Quick hits (part I)

Happy Leap Day.

1) I am so not getting a PSA screening until there are outcomes way better than this:

In the most definitive study done to date to assess the value of PSA screening, the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer concluded that 781 men aged 55 to 69 when they enrolled would have to be screened to prevent one man from dying of prostate cancer after 13 years. In this study, approximately one man in six who were screened was falsely identified as possibly having prostate cancer, and two-thirds of positive PSA results in the first round of screening were false-positives.

2) Loved this “Virtual imagery that would make me run faster on the elliptical”

My onscreen avatar is carrying a laptop and it is just beginning to rain. Also, she’s wearing suede…

I snatch a golden idol from a pedestal in an ancient temple, and, as I smirk, thinking how easy that was, rocks fall from the ceiling. The roof is going to collapse! I sprint down a corridor, idol in hand, while arrows shoot from the walls, each a near miss. My colleague’s there, waiting for me, telling me to give him the statue first and then he’ll help me across the pit that gapes between us—but he betrays me, stealing the statue and leaving me to die. I leap over the pit, slide under a closing stone door, and BAM, there’s my colleague, dead. Arrows got him. I recover the statue, pausing for a moment to catch my breath, maybe wipe the sweat off my brow with a lemongrass-scented towelette, but there’s no time! A massive boulder comes rolling down out of nowhere, and if I don’t keep running, I will be crushed!

3) David Roberts on how Elizabeth Warren is the only candidate who understands the procedural reforms necessary to restore trust in American government.  But, sadly, that doesn’t exactly resonate with voters.

4) Wired, “Will Your Cat Eat Your Corpse? The short answer is maybe. The long answer won’t make you feel any better.”

5) Atlantic with good stuff from EJ Dionne’s new book:

The broad idea of dignity and its specific connection to work has been on my mind ever since. The idea appealed to me because it rang true to the core idea of Catholic social thought—“the equal dignity of every person”—that helped shape my own politics long ago. But to see it used so explicitly in a campaign was instructive. The idea finds its power from a deep intuition that the anger in our public life, across many of our lines of division, arises from a felt denial of dignity.

Blue-collar workers of all races—very much including the white working class, which has loomed so large in political analysis since 2016—have experienced this denial of dignity. But it is also experienced by African Americans, Latinos, and immigrants across classes. In the Trump Era, these workers confront a rise in racism and nativism championed by the president himself. Women who experience sexism, and young Americans who see themselves denied opportunities their parents enjoyed, feel it, too.

In my new book, Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country, I argue that dignity should be the central purpose of a new post-Reagan economics and a new post-Trump politics. Dignity binds together progressives and moderates opposed to Trump. It can also bring together constituencies who now find themselves opposed to each other. A focus on dignity may thus have immediate political power, but it also has a deep moral resonance.

Dignity is compelling because it is a value, not an ideology or a program. But neither is it an empty slogan. Dignity has strong implications for both policy and our culture. And it answers a moral yearning felt both individually and collectively. Lifting up dignity as a core national purpose is essential to renewing a society that has lost track of the powerful “We” that opens our Constitution. A commitment to equal dignity can play an important role in pulling together a nation that Trump has devoted himself to dividing.

6) On Adam Cohen’s new book on how the Supreme Court overwhelmingly has protected the rich over our history:

Many progressives hold these truths to be virtually self-evident. The United States Supreme Court has the hallowed role of protecting the most vulnerable in society. At a minimum, it does not engage in judicial activism to burden them further. And only now, when the court has shifted decisively to the right, is it in danger of relinquishing that function.

Adam Cohen’s “Supreme Inequality” shows that these beliefs utterly fail to capture the court’s treatment of the poor. For 50 years, he explains, it has exacerbated economic inequality through its aggressive jurisprudence…

Cohen’s insight that the court has been an activist for income inequality is important. Commentators have widely excoriated income inequality as the scourge of our time (Cohen quotes the hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s description of it as an “existential threat” to the nation). Yet many attribute income inequality to broad trends like advances in technology or globalization — and even commentators who point to the actions of governmental institutions rarely mention the court. After Cohen’s book, progressives should add the court’s jurisprudence to the list of causes for income inequality. What’s more, they should include income inequality on the list of negative consequences to be feared from future courts, especially now that Brett Kavanaugh has joined the court.

7) I haven’t yet read McKay Coppins big Atlantic cover story on the massive Republican disinformation campaign that’s coming, but it’s been the talk of the town and a must-read.  I did listen to his Fresh Air interview, though.  And, damn, it really is scary as hell.

8) Soft “g” for .gif, damnit!  If you were actually using the internet back in the 1990’s, like I was, there was no controversy, that was just how it was pronounced.

9) I think/fear Brian Beutler is spot-on about the media’s 2016 malpractice almost sure to be repeated if Bernie is the nominee:

Trump has only just begun treating Bernie Sanders as his likely 2020 opponent, but Sanders’ lengthy public career and progressive politics have already aroused the same professional habits that brought us the email craze four years ago.

Political journalists face strong incentives to portray the two major parties as roughly similar moral and ethical entities that happen to share different philosophical values. Reporters are often trained to approach their subjects this way, until the practice becomes so ingrained that the supposed equivalence between the parties becomes axiomatic to them. These incentives drove mainstream media outlets to amplify the email controversy and downplay Trump’s cascade of outrages until their coverage appeared balanced, but thus left consumers with wildly inaccurate perceptions of the candidates’ relative trustworthiness.

To allow moral and ethical distinctions between partisan agendas and tactics to seep into reporting would be extremely disruptive. One party’s conduct might be consistently less ethical and principled than the other’s, but acknowledging as much, and allowing it to shape coverage, would alienate sources in that party, and drive its followers to outlets willing to sanitize the truth. But if the background assumption of most news producers is that both parties engage in dirty tricks, politicians of all stripes lie, and the nature of empirical fact itself is contestable, it creates a huge loophole that allows unscrupulous, dishonest actors to game news coverage itself, until it no longer conveys reality. [emphasis mine]

Sanders’s candidacy comes as an enormous relief to practitioners of this kind of journalism. As the most left-wing member of the Senate, and perhaps of the whole Congress, he allows political journalists to fall back on platitudes about the parties catering to their extremes, without examining the content of their agendas or their political styles.

10) Linda Greenhouse, “The Supreme Court Nears the Moment of Truth on Religion: The majority’s view of the Constitution’s free-exercise clause poses a threat to civil society.”

The startling fact of the matter is that Judges Griffin, Stranch and Donald were applying the law as they found it — as the Supreme Court has handed it to them in a series of decisions instructing judges to accept almost any religious claim, no matter how preposterous, at face value and to put the government to an extremely tough test to justify any infringement on a “sincere” religious belief. In the Hobby Lobby case six years ago, the court gave dispositive legal weight to the claim by owners of two for-profit businesses that the legal requirement to include contraception coverage in their employee health plans would make them complicit in the sin of birth control.

“It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Rather than looking at the Sixth Circuit prison decision, Fox v. Washington, as an outlier, we need to see it as a harbinger, a frightening one. I don’t know whether this particular case will end up at the Supreme Court. But there are plenty of cases like it, making claims that would have been dismissed out of hand not too many years ago and that now have to be taken seriously by those of us worried about the growing threat that an increasingly weaponized free-exercise clause poses to civil society, along with the statutes meant to extend its reach.

11) Lessons from a Buddhist monk on facing death.  Good stuff, but… We’ll see how I feel about this when I’m old, but what really scares me about dying at this point in my life is not actually dying, but the certainty of suffering for those I would leave behind.  Even if one is comfortable with their own death, you cannot get everybody who loves you thinking like a Buddhist monk.  And it’s a lot easier to deal with the death of a loved one at an older age than when you feel you’ve lost somebody way to early.

12) Well, of course Republicans want to make poor people freeze to help fund Corona virus response.  Yes, seriously.  These people are the worst:

It’s now looking like coronavirus is threatening a potential public health emergency. And a battle has broken out between the White House and Democrats over how much money to allocate to the crisis, with the White House pushing for less than Democrats think is called for.

But at the core of this dispute is something that’s hasn’t yet gotten public exposure — and is potentially very troubling.

House Democrats tell us they are outraged by one aspect of the White House response in particular: The White House appears to have informed Democrats that they want to fund the emergency response in part by taking money from a program that funds low-income home heating assistance.

A document that the Trump administration sent to Congress, which we have seen, indicates that the administration is transferring $37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families.

13) I actually quite like Turkish Delight (I used to have a colleague who would regularly return with it from Turkey), but I do so love this post, “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight”

14) Yes, we totally should do toilets like the Japanese do.  To some degree, though, it would almost be worse to get used to a better toilet experience at home and then have to suffer in comparison when going anywhere else in America.  But, hey, if this actually starts taking off, I’m ready to be an early adopter.

15) Very good stuff here, “I was a juror in the Roger Stone trial. Attacking our foreperson undermines our service.”

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty. The jury system is rooted in English common law and enshrined in both Article III and the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution; it is fundamental to the American system of justice. All of us need to be concerned when this process is attacked. More than 1.5 million Americans are impaneled on juries every year, according to the National Center for State Courts. Federal service is more rare than state-level service, but a 2007 center report found that more than a third of Americans will serve on a jury at some point in their lifetimes. Jurors are not merely expected but required to judge facts fairly. We are required to disclose any potential bias and are asked whether that potential bias would prevent us from rendering an impartial verdict.

16) Drum with a good take on the outrage machine (and, damnit, I did read this article before I saw Drum’s post):

Can someone please tell me why this tiny local story is on the front page of a national newspaper?

Oh, right: it “went viral.” Therefore it must be covered.

STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Everything is caught on camera these days. Everything is outrageous these days. Everything goes viral these days—if by “viral” you mean that a few thousand people took five seconds to retweet something.

Why do we do this? Why can’t we let local stories stay local unless they truly have some kind of national significance? Why do we insist on stoking outrage at every opportunity? It’s not as if we lack for plenty of genuine national-level outrages, after all.

 

 

 

A sort-of-positive Bernie post

I normally love Ron Brownstein.  He normally does a lot of interesting political analysis based on demographics.  It’s a real strength.  But when he strays into elite consensus (oh, no, spending!) I think he’s not so great.  Like this column arguing that the high cost of all of Bernie’s plans could be his downfall: “The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man: The price of Bernie Sanders’s agenda could be his biggest general-election weakness. But his rivals haven’t yet forced him to explain how he’d cover the full cost.”

This is such an elite journalist, inside-the-beltway, take.  There’s just no evidence at all that ordinary American voters give a damn at all about how politicians will pay for things– whether it’s the military, tax cuts, or expansive health care.  Now, there’s evidence that Republicans say they care about these things, but the much better evidence is that Republicans just like to complain about Democrats spending money on government programs (remember, Obama bent over backwards to make sure the ACA was “paid for” as if that would somehow give credit with Republicans).

Brownstein’s case:

Bernie Sanders faced more pointed attacks last night over his potential vulnerabilities than he ever has at a debate. But the blustery and disorderly session once again failed to fully explore what could be the Vermont senator’s greatest general-election weakness: the massive size and scope of his spending and tax proposals, which, depending on the estimate, would cost $50 trillion to $60 trillion over the next 10 years. That would roughly double the size of the federal government, an unprecedented increase outside of wartime…

Still, the debate’s most lasting effect may be the seeds it laid down for a deeper discussion to come about the cumulative cost of Sanders’s agenda, an issue that’s received remarkably little attention until recently

“You would need even more revenue than he is proposing to fully offset those costs,” says Jared Bernstein, an economist and senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who is generally sympathetic to Sanders’s agenda. “It is not realistic to believe you can get all those revenues from the top 1, 5, or 10 percent [of households]. You would have to go down further than that. The rest of it has to come from a broader base of taxpayers or it has to go on the deficit.”…

If Sanders’s tax plans were to raise as much money as he claims, they would increase federal taxes as a share of GDP by as much as 11 percentage points. “I think it is fair to say that the tax increase—assuming it is as big as Senator Sanders projects—is about as large as the [13-point] tax increases enacted to finance World War II,” as measured as a share of GDP, says Leonard Burman, a former senior Treasury Department tax official under Clinton and an institute fellow at the Tax Policy Center, which is operated by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. “It is more than five times as large as any tax increase enacted since. And even if it falls short of the campaign’s projections, it would be the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.”

Sorry, but this all just strikes me as off-base.  Republicans (and many journalists) just loved Paul Ryan despite most all his budget “plans” being absolutely as fantastical and unrealistic as what Bernie is proposing.  Clearly, Republicans never paid any real price for their fantastical economics and there’s no reason to think Bernie will for his either.  The average American voter probably has no meaningful conceptual distinction between a government program that cost one billion and one trillion.  It’s all just “a lot” or “too much.”  Now, Brownstein and Jared Bernstein and you and me do, but we are not remotely your typical voter.

Now, Bernie may well pay an electoral penalty for being a “socialist” and wanting “new taxes,” but the idea that he will actually suffer for having his plans based on largely fantastical math or spending $60 trillion on something versus $2 trillion just does not hold up to historical scrutiny.

Uh, oh, but looks like I disagree with Ezra.  Massive cognitive dissonance:

But here’s the thing, Brownstein was largely focused on the huge levels of spending, not so much the taxes.  That’s where, I think, Brownstein is wrong.  As for Ezra, the key here is, “It’s the tax increases implied by his plans.”  Bernie is really vague on all these numbers and you damn well he’s going to say almost all these taxes are on “rich people.”

Non-voter reality and Bernie’s theory of the case

In theory, Bernie is going to win the general by bringing in all these non-voters who don’t usually vote.  Umm, first that’s really hard.  If these people were inclined at all to vote they would, you know… vote.  But, yes, the electorate does actually fluctuate.  So, who are these non-voters?  Good stuff from Yascha Mounk:

“To defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders proclaimed at a recent rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, “the simple truth is we are going to need to have the largest voter turnout in the history of American politics. That means we are going to have to bring people into the political process who very often have not been involved in the political process.” The senator’s most famous surrogate, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, put the point more succinctly at a rally in Las Vegas: “The swing voters that we’re most concerned with are the nonvoters to voters.”

Many advocates of what I have called the “progressive theory of mobilization” assume that the typical nonvoter is young, brown or black, and very progressive. But while, of course, some nonvoters fit that description, an overwhelming majority don’t.

Nonvoters are, in fact, somewhat more likely than voters to be brown or black: While 10 percent of voters are black, 13 percent of nonvoters are. And while 11 percent of voters are Hispanic, 15 percent of nonvoters are. But among nonvoters, the overall share of people of color is quite small: Nearly two out of every three nonvoters are white.

Nonvoters are also far less progressive than is commonly believed. They are more likely than voters to support constructing a wall on the southern border with Mexico, less likely to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, less likely to support abortion rights, and less likely to favor gun control. Nonvoters do skew left on some important economic issues, such as support for a higher minimum wage. But on the defining cultural issues of the moment, they are markedly more conservative.

In light of their views on public policy, it is hardly surprising that nonvoters are not particularly likely to describe themselves as liberal or to say that they favor the Democratic Party. Among voters, 38 percent consider themselves Democrats and 30 percent Republicans, for a differential of eight points. Among nonvoters, 31 percent consider themselves Democrats and 26 percent Republicans, for a differential of only five points. The ideological breakdown of nonvoters is even more revealing: A clear majority of them consider themselves either moderate or conservative; only one in five say that they are liberal.

Nor is there much evidence that nonvoters are particularly energized to remove Donald Trump from office. They are less likely than voters to say that the country is going in the wrong direction or to believe that the upcoming election holds more importance than previous ones. And whereas 46 percent of all voters say that they are likely to vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee, only 33 percent of nonvoters say they’ll vote this way if they choose to go to the polls…

It is natural for ideologues of every hue to project their hopes and aspirations on the reservoir of voters who rarely show up to the polls.

Today, many progressives seem to believe that most nonvoters are young leftists who are being kept away from the polls because the Democratic Party doesn’t cater to their preferences. But if Democrats wants to remove Trump from the White House, they need to take a careful look at what nonvoters actually think. Any candidate for office, moderate or progressive, is unlikely to win if he stakes his strategy on an imaginary electorate.

Again, Bernie can very much win the general.  Heck, who knows what Coronavirus may do between now and November, among other things.  But his theory of the case for how he will win is very much a stretch and thus very concerning.

Today in interesting coronavirus reading

1) I really would prefer less hand-shaking in my life and more fist-bumping (I know DJC is with me):

Handshaking spreads germs and is a bad method of greeting. I prefer an elegant namaste but that is slightly hard to coordinate on when the other person sticks out their hand. The fist bump is a little smoother and has a greater chance of being adopted.

A study by Mela and Whitsworth in the American Journal of Infection Control found that fist bumps transferred one-quarter as much bacteria as a moderate handshake and even less compared to a strong handshake. Fist bumps are better because of lower contact times and lower contact area.

2) Good general Q&A in Slate:

Am I likely to get the new coronavirus?

Researchers are still figuring that out. One epidemiologist estimated that 40–70 percent of people will get the disease, according to a piece in the Atlantic helpfully titled “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” At Stat, reporter Sharon Begley lays out two scenarios based on interviews with epidemiologists if the virus isn’t contained: In one, COVID-19 becomes one of the mundane coronaviruses that’s always floating around in the world (there are currently four; they cause about a fourth of all colds). In another, it’s less mundane and more like the flu, which causes a lot of havoc every year.

So I am going to die of coronavirus?

No, almost certainly not! The death rate outside of Wuhan, China, is 0.7 percent, according to the WHO. In Wuhan, where hospitals are overwhelmed, it’s 2–4 percent. Those numbers might be high because they don’t account for people who experienced the virus without any major symptoms and weren’t screened for it, essentially artificially reducing the denominator. The virus is also mostly a concern for older people, and people who are otherwise immunocompromised; it damages the lungs, potentially leading to pneumonia and in severe cases, organ failure. Typically, severe symptoms from viruses are also a concern for babies, but so far, the symptoms in babies have been mild.

Wait, then why did the coronavirus kill a 29-year-old doctor?

Because he was a doctor. “It’s a dosage thing,” explains Anna Yeung-Cheung, a virologist at Manhattanville College. Health care workers are exposed to far more people, often pretty sick people, than the average person, and therefore stand to come in contact with higher levels of the virus. A lot of virus can still overwhelm a healthy immune system.

3) This is so damn true, “To Prevent Next Coronavirus, Stop the Wildlife Trade, Conservationists Say: Conservationists see a persistent threat of epidemics so long as tens of millions of animals are traded in Southeast Asia.”Just asking for it with zoonotic diseases until this changes.

4) I found this discussion of why the disease seems to be much more deadly for men particularly fascinating:

The coronavirus that originated in China has spread fear and anxiety around the world. But while the novel virus has largely spared one vulnerable group — children — it appears to pose a particular threat to middle-aged and older adults, particularly men.

This week, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published the largest analysis of coronavirus cases to date. Although men and women have been infected in roughly equal numbers, researchers found, the death rate among men was 2.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent among women.

The figures were drawn from patient medical records, and the sample may not fully reflect the scope of the outbreak. But the disparity has been seen in the past…

When it comes to mounting an immune response against infections, men are the weaker sex.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract — men can have worse outcomes,” said Sabra Klein, a scientist who studies sex differences in viral infections and vaccination responses at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“We’ve seen this with other viruses. Women fight them off better,” she added.

Women also produce stronger immune responses after vaccinations, and have enhanced memory immune responses, which protect adults from pathogens they were exposed to as children.

“There’s something about the immune system in females that is more exuberant,” said Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health.

But there’s a high price, she added: Women are far more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system shifts into overdrive and attacks the body’s own organs and tissues.

Nearly 80 percent of those with autoimmune diseases are women, Dr. Clayton noted. [emphases mine]

The reasons women have stronger immune responses aren’t entirely clear, and the research is still at an early stage, experts caution.

But Bernie polls so well against Trump

Your must-read from yesterday.  Political Scientists, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, with some important and compelling research in Vox suggesting that Bernie’s strength in polling head-to-head match-ups is largely a mirage:

So which candidate is most likely to beat Trump? Decades of evidence from academic studies suggests that more moderate nominees tend to perform better in general elections than more ideologically extreme nominees. For example, Democratic US House candidates who supported Medicare-for-all fared approximately 2.2 percentage points worse in the 2018 midterms than candidates in similar districts who did not.

But early polling testing how Democratic nominees would fare against Trump suggests a different conclusion: Bernie Sanders, the most left-wing candidate in the Democratic primary, polls as well against Trump as his more moderate competitors in surveys. Democratic voters have appeared to take these polls to heart, as a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Democrats believe Sanders has the best chance of beating Trump.

Why does Sanders look similarly electable to leading moderates in polls against Trump?We fielded a 40,000-person survey in early 2020 that helps us look into this question with more precision…

Our data (laid out in an academic working paper here) also found what polls show: that Sanders is similarly electable to more moderate candidates. But, on closer inspection, it shows that this finding relies on some remarkable assumptions about youth turnout that past elections suggest are questionable. 

We found that nominating Sanders would drive many Americans who would otherwise vote for a moderate Democrat to vote for Trump, especially otherwise Trump-skeptical Republicans.  [emphases mine]

Republicans are more likely to say they would vote for Trump if Sanders is nominated: Approximately 2 percent of Republicans choose Trump over Sanders but desert Trump when we pit him against a more moderate Democrat like Buttigieg, Biden, or Bloomberg.

Democrats and independents are also slightly more likely to say they would vote for Trump if Sanders is nominated. Swing voters may be rare — but their choices between candidates often determine elections, and many appear to favor Trump over Sanders but not over other Democrats…

Despite losing these voters to Trump, Sanders appears in our survey data to be similarly electable to the moderates, at least at first blush. Why? Mainly because 11 percent of left-leaning young people say they are undecided, would support a third-party candidate, or, most often, just would not vote if a moderate were nominated — but say they would turn out and vote for Sanders if he were nominated…

But for Sanders to do as well as a moderate Democrat against Trump in November by stimulating youth turnout, his nomination would need to boost turnout of young left-leaning voters enormously — according to our data, one in six left-leaning young people who otherwise wouldn’t vote would need to turn out because Sanders was nominated. There are good reasons to doubt that Sanders’s nomination would produce a youth turnout surge this large…

However, the “Bernie or bust” phenomenon appears almost entirely limited to left-leaning young people, who are usually a small share of the overall electorate. This stands in contrast to many theories of Sanders’s electoral appeal: For example, whites without a college degree — a demographic some speculate Sanders could win over — are actually more likely to say they will vote for Trump against Sanders than against the other Democrats. The same is true of the rest of the electorate, except left-leaning young people…

The case that Bernie Sanders is just as electable as the more moderate candidates thus appears to rest on a leap of faith: that youth voter turnout would surge in the general election by double digits if and only if Bernie Sanders is nominated, compensating for the voters his nomination pushes to Trump among the rest of the electorate.

There are reasons to doubt a Sanders-driven youth turnout surge of this size would materialize. First, people who promise in surveys they will vote often don’t, meaning the turnout estimates that Sanders’s electability case rests upon are probably extremely inaccurate. Second, such a turnout surge is large in comparison to other effects on turnout.

And, in conclusion:

Early polls are never a surefire guide to what will happen in an election months later. But Democrats should not be very reassured by early polls that find Sanders faring as well against Trump as the more moderate candidates: These numbers may only look decent for Sanders because they assume he will inspire a youth turnout miracle. Our survey data reveals voters of all parties moving to Trump if Sanders is nominated, a liability papered over by young voters who claim they would be inspired to vote by Sanders alone.

The gamble Democrats supporting Sanders based on his early polls against Trump must be ready to make is that, despite the evidenceto the contrary, the lowest-participating segment of the electorate will turn out at remarkably high rates because Sanders is nominated.

Does this mean Sanders will likely lose to Trump?  No.  Does this mean that Sanders is very likely the riskiest candidate to put up against Trump, when literally, the rule of law is at stake?  Hell, yeah.  And it’s sure not worth it for a series of policy proposals that have no chance of even getting through a Democratically-controlled Senate.

Immigrants makes us better; Trump makes us worse

One area where Trump’s malevolence is not quite so leavened by incompetence is immigration policy, where the administration has been pretty damn effective at making it ever harder for people to come to this country.  And increasingly so in Orwellian and Kafkaesque ways that beggar the imagination.  Catherine Rampell is on the case, even though the issue has largely been ignored.  Two good recent columns.  First, an absolutely preposterous catch 22:

Starting next week, green card applicants can be denied green cards partly on the basis that they are applying for green cards.

Yes, you read that correctly.

On Monday, the Trump administration begins enforcing a new rule supposedly designed to make sure any immigrants let in are self-sufficient and not a drain on government resources. That might sound reasonable enough. The rule is based on a series of flawed premises, though, and even more flawed processes.

For instance, immigrants already pay more in taxes than they receive in federal benefits. In fact, they use fewer benefits than their native-born counterparts.

Even those who arrive with relatively low incomes — people who might be suspected of one day becoming a burden on Uncle Sam — tend to have a steep earnings’ trajectory as they gain skills, greater English-language proficiency and professional networks. Census data and reams of academic research show that poor immigrants generally do what politicians advise them to: work hard, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become productive members of society.

Yet the Trump administration is barreling ahead, keen to catch those imagined hordes of lazy, benefit-guzzling foreigners.

Thanks to what it calls the “public charge” rule, immigration officials are permitted to deny green cards (among other visas) if they suspect that the applicant might use government benefits someday — “at any time in the future.” Exactly what this means, or how one might make such a prediction, is frustratingly vague.

The Trump administration admits as much: As it acknowledges in its rule, divining whether a person might, say, apply for food stamps or Medicaid in 30 years is “inherently subjective in nature.”

Immigration officials have wide discretion when making these “inherently subjective” forecasts. The rule, however, includes factors that officials are supposed to consider when assessing the “totality of the circumstances presented in an applicant’s case”: current earnings, credit score, age, education and so on.

This month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published additional “guidance” on implementation in its internal policy manual. It elaborated on a particular red flag.

 Among the “negative factors” it says employees should consider when assessing whether an immigrant could someday become a public charge: whether the immigrant is applying for a green card. You know, the very reason the official is evaluating the immigrant. [emphases mine]

Nice.  Also, that rule has gone into effect this week.  And here’s some utter insanity worthy of the movie Brazil:

After Yolanda was raped, she ran.

She ran from the basement where her attacker had trapped her for three hours. She ran until she found her way to a police station, a place that people such as Yolanda usually avoid at all costs.

Yolanda, a Guatemalan in her 40s, is undocumented. She’s been living in the shadows for more than a decade. But Congress created a program intended to encourage immigrants like her to come forward about heinous crimes like this one: the U-visa, for crime victims who assist law enforcement.

Even so, for several months after her assault, she still agonized about whether to apply, which would requiring turning over information not just to local police but to the Trump administration. But lawyers said she had a slam-dunk case.

Then, unexpectedly, the feds rejected her application. Why? Because … her youngest son doesn’t have a middle name.

If that sounds arbitrary and irrelevant, that’s probably by design. Over the past few months, the Trump administration has quietly been rolling out a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas: If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field.

For example, if “Apt. Number” is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too.

Seems like a reasonable time to mention that people who call themselves Christians (not sure Jesus would approve) are Trump’s biggest supporters.  Oh, if there was only 1/100 concern for the already born.

And the editorial board gets it right with this headline, “Trump’s immigration policies are straight out of dystopian fiction.”

This American Life has been doing good work on immigration lately, too.  Here’s a fun one.  Border Patrol agent and Navy veteran spends his whole life thinking he is was born in America and serves his country with distinction.  But, hey, in Trump’s America, out you go.  Atlantic story on it, too.

And, a couple weeks ago they replayed this happy story about the amazing story of a Somali refugee, Abdi, who surmounted huge odds to finally make it to America and succeed.  America needs more people like this!  Not fewer!  But fewer is exactly what we’re getting with Trump.  One thing I know for sure– Abdi is worth 1000 Stephen Miller.
With so much everything and so much awfullness, it’s easy to overlook the everyday banal evil of the Trump administration.  But here it is on glaring display.

 

Coronavirus is coming for you

Yes, what’s going on with the COVID-19 is legitimately scary and concerning.  It’s also pretty fascinating.  The Atlantic’s James Hamblin:

Severe illness caused by viruses such as H5N1 also means that infected people can be identified and isolated, or that they died quickly. They do not walk around feeling just a little under the weather, seeding the virus. The new coronavirus (known technically as SARS-CoV-2) that has been spreading around the world can cause a respiratory illness that can be severe. The disease (known as COVID-19) seems to have a fatality rate of less than 2 percent—exponentially lower than most outbreaks that make global news. The virus has raised alarm not despite that low fatality rate, but because of it.

Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.

COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all…

But even with the ideal containment, the virus’s spread may have been inevitable. Testing people who are already extremely sick is an imperfect strategy if people can spread the virus without even feeling bad enough to stay home from work.

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.” [emphases mine]

Of course, if the fatality rate stays up near 2% (unlikely, I think, as other parts of the article detail the fast and impressive work to find a vaccine) that’s one hell of an endemic virus.  But, who knows, maybe years from now it will be no big deal for me to get an email from a student telling me they missed class for COVID-19.

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