I am the “resistance”

Loved this from law professor Richard Primus:

Another common critique is that the notion of resistance—with or without a capital R—is melodramatic. The archetypal (nonfictional) example of something called “the Resistance” operated in France during World War II. However awful the Trump administration is, it is not Nazi Germany, and the people opposing it are not risking their lives in clandestine meetings, one step ahead of the Gestapo. So it is easy to think that people who regard their anti-Trump activism as resistance have lost perspective.

I think otherwise. Like many terms, resistance means different things to different people. To me, resistance names a posture that goes beyond ordinary political opposition; it suggests a context in which power is wielded in unusually dangerous ways and is countered by a population with heightened consciousness, exerting itself to an unusual degree. Understood in this sense, I embrace the term: I’m a resistor. And my resistance is based on two premises. The first is that the Trump presidency is morally repugnant and a threat to the rule of law. The second is that I am obligated to exceed my normal level of civic engagement to meet the threat.

Many people disagree with my first premise—that Trump is morally repugnant and a threat to the rule of law. Roughly 40 percent of Americans say they approve of Trump’s job performance. They shouldn’t. The president is a bigot, a con man, a relentless liar, and a spoiled bully who inflicts needless suffering on vulnerable people. He pardons convicted war criminals, uses his office to enrich himself personally, and courts foreign interference in American elections. He will break any rule, violate any norm, betray any national interest for his personal benefit.  The constitutional system is not built to withstand the damage that an unscrupulous president with no sense of self-restraint can inflict. As I have explained at greater length elsewhere, the Trump presidency is the greatest internally generated threat to our republic since the 1870s.

As for the reasoning behind the second premise: I firmly believe that Americans can meet the challenge posed by Trump and Trumpism. But we cannot take anything for granted. Every system of government eventually passes away, and the United States enjoys no magical exemption from that reality. Our constitutional republic can survive Trump and Trumpism, but there is no guarantee that it will.  Whether it does depends on what we do, now, and week by week until the danger has passed. Navigating that danger successfully will take a lot of effort by a lot of people.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I don’t know that we should abolish, ICE, but damn is that one problematic government bureaucracy.  “How a worker who survived a catastrophic building collapse ended up in ICE detention: Delmer Palma’s looming deportation has had a chilling effect in New Orleans, hampering a federal investigation of the Hard Rock site disaster, lawyers say.”

Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was in bad shape.

The 38-year-old metal worker survived the collapse of a building he had been working on near the French Quarter in New Orleans, jumping between floors as the 18-story structure crumbled around him. But he suffered from headaches, extreme back pain, sleeplessness and signs of shock, his family says.

Doctors said he needed to take a few weeks to heal.

So his wife, Tania Bueso, was surprised when he called her and said federal immigration agents were arresting him for deportation. The collapse had occurred just two days before.

The spectacular wreck had brought a circus of unwanted attention to New Orleans. Three workers had died, dozens of others were injured, and speculation was growing that the site, an $85 million development slated to become a Hard Rock hotel, had been a mess of dangerous working conditions. A federal investigation was moving quickly. Lawsuits against the developers were piling up. (William Kearney, a spokesman for 1031 Canal Development, the LLC behind the development, did not respond to requests for comment.)

But Palma’s arrest sent a secondary shock wave through New Orleans, where the Latino population has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Activists and lawyers said they think it has had a chilling effect, discouraging workers without permanent legal status from coming forward to cooperate with investigators and reminding more of the federal government’s power to deport them at any moment.

This is one of the unseen consequences of the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the United States — 8 million of whom are in the workforce. Not only do these arrests break apart families, like Palma’s, but they send a message that immigrants are not protected, even if they have witnessed misconduct at work, advocates say. And that means that people who would exploit them — on construction sites, in kitchens, on farms and in factories — are more empowered.

2) Adam Serwer, always good on Trump:

All of these arguments, ranging from the weak to the false, obscure the core reason for the impeachment inquiry, which is that the Trump administration was engaged in a conspiracy against American democracy. Fearing that the 2016 election was a fluke in which Trump prevailed only because of a successful Russian hacking and disinformation campaign, and a last-minute intervention on Trump’s behalf by the very national-security state Trump defenders supposedly loathe, Trump and his advisers sought to rig the 2020 election by forcing a foreign country to implicate the then-Democratic front-runner in a crime that did not take place. If the American people could not be trusted to choose Trump on their own, Trump would use his official powers to make the choice for them.

It was, in short, a conspiracy by Trump and his advisers to keep themselves in power, the exact scenario for which the Framers of the Constitution devised the impeachment clause. This scheme was carried out by Trump-appointed officials, and by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, running a corrupt back channel aimed at, in his words, “meddling in an investigation.” And it came very close to succeeding. As Brian Beutler writes, “Had the whole scheme not come to light in a whistleblower complaint, and Trump not released his hold on aid to Ukraine, we might have awaken [sic] one morning to a blaring CNN exclusive about international corruption allegations against the Democratic presidential frontrunner and his party.”

3) Book review of The Meritocracy Trap

On the surface, meritocracy seems fair, but in reality, Markovits writes, what we call merit is “a pretense, constructed to rationalize an unjust distribution of advantage.” If you know what you’re doing and if you have enough money to spend on expensive tutors and prep schools, the meritocracy is easily gamed — which basically ensures that people who are rich because they went to a fancy school will have kids who will also go to fancy schools and thus also become rich. In this way and over the years, meritocracy has become the opposite of what it purports to be: It is “a mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth, privilege and caste across generations.”

The results are ugly but undeniable. At two Ivy League colleges, the author tells us, data collected by students suggests that “the share of students from households in the top quintile of the income distribution exceeds the share from the bottom two quintiles combined by a ratio of about three and a half to one.” At other elite schools, “more students come from families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution than from the entire bottom half.”…

The middle class, broadly defined, is of course an outcast in the meritocracy, left behind in what Markovits calls “a stagnant, depleted and shrinking world.” Once, perhaps, America’s elite professional class served the general public, but today its members figure out how to replace local bankers through mortgage securitization and come up with clever ways to de-skill retail supply chains. With just about every recent meritocratic “innovation” Markovits studies, the winners turn out to be — surprise! — people already at the top of the meritocratic heap.

4) Great story on the hidden costs of medical school for low-income students was really good.  We need to to better:

David Velasquez learned his first clinical lesson early on: The health care system wasn’t made to care for people like him. Mr. Velasquez, 24, never had a primary care physician, because his parents, immigrants from Nicaragua, couldn’t afford the bills. When he was 12, his undocumented godmother died of cancer, having avoided hospitals until it was too late. Mr. Velasquez, the only college-bound member of his family, knew he needed to become a doctor.

When he registered for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, his junior year, he called the Princeton Review to ask for a discount on a $1,200 preparation package. He felt that, coming from a poor Los Angeles community without connections, he would need an especially strong test score to compete for admission.

“I thought maybe they’d hear I was desperate and put me on a payment plan,” said Mr. Velasquez, now in his third year at Harvard Medical School. The company refused his pleas for a discount, so he worked overtime to scrounge up the money. After purchasing the package, he checked his bank account to see what remained: $4.80.

American medical schools are the training grounds for a white-collar, high-income industry, but they select their students from predominantly high-income, and typically white, households. Ten years ago, a national study found that over 75 percent of medical school students came from the top 40 percent of family income in the United States, representing an annual income above $75,000. A study last year from the Association of American Medical Colleges re-examined medical school demographics and found that the numbers had barely budged. Between 1988 and 2017, more than three-quarters of American medical school students came from affluent households.

5) Interesting new research, “The Key to a Long Life Has Little to Do With ‘Good Genes’”

In 2015, the companies inked a research partnership to investigate the human heredity of lifespan, with Ruby leading the charge to sift through Ancestry’s vast forest of family trees. What he found by analyzing the pedigrees of more than 400 million people who lived and died in Europe and America going back to 1800 was that although longevity tends to run in families, your DNA has far less influence on how long you live than previously thought. The results, published Tuesday in the journal Genetics, is the first research to be made public from the collaboration, which ended quietly in July and whose terms remain confidential.

“The true heritability of human longevity for that cohort is likely no more than seven percent,” says Ruby. Previous estimates for how much genes explain variations in lifespan have ranged from around 15 to 30 percent. So what did Ruby uncover that previous studies had missed? Just how often amorous humans go against the old adage that “opposites attract.”

It turns out that through every generation, people are much more likely to select mates with similar lifespans than random chance would predict. The phenomenon, called “assortative mating,” could be based on genetics, or sociocultural traits, or both. For example, you might choose a partner who also has curly hair, and if the curly-haired trait winds up being somehow associated with long lifespans, this would inflate estimates of lifespan heritability passed on to your kids. Same thing for non-genetic traits like wealth, education, and access to good health care. People tend to choose partners in their same income bracket with the same terminal degree, both of which are associated with living longer, healthier lives…

But when Ruby looked at in-laws, things started to get weird. Logic suggests you shouldn’t share significant chunks of DNA with your siblings’ spouse—say your brother’s wife or your sister’s husband. But in Ruby’s analysis, people connected through a close relative’s marriage were almost as likely to have similar lifespans as people connected through blood. “I sort of kick myself for being surprised by this,” says Ruby. “Even though no one has shown the impact of assortative mating to such an extent before, it aligns well with how we know human societies are structured.”

6) Thought-provoking essay on how our society has been slow to adapt to much longer lifespans, but I think it insufficiently addresses persistent realities of human biology.

It’s time to get serious about a major redesign of life. Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them all on at the end. Only old age got longer.

As a result, most people are anxious about the prospect of living for a century. Asked about aspirations for living to 100, typical responses are “I hope I don’t outlive my money” or “I hope I don’t get dementia.” If we do not begin to envision what satisfying, engaged and meaningful century-long lives can look like, we will certainly fail to build worlds that can take us there.

In my view, the tension surrounding aging is due largely to the speed with which life expectancy increased. Each generation is born into a world prepared by its ancestors with knowledge, infrastructure and social norms. The human capacity to benefit from this inherited culture afforded us such extraordinary advantages that premature death was dramatically reduced in a matter of decades. Yet as longevity surged, culture didn’t keep up.

Long lives are not the problem. The problem is living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.

Retirements that span four decades are unattainable for most individuals and governments; education that ends in the early 20s is ill-suited for longer working lives; and social norms that dictate intergenerational responsibilities between parents and young children fail to address families that include four or five living generations.

7) This is kind of perfect for fans of both The Terminator and GOT (like me):

8) Really, really good discussion between some really smart political scientists on the role of early primary states in choosing the nominee.  Short version: maybe their role is not all it’s cracked up to be.

9) Sean Trende argues that the party politics of the 1870’s have important lessons for us now.

10) I really think the idea of charging people with murder for sharing drugs with a fellow addict is truly appalling and speaks to how incredibly stupid we are about facing the problem of drug addiction.

We gathered along the banks of the Columbia River at sunset. In front of the assembled crowd, a volunteer read the names of more than 40 people in our Oregon community who had died from overdoses. Four of those names belonged to people I loved, including my mom and my best friend, Justin DeLong. I attended this vigil with Justin’s mother, Ember. She had watched us struggle with addiction throughout our young adulthood. Now she and I stood arm in arm. We lit candles and thought of Justin, who in 2014 fatally overdosed from heroin I had sold to him — an act that resulted in my conviction and imprisonment for five years.

Increasingly, prosecutors are treating accidental overdoses as homicides and charging the people who provided the drugs with manslaughter or murder. “Homicide-by-overdose” laws, which have been enacted by the federal government and 25 states, date back to the 1980s. Until recently, prosecutions were relatively rare. But they’ve soared over the past decade, with drastic year-over-year increases, according to researchers at the Northeastern University School of Law. In Minnesota, the New York Times found that they quadrupled.

These laws are growing in popularity and severity: In 2017 (the most recent year in which this data was collected), 13 states introduced bills to strengthen their drug-induced-homicide laws or create new ones, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Last year, Rhode Island passed a drug-induced-homicide law that allows for sentences of life without parole. In July, North Carolina passed a “death by distribution” law that treats an overdose as second-degree homicide and carries a sentence of up to 40 years. These are draconian punishments for low-level offenses — and there is no evidence that prosecutions deter drug use or sales.

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