Overwhelmed

The truth is Trump is just so awful that we literally cannot keep up with the awfulness.  (Again, I direct you back to my cat piss theory of Trump).  American Prospect’s Adele Stan points out some recent awfulness that hardly got any attention because it was so drowned out by other awfulness:

On Tuesday evening, at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, President Donald Trump treated his audience to a bit of snuff porn involving high-school age girls and some bad hombres.

After painting all the people currently under deportation orders as drug-importing gang members, the president described their purported crimes. “So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15—and others—and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before any die,” Trump said. “And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long.”

A more perfect encapsulation of the proclivities of the president’s poisonous psyche could not be imagined by even the likes of Quentin Tarantino. It’s all there, the racism, the dehumanization of immigrants, and a sexualized violence involving bleeding women—or, in this case, girls…

THE WORST PART of all of this is how terribly normal it has all become. None of the three must-read publications in Washington—The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Politico—even reported the president’s slasher-movie remarks about “beautiful” 15-year-old girls from Tuesday’s speech in Youngstown, focusing rather on the fact that the speech was in the style of Trump’s campaign. Yet, even during the campaign, such a claim as Trump’s slice-and-dice quip would have been deemed shocking.

Yep.  And I can’t even blame the media to much for this.  They kept plenty busy with other Trump awfulness last week.  Alas, this is where we are as a country now.  And this is where will stay until more Republicans can overcome their un-thinking, totally reflexive partisanship (it can be done– look how much I’ve quoted The National Review of late) and admit that President Trump is a grossly unqualified threat to our democracy.

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Too much scandal to handle

Brendan Nyhan on how the super-abundance of Trump scandals actually works in his favor:

These developments have struggled to gain traction amid the many competing stories about Mr. Trump and his presidential transition, including Tuesday night’s release of unverified allegations against the president-elect.

Scandals need time and space to develop. When the news cycle is congested, potential scandals are deprived of attention, causing the media to move on to other stories and the political opposition to anticipate that any criticisms will probably have little effect…

History shows that potential scandals can easily be crowded off the news agenda by other events. During the chaotic post-9/11 period, for instance, the focus on more important events kept Army Secretary Thomas White in office despite numerous questionable decisions. (The post-9/11 surge in news continued all the way through the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, helping to insulate George W. Bush from fallout over the collapse of the Enron corporation and other matters; Bush didn’t suffer a major scandal until Valerie Plame was outed as a C.I.A. officer that summer.)

Another example came during the summer of 2009, when the death of Michael Jackson helped push the furor over the affair of the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, out of the news.

By contrast, relatively slow news periods may increase the likelihood of a scandal’s developing, as with the travel habits of former White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu in 1991, which became an issue in the months after the end of the first Persian Gulf war, and as with Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal in 2014…

In this sense, the continuing reality show that Mr. Trump creates may help protect him from deep damage by any particular scandal. As in the campaign, he makes so much news every day that few stories ever generate sustained controversy. Instead, public attention lurches from one story to the next, never quite focusing on any particular controversy. He may prefer it that way. [emphasis mine]

Also reminds me of my “cat piss” post I wrote back during the campaign:

As much as some journalists may be trying to keep from normalizing Trump’s absurdly abnormal behavior, honestly, the volume of it just makes it hard.  It is quite simply human nature to adapt to that to which you are always exposed.  Donald Trump is like a 20-year old cat that just keeps peeing all over the house.  After a while, you just don’t even smell it any more.  But if your neighbors come over all they can think is “damn, this house smells like cat piss.”  Or if you go away for a week you come back and think, “damn does my house stink.”  But day in, day out, you just get used to it.

Right now, Donald Trump is an old cat (or dog) peeing all over the house and our media is mostly just inured to it.

However you think about it, it’s sure not good.

The incontinent pet theory of Donald Trump

As much as some journalists may be trying to keep from normalizing Trump’s absurdly abnormal behavior, honestly, the volume of it just makes it hard.  It is quite simply human nature to adapt to that to which you are always exposed.  Donald Trump is like a 20-year old cat that just keeps peeing all over the house.  After a while, you just don’t even smell it any more.  But if your neighbors come over all they can think is “damn, this house smells like cat piss.”  Or if you go away for a week you come back and think, “damn does my house stink.”  But day in, day out, you just get used to it.

Right now, Donald Trump is an old cat (or dog) peeing all over the house and our media is mostly just inured to it.  Yglesias:

Donald Trump went on CNBC this morning, and, over the course of a wide-ranging interview, once again reminded the world of the most fundamental fact about his candidacy — he doesn’t really seem to understand any aspect of American public policy…

A few observations about all this:

  • In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhand racist remark about a sitting US senator would be a big news story.
  • In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhanded lie about the state of his personal finances would be a big news story.
  • To be totally honest, even in a normal election cycle a candidate exhibiting total confusion about the mechanics and merits of monetary policy probably wouldn’t be that big of a news story but it would at least get some attention.

Seriously. Stop. Take a breath. Now imagine if Mitt Romney had run exactly Mitt Romney’s campaign but then suddenly in mid-September went on television and called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas for no reason. It would have been huge.

This year, basically nothing. Trump being kinda racist is a dog-bites-man story. [emphasis mine] After all, just yesterday Donald Trump Jr. shared a white nationalist meme on Instagram. Trump lies all the time, so that’s not a big deal. In fact, he lies frequently about the essential core of his foreign policy, and his business dealings pose such obvious and flagrant conflicts of interest and ethics problems that lying about his stock holdings doesn’t seem like a big deal. And of course Trump doesn’t understand what he’s saying when it comes to monetary policy — monetary policy is complicated and obscure and Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about on any other issue either…

But the truly scary thing is that Trump is redefining the concept of a gaffe out of existence. It turns out that if you just boldly repeat something often enough, it goes away as a story. We’ve become numb, as a society, to what Trump is doing. In the process we’ve normalized casual racism, intense personal insults as an approach to politics, and completely decentered the idea that elected officials should grapple with difficult policy questions. Half the crazy things Trump says or does barely merit a mention on Twitter, much less the front-page coverage they would have merited in previous campaigns.

More than anything else, the numbness that Trump creates frightens me.

We have a learned a lot this year about what you can get away with in politics if you are brazen enough. The answer is that you can get away with a lot. Whatever happens in November, that revelation won’t go away.

Meanwhile, Trump’s foundation is proving to be an absolute embarrassment and fiasco.  But nobody cares!!  Well, nobody except an intrepid reporter at the Post.  But seriously, this is so much worse than anything with the Clinton foundation, but hardly getting any coverage beyond the Post.  The media has so come to just expect awfulness from all things Trump that he can get away with an awful amount of awfulness.  Donald Trump is ruining all the carpets.

 

 

 

 

Just another day in Trump world

So, I fully elaborated by cat-piss-infested house theory of Trump to my current class yesterday in a way I had not before.  Had fun with that and extended the metaphor.  I decided at this point, the cat may be crapping in your shoes and people will just so, “oh well, I’ve got other shoes.”  Maybe when the cat starts scratching your eyes out you’ll notice somethings wrong.  Maybe.

The indefatigable David Farenthold with yet another story of big-time Trump financial malfeasance, and, presumably just a collective sigh.  Loved this summary from Brian Beutler’s newsletter:

President Trump inflated the height of Trump Tower, the size of his winery, and the number of home lots for sale on his golf courses, in order to secure financing from lenders. This is what most lawyers would call mortgage fraud, what Bill Barr might call failure to establish that Trump committed robbery, and what Trump would call COMPLETE AND TOTAL EXONERATION.

And, which will honestly probably just get one more collective shrug.  Just the cat crapping in your shoes.  Nothing to see here.

At least the media is focusing on the important stories

Formerly obscure actors fakes attack on himself.  In today’s world, that’s surely up there above all the other stuff going on.  It’s not like we have a criminal with strongly authoritarian tendencies (about the only thing he’s actually strong on) trying to run run the country.  Seriously, raise your hand if you had any idea who Jessie Smollett was before this incident.  Were many a liberal too quick to jump on his fantastical story?  Sure.  But, also, there’s a helluva lot more real hate crimes than made-up ones.

But, mostly, this is an absurd amount of attention to this story.  One of my Media & Politics students today mentioned that maybe, perhaps, we should be hearing more about Trump trying to sell Nuclear technology to the Saudi’s that he shouldn’t.  (Nice summary here).  Of course, if this had been Obama, it would be a huge scandal.  Seriously.  But I think this is clearly a case of scandal fatigue (my take here).  Even I just kind of rolled my eyes when I saw the headlines yesterday.

I wanted to see how Fox was covering Smollett and just… damn.

At least 6 separate stories and a new one featured every time I check back on the website.  Again, for somebody that <1% of Fox news viewers could probably name a month ago.  Also, a search on the misgbegotten nuclear deal at Foxnews.com comes up literally empty.

Alas, even the so-called liberal media does not exactly have their priorities in order.

Oh, yeah, and hell, yeah a totally nutso Coast Guard lieutenant wanting to blow up the country and mostly liberals is a bigger story:

‘I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth’: A self-proclaimed white nationalist planned a mass terrorist attack, the government says

But, hey, let’s obsess over a clearly mentally unstable actor who faked an attack on himself for media attention.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Pew with a thorough look at public opinion on the border and the shutdown.  Partisanship is a thing.

GOP support for expanding border wall rises; Democratic support falls

2) David Brooks on “putting relationship quality at the center of education.”  I’ve been saying for years and years, that just like Coach K coaches for the relationships, not the championships, I teach for the relationships.

3) I loved the Gillette ad.  Even allowed myself to be goaded into a semi-rare facebook argument (I won, of course– no really, I did), but I also really like Drum’s take on the damn liberals who have to push everything too far.  I also like that he takes on the worst of Vox, which he’s right about and weakens otherwise great journalism.

Well, plenty of men aren’t happy with it. No surprise there. But apparently some women aren’t happy about it either, even though it conveys an explicitly feminist message. Why? Well, at the risk of pissing off some friends, I have to make a confession here: The ism writers at Vox (sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) are always on hand to describe and explain these things. And they always defend the most extreme woke view. Nevertheless, I read most of their wokeness articles anyway, sometimes because they’re good but other times because I’m curious to find out what excuse they’ll use this time to defend the most extravagantly excessive view out there. For the Gillette ad, here it is:

Men who are angry about a commercial and calling for a boycott of a razor company in the comments of a YouTube post are also writing things like, “Gillette is desperately deleting critical comments for fear that people will know about what men are saying about this radical feminist advert.”

These arguments make no sense whatsoever. Still, this ad is a misfire, in that it is a blatant attempt to make money off a painful and ongoing collective action that has not even an indirect relationship to face razors. Is it likely that there were people at Gillette with good intentions and people at Grey who wanted to help realize them? Absolutely! However, it is inherently nonsensical to use feminism to sell men’s grooming products, or any products, as feminism is a political movement bent on dismantling current structures of power, which likely includes multibillion-dollar corporations like Procter & Gamble.

Really?

The reason this commercial is bad is because feminism is dedicated to destroying all large corporations, and it’s therefore inherently nonsensical for large corporations to promote feminist views in their advertising? This wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman women’s studies course. How does it make it past an editor? It persuades no one except those who are already part of the drum circle. Everyone else either skips it entirely or just guffaws when they read it.

I’m not just nitpicking a single piece, either. It doesn’t matter if the subject is liberalism, conservatism, guns, abortion, feminism, racism, climate change, or anything else. We all have to be willing to call out the nonsense on our own side when we hear it. We can’t just automatically go along with the most extreme voices out of fear that we’ll no longer be considered part of the movement if we suggest that maybe someone has gone a wee bit too far.

Anyway: this is just a commercial. Sure, it uses consciousness raising in service of making money. So what? If corporate chieftans are willing to bet that promoting feminism is good for the bottom line, all the better for feminism. How else are you going to reach a hundred million men in prime time, after all?

4) Farhad Manjoo makes the moral case for open borders.  And, for the record, even the liberal NYT commenters let him have it.

5) Apparently treating children equally is a pretty new innovation.  My take is: love your children so that they are each convinced they are your favorite.  It’s actually such a taboo to have favorites that I enjoy joking to my classes that I rank order my children every day with refrigerator magnets.  Anyway, good stuff from Jennifer Traig:

Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do. In one small but astounding survey, 80 percent of mothers acknowledged favoring one child over the others. This was no secret to their children, 80 percent of whom agreed. Interestingly, however, when they were asked which child their mother loved most, they almost always got it wrong. Similar results are borne out in larger studies: Two-thirds of children accurately perceive that their parents have a favorite, but less than half get the favorite right.

The idea that you’re supposed to treat your children equally is recent, and it’s still not the norm in much of the world, where different siblings might have different roles and even different titles. In English, we refer to both younger and older siblings as sister or brother, but Chinese has separate terms for each. A gege (older brother) has different rights and responsibilities than a younger one (didi), as do a jiejie (big sister) and meimei (little sister). In Japan, an old slang term for the second son was “Master Cold Rice,” because historically he ate only after the firstborn got his food.

Treating all your children the same is certainly not the norm historically, either. Playing favorites is called “parental differential treatment,” and it was standard practice until fairly recently. Treating all your children the same would be as ridiculous as, say, treating your husband and the doorman the same because they’re both men, greeting them both with kisses and giving both tips for bringing up the mail. The two just play different roles, and there are different expectations for each.

6) Border reality via NPR: “For 7th Consecutive Year, Visa Overstays Exceeded Illegal Border Crossings.”

7) Meanwhile, Drum brings a whole host of border/immigration reality with lots of great charts.

8) This is cool… by making you brain work harder, the Sans Forgetica font can help you learn better.

9) Really enjoyed this from the Economist on why our weeks seven days.  Because… ancient Mesopotamians.

10) Really like this new research from friend PID expert Alex Theodoridis (with Stephen Goggin and John Henderson):

To what extent do voters grasp “what goes with what” among key political objects as they attempt to understand the choices they face at the ballot box? Is recognition of these associations limited to only the most informed citizens? We design a novel conjoint classification experiment that minimizes partisan boosting and allows for the relative comparison of attribute effect when mapping voter associative networks, the cluster of attributes linked to parties and ideological labels. We ask respondents to ‘guess’ the party or ideology of hypothetical candidates with fully randomized issue priorities and biographical details. There is remarkable agreement among both high- and low-knowledge voters in linking issues to each party and ideology, suggesting this minimalist form of associative competence is more widely held in the mass public than perhaps previously thought. We find less agreement about biographical traits, which appear to pose greater informational challenges for voters. Notably, nearly identical issue priorities and traits are associated with party and ideology, indicating these two dimensions are largely fused in the minds of today’s American voters.

11) Frank Bruni asks, “Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?”  Ummmmm… yeah.

Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. As the writer Steve Almond observed in a recently published essay, “He appears powerful to his followers, which is central to his strongman mystique.”…

Trump was and is a perverse gift to the mainstream, establishment media, a magnet for eyeballs at a juncture when we were struggling economically and desperately needed one. Just present him as the high-wire act and car crash that he is; the audience gorges on it. But readers’ news appetite isn’t infinite, so they’re starved of information about the fraudulence of his supposed populism and the toll of his incompetence. And he wins. He doesn’t hate the media, not at all. He uses us.

Did that dynamic help elect him? There’s no definitive answer. But we gave him an extraordinary bounty of coverage, depriving his rivals of commensurate oxygen and agency. And while our coverage of him had turned overwhelmingly negative by the final months of the 2016 campaign, it by no means started out that way.

12) Greg Sargent makes the case for Sherrod Brown:

Sen. Sherrod Brown will travel to the early presidential primary states in coming weeks, he confirmed to me in an interview. This will stoke speculation about the presidential ambitions of the Ohio Democrat who is widely seen as an ideal messenger for true economic populism as the antidote to President Trump’s sham version of the same.

At the core of Brown’s message is a simple idea: The way to confer dignity on work is to ensure that it pays well. Due to structural economic factors beyond ordinary Americans’ control, wages have stagnated for millions, with many trapped in the ranks of the working poor; but government can remedy this through the tax code by sending struggling Americans money.

Many progressive economists and Democratic lawmakers are coalescing around a way to do this, through one version or another of expanded tax credits for working people and families, to supplement their income and lift them out of poverty and/or closer to the ranks of the middle-class.

13) I cannot believe I was so late to the game of the terrific podcast literally produced in San Quentin by prisoners, “Ear Hustle.”  So good.  Host Earlonne Woods is amazing and so obviously completely rehabilitated.  How many other prisoners who have already served many years and could really benefit society are also languishing behind bars without a podcast to let us know?

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m not sure what the solution is for crushing medical school debt, but insofar as it encourages new physicians to choose over-compensated specialties over primary care, that’s a really bad thing for all of us.

2) Kevin Drum on how segregated urban schools are.  You know who is not so bad?  North Carolina (i.e., Raleigh and Charlotte):

3) I had no idea you could add periods and pluses to gmail addresses.

4) I gotta say, I think this new approach to biometrics and computer security is really cool:

When you’re browsing a website and the mouse cursor disappears, it might be a computer glitch — or it might be a deliberate test to find out who you are.

The way you press, scroll and type on a phone screen or keyboard can be as unique as your fingerprints or facial features. To fight fraud, a growing number of banks and merchants are tracking visitors’ physical movements as they use websites and apps.

Some use the technology only to weed out automated attacks and suspicious transactions, but others are going significantly further, amassing tens of millions of profiles that can identify customers by how they touch, hold and tap their devices.

The data collection is invisible to those being watched. Using sensors in your phone or code on websites, companies can gather thousands of data points, known as “behavioral biometrics,” to help prove whether a digital user is actually the person she claims to be.

5) Tim Miller on Democrats’ “embarrassingly timid” opposition to Trump.

6) Parenting without reward or punishment?  Hmmm.

Many parents grew up with punishments, and it’s understandable that they rely on them. But punishments tend to escalate conflict and shut down learning. They elicit a fight or flight response, which means that sophisticated thinking in the frontal cortex goes dark and basic defense mechanisms kick in. Punishments make us either rebel, feel shamed or angry, repress our feelings, or figure out how not to get caught. In this case, full-fledged 4-year-old resistance would be at its peak.

So rewards are the positive choice then, right?

Not so fast. Rewards are more like punishment’s sneaky twin. Families find them alluring (understandably), because rewards can control a child momentarily. But the effect can wear off, or even backfire: “How much do I get?” a client told us her daughter said one day when asked to pick up her room…

The whole concept of punishments and rewards is based on negative assumptions about children — that they need to be controlled and shaped by us, and that they don’t have good intentions. But we can flip this around to see kids as capable, wired for empathy, cooperation, team spirit and hard work. That perspective changes how we talk to children in powerful ways.

There’s actually lots of good parenting advice in this, but, I cannot imagine parenting without fairly common use of reward and punishment.

7) It’s hard to imagine a policy change more representative of today’s GOP than changing coal regulations that will result in about 1400 more Americans a year dying.

8) Those damn Russians, “Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to Sow Discord, Study Finds: Twitter accounts that were used to meddle in the 2016 presidential election also sent both pro- and anti-vaccine messages and insulted parents.”  On a totally unrelated note, I found “Red Sparrow” not great, but pretty damn entertaining.

9) Just came across this interesting CityLab feature on public bus ridership.  Something I am paying far closer attention to now that it is how my oldest son is committing to community college.  So far, (mostly) so good, but definitely some hiccups.  Also, it needs to work better, but the Transloc app is so cool.

10) It is amazing to me, sometimes, just how alike I think with Kevin Drum and Mike Pesca.  Pesca had a great “spiel” on straw bans recently, but there’s no transcript, so here’s Drum’s post on the matter:

For the moment, I’ll highlight a trivial story that will nonetheless probably piss off a whole bunch of you:

The California Senate on Monday approved legislation barring dine-in restaurants from offering plastic straws to customers unless they are requested….The measure exempts fast-food restaurants and other businesses.

“This bill is the last straw,” Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. “This is a first step to the total banning of plastic straws. To me it almost looks silly. I think the negative consequences [of straws] are a bit overstated.”…But Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said the proposal will help educate the public about the environmental hazard of plasticsthat are not biodegradable. “Let the consumer request it if they want it,” he said.

Here’s what’s going to piss you off: I agree with the Republicans about this. California is too full of performative legislation that’s designed to make some point or other but is almost certain to have no actual effect. I’d prefer that folks pick a career and stick to it. If you want to be a performer, go to Hollywood. If you want to be a politician, propose legislation that actually accomplishes something. How about a plastic packaging tax, similar to what France is doing? If that’s not enough, go bigger. But whatever you do, make it something that delivers real results, not just a pat-on-the-back for getting on board with the fad of the week.

11) I got in yet another ridiculous argument about diet soda last week.  This time with somebody who just kept going on about how your liver turns aspartame into formaldehyde.  Oh no!

Questions about aspartame relate to its metabolites – the chemical products created when our bodies digest the sugar substitute. Critics have raised concerns about the metabolites methanol and phenylalanine.

Over time, methanol can produce the known carcinogen formaldehyde. While this might seem scary, the video claims that the body actually produces and uses 1,000 times more formaldehyde than you could consume through aspartame. After helping to make important proteins, formaldehyde gets turned into formic acid and exits the body through urine.

12) Should you choose a female doctor?  Ummm, yes:

Does gender matter when choosing a doctor?

Whether your doctor is male or female could be a matter of life or death, a new study suggests. The study, of more than 580,000 heart patientsadmitted over two decades to emergency rooms in Florida, found that mortality rates for both women and men were lower when the treating physician was female. And women who were treated by male doctors were the least likely to survive.

Earlier research supports the findings. In 2016, a Harvard study of more than 1.5 million hospitalized Medicare patients found that when patients were treated by female physicians, they were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital over a 30-day period than those cared for by male doctors. The difference in mortality was slight — about half a percentage point — but when applied to the entire Medicare population, it translates to 32,000 fewer deaths.

Other studies have also found meaningful differences in how women and men practice medicine. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed a number of studies that focused on how doctors communicate. They found that female primary care doctors simply spent more time listening to patients than did their male colleagues. But listening comes with a cost. Doctors who were women spent, on average, two extra minutes, or about 10 percent more time per visit

My doctor is a man, but I chose him because he listens.  And I found him through my kids’ amazing pediatrician who is a man and a terrific listener.

13) Good take on Sacha Baron Cohen: and conservative fear.

But Cohen’s real trump card is Col. Erran Morad, an Israeli “anti-terrorism expert” who plays into every fantasy American conservatives seem to have about Israel. Many of the show’s targets show an admiration for him as uncritical as it is unstinting; for the most part, they’re putty in his hands. But I would argue that—unlike “pitiable” Baron Cohen characters, who tend toward absurdism in ways that frequently absolve the targets—Morad does reveal some pretty unsavory things about the American right. For one, the miasma of fear in which it simmers. This was Spencer’s excuse: He claimed he feared for his life and that Cohen “exploited my state of mind for profit and notoriety.” Shaun McCutcheon—an Alabamian Republican activist whose main achievement until now was helping to eliminate limits on aggregate campaign contributions—was similarly fearful, telling Morad that he has “a large concern about terrorism and the fact that terrorism is possibly coming to the United States more than it already has.” Three conservative men who decided to throw a fake quinceañera in order to entrap “illegal” Mexicans expressed similarly paranoid sentiments: One claimed that the purpose of the traditional coming-of-age party was to rape young girls.

14) I added a couple of these Chrome extensions the Wired staff cannot live without.  (I saved this week’s quick hits on onetab instead of a bunch of open tabs).

15) Really liked Yglesias‘ generally positive, but honest and not hagiographic, obituary of McCain.  He was a complicated man.

15) If you’ve been looking for the really negative McCain obituary, this is the one for you.

16) Adam Davidson on the serious jeopardy that Alan Weisselberg places Trump in.

There are now multiple investigations of the Trump Organization being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Attorney General, The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Southern District of New York, and—quite likely—other jurisdictions. President Trump is unable to stop most of these investigations. With Cohen and, now, Weisselberg providing information, it is becoming increasingly certain that the American people will—sooner or later—have a far fuller understanding of how Donald Trump conducted business. That is unlikely to go well for him.

Democracy vs. Civility

Well, my twitter is all alight today with ongoing discussion of Sarah Sanders and the Red Hen restaurant.  My initial response was support for the restaurant for their decision to deny service to a specific evil person for who she is as an individual, rather than on a basis that she cannot control.  After reading lots of good stuff on-line today, I’m quite happy with my initial response.

Brian Beutler on the power of shame:

At the end of the Bush administration, a contingent of liberals advocated, similarly, that certain officials should essentially be shunned. These officials dragged the country into a war that cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqis their lives on false pretenses, and instituted an illegal torture regime at CIA black sites around the globe. If they were simply reabsorbed into elite life, the argument when, the next cadre of potential torturers would feel undeterred. Making them anathema wouldn’t merely serve retributive purposes, wouldn’t be uncivil behavior for incivility’s sake, but would create an important incentive for future unscrupulous leaders to avoid inhumane temptations.

The establishment did not abide this argument. Today, architects of the torture regime include the Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime appointee on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. One of its implementers is the director of the CIA. And the new president of the United States is a torture apologist who fawns over authoritarians who torture dissidents.

Wittingly or not, the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA took a stand for the view that this history shouldn’t be allowed to repeat itself. It is abundantly clear that influential elements within civil society are uncomfortable upsetting the elite balance in this way. Some people who would stand squarely behind the girl selling water on the street in San Francisco don’t want Sanders to be made to feel uncomfortable, because they dine with her, or with her political allies. Institutions that typically uphold decent values don’t want to be seen censuring representatives of one political party, because they prize the appearance of partisan neutrality over whatever small deterrent effect they might have. Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski lied to the public programmatically, and were rewarded with fellowships at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

There are only so many official channels for enforcing moral standards in American public life. One is elections, which happen pretty rarely, and, thanks to gerrymanders and the electoral college, frequently reward popular vote losers. Another is the law, where courts are increasingly stacked against the majority. Under those circumstances, shame is a potent weapon, and it’s little surprise that people invested in the status quo want those who can wield it to unilaterally disarm…

Not just because turnabout is sometimes satisfying, but because other Republicans are watching, and if they understand that advancing Trumpist values comes with a cost, it might arrest the right’s slide into illiberalism. That’s something even reluctant factions of the political establishment should awaken to and embrace because all of us are along for the ride together.

Paul Waldman:

In a large portion of Trump’s base today, there is no higher goal in public debate than “owning the libs”—not making a insightful argument or compelling case for a particular course of action, but pissing off the people you hate. It has become a movement devoted to trolling as a central goal and an end in itself. All over America, people report that angry bigots are feeling unleashed to let everyone know how they feel about them, whether it’s in organized neo-Nazi rallies or one-on-one interactions.

So spare us the lectures on politeness from people who work for a man who makes up mocking names for anyone who angers him, who bragged about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity, who warns against immigrants who will “pour in and infest our Country,” who vomits out an unending stream of lies, who encourages his supporters to be as cruel and hateful as he is, and who regularly demonstrates his loathing for all the institutions and procedures that separate democracy from dictatorship. As I write this, the most-read article on the website of my other employer, The Washington Post, is “The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.” The second-most-read article is, “Trump advocates depriving undocumented immigrants of due-process rights.” Who’s being uncivil here? …

In all the endless media examinations of every thought that might drift through the mind of a Trump loyalist tucking into the omelette special at Grady’s Diner on Main Street in a sturdy but struggling town in the heartland, we often lose sight of just how many Americans have been scarred by this presidency already. Even apart from those who have been hurt in direct and tangible ways, there are millions who have been told that their they aren’t true Americans, that they don’t deserve civil rights, that the machinery of the state can be mobilized against them based on the whims of an impulsive man-child and the party that enthusiastically supports him.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when some of those people decide, in a moment of anger or calm reflection, to push back just a little on the people who are most enthusiastically turning Donald Trump’s will into action. Those administration staffers made a choice to work for him, knowing full well who he is.

They should spend the rest of their lives in the ignominy they deserve, but the truth is that they won’t. They’ll move to lavishly remunerated positions with corporations and think tanks and lobbying firms, and the Republican “establishment” that expressed so much terror at the prospect of a Trump presidency will work hard to rationalize all their misdeeds. They’ll be just fine.

So in the meantime, count me as not particularly upset to hear that Sarah Sanders or Kirstjen Nielsen got confronted by some Americans disgusted at the things they do. If someone started an organized effort to make sure no Trump staffer could eat a meal or fill up their gas tank without being yelled at, I’d say that there are more effective ways to accomplish one’s political goals. But if they have to move through the world being reminded of how contemptible most of us find them, that’s at least some tiny measure of justice and accountability.

Zack Beuchamp brings in the Rawls!

But this isn’t simply a matter of a poorly chosen example. It points to the basic problem with the entire “civility” argument. American politics are uncivil — and have been long before Sanders sat down for dinner this weekend. And at the moment, this incivility is mainly coming from the White House. The Trump administration has flouted the norms of political discourse far more often than any of its opponents.

Sanders is uniquely complicit in this. Her job requires providing cover for the president’s most egregious lies, undermining a vital part of public discourse — the very idea of fair and open public discourse about the truth. If refusing service to Sanders puts the spotlight on this feature, it might not harm America’s political civility; in fact, it might even improve it.

Incivility in the Trump era isn’t about rude tweets. It’s about lies.  [emphases mine]

To understand what Sanders’s defenders are getting wrong about the dinner incident, let’s get straight on the difference between “incivility” in politics and simple rudeness. Our guide here will be John Rawls, by all accounts the greatest American political philosopher of the 20th century.

A major topic of Rawls’s work was the problem of political disagreement: How is it possible to have a democracy, a government allegedly for and by the people, when people disagree so much among themselves? Rawls attempted to answer this question in one of his major works, an extremely long tome titled Political Liberalism.

The core of his answer, to simplify it dramatically, is that democracy depends on a certain set of principles that almost everyone agrees with. These are principles that only “reasonable” people (not Nazis, for example) can accept — ideas like “all citizens deserve to be treated equally” and “it’s wrong to imprison people on the basis of faith.”

For this system to work, Rawls argued, public debate must be free and open for people to clearly explain how their policy convictions can be justified according to the shared beliefs at the heart of a democratic society. Rawls called the obligation to adhere to these rules of discourse “the duty of civility”: If citizens in general, and politicians especially, hide and obfuscate their arguments, then people’s ability to give their informed consent to the administration disappears…

Rawls never really engaged with the possibility that a democratic government might make dishonesty one of its core political principles. But as my colleague Matt Yglesias has argued at length, that is what President Donald Trump has done — using a complete disregard for the truth as a tactic for advancing his agenda and keeping his base loyal…

Sarah Sanders’s job as White House press secretary makes her especially complicit in this agenda.

Because the president lies constantly, a major part of her job is defending those lies — either covering for them, deflecting them, or lying herself to cover for them. Merely doing her job makes Sanders (because of her boss’s uniquely hostile approach to the truth) uncivil according to Rawls’s terms.

The Trump administration is attacking the very heart of a democratic political system. And Sanders, by aggressively repeating and defending Trump’s lies, is a vital part of this machine…

Wilkinson acted to punish a political official for a specific set of severe wrongs, not to harm an average customer whose political views she happened to disagree with. A slippery slope to politically segregated dining, this is not.

Instead of the first shot in a cold civil war, Wilkinson’s actions are best seen as a form of holding political elites accountable, forcing them to answer for their actions — something citizens rarely have the opportunity to do. Given that the next elections are months away and the presidential contest isn’t until 2020, Wilkinson doesn’t have much of an opportunity to punish the White House for its egregious behavior occurring right now.

Wilkinson’s actions aren’t those of a culture warrior looking to divide members of the US population against one another. In fact, there’s no evidence she wanted this incident to go public or inspire copycats; an employee of hers posted about it on Facebook, and it was Sanders who brought this matter wider attention by tweeting about it.

Absent those postings, no one would’ve known. It would have been a modest act by a private citizen to hold a public official accountable — a way of registering dissent with the way the government conducts itself, in keeping with the Rawlsian view of civility.

And a few great twitter threads on this, too:

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on the reality of “political correctness” and attitudes towards free speech on campus, “Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong: Support for free speech is rising, and is higher among liberals and college graduates.”

2) Not a big fan of being verbally abusive to employees– male or female– but that doesn’t make it a #metoo issue.  I liked this comment from an accomplished female friend who shared this article, “The Stranger Things creators were accused of verbally abusing female employees” about the Duffer Brothers.  The fact that this story seemed to have a shelf-life of about a day, suggests many believe similarly.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been yelled at, I could retire. I don’t get a free pass from pissing off my bosses because I’m female. Granted, I think there are more effective management techniques than shouting at and insulting subordinates, but that’s a management issue, not a harassment issue.

3) This New Yorker article on how we determine death and “brain death” in particularly was really interesting.  I had never heard about this fascinating case of a family who simply refused to accept “brain dead” as actually dead for their daughter that they still care for.

4) Sticking with the New Yorker, also loved (and was scared/disturbed) this article on the stinkbug invasion.  Hasn’t made Cary, NC yet, at least.

5) How a couple in Michigan learned to game the lottery.  Interesting stuff, but I’m going to be a little judgmental here, though, and say it’s a real shame that people would actually spend pretty much all their time doing this rather than something with at least a minimally pro-social benefit (like the case of the Biomedical researcher who gave up his job to work full time on gaming the lottery).

6) Enjoyed Sean Illing’s interview (these are almost uniformly great) with Bruce Gibney about how the Baby Boomers have ruined everything:

Sean Illing

What’s the most egregious thing the boomers have done in your opinion?

Bruce Gibney

I’ll give you something abstract and something concrete. On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they’ve done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it’s been replaced by a cult of individualism. It’s hard to overstate how damaging this is.

On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward. Because we failed to confront things like infrastructure decay and climate change early on, they’ve only grown into bigger and more expensive problems. When something breaks, it’s a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been to just maintain it all along.

7a) What’s so ultimately stupid about tipping is that even when restaurants try and get rid of it for all the right reasons, it’s so damn embedded in our culture that the restaurants actually suffer for doing  the right thing.  Ugh.  Nice New Yorker on the matter:

New research by Lynn shows that when restaurants move to a no-tipping policy, their online customer ratings fall. One factor that explains that dissatisfaction is how we, as consumers, respond to “partitioned” prices versus “bundled” prices. A partitioned price divides the total cost of an item into smaller components—say, a television listed for a hundred and ninety dollars that has a ten-dollar shipping fee. A bundled price would list the television, shipping included, for two hundred dollars. Consumers tend to perceive partitioned prices as cheaper than bundled ones. Lynn says that a customer who routinely tips fifteen per cent will see a gratuity-included restaurant as more expensive than a traditional restaurant with menu prices fifteen per cent lower. “In fact, a customer who routinely tips twenty per cent”—making her total bill higher than the gratuity-included alternative—“will still view the no-tipping restaurant as more expensive,” Lynn told me.

Lynn found that online customer ratings fell even more dramatically when restaurants instituted a mandatory service charge. People don’t like price hikes, he said, but they accept the logic of a restaurant taking on responsibility for its employees’ full wages and pricing its goods accordingly. They hate service charges. The underlying issue is that, while it is strongly encouraged by social norms, tipping is still notionally optional; being automatically billed for it feels like a “gotcha” moment. Lynn’s research also shows that customers expect inferior service from no-tipping establishments—which biases their views of the service they receive.

In Lynn’s study of online customer ratings, mid-scale restaurants suffered more after instituting no-tipping policies than upscale ones, where, he hypothesizes, customers are less price-sensitive. This suggests that, for the time being, success with tip-free programs may be restricted to the very high end. But that won’t necessarily stop other restaurants from trying. Despite the ethical virtues associated with going tipless, restaurant owners’ primary motivation to do so is likely financial. Minimum wage is rising across the country. If the tipping system remains, restaurants will have no choice but to raise menu prices in order to pay their staff. Servers will then double-dip, so to speak: they will benefit from a higher base wage while their tips also increase as menu prices climb. In other words, the best way for restaurants to keep prices low is to eliminate tipping. The biggest thing holding them back is customers’ suspicion that doing so is a ripoff.

7b) Among other heretofore largely ignored problems with tipping, it makes sexual harassment more likely.

8) Do antidepressants work?  Yes, but pretty modestly, and mostly for major depression.

9) Greg Sargent on the Republican cover-up for Trump:

House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam B. Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.

But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been made public yet — that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.

10a) Not a fan of having a torturer in charge of the CIA.

10b) And my good friend and colleague, Michael Struett, on the matter in the N&O.

11) And the political scientist who thought he’d throw in his lot with Kris Kobach’s dishonest case against the almost non-existent voter fraud has basically had his reputation publicly trashed.

12) This is a great thread from Niskanen (libertarian think tank) President Jerry Taylor summarizing a fascinating new working paper from political scientist extraordinaire, Larry Bartels.

In contrast to much journalistic speculation, I find that Republicans are not particularly divided by cultural conservatism (as measured by survey items focusing on respect for the American flag, the English language, and negative feelings toward Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and gays and lesbians, among others); indeed, they tend to be united and energized by these values. Democrats, by comparison, are relatively divided on cultural issues, with more than one-fourth finding themselves closer to the average Republican position than to the average position of their own party.

13) Totally nerdy, but totally loved Drum’s take on how to use the y-axis in charts.  Short version, so long as you are not being misleading, minimize white-space.  I agree.

14) Of course Alabama sheriffs are allowed to get rich by letting prisoners go hungry.  Yes, seriously.  Welcome to America.  Or at least the deep South part.

15) Another nice Sean Illing interview, this one on rural resentments:

Sean Illing

In the book, you argue that the anger we’re seeing in rural America is less about economic concerns and more about the perception that Washington is threatening the way of life in small towns. How, specifically, is Washington doing this?

Robert Wuthnow

I’m not sure that Washington is doing anything to harm these communities. To be honest, a lot of it is just scapegoating. And that’s why you see more xenophobia and racism in these communities. There’s a sense that things are going badly, and the impulse is to blame “others.”

They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington’s interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

Sean Illing

But that’s just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact. [emphasis mine]

Robert Wuthnow

I don’t disagree with that. I’m just explaining what I heard from people on the ground in these communities. This is what they believe, what they say, not what I believe.

Sean Illing

Fair enough. The title of your book, The Left Behind, rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that many of these people haven’t been left behind; they’ve chosen not to keep up. But the sense of victimization appears to overwhelm everything else.

15) This article is not quite 100% explicit on the point, but I like how it gets at the fact that Virginia was particularly ripe for an upset because it’s games are less reliable indicators of relative team quality due to the lower number of possessions:

Playing slowly leaves better teams more vulnerable to upsets, said John Harris, a mathematics professor at Furman University who, with two other faculty members, Kevin Hutson and Liz Bouzarth, has studied N.C.A.A. tournament upsets.

He groups teams into “Giants” and “Killers.” The Giants are always the better team. The variable is what improves the underdogs’ chances. The answer, it turns out, is when the Giants’ giant-like qualities are minimized, because a slow pace means there is literally less basketball being played.

“Picture it in terms of an extreme case,” Harris said. “If each team had one possession, a Killer is more likely to upset a Giant. The more possessions you give a Giant, the more likely it is they’re able to separate.

“It’s the reason,” he added, “why you don’t play the World Series in one game.”

16) Yeah, some kids may get hurt at Britain’s riskier new playgrounds, but the payoffs in building children’s non-cognitive capacities is worth it.

17) I do love the idea of tying fines to your income.  Smarter countries have already figured this out:

If Mark Zuckerberg and a janitor who works at Facebook’s headquarters each received a speeding ticket while driving home from work, they’d each owe the government the same amount of money. Mr. Zuckerberg wouldn’t bat an eye.

The janitor is another story.

For people living on the economic margins, even minor offenses can impose crushing financial obligations, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration for nonpayment. In Ferguson, Mo., for example, a single $151 parking violation sent a black woman struggling with homelessness into a seven-year odyssey of court appearances, arrest warrants and jail time connected to her inability to pay.

Across America, one-size-fits-all fines are the norm, which I demonstrate in an article for the University of Chicago Law Review. Where judges do have wiggle room to choose the size of a fine, mandatory minimums and maximums often tie their hands. Some states even prohibit consideration of a person’s income. And when courts are allowed to take finances into account, they frequently fail to do so.

Other places have saner methods. Finland and Argentina, for example, have tailored fines to income for almost 100 years. The most common model, the “day fine,” scales sanctions to a person’s daily wage. A small offense like littering might cost a fraction of a day’s pay. A serious crime might swallow a month’s paycheck. Everyone pays the same proportion of their income.

For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m loving all the Wirecutter stories in my FB feed these days.  I’m especially intrigued by the idea of a carry-on carry-on bag.

2) Frum (back in February) makes a case for what effective anti-Trump protest should look like:

It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era.

The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.

You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.

Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day. Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner––like these protesters at LAX, in video posted by The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf. Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.

3) Stan Greenberg’s take on why Clinton lost.

4) Garrett Epps‘, “America’s Red and Blue Judges: Justice Neil Gorsuch exemplifies how the Supreme Court has become fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics.”

5) Chait on how Trump bungled the politics of the NFL:

These comments had two swift effects, each disastrous for the president. First, it turned the question away from the style of the protest to the right to conduct it. The national anthem is a potent symbol of patriotism, but so is the First Amendment to the Constitution. “No, I don’t agree with [Trump], said University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh Saturday, “That’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Even pro-Trump coaches and owners began to issue statements attacking the president. “I’m pissed off,” said Rex Ryan. “I supported Donald Trump. [These comments] are appalling to me … I never signed up for that.”

Second, it turned the pregame drama into an anti-Trump protest. The pregame kneel has now become a spectacle of resistance, with dramatic gestures of white players joining black ones to oppose the crude attacks from the great orange bigot. Fans who might have complained before about politics being inserted into football — as if the bloated displays of military might attached to the NFL were not a form of politics — could no longer miss that Trump was now more likely than anybody else to politicize the game.

6) Eric Reid’s NYT Op-Ed on why he kneels is awesome and eloquent.  Puts the haters to shame.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

7) John Pavlovitz, “White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee.”

8) Literally the one non-dessert food all the Greene’s will eat?  Pancakes.  The science behind what makes them so good.

9) Not at all surprising to learn, “Obesity surgery may work by remaking your gut microbiome.”

10) Every single cognitive bias in one infographic.

11) Didn’t realize that so many website started pushing video as a way to increase ad revenue.  That said, I’m surprised that this CJR story did not mention that for your typical informative story, video is just a way, way less efficient way to consume information.

12) The saddest part on so many Republicans and their racial resentment is how oblivious they are to it.  This is the Republican candidate for mayor of Raleigh.  Looks like he changed the settings on the original post, but here’s the screenshot:

13) Tom Price is just an amazing sleazeball.  Good riddance!  Nice NYT editorial on what he represents in Trump’s view of public service.

14) James Hamblin of ongoing Republican efforts to sabotage ACA.

15) Jay Bilas on the NCAA after the FBI investigation:

In the movie “Jurassic Park,” actor Jeff Goldblum’s character had a memorable line — “Life finds a way.” In my view, the same goes for money. In college sports, money will find a way. Money will always find a way, because the NCAA and its member institutions are addicted to money and will continue to chase it. That seems beyond reasonable dispute…

The NCAA could act as The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club if it wished. The Masters does not allow commercialization of its product beyond its comfort level and has rules for its media partners. Augusta National could make far more money off that property if it wished, but it finds other things more important. Not the NCAA. If your decisions reveal your priorities, the NCAA’s first priority is money.

16) A remarkably candid admission from a Freedom Caucus stalwart that deficits only matter when Democrats are president.

17) The latest research finds that “broken windows” policing may actually lead to more crime.

18) Drum makes the case for bringing pork barrel spending back to Congress:

It’s not hard to guess why. Party leaders are the ones responsible for wrangling enough votes to pass big, complicated bills. To do that, they need to be willing to pressure members for votes any way they can. Offering a wavering member a freeway on-ramp or a senior center in her district may not be the most important bit of leverage they have, but sometimes it’s enough to get the final few votes they need to cross the finish line. Is this unseemly? Maybe, but former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle thinks the earmark system was a net positive anyway: “It wasn’t pretty,” he admitted in 2014, “but it worked.”

Here’s another dirty secret: Earmarks don’t actually cost anything. Overall spending levels are set by Congress in appropriations bills, and bureau­cratic formulas decide how much money goes to each state. Earmarks merely redirect some of that spending; they don’t add to it.

19) Latest thorough research suggests that campaigning of all sorts has virtually no impact in persuading voters of whom to vote for.  That said, there still is evidence for its effects on turnout.

20) Why yes, we should “get the keg out of the frat house.”

Alcohol is the wellspring of most fraternity vice, and evidence shows that reducing drinking at chapters makes them safer — and not just for fraternity brothers. According to the National Institute of Justice, women who frequent frat parties are more likely to become victims of “incapacitated sexual assault.” Many fraternity brothers and alumni maintain that fraternities shouldn’t be blamed for excessive drinking — that it is just a part of college life — but the numbers tell a different story.

Study after study has shown that fraternity men are the heaviest drinkers on campus. According to Harvard public-health research, considered the most definitive, 86 percent of men living in chapter houses binge on alcohol, twice the level of those who live elsewhere. A University of Maine survey found that three-quarters of fraternity members report they’ve been hazed, including being forced to drink into unconsciousness.

(That said, let’s not ignore selection bias in these statistics).

21) Peter Beinart on how Republicans are not apparently totally okay with Roy Moore’s blatant anti-Muslim prejudice.

22) And Chait on the GOP surrender:

Moore has openly defied legal authority in service of his belief that his theology overrides the authority of the United States government. This ought to disqualify Moore for service in public office, the most minimal qualification for which is a profession of respect for the rule of law. And yet, rather than declaring Moore unfit to serve, Republicans have endorsed his candidacy. Their stated qualms are limited to the concern that he might fail to vote for their tax-cut plan.

“He’s going to be for tax reform, I think,” Ohio senator Rob Portman of Ohio tells Politico. “Who won? I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes,” adds Nevada senator Dean Heller. If America slides into authoritarianism, the history of the Republican Party’s complicity could be titled, “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just worried about taxes.” [emphasis mine]

23) Interesting feature on how Darrell Hammond lost his SNL Trump impression to Alec Baldwin.

24) Lee Drutman on our era of super-competitive national elections and non-competitive state elections is great.  Here’s a key chart:

Why do Republicans hate disabled children?

Hyperbole?  Sure.  But not too much.  When you look at the impact of what they just voted upon, an entirely reasonable question.  NYT yesterday (written before the damnable vote):

With all the sweeping changes the Republican bill would impose, little attention has been paid to its potential impact on education. School districts rely on Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, to provide costly services to millions of students with disabilities across the country. For nearly 30 years, Medicaid has helped school systems cover costs for special education services and equipment, from physical therapists to feeding tubes. The money is also used to provide preventive care, such as vision and hearing screenings, for other Medicaid-eligible children.

“If I could have 10 minutes with President Trump, I could help him understand what we do, why it’s important,” Ms. Glenn said. “If he understood, he would protect it, because this isn’t Republicans and Democrats. It’s just kids.” …

The new law would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a “per-capita cap” on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly — a dramatic change that would convert Medicaid from an entitlement designed to cover any costs incurred to a more limited program…

The advocates argued that under the House bill, the federal government would transfer the burden of health care to states, which would result in higher taxes, eligibility cuts or curtailed services for children. And they said that schools would have to compete for funding with other entities, like hospitals and clinics, that serve Medicaid-eligible children.

The ability of school systems to provide services mandated under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act would be strained. The law is supposed to ensure that students with disabilities receive high-quality educational services, but it has historically been underfunded.

You know what, I’m just pissed enough to go out on a profane limb…  These Republicans just literally don’t f***ing care about disabled children unless they are related to them.  What else can you conclude from legislation like this?

So, this is my disabled child at Special Olympics on Wednesday (it was awesome).  (And more photos if you are so inclined).  My family is good.  We’re lucky.  We’re in a wealthier school system and we are upper-middle class.  All because I worked harder and am better than all those losers and moochers!  (Sorry, Paul Ryan took over that last sentence).  But I realize I’m lucky.  I want all the families with kids like Alex to have the services they need.  And with the cuts Republicans propose, they just won’t get them.  But I care a lot about those kids.  I guess that’s why I’m a Democrat and I think the Republican “pro-life” party has become an utter moral abomination.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Nice profile of Reverend William Barber in Esquire.  Love this part:

His policy positions fall far to the left on today’s political scale. But he sees most of them as coming from conservative traditions rooted in the Bible—traditions that don’t line up with conservative politics today.

People who focus their moral energy on gay marriage and prayer in schools, he says, are missing what Jesus cared about the most: justice and mercy. It’s a stock line in his sermons: “They are saying so much about what God says so little, and so little about what God says so much.”

2) Ryan Lizza on Trump giving up on the border wall.  Love this take:

One reliable way to know that Donald Trump has reversed himself on an issue is if he denies having done any such thing. The pattern repeats itself: his Administration is dealt a major setback—the courts blocking his travel bans, the G.O.P. health-care bill dying in the House—and Trump responds by decreeing that “great progress” is being made and the media is neglecting to cover it. It’s easy to become inured to how bizarre this is: America has a President who denies observable reality and uses his social-media accounts to feed his supporters an alternate version of the truth. All politicians spin. Trump lies, regularly and brazenly.

It should have come as little surprise, therefore, when Trump tweeted the following on Tuesday morning: “Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.” Of course, he did change his position. The tweet came just a day after the White House had retreated from its stance that funding for the wall had to be included in the spending bill that Congress must pass by Friday to keep the government open.

3) The New Orleans monument that conservatives are all upset that just came down was literally  a monument to white supremacy.  And the Minnesota native running as a Trumpist for Governor in Virginia who is all about protecting confederate memorials.

4) Frum says that Trump is showing that really turning up the heat on immigration enforcement is actually effective policy for cutting illegal immigration.

5) Pew on the changing fortunes of the middle class.

5) Drum on Comey:

Once again, the primary concern was protecting Comey and the FBI. Republicans had made it clear that their retribution against anyone who helped Clinton would be relentless, and that clearly had an impact on Comey. Steinbach’s suggestion that Republican vengeance would have destroyed the FBI is clearly nuts, but Comey was taking no chances. He didn’t want the grief.

Even after it was all over, Comey’s partisan influences continued to work on him:

Officials and others close to him also acknowledge that Mr. Comey has been changed by the tumultuous year.

Early on Saturday, March 4, the president accused Mr. Obama on Twitter of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Comey believed the government should forcefully denounce that claim. But this time he took a different approach. He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.

Daniel Richman, a longtime friend of Comey’s, said this represented “a consistent pattern of someone trying to act with independence and integrity, but within established channels.”

The evidence does indeed show consistent behavior, but of a different kind. At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack. It was the perfect intersection of a Republican Party that had developed a reputation for conducting relentlessly vicious smear campaigns and a Republican FBI director who didn’t have the fortitude to stand up to it. Comey may genuinely believe that his decisions along the way were nonpartisan, but the evidence pretty strongly suggests otherwise.

6) And Tomasky on Comey:

And through it all, he was worried about what Republicans would do to him, but apparently never concerned about how Democrats would react to anything he did. In fact the only lengthy discussion of a Democrat in the piece involves Comey’s anger at Loretta Lynch for agreeing to meet with Bill Clinton on that tarmac; he had every right to be upset about that boneheaded move, but as the article shows—and as we already knew in real time—he didn’t care at all how Lynch and other Justice Department lawyers would react to his taking it upon himself to say the things he said about Clinton.

There are two morals to this story. The first is, well, good on the Democrats, I guess, for not playing politics (Lynch excepted) with such a sensitive matter. This is how things are supposed to work in this country.

But the second moral is that, regrettable as it may be, this isn’t how things work in this country anymore. Republicans were so ferociously partisan about everything having to do with Hillary Clinton—and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, and fill in the blank—that they created a reality in which the nation’s top law enforcement official was thinking more or less constantly about how he could avoid incurring their wrath. Of course, he’s a Republican himself, and was involved in Clinton probes in the 1990s, so there’s also that. But how that factored in we can’t know.

7) Somehow I had never heard of the mass pet euthanization in Britain at the start of WWII.

8) We actually still need proof that reducing blue light in the evening helps with sleep (since it’s free, I’ll stick with Flux until evidence says otherwise):

Does blue light actually make you more alert? It sure does. But does removing it from your smartphone’s screen help you fall asleep? That, my friends, hasn’t actually been solidly proven—at least not yet…

The bottom line? “There’s actually no studies that have systematically seen if blue-depleted light at very dim intensities is effective in preventing or reducing the biological disruption caused by light exposure at night,” says Rahman. So that blue dimmer on your phone isn’t yet backed by solid science.

9) You’ll be shocked (shocked!) to learn that much of the legal representation of the folks Arkansas is trying to execute this week was piss-poor.  I’ve got to agree with this conclusion from a Harvard law researcher on the matter:

SHAPIRO: If we assume that the death penalty is not going away but that the process can be fixed, what will it take to fix it?

BRAND: Well, the first thing I would say is, I don’t think it can fix it. For 40 years in the modern era of the death penalty, the court has been trying to issue procedural fixes. It’s been trying to say intellectually disabled people can’t be executed. It’s tried to say juveniles can’t be executed. It said, you really need a lawyer. And as much as the Supreme Court has tried to fix it, it has completely failed. So I think rather than trying to fix it, it is time for the Supreme Court to recognize its sort of complicity in this system where people don’t get counsel is calling into doubt the whole integrity of our judicial system.

10) I’ve yet to come across a really good piece on the ideology of France’s Emmanual Macron.  Thus far, this Roger Cohen is the best I can do.  From what I have read, sounds like most center-left liberals in the U.S. (i.e., people like me) should be pretty happy with him and his ideas for France.

11) WRAL with a nice editorial on the NC legislatures Tax Cuts uber alles policy running our state into the ground.

12) Meanwhile, NC Republicans also want to basically create corporate schools funded by taxpayers.  I just cannot believe the people running my state.

13) Yes, the human brain is a time machine:

And there’s something distinctly human about this? Animals have the ability to look into the future and plan, but not to the extent that humans do.
Yeah, so whether it’s the brain of mammals or other humans, the brain is always attempting to predict the future. If you’re a herbivore or you’re looking for a mate, your brain is telling you to go one way or the other because it’s making its best estimates as to what will optimize its chances of achieving that goal.

But what seems to be distinctly human is certainly the extent that we can engage in what we call mental time travel — this idea that we can consciously project ourselves back into the past and relive experiences. And it’s the ability to see the long-term future that I think is distinctly human. It’s impossible to overestimate how important that is, how much of your life is future-oriented, from going to school — from getting a job to saving for retirement to exercising and going to the doctor. These are all things that would be very difficult for other animals to engage in because they’re for the short- and long-term future. And one of the most transformative inventions humans have ever engaged in was agriculture. The notion of planting a seed and coming back a year later is something we take for granted now, but it’s hard to think of anything more important than that ability.

14) Turns out all those mindless eating studies have not replicated so well.  That said, I literally have no doubt that keeping tempting food out of my sight and easy access makes it way easier for me to resist (unlike the lollipops that were left out in our kitchen tonight).

15) Love this idea of a metacookbook.

16) Salt is the bomb.  Only use it if you want your food to taste good.

17) Will a college tour lead prospective students to choose the wrong college?  Quite likely, says social science:

But insights from research in psychology and behavioral economics suggest a counterintuitive reason to skip them: College tours may hinder students’ ability to pick a college that will further their interests and goals.

This has to do with the difference between our present selves (the self making the decision — in this case, where to attend college) and our future selves (the self experiencing the outcome of this decision). As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University and Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia have argued, our present selves believe we are good at making decisions for our future selves, but in fact we all do a relatively poor job of predicting what our future selves will actually value and enjoy…

So why isn’t there an epidemic of students who find themselves in the wrong place and either transfer or drop out? Maybe there is. The only way to know would be to compare transfer and dropout rates between incoming students who used imagination to inform their decision, and those who relied on experience surrogates instead. Such data is lacking.

That said, most students would probably say they feel good about their college choice (even if they could have done objectively better) because of our “psychological immune system,” which buffers us from the unpleasant effects of negative events, and helps us to find the good in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

18) Interesting discussion of the debate over homework in elementary school.  My take: a small amount of thoughtful homework> none > any amount of non-thoughtful homework > too much homework of any kind.  I will definitely err towards none over the last two options.

19) Can plastic-eating caterpillars save the earth?  Maybe.

20) Drum on Paul Ryan and health care:

It’s increasingly obvious that Republicans aren’t actually trying to pass a health care bill. They just want to be able to tell their base that they tried. And President Trump wants to erase the taste of defeat from the first health care bill.

If House Republicans were serious, they’d engage with the health care industry. They haven’t. If they were serious they’d care about the CBO score. They don’t. If they were serious they’d be crafting a bill that could pass Senate reconciliation rules. They aren’t even trying. If Senate Republicans were serious they’d be weighing in with a bill of their own. They aren’t wasting their time.

In the beginning, I think Paul Ryan really did want to pass something, mainly so that it would make his tax cut plan easier to pass. But he’s given up on that. At this point he just wants a piece of paper that gets 218 votes and demonstrates that the Republican caucus isn’t hopelessly inept. He knows it will be DOA in the Senate, but at least it will get health care off his plate once and for all. Then he can move on to cutting taxes on the rich, which is what he really cares about. And he’ll have no trouble rounding up votes for that.

21) Several of my students told me about “Adam Ruins Everything.”  If this excellent video on marijuana is representative, I’ll definitely have to check out more.  Watch it!

 

 

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