to repeat them. [emphasis mine] In this case, that includes Vice President Pence, who declared in an interview on Wednesday that the transcript entirely vindicates Trump. By contrast, Trump suggests that the media start investigating Pence’s conversations with Ukraine.

In essence, Trump has to give Fox News, talk radio hosts, right-wing activists and lackeys in Congress something to say while the legitimate media is pointing out that Trump has committed impeachable offenses and was too dense to understand the import of his own words. (Did Trump even read the rough transcript? It’s a few pages long, so it is quite possible he did not.)

If you keep waiting for that moment when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or the comical Fox News hosts and panelists throw up their hands and say, “I can’t do this anymore! Trump is indefensible!,” do not hold your breath. Graham and McCarthy, as well as most of their Republican colleagues, have either lost the capacity or the will to think rationally and independently; they feel compelled to act like cornered animals facing the snarling teeth of the presidential monster they created. Trump’s media boosters, some of whom know better, are so dependent on their Trump-cult audience that they dare not betray any hint of independent and rational thinking. (Pretending to be as dense as the Trump cult must be demoralizing at some level.)

12) I had no idea “greasing the groove” was a thing when it comes to weightlifting, but, apparently, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.  And, obviously, I do love this formulation, “Lift Weight, Not Too Much, Most of the Days.”

13) Alexandra Petri with a guide to quid pro quo:

What is quid pro quo?

Quid pro quo is a term that comes from the Latin and means “thing for WHAT??” It is when someone asks someone else to do something for something in a bad way. Quid pro quo is bad, if it happens, but as you will see from the following examples, it rarely does.

Here are some examples that are commonly mistaken for quid pro quo.

1. Person A to Person B

A: That is a nice baby you have there.

A: Look at my beautiful new chainsaw!

A: Please give me $20.

Is this quid pro quo?

No. In this example, Person A is trying to engage Person B by making a series of friendly statements. In the first statement, A compliments B’s baby, a friendly, neighborly thing to do. In the second, A shows off A’s new lawn-care purchase. A takes pride in his lawn. In the third statement, A makes an unrelated request. There is no quid pro quo here.

2. Lord A to Lord B

A: Wow, what a lovely castle!

A: Look at my new catapult!

A: I hope you will apologize for your remarks about my mother.

A: It would be a shame if anything happened to your castle.

In this situation, Lord A immediately demonstrates he is a good friend. A wants B to know that A admires B’s new castle. A also has purchased a catapult, which is the sort of life milestone that anyone would naturally want to share with a neighbor immediately. Also, it seems B maybe owes A an apology!

5. Individual 1 to the president of Ukraine

1: We have done a lot of nice things for you in the past.

1: We hope to do a lot of nice things for you in the future.

1: Please be sure to look into Joe Biden.

Individual 1, once again, is not engaging in even a hint of quid pro quo! He is expressing two positive wishes for his friend’s well-being, past and future, and then making an unrelated request.

Glad we were able to clear this up!

14) Despite not being a particularly common cancer, pancreatic cancer is the third most deadly.  Good article on why and the (so far failed) efforts to do something about that.  There may be some prospects for a blood test in the future, which would be awesome.

Pancreatic cancer, which will be diagnosed in about 56,770 people in the United States this year, is the only cancer with a rising mortality rate through 2014, although five-year survival has begun to inch up, from 8 percent to 9 percent by 2016. It remains the nation’s third leading cause of cancer deaths, after cancers of the lung and colon, and it is on track to overtake colon cancer within a decade. Three-fourths of people who develop pancreatic cancer die within a year of diagnosis, and only about one in 10 live five years or longer.

Perhaps like me you’ve wondered why modern medicine has thus far failed to gain the upper hand against pancreatic cancer despite having achieved major survival advances for more common cancers like breast and colon. What follows is a large part of the answer.

15) My colleagues on the Republicans in the NC government, “Corruption is undermining NC government.”

16) Paul Waldman on the amazingly pervasive corruption within the Trump administration:

Again, there are reasons to criticize Maguire’s decisions. But it seems clear that he was operating in good faith, trying to follow procedures and the law at least insofar as he understood it. Yet everywhere he turned, he faced offices and people who were partners in Trump’s degradation of the system’s integrity. It appears that, without any intent to be corrupt, Maguire was swallowed by Trump’s corruption.

In the end, some combination of public pressure and Trump’s own hubristic foolishness in thinking he can get way with anything led to the public release of both a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call and the whistleblower complaint itself. The substance of those two documents is devastating.

Watching Maguire testify, one got the sense that he knows it and is trying to somehow emerge from his service with his integrity and reputation intact. Perhaps he should have known that, when you agree to work for Donald Trump, that’s going to be next to impossible.

17) I usually find myself persuaded by Garrett Epps, but not with his argument that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act should protect people not just on “sex” but must necessarily also protect for “sexual orientation” which cannot be understood outside the concept of sex.  I’m all for protecting LGBT rights, but we should have a law for that, instead of sophistry to suggest that “sex” and “sexual orientation” should be equivalent in law.

18) Cass Sunstein on how the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence both provide a handy guide to impeachment.

19) Chait, “The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.”

The quid pro quo in the call, though perfectly apparent, is mostly implicit. But the real trick in Trump’s defense is framing the call as the entire scandal. The scandal is much more than that. The call is a snapshot, a moment in time in a months-long campaign that put American policy toward Ukraine at the disposal of Trump’s personal interests and reelection campaign.

Last spring, Rudy Giuliani was openly pressuring Kiev to investigate Joe Biden. Giuliani told the New York Times, “We’re meddling in an investigation … because that information will be very, very helpful to my client.” The key word there was “we’re.” The first-person plural indicated Giuliani was not carrying out this mission alone. A series of reports have revealed how many other government officials were involved in the scheme.

When Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine to be frozen, he went through his chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney. Congress had passed the aid, and Ukraine was under military attack from Russia, a fact that made the halting of the assistance worrisome to numerous officials in two branches of government. As the Times reported, lawmakers and State Department staffers were asking why the money hadn’t gone through.

They were given cover stories: Lawmakers “were first told the assistance was being reviewed to determine whether it was in the best interest of foreign policy,” the Times reported this week. “Other administration officials said, without detail, there was a review on corruption in Ukraine, according to current and former officials. Then, as August drew to a close, other officials told lawmakers they were trying to gauge the effectiveness of the aid, a claim that struck congressional aides as odd.”

Lots of officials were involved in disseminating these cover stories to hide the fact that Trump held back the aid to leverage Ukraine to investigate Biden. One of them was Mike Pence, who told some confused officials that the aid was being held up “based on concerns from the White House about ‘issues of corruption.’” Pence knew perfectly well what this really meant — asked point blank if the aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he replied “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” In other words, yes, Ukraine needed to investigate Biden if it wanted the money…

There may be many others. Last night on Fox News, Giuliani held up a phone he said included messages with official authorization for his activities. “You know who I did it at the request of? The State Department,” he said. The scheme to shake down Ukraine was a massive plot, spreading through the government and corrupting multiple officials. Trump had a lot of accomplices.

20) Scott Lemieux with the appropriate response to the NYT running an Op-Ed by torture architect and war criminal, John Yoo.  ““WHY ARE WE PUBLISHING THIS MAN, DID WE RUN OUT OF HUMAN BEINGS?”

21) Derek Thompson, “American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP.”

This drip-drip-drip of young residents trickling down into red-state suburbs is helping to turn southern metros into Democratic strongholds. (Of course, migration isn’t the only factor pushing these metros leftward, but more on that later.) In Texas, Democrats’ advantage in the five counties representing Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin (the “Texas Five” in the graph below) grew from 130,000 in the 2012 presidential election to nearly 800,000 in the 2018 Senate election.

In Arizona, from 2012 to 2016, Democrats narrowed their deficit in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, by 100,000 votes. Two years later, in the 2018 Senate election, the county swung Democratic, with Democrats gaining another 100,000 net votes.

In Georgia, from the 2012 presidential election to the 2018 gubernatorial elections, the four counties constituting most of Atlanta and its suburbs—Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett—increased their Democratic margin by more than 250,000.

What’s remarkable about these changes isn’t just their size, but their resemblance to Trump’s 2016 margins. Trump won Texas in 2016 by 800,000 votes. He won Arizona by 90,000 votes. He won Georgia by 170,000 votes. If these states’ biggest metros continue to move left at the same rate, there is every reason to believe that Texas, Arizona, and Georgia could be toss-ups quite soon.

As noted above, migration isn’t the only reason southern metros might be shifting to the Democratic Party: Young southerners are surely pulling their region left, while older residents could be switching parties in response to Trump. Republicans have likely hurt themselves by moving further to the right to galvanize their white exurban and rural base, even as their support has thinned in the suburbs and among working-class white women.

But domestic migration is key.

22) This is really good.  Just because what Hunter Biden did was not actually illegal or “corrupt” it is a great example of how what is so scandalous is what is actually legal.  Sarah Chayes: “Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption: Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense, but prominent Americans also shouldn’t be leveraging their names for payoffs from shady clients abroad.”

How did this get to be standard practice?

The whistle-blower scandal that has prompted the fourth presidential impeachment process in American history has put a spectacle from earlier this decade back on display: the jaw-smacking feast of scavengers who circled around Ukraine as Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-linked kleptocrat, was driven from power. Ukraine’s crisis was the latest to energize a club whose culture has come to be treated as normal—a culture in which top-tier lawyers, former U.S. public officials, and policy experts (and their progeny) cash in by trading on their connections and their access to insider policy information—usually by providing services to kleptocrats like Yanukovych. The renewed focus on Ukraine raises jangling questions: How did dealing in influence to burnish the fortunes of repugnant world leaders for large payoffs become a business model? How could America’s leading lights convince themselves—and us—that this is acceptable? …

But the egregiousness of these acts must not blind us to the culture of influence-peddling that surrounds and enables them. That culture is fundamental to the cynical state we are in, and it needs examining. All too often, the scandal isn’t that the conduct in question is forbidden by federal law, but rather, how much scandalous conduct is perfectly legal—and broadly accepted.

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