Quick hits (part II)

1) This is cool.  Nefarious boats can turn off their transponders, but they cannot hide from albatrosses.

2) As much as Senate Republicans seem comfortable with the idea of a dictator, the American president is not a dictator.  Which is why it is so absurd for Republicans who get the wrongness of Trump to say they could never live under Sanders or Warren.  Really, your life would be so little different under President Sanders than President Biden.  Paul Waldman:

But here’s something that people haven’t really considered: Whether you think a social democratic revolution of the kind Sanders promotes is good or bad, the realities of Congress will make it impossible to bring about. In fact, if Sanders is elected, the major policy contours of his presidency will be nearly identical to those of almost any other Democrat.

That’s true to a great degree of Warren as well (though she has done more thinking about how to use regulatory power to achieve progressive ends). And to be clear, I’m not saying the individual in the Oval Office doesn’t matter. There will be differences in what they prioritize, whom they put into key executive branch positions, and how they react to crises.

But on the big picture, any Democratic president will do most of the same things.

Consider health care. Sanders wants immediate passage of what would be the most generous single-payer system in the world. So what will happen when he puts out that plan?

The answer is: basically nothing. Sanders believes he can pass Medicare-for-all through reconciliation, which requires only 50 votes instead of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. But even if Democrats take the Senate, the absolute best-case scenario would get them 52 seats. And not only aren’t there 50 Senate votes for Medicare-for-all, there probably aren’t even 40 votes. Maybe not even 30…

Again, I’m not saying every Democrat’s presidency would be identical. On foreign policy the president has the most latitude to move independently, and unfortunately the candidates have said relatively little about it, though we can be sure that Biden would be more hawkish than Sanders or Warren. But we’re in the midst of a process that convinces us that the future will be radically different depending on which one of these candidates becomes president, and that’s just not likely to be true.

So the Republicans who wake up in a cold sweat imagining the statist nightmare of oppression and deprivation that will result if the wrong Democrat wins the election can rest easy. You won’t like what a Democratic president does, but it won’t be anything like your worst fears, no matter who that president is.

3) Despite the fact that I love Indian food, I am not a Bernie supporter.  But a pretty interesting relationship here.  Lynn Vavreck:

There were no discernible differences on most of the nonpolitical questions across the candidates’ supporters in Iowa, such as on buying organic foods (most supporters of all the candidates think it’s important), using Twitter to read political news (most don’t) or watching television shows on premium outlets (also uncommon). Accounting for things like age and education soaked up most of the differences that appeared at first glance.

But, as has also been true in past contests, Indian food was a distinguishing characteristic. In Iowa, supporters of Mr. Sanders are its biggest fans: 71 percent of them report going to an Indian restaurant sometime in the last 10 years. Mr. Biden’s supporters are less likely to have done so by about 30 points. This makes sense. Mr. Sanders’s supporters are younger and perhaps more likely to live in the college towns or in major metropolitan areas. Still, this relationship persists even after accounting for age, race, gender, education, ideology, being an independent, or where a person lives in the state.

Mr. Biden loses 14 points of vote share among those who have been out for Indian food relative to those who have not, and Elizabeth Warren loses three. Mr. Sanders gains eight points, Pete Buttigieg gains five, and Ms. Klobuchar gains four.

Of course, it’s not that eating Indian food leads a person to support one Democratic candidate over another — that’s silly. (And there are voters for whom Indian food is the taste of home.) But a voter’s orientation toward the world is related to candidate choice, and it turns out that eating in restaurants that celebrate less familiar cultures is one way to measure where people think they are more connected: to those around them locally or to people farther afield.

4) Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court looking to break down the separation between church and state:

The case is also a perfect vehicle for showing something else: the contradiction at the heart of the religious claims being pressed on increasingly receptive federal courts. Those making these claims say that religion and nonreligion must be treated equally. “The rule is religious neutrality,” Richard D. Komer, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, told the justices. So if parents are able use publicly financed scholarships for secular private school tuition, this argument goes, there should be no difference when it comes to religious school tuition.

When pressed, however, as they are in this case, religion advocates seek something more than equal treatment. It turns out that what they want is special treatment. That’s this case. The plaintiffs are claiming a continued entitlement to scholarships for their parochial school tuition despite the fact that the state court ended the scholarship program for religious and secular schools alike. No one gets the money.

It’s not enough that all parents are being treated the same, no matter where they choose to enroll their children. It’s different from the invitingly simple “religious freedom” story line, more complex, with deep implications for how Americans will live in an increasingly diverse society…

5) Catherine Rampell on the Trump administration’s nativism, “Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda isn’t about rule of law or economics at all”

The Trump administration’s latest rule massively restricting immigration is based on lies. But don’t take my word for it.

Just ask the Trump administration, whose own actions rebut the argument it gave for putting the rule in place.

On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to begin implementing a new policy that could dramatically reduce legal immigration. The rule says government officials can deny green cards or other visas to an immigrant if they suspect that someday — literally “at any time” in the future — the immigrant might use safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. The rule gives government bureaucrats enormous discretion to decide how to make such crystal-ball forecasts, too.

The policy could designate nearly half of the U.S. noncitizen population as a future economic burden (or “public charge,” to use the term of art), according to an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute. Which makes this rule look an awful lot like a backdoor attempt to slash legal immigration levels without consent from Congress…

There are a few reasons to be skeptical of this stated rationale. Foremost is that immigrants are, generally speaking, not an economic burden to the United States; they’re an economic boon.

Contrary to stereotypes of immigrants as lazy moochers, the foreign-born actually use fewer benefits than Americans born here. As a result, immigrants are net contributors to the U.S. economy: They pay more in federal taxes than they receive in services. Their children are also “among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population,” according to a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

In a sense, then, this “public charge” rule appears to be a solution in search of a problem.

So what did the Trump administration do? It decided to make its imagined problem come true.

At the same time it professes concern that too many immigrants aren’t self-sufficient, it’s also implementing rules that prohibit immigrants from achieving self-sufficiency.

6) Dahlia Lithwick, “Trump’s Lawyers’ Impeachment Defense Will Reshape the Office of the President”

7) I’ve found the Bernie Sanders/Joe Rogan controversy to be pretty fascinating.  Love Yglesias take on the importance of actually winning elections over purity:

For years, Rogan has aired hours-long one-on-one interviews on topics ranging from mixed martial arts to comedy, business, politics, and beyond each week. The show’s appeal is a bit lost on me, but millions of listeners — particularly younger men — love it. His backing is valuable in part because he has such a large audience. But it’s also valuable because he’s a controversial figure who doesn’t hold progressive opinions on some issues.

There aren’t very many people who are fully ideologically consistent. Rogan is a typical example. There’s nothing complicated about the choice of whether to want the support of people like him. To do so is the essence of politics.

Winning elections — a necessary first step to vindicating the rights of trans people or accomplishing anything else in politics — hinges crucially on getting people with bad opinions to vote for you…

As Dylan Matthews put it, liberals “think that discriminating against or maligning someone on the basis of membership in a protected class — women, trans people, black people, and other racially oppressed communities, etc. — violates a rule that should be inviolable. In this view, such discrimination (be it legal, or expressed through hate speech, etc.) is not just wrong because it has bad effects, or because it harms members of the groups in question; it’s wrong because we have a duty to treat humans as equals, and it is never acceptable to violate that duty, even when doing so seems politically expedient.”

This is a reasonable moral theory. But my suspicion is most people who embrace it are not thinking clearly about exactly how inexpedient it is. As of 2018, for example, 47 percent of African Americans told the General Social Survey that it is “always wrong” for two same-sex individuals to have sex…

Meanwhile, 40 percent of white Democrats deny that the black/white gap in jobs, income, and housing is mainly due to discrimination…

Meanwhile, the question of whether Democrats should try to cast out every single person who dissents from every important item on the progressive agenda is a lot bigger than the primary. What may feel like a useful way of sticking it to Sanders or being a good ally to trans friends, in practice, sends an exclusionary message to a large population of voters that Democrats need if they want to win. The big tent really is important. It’s how Democrats can win and do the work necessary to make life better for marginalized groups, like the trans community.

8) Meant to include this from Waldman in an earlier post and forgot it.  It’s good, “Sanders might actually be the Democratic nominee. Nobody knows if he’s electable.”

So what we’ll be told — if you didn’t understand it already — is that Sanders has a long history as not just as a man of the left but a radical, one whose ideas are so outrageous that the general electorate could not possibly support him.

In support of that idea, we’ll hear about how he once advocated abolishing the CIA, how he once affiliated with the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, how he honeymooned in the Soviet Union, and how he praised Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And then there are some old ruminations on male and female sexuality that are, let’s say, problematic, or at least ripe for being taken out of context…

There’s no doubt that Republicans would try to make that case, that Sanders is a crazy radical who would turn America into a communist hellscape where we will all have our property expropriated and be forced to stand on line in shapeless gray overcoats to get our monthly bread allotment.

The trouble is, we have no idea whether that kind of attack would work. Yes, on many issues Sanders is far from the median American voter, but so is President Trump; it’s not as though majorities are clamoring to overturn Roe v. Wade and give more tax cuts to corporations. Americans don’t vote on the basis of ideology, something most of them barely understand…

So will voters reject this crazy leftist, or will he manage to hold Democrats while pulling over just enough moderates and Republicans to bring the party he still refuses to join on to victory?

Here’s the truth: We have no idea.

We don’t know how any of this will factor in a general election. There hasn’t been a nominee like Sanders in modern history, nor has there been a president like Trump for a nominee like Sanders to run against. Polarization is more intense than ever, and that adds another factor that complicates our ability to make accurate predictions. We all have our suspicions, and we can tell a story any way we like that sounds plausible.

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