About that DOJ witch hunt

Jonathan Bernstein links to a lot of other good summaries in his summary, but I thought his was actually the best of the bunch:

But while I agree with Lake that some Democrats “might want to show a bit more humility” about law enforcement and national-security operations after this report — which turned up a number of significant flaws in how the FBI handled the probe — I disagree with his assertion that Republicans are merely “challenging its findings.”

That’s not the main thing happening. In fact, what a lot of Republicans from the president on down are doing is flat-out lying about a report that debunked conspiracy theories that they’ve been running with for a long time. [emphases mine] As it turns out, while the FBI made errors that suggest some serious reforms are in order, those errors weren’t motivated by partisan politics or efforts to undermine Trump. Nor did they lead to the investigation, which began — as everyone in the fact-based universe knew long ago — with a tip about Russia’s meddling from a foreign official.

Here’s how Wittes puts it:

Today, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz declared in more than 450 pages that the “Witch Hunt” narrative was nonsense. Yes, the investigation had problems—some of them serious. But the problems were not political in character. There was no effort to “get” candidate Trump. There was no “insurance policy.” There was no coup. There was no treason.

There was, rather, a properly predicated investigation that began when the FBI has always said it began and because of the information the FBI has always said triggered it. The investigation used proper investigative techniques. And while there were errors along the way, a degree of sloppiness that warrants addressing seriously, the inspector general does not find that any authorized surveillance was illegal.

Trump didn’t challenge these findings; he simply lied about the report, saying that it showed “an overthrow of government, this was an attempted overthrow — and a lot of people were in on it.” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said, “The IG report proves Obama officials abused their FISA power to trigger an investigation into @realDonaldTrump’s campaign,” when in fact the report said no such thing.

Challenge the findings of an investigation? Absolutely legitimate. Spin the parts that are good for your side? Everyone in politics does that. But to say up is down, day is night, apples are vegetables and baseball is played by horses on a chessboard? No. That’s not part of a healthy democracy. 

Trump, and Republicans in general, have been dead wrong about this investigation. And if they insist on claiming otherwise, it’s up to the media to make clear that they’re simply not telling the truth — and that none of the nefarious things they’ve been alleging actually happened

Again, the report says that the FBI made significant errors.  I hope that Congress takes the need for reform and better oversight seriously. It’s just that the errors made didn’t launch the investigation, and they weren’t a plot against Trump.

Photo of the day

Hopeful images” of 2019 seems like a nice theme given all the negativity.  I liked this one in the Atlantic gallery:

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool plays on the pitch with his daughter, Makka, after the Premier League match between Liverpool F.C. and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. at Anfield in Liverpool, England, on May 12, 2019.

Catherine Ivill / Getty

A Nobel prize in economics for demonstrating the hubris of economists

I had not really heard much about Esther Duflo, the first female Economist to win the Nobel prize in Economics, but I really enjoyed this Planet Money Q&A with her and learning about her work.  Basically, what she seems to have done is shown to other Economists what the rest of us social scientists have long known– there’s very much a limit to the power of financial incentives and many other factors which shape human behavior in economic realms.  From the Q&A:

One of the central themes of the book is that financial incentives are generally not as powerful as economists have traditionally assumed. You point to all sorts of empirical studies in which people don’t rationally respond to incentives like traditional economic models say they do. Does that mean we should reject models that put financial incentives front row and center?

Certainly, it means revisiting them in a big way. For example, on the effects of international trade. If people reacted very well to financial incentives, when they lose their jobs, they will pick up and move to some other place with better job opportunities. But in a world where people do not react so well to financial incentives, then they might not move. And if they don’t move, then there is not going to be a natural adjustment to all of the disruption caused by international trade. And that, in our view, explains why the places that were hit by competition with China — what economists call “the China Shock” — got hit so badly. It’s because people didn’t move. They just stayed there and waited for things to get better.

Economists completely underestimated how hard it is for people to make this kind of transition. There are economic factors, of course, like the difficulty of selling a house or getting someone to take care of your kids. Purely rational things. But some of this has to do more with the vision people have of themselves. If you’ve been making furniture for 25 years and that job goes away, it’s not going to be easy to just become a janitor. The image of yourself is completely shattered. You might rather go on disability or something like that.

The positive externality of women candidates

Really liked this Monkey Cage with the latest research from two political scientists I know and admire, David Cambpell and Christina Wolbrecht.  They find some really cool effects of more women running for office beside the obvious benefit of having more women in office.  I especially appreciate that they surveyed adolescent girls for their research.  Any time you do research on minors, that’s really hard to get done:

We say this based on a survey we gave to a national sample of 997 American teenagers, ages 15-18, in the heat of the 2016 election campaign; we then returned to the same teens in 2017 and during the 2018 midterm election campaign. (You can find more details, if you like, about our survey and analysis.)

From 2016 to 2017, there was a stunning change in how girls, especially those who identify as Democrats, viewed the state of democracy in America. In 2016, 37 percent of Democratic girls said that the political system helps people with their genuine needs. A year later, that had fallen by a substantial 20 percentage points. This drop was largest among Democratic girls. Democratic boys dropped, but by about half as much, while the attitudes of Republican boys and girls did not budge.

When we interviewed the same teens again in 2018, Democratic girls’ faith in democracy had rebounded; 30 percent said that democracy was working — not quite what it was in 2016, but much higher than a year before…

Many Democratic girls who live in places where one or more women ran for the House, Senate, or for governor changed their minds about American democracy. Instead of unresponsive, they now saw it as representing people’s needs.

But where there were no women candidates, the needle did not move. The graph below shows the substantial increase in Democratic girls’ faith in American democracy if they live in a place where more Democratic women ran for office. There was a similar, if more modest increase, among Democratic boys and Republican girls. The exception is Republican boys, who actually became more negative toward American democracy.

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Pretty cool.  And definitely even more reason to get more women running for political office.

And, maybe someday, we can be more like Finland 🙂 which gives us this Vox headline, “Finland’s new parliament is dominated by women under 35.”


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